Email #148: “a dependable yes”?

The Washington Post reported in March:

“Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the senior Republican in the Virginia delegation and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is a dependable “yes,” his spokeswoman said.”

The article was about the American Health Care Act and your intention to vote for it. You were ready to vote for it again after the MacArthur amendment made it even less palatable to centrists last week. You of course never got the opportunity to cast your yes because the bill was withdrawn due to lack of support both times. But the phrase sticks with me:

“a dependable yes”

That’s the most accurate description of your behavior since the election I’ve heard. To be fair, when I later spoke with the Washington Post reporter, she clarified that only the “yes” was a direct quote. She thought your communications director Beth Breeding may have said “a definite yes.”

Either way, you are the Trump administration’s most consistent “yes” in Congress. Even though as chair of the House Judiciary Committee one of your primary responsibilities is overseeing the executive branch—a duty you pursued with dogged dedication during the Obama administration—you are now far more likely to give the Trump administration a “yes” regardless of the issue. Saying yes to the President seems to be your number one if not only guiding principle.

Despite the range of Donald Trump’s problematic behavior–bragging about sexual assault, questioning a federal judge’s legitimacy due to his ethnic background, declaring that he lost the popular vote due to massive voter fraud, insulting the integrity of federal judges who disagreed with his immigration bans until even Justice Gorsuch rebuked him, breaking his repeated campaign promises to release his tax records, placing Steve Bannon on the National Security Council, refusing to place his business investments into a blind trust, accusing President Obama of illegally wiretapping Trump Tower, bombing Syria without consulting Congress or forging a larger strategy, instructing the IRS to ignore the ACA’s individual tax penalty mandate despite the mandate being required by law,  removing transparency from the White House visitor logs, and of course resisting investigations into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election–you are his most dependably definite yes.

Is there any issue in which you have not said “yes” to the President?

Can you cite a single example of your criticizing or even questioning the administration?

Have you ever expressed a concern or reservation about any of the President’s actions and statements?

Based on your behavior, you seem to believe that you represent the White House and not the people of Virginia’s sixth district who voted you into office. A majority of our district also voted for President Trump–but that doesn’t mean they want an unthinking yes-man in Congress rubber-stamping the President’s every action no matter how ill-advised.

Three of the President’s immigration-focused executive orders have been ruled unconstitutional. You’re a lawyer. You chair the congressional committee in charge of immigration policy. Your own staff advised the White House in the drafting of those orders. Why didn’t you tell the President the orders would be blocked in court? Wouldn’t he have been better served if you had provided him more than a reflexive “yes”?

Wouldn’t the country be better served now if you applied your quarter-century of congressional experience to be more than a national cheerleader for the President?

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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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