The type of leadership we need

While I wish President and Mrs. Trump a full and speedy recovery, I want to note that Congressman Cline’s Facebook post of June 18 did not age well.

As I wrote at the time:

In fact Biden appears regularly online and will speak to the Virginia Democratic Convention on Saturday. He traveled to Houston last week to meet with George Floyd’s family. But of course Cline can’t acknowledge a simple fact: that Biden, unlike Trump, is being careful not to endanger the public during the COVID-19 emergency, and this is to his credit.

And Trump himself has repeatedly mocked Biden for wearing a face mask in public and other precautions.

So I have to disagree with Cline; Biden’s prudence during the pandemic is precisely the type of leadership America needs.

Cline on the first debate

Since his Congressional office appears to be a shrine to Donald Trump, it’s no surprise that Ben Cline couldn’t bring himself to say anything directly critical about Trump’s disgusting and disruptive behavior at Tuesday’s debate with Joe Biden.

Of course the questions posted by the journalist were hardly challenging. But while mildly complaining that “the viewers lost out” because of all the yelling, Cline singled out Biden for criticism while ignoring the fact that Trump’s strategy was essentially to trash the whole proceedings.

Most disturbing, Cline has had nothing to say about Trump using the debate to tell a group of violent far-right extremists to await instructions from him. It’s essential that at least one local journalist ask him about it.

Congressman Cline’s recent votes

While it’s good that Congressman Cline supported the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in the House of Representatives, two of his other recent votes are disturbing.

–While 160 Republicans joined all Democrats to approve the Ensuring Children and Child Care Workers Are Safe Act, Cline was one of only 32 Republicans to vote no.

This bill provides federal support to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) in child care provider settings during the period of community spread of the virus.

Specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must (1) provide technical assistance to states, Indian tribes, and tribal organizations regarding the acquisition and use of protective equipment and training related to COVID-19 transmission prevention, among other things; and (2) publish specified information and facilitate the sharing of best practices related to the safe operation of child care providers. HHS may also make grants for the designated lead agency in a state to provide assistance and guidance to child care providers.

–Cline joined all but 14 Republicans to vote against a resolution condemning all forms of anti-Asian sentiment as related to COVID-19.

This resolution calls on all public officials to condemn and denounce anti-Asian sentiment, racism, discrimination, and religious intolerance related to COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019), and to call on federal law enforcement officials, working with state and local officials, to take specified steps.

It calls on federal officials to expeditiously investigate and document all credible reports of hate crimes and incidents and threats against the Asian-American community and prosecute perpetrators.

The resolution recommits U.S. leadership to (1) prioritize language access and inclusivity in communication practices, and (2) combat misinformation and discrimination that put Asian Americans at risk.

The resolution notes that “the use of anti-Asian terminology and rhetoric related to COVID-19, such as the ‘Chinese Virus’, ‘Wuhan Virus’, and ‘Kung-flu’ have perpetuated anti-Asian stigma.” President Trump has used all of those terms.

Why did Cline vote this way? Ask him.

Note to media: time for tough questions

It’s nice that local media have covered Congressman Cline’s recent efforts at bipartisanship with a Democratic colleague on some issues of government reform.

But almost every time Cline is covered by local newspapers, radio or TV, he is given an opportunity to says whatever he wants on subjects he prefers.

Almost never is he challenged in ways that might make him uncomfortable. (Why did he vote against the Great American Outdoors Act? What did he mean when he suggested that the former Stonewall Jackson Cemetery in Lexington might be renamed “Future Democrat Voter Quarry”? Etc., etc.)

But as Cline continues to heap praise on the increasingly deranged and dangerous Donald Trump (“He has done great things for this country”) and enthusiastically support his reelection, it’s urgent that the Sixth District media take their basic journalistic responsibilities seriously.

For example, how about asking Cline if he thinks someone who talks like this is fit to serve in any responsible position, let alone President of the United States:

The president offered up the vague and unsupported theory during an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who asked Trump who is “pulling Biden’s strings.”

“People that you’ve never heard of. People that are in the dark shadows,” Trump responded.

“What does that mean? That sounds like a conspiracy theory,” Ingraham interjected.

“They’re people that are on the streets, they’re people that are controlling the streets,” Trump responded.

He then cited a case of an unnamed individual getting on a plane “from a certain city” over the weekend. The plane, Trump claimed, was “loaded with thugs” in dark uniforms who planned to do “big damage.”

Pressed for further details, Trump only said the matter was “under investigation.”

Or perhaps Cline, an attorney, could offer an opinion on the legality of voting twice in the same election– or encouraging others to do so, as Trump has done.

Cline can’t be allowed to have it both ways– proclaiming his support for Trump while avoiding tough questions about the wildly irresponsible and conspiracy-obsessed man he insists is the one to lead our country over the next four years.

Cline on Biden, diapers and swamps

Congressman Cline posted this on his campaign Facebook page:

Congressman, Donald Trump was engaging in corrupt and exploitative business practices when you were a mere lad of 8:

And as someone who was first elected to office in 2002, and has received your share of corporate and special-interest campaign money, it’s not as if you’re in a position to point fingers.

We got another reminder last week of the hypocrisy of Republicans when it comes to swamps:

The arrest Thursday of President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon adds to a growing list of the president’s associates ensnared in legal trouble.

Bannon pleaded not guilty to charges that he ripped off donors to an online fundraising scheme to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, a key Trump initiative.

Cline opposes bill to fund National Parks

Even though 81 House Republicans voted YES, and even though the Sixth Congressional District includes portions of Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Congressman Ben Cline voted NO on the Great American Outdoors Act.

The bill would provide $9.5 billion over five years to pay down the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog and provide permanent funding at $900 million per year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports natural areas and recreation activities. Virginia has more than $1 billion worth for deferred maintenance at its national parks.

Why would Cline oppose a bill that will provide funding for badly-needed maintenance and repairs at our National Parks in Virginia, including those in the district he is supposed to represent in Congress? Wouldn’t improving these facilities help our district economically? I thought that was one of his priorities.

Cline cheers DeVos’s effort to weaken public schools

Another bizarre and out-of-touch Facebook post from Congressman Cline.

Everyone– students, teachers and parents– wants schools to reopen as soon as possible. The sticking point– which Cline and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos seem to ignore– is whether it can be done safely.

It’s absurd to suggest that the challenge of reopening schools is comparable to reopening stores and restaurants. As one commenter to Cline’s Facebook post pointed out, “Going to a restaurant is a choice, attending public school is required.”

Spending an hour or less at a time in a store or restaurant is a lot different from spending six hours a day, five days a week in a classroom.

Congressman: Due to the coronavirus, many public school systems in the Sixth District are starved for funds, which would make reopening difficult even if COVID were to magically disappear. Are you and the other Republicans in Congress prepared to provide sufficient federal resources to help schools reopen safely?

Your vote against the HEROES Act in Congress– which would have provided billions of dollars to help stressed local school districts– suggests otherwise.

Instead you throw in your lot with Secretary DeVos, who is always looking for reasons to undermine public education.

Once again, your devotion to the whims of the Trump administration overrides any concern for the students, teachers and parents you purport to represent.

No more Mr. Nice Congressman

Judging from some of Congressman Cline’s recent posts on his campaign Facebook page, he has decided to throw in his lot with President Trump’s racially-divisive culture war.

Don’t expect any more statements (however weak and selective) calling for justice and supporting peaceful protests in the wake of the George Floyd murder. Instead, look for more posts like this, linking with approval to an article by Ben Domenech, rightwing publisher of The Federalist, complaining that Republican officeholders aren’t doing enough to challenge “anti-American leftists and their enablers in the Democratic Party.”

Domenech writes: “The thirst among Republican voters isn’t even for policy. It’s for seeing the politicians they elected join the fray.”

So, according to Domenech, Republican officeholders should stop caring about secondary stuff like policy– the ostensible reason they ran for office. Instead they should enlist in the battle to protect American history and heritage from Democrats who want the coming election to be a choice “between a party that loves this country and one that views its history with disgust, as racist and irredeemable.”

Excuse me, to which Democrats is he referring? Those who think Confederate generals– traitors to the United States who fought for the cause of keeping human beings in bondage– do not deserve public honor?

Is there room for a nuanced discussion of which monuments and symbols are obsolete relics of another era and which should be preserved despite the flaws of the people they honor?

Apparently taking Domenech’s advice to “join the fray,” Cline posted this about the Lexington City Council’s unanimous vote to change the name of city-owned Stonewall Jackson Cemetery:

Congressman, you can’t simultaneously enslave Black people, as Jackson did, and “bridge racial divisions.” It doesn’t work that way.

After revealing his contempt for Lexington (which voted heavily against him in the 2018 Congressional election), Cline speculates sarcastically about the cemetery’s new name.

I suppose they’ll rename it something like “Lexington Cemetery: Now with Surprise Inside!” Or if they want to be more accurate, something like “Future Democrat Voter Quarry.”

“Future Democrat Voter Quarry?” What are you saying here, Congressman? That Stonewall Jackson and others interred at the cemetery will rise from their graves and vote Democratic? That local Democrats will cheat in future elections by voting on behalf of the people buried there?

Hilarious stuff, Congressman. But not exactly in keeping with your pious recent letter calling for civil discourse and the need to find common ground with our political opponents.