Ready for some political football

Special Commentary by Chris Graham

Poor Mike. Our sales manager is a hardcore Republican. Makes life kinda tough working for the area’s progressive news source.

So Mike walks back to my office this afternoon after getting off the phone with a local GOP friend (actually a friend of both of ours – hey, I can have friends on both sides of the aisle; I’m a centrist).


“You’re going to want to hear this,” Mike says to me, and relates to me how a group of local Republicans had a conference call this morning in which my name came up, and not in a good way, from the way it was told to me.

Oh, no – indeed, it seems that the folks in the local GOP are quite, you know, peeved with me for my column on a questionable Bob Goodlatte mailer that went out this week.

And they’re going to “go after” me as a result.

My response: “Bring it on!”

Look, I like Bob Goodlatte personally. He’s a super nice guy, congenial as the summer day is long, almost failingly polite. That doesn’t mean that he should get a free pass for sending out a mailer using his congressional franking privilege – i.e. on our dime – to highlight his support of a piece of legislation that he actually voted against the first time it came up for a vote.

But they’re getting ready to “go after” me just the same, so let me try to anticipate the arguments that will be used – you know, so I can defend myself properly. “The G.I. Bill was only one of the items mentioned in the mailer.” Good point. But the newsletter was folded over in such a way that the first thing that you see upon retrieving it from your mailbox is a headline blaring “A NEW G.I. BILL FOR OUR VETERANS.” The reverse side advertises a Veterans’ Service Fair that the congressman is hosting on Aug. 12 at Blue Ridge Community College. Pretty clear from a fair reading that the congressman wanted us to think highly of his concern for veterans issues. So tell me, how is it unfair of me to point out that he voted against the New G.I. Bill that he now says he supported again?

“Because he was voting against tax increases on small businesses.” No, the tax increases that had been attached to the House legislation that he voted against were on individuals who make more than $500,000 a year. I’m a small businessman, and I know quite a few other small businesspeople – we tend to seek each other out to talk shop and commiserate and that kind of thing. None of us make anywhere close to $500,000 a year. Not that we’re not trying, mind you, because we all are. I can only speak for me, but if and when I get to that stage in my economic life, you’re not going to see me hemming and hawing about having to pay taxes.

“But you’re the Democratic chair in Waynesboro. You’re biased.” I don’t know about “biased,” but I make no secret of my political leanings. I also voted in the 2000 GOP presidential primary in Virginia for John McCain. And ran as a city-council candidate in 2008 proposing a local tax decrease as one of the central points of my campaign platform. And I don’t mind giving hell to Democrats when they deserve it. The partisan-politics argument is an attempt to buy political cover.

It’s OK to admit it, guys. This mailer was a bad idea executed poorly. And I say that conceding that had it been a campaign mailer, hey, I’ve got no issue, except the quibble over how Goodlatte voted against the New G.I. Bill before he voted for it. And OK, that’s a big quibble. I remember my local ‘Pub friends waving their flip-flops around in ’04 to raise issue with John Kerry’s infamous statement regarding his votes on the Iraq war. You had to know back then that you were opening your favored candidates up to that same level of scrutiny in the future.

So go ahead. “Go after” me. Bring more attention to the issues that I’ve raised regarding this issue. If I were advising you, I’d probably tell you to sidestep it, thinking that this isn’t exactly an argument that you’re going to win, but I’m not advising you.

And I’m up for a good fight as much as anybody else. First it’s this mailer, next it’s Goodlatte’s long, long list of friends in the PAC world. Maybe we could try to look at those donor lists in terms of his voting record.

This could be interesting. Whaddya say?

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