Email #105, Subject: “at all times fair”

As you may know, I moderated the town hall meeting held on your behalf in Vinton last month. You had been invited to attend, but declined, as did your chief of staff, Pete Larkin. As a result, the organizers asked me to speak on your behalf. I have been publishing a blog of my daily letters to you and so have been researching a number of your positions. I am far from an expert, but I attempted to represent you accurately.

One of the organizers thanked me afterwards for “setting the tone,” saying that “the context you provided, which while bracing, was at all times fair to Goodlatte.” For instance, after a number of questions about environmental protection, I said you were not a climate change denier. I referenced your statement from 2010:

“There is no doubt that the earth’s climate is changing. The earth and its climate are dynamic, and have changed throughout history even without human activity. We have reached a point where some experts concur that the earth is once again warming. Regardless of the reason, the debate over climate change should remind us that we should be good stewards of our planet.”

I noted how you equivocated on the cause, but acknowledged that you were starkly different from the President on this point.

Many more participants asked about health care. They seemed surprised when I explained that you had come out in tacit support of keeping the ACA’s ban on pre-existing conditions and lifetime limits, and that you supported allowing children to remain on their parents’ plans till they’re 26. But I also explained that you wanted a full repeal of the ACA Medicaid expansion.

Regarding your vote against Stream Protection Rule, I attempted to summarize what I thought was your position: while both issues may matter, you prioritize short-term jobs over the long-term environment. You said something similar recently in a letter: “We can have both a healthy economy and a healthy environment, but such a balance will not be achieved with costly, overly broad regulations that do not take into account the real-world impacts of their implementation.”

Your phrasing, of course, is both more positive and more persuasive. So why didn’t you say it at the town hall yourself? Or have your chief of staff or another trusted member of your office say it on your behalf? How does letting me speak for you help you? Your current policy of avoiding town halls seems counterproductive to your own goals.

Other groups in district 6 are considering holding town halls — whether with or without you. I know you would do a much better job of representing your positions that I can. So please advise me. If you decline to attend another town hall, would you like me to speak in your absence?

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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