Cline’s fact-challenged performance in Winchester

At the candidate forum in Winchester on Saturday, Congressman Cline tried to present himself as a champion of reason and bipartisanship (standing in line for lunch with Democrats in Richmond, brewing beer with a Democratic colleague, etc.) while somehow forgetting to mention that he is a proud member (along with some of the most extreme members of Congress) of the far-right House Freedom Caucus and the proud recipient of a campaign endorsement from Donald Trump.

Cline is more interested in posing as bipartisan in front of certain audiences than he is in being bipartisan.

He proceeded to to call for more resources for law enforcement, even though he voted NO on the American Rescue Plan, which actually funds the police.

He also repeated his frequent claim that the United States is no longer “energy independent” as it supposedly was under Donald Trump’s administration. But according to FactCheck.org:

When politicians say that the United States was “energy independent” under former President Donald Trump, some people may get the false impression that the U.S. was 100% self-sufficient. The country still relied on foreign sources of energy, including oil.

To help meet domestic demand, the U.S. has imported oil and other forms of energy from abroad, including from Russia, for many years. And to some energy analysts, a scenario in which the U.S. relies only on the energy it produces is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Instead, those who tout this so-called “energy independence” may be referring to the fact that, on net, the country either produced more energy than it consumed, exported more energy than it imported, or, more specifically, had a greater number of exports than imports of petroleum, which includes crude oil and refined products from crude oil, such as gasoline and various fuels.

However, by any of those definitions, the U.S. was still “energy independent” in 2021 under President Joe Biden — contrary to claims made by Republicans who have suggested otherwise.

Sorry, Congressman. Those are the facts.

Is Cline embarrassed?

On Saturday Congressman Cline participated in a candidate forum in Winchester with his Democratic opponent Jennifer Lewis.

You can perhaps gauge their performances by the fact that Lewis features the forum on her campaign Facebook page (you can view it here, starting at 14:30) while Cline (so far) hasn’t even mentioned it.

If you take the time to watch it, you’ll understand.

Anti-union in Buena Vista, pro-union in Covington

As long as I’ve been following Ben Cline’s political career, in the General Assembly and the U.S. Congress, one constant has been his open hostility to labor unions.

In the General Assembly he was a fervent defender of Virginia’s anti-union “right to work” law and helped lead an unsuccessful push to enshrine that law in the Commonwealth’s constitution.

In Congress, Cline has supported an effort to impose right-to-work-for-less on workers across the country.

When he was named to the House Education and Labor Committee in 2019, Cline made clear his hostility to the labor movement.

He said, “The Democrats are going to put all kinds of labor union bills through and I’m anxious to stand up for the right of the worker”– as though the interests of labor unions and the interests of workers are at odds. He then explained what he really meant: “I don’t support forced unionism.”

But Cline really made his contempt for organized labor unmistakable in a speech on the House floor in 2020 denouncing the Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would restore some balance to federal labor laws that make it all too easy for employers to thwart union organizing and to avoid dealing with the unions chosen by a majority of their workers.

On Labor Day 2022 in Buena Vista, Cline did what he always does on Labor Day in Buena Vista: emphasize that the only right he supports for workers in the right not to join a union.

But this time his Democratic opponent in the 2022 election, Jennifer Lewis, called him out for the union-basher he is.

So it was fascinating to watch Cline’s change of tone when interviewed at a Labor Day event that afternoon in Covington.

“Both cities [Buena Vista and Covington] have had long traditions of celebrating working man, working women, working families and the union effort. You know, unions have been important here in Covington, unions have been important in Buena Vista, have a history of providing important gains for working families.”

Wow, Congressman. What could possibly have changed your attitude toward unions in the course of one day? Could it have been your opponent’s stinging speech?

But then he added:

“[I]t’s important that we protect what working families have achieved so that it’s not taken away by more government, more regulation and more taxation.”

The fact that the labor unions he just praised have long supported laws that protect workers, both union and non-union, does not trouble him.

That’s the Ben Cline we know and don’t particularly love.

Cline joins the meltdown over Biden’s speech

Like many Congressional Republicans, Congressman Cline denounced Preisdent Biden’s Thursday speech in Philadelphia calling out Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans.

Biden said:

Now, I want to be very clear, very clear up front. Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology. I know, because I’ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans.

But there’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. And that is a threat to this country.

Was it a scathing speech in parts? Of course. But what exactly did Biden say that was incorrect about the most extreme and dominant elements of today’s Republican party (or the Trump party, as the former president’s son thinks it should be called instead)?

What did he say that was worse than anything that “our great president Donald J. Trump” (Cline’s words) ever said?

Relax, Congressman. If you don’t think that any election Trump loses is rigged; if you don’t consider the January 6 rioters to be patriots; if you don’t think violence against the government is justified; Biden wasn’t talking about you, or about everyone who has ever voted for Trump. Do you really think he was?

To Cline’s discredit, he did everything he could to cast doubt on the election of Joe Biden as president in 2020. He joined a majority of Congressional Republicans in voting not to certify the election and has refused to put the blame for the January 6 insurrection where it clearly belongs: on Donald J. Trump.

But to Cline’s credit, he posted this on Facebook as the pro-Trump mobs were storming the U.S. Capitol and brutally assaulting police officers on January 6, 2021:

So, Congressman: now that Trump has promised full pardons to the January 6 rioters “with apologies to many” if he becomes president again, you must feel pretty foolish.

And all you can do is whine about BIDEN’S speech?

Coastal elites?

According to Congressman Cline:

Biden’s student loan debt cancellation is a handout to the coastal elites and will fall on the backs of hardworking American taxpayers who didn’t have a chance to attend college.

Cline’s attempt to play the populist card is pathetic. His voting record belies his effort to portray himself as a champion of those who haven’t attended college. The bipartisan infrastructure law on which Cline voted NO provides $800 million in dedicated funding for job training for people who don’t attend college, besides other funding for non-college workforce development.

Biden’s action will provide badly-needed relief to tens of millions of non-coastal-elite middle-income people, many of whom are the first in their families to graduate from college.

Here’s how one commenter responded to Cline’s Facebook post:

And let me assure you, Congressman: The “coastal elites,” such as they are, do not require student loans in the first place.

Cline scaremongers about IRS “army”

Congressman Cline has been telling a lot of lies about the Inflation Reduction Act, which Congressional Democrats passed last week without a single Republican vote. The new law lowers health care and prescription drug costs for Americans, invests in and provides incentives for clean energy and creates a 15 percent corporate minimum tax.

Cline’s claims about the new law raising taxes on middle-income people and on small businesses are debunked by the AP.

But his worst scaremongering comes when he tries to suggest that by increasing funding of the Internal Revenue Service, the law will create an army of IRS agents to harass and threaten ordinary taxpayers.

According to Cline:

[The] package provides $80 billion to double the size of the IRS, adding an army of 87,000 new enforcement agents to spy into Americans’ financial accounts and harass taxpayers and small businesses.

In an interview on WFIR radio, Cline raised the fearsome (and ridiculous) prospect of an army of gun-toting IRS agents oppressing ordinary Americans. But as the AP reports:

The bill will not create any such army, officials and experts say. Only some IRS employees who work on criminal investigations carry firearms as part of their work.

A division of the IRS called criminal investigation serves as the agency’s law enforcement branch. Its agents, who work on issues such as seizing illicit crypto currency and Russian oligarchs’ assets, carry weapons, [Treasury Department official Natasha] Sarin said.

There were just more than 2,000 such special agents working at the IRS in 2021, according to agency documents. The branch will get money from the Inflation Reduction Act, but the bulk of the dollars will go toward other areas, according to Sarin.

The bill does not designate money specifically for a large number of armed IRS employees.

In fact many of the new IRS employees will be replacing retiring workers and not all will be involved in enforcement. Many will be helping improve services to taxpayers– like timely answers to questions and timely processing and refunds.

Taxpayer services have deteriorated in recent years due to Republicans like Cline refusing to to properly fund the IRS.

So it’s ironic that Cline has complained about the backlog in taxpayer services that this law will address.

Cline is dutifully outraged

After the FBI executed a search warrant for presidential documents at Donald Trump’s home in Florida, Congressman Cline dutifully joined the chorus of Republican outrage.

On his Congressional Facebook page, he posted:

Actually, Congressman, executing a legal search warrant approved by a federal judge based on evidence of possible criminality is precisely what many third world countries do not do.

On his campaign Facebook page, Cline complained:

But never have we had a former president like Trump before– who believes that the laws which apply to everyone else do not apply to him.

As Cline certainly knows, under the Presidential Records Act, a former president may not keep in his or her personal possession any documents related to his or her presidency.

And if any of those documents are classified, it’s a felony punishable by up to five years in prison– thanks to then-President Trump.

Congressman Cline: Either you believe the law should be enforced or you don’t. Which is it?

Either you believe no one is above the law or you don’t. Which is it?

If you don’t, please don’t ever tell us again that you are on the side of law enforcement.

Cline at CPAC

A year after his last embarrassing appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Congressman Cline was back again on Saturday with another awful speech.

(He was not deterred by the participation of the racist Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, let alone by that of such extremists as Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.)

Strangely enough, he was so proud of his speech that he posted it on his campaign Facebook page— four-and-a-half minutes of cringe-inducing malarkey. Here are a few excerpts:

I always appreciate the opportunity to get out of the swamp of Washington, DC, and be around so many like-minded conservatives or as I like to say, real Americans!

So those of us who are not like-minded conservatives are not “real Americans”? Does that include veterans who risked their lives for our country? If they and the rest of us are not real Americans, what are we?

This is our opportunity to show folks how fed up and frustrated we are that Biden, Pelosi and the Squad continue to pull our country further and future to the radical left and we are going to keep that progress going.

This being a Cline speech, he was pleased to mention his favorite targets: Pelosi (three times), the Squad (twice) and Biden (twice). Previously Cline actually claimed that his Democratic opponent in the November election was handpicked by them!

I’m here to tell you this is the most important election of our lifetime. We’re dealing with a Democrat party that constantly pushes the envelope of bankruptcy both morally and financially. These folks who think that a boy is a girl, believe the borders are secure, think the retreat in Afghanistan was a success, ignore the Supreme Court and revel in the fact that gas prices have gone down even though they doubled under their failed Green New Deal policies. It’s a little wonder that they can’t define for you what you have known for a while – we are in a recession.

To refute all of these lies would take much longer than Cline’s speech. I’ll simply note that although millions of Americans are struggling with low wages and high prices, an economy that created more than half a million jobs in July, bringing the unemployment rate down to 3.5 percent, is not in a recession.

The left tells us that we are bad people for what we believe. They try to tell us because we support the Second Amendment, because we stand up for the unborn, because we promote fiscal responsibility, because we believe in traditional values and because we love our lord and savior Jesus Christ, that we are somehow less than.

Again, a pack of lies. But when he talks about “our lord and savior Jesus Christ,” he seems to be excluding everyone who is not a bible-believing Christian– which happens to include tens of millions of patriotic Americans. And many such Christians are appalled by the hateful and divisive message spread by Cline and his ilk.

While Cline is pleased to spout such drivel to a friendly audience in Texas, he is unwilling to appear before any audience in the Sixth Congressional District where he might be challenged face-to-face. His last town hall meetings– in Amherst County, Buena Vista and Monterey– were on December 13, 2021. He held no town halls during the House August recess and has scheduled none.

At a certain point, you have to wonder: What is Ben Cline afraid of?

Protecting big cats: Cline votes NO

On Friday the House of Representatives approved the Big Cat Public Safety Act to prohibit keeping tigers, lions and other big cat species as pets, and ban direct public contact.

All Democrats and and 63 Republicans voted for the bill. Congressman Cline was among the 134 who voted NO.

According to the Humane Society, which supported the bill:

Big cat ownership is an epidemic in the U.S. Untold numbers of captive big cats live in shoddy roadside zoos or as pets living in homes. More often than not, these large, dangerous, wide-roaming apex predators are kept in small, barren cages where they can barely turn around. They are improperly fed, are not provided with appropriate veterinary care, and have no means to express their complex emotional and behavioral needs. Cubs are ripped away from their mothers to be offered to paying customers for feeding and petting sessions and for photo ops. Keeping big cats in these settings is not only inhumane but is also a serious public safety issue.

So Cline maintains the “perfect” record of opposing legislation protecting animals from cruelty that earned him a ZERO rating from the Humane Society’s Legislative Fund.

Of course this law would protect humans too.

Cline will join racist Hungarian PM at CPAC in Dallas

Last year at a Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Congressman Cline delivered a speech so cringe-inducingly bad (see for yourself) that I was sure he would never be invited back.

Shows how much I know about rightwing tolerance for awfulness on their own side.

Cline will be a featured speaker at next month’s CPAC bash in Dallas, along with (of course) Donald Trump and Cline’s dubious pals Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz.

Also on the speakers’ list is Viktor Orban, the authoritarian prime minister of Hungary, who has cultivated a long list of rightwing American admirers with his anti-immigrant policies and his support for “illiberal democracy.” In May Orban hosted a CPAC meeting in Budapest that included— in addition to a number of prominent American conservatives– Zsolt Bayer, an antisemtic Hungarian journalist.

In 2011, furious at criticism of Orban’s newly imposed restrictions on media, Bayer singled out three Jewish critics — Andras Schiff, the noted Hungarian pianist, Nick Cohen, a British journalist, and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a French politician — as “stinking excrement” and suggested it was “unfortunate” that more Jews were not killed in a 1919 massacre of Hungarian communists.

That broadside was the basis in part for the Holocaust Museum’s rebuke of Hungary’s government in 2016 when Bayer, who co-founded Orban’s Fidesz party, was awarded Hungary’s Order of Merit.

“Bayer has a long record of racist speech and has written highly provocative antisemitic and anti-Roma articles in the Hungarian media,” the museum said at the time. Bayer, who is close to Orban, has said Roma are “not fit to live among human beings.”

A number of figures who had received the Order of Merit returned it, including a Hungarian Jewish leader. Bayer’s broadsides continued unabated; last year he attacked Antony Blinken, the U.S. Jewish secretary of state, as “rootless,” an antisemitic euphemism for Jews.

Earlier this month Orban drew attention to himself with a speech in which he denounced the mixing of races.

“Migration has split Europe in two — or I could say that it has split the West in two,” he said, after commending to his listeners a 50-year-old racist treatise. “One half is a world where European and non-European peoples live together. These countries are no longer nations. They are nothing more than a conglomeration of peoples.” He went on to contrast that with “our world,” in which “we are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed race.”

That was too much even for Orban’s longtime adviser Zsuzsa Hegedus, who resigned and lambasted the prime minister for “a pure Nazi speech worthy of Goebbels.” She said the speech could “please even the most bloodthirsty racists” and suggested he was “advocating an openly racist policy that is now unacceptable even for the Western European extreme right.”

Again: this condemnation came not from some leftwing opponent of Orban but from his longtime adviser.

While I don’t expect Cline to cancel his CPAC gig in protest of Orban’s appearance– he has proven time and again that he lacks that kind of integrity– it would be nice if he took the opportunity to speak to the prime minister about what Hegedus correctly called his pure Nazi speech.

Anyone think that will happen?