Andy Schmookler: Delay of game penalty for Congressman Goodlatte

Mr. Goodlatte’s people say he’ll consider the terms of a debate with me when his schedule gets clearer after Congress recesses. When will that be? The end of September, Goodlatte’s spokesman says.

Although  Mr. Goodlatte said back on August 2 that he will debate, nothing has been scheduled because Mr. Goodlatte is just too darned busy being  part of this do-nothing Congress.

This Congress has accomplished less than any Congress in generations. This Congress has never even passed a jobs bill but has found time to make the empty gesture of repealing Obamacare 33 times.  This Congress recently gave itself and Mr. Goodlatte a five-week vacation. He has been on vacation for more than three weeks since he agreed – so he said— to debate.

With him so busy doing the people’s business, we citizens of the 6th District should be deeply sympathetic with Mr. Goodlatte’s need to delay for yet another month the task of making arrangements for the kind of debates that can help the people make an informed choice about who will best represent them in the next Congress.  Mr. Goodlatte has his needs, which seem to require that he inconvenience organizations in the District –like the League of Women Voters in Lynchburg and the NAACP in Roanoke—that will have to scramble at the last minute to set up the debates. If at that point they can be arranged at all.

I think we can see what’s going on here.  Mr. Goodlatte hopes to run out the clock, rather than get onto the playing field against his opponent so that voters can see how he plays the game. He wants credit for agreeing to debate, without taking the risk of actually debating.

The real question here is bigger than just about debates. That question is:  Who are our public servants supposed to serve?  The public, or their own ambitions?

Mr. Goodlatte’s answer is all too evident.  Not just in this matter of the debates – where he seems to give little weight to the needs of the voters — but also in how he uses the power of his office.  For years, he’s been working his way up the leadership ladder by doing the bidding of those powers whose goals hurt the average Americans he’s supposed to be representing.

To serve the public in the matter of debates, we should 1) have several debates in different areas of the District, 2) debate using formats determined by independent groups who keep the voters’ interests paramount, and 3) make these events open for broadcast as widely as possible throughout the District.

I have proposed all these things. On all of them, Mr. Goodlatte remains noncommittal.

(I pledge  — if I’m elected—to debate all future opponents on the same terms I have proposed for Mr. Goodlatte and me this year.)

Mr. Goodlatte has accused me of “playing politics” by pressing the issue of whether we’ll have the kind of debates the voters of this District deserve.  If his delaying tactics are not playing politics, what are they?

Andy Schmookler is the Sixth District Democratic Party congressional nominee.


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