Perriello v. Goode: Virginia's Fifth Congressional District

By David Swanson

The Fifth District of Virginia, and anyone nearby who can lend a hand, should do everything possible to elect Tom Perriello to Congress this year. The most important reason to do so is to replace Virgil Goode.

Back in April I interviewed Perriello for an hour on his campaign platform. You can listen to the interview here:
http://thepeoplespeakradio.net/audio/2008/#april

I was underwhelmed. I wanted to know his positions on key issues. He wanted to avoid specifics. I wanted to know what he would do if elected. He wanted to talk about his life’s story and general values. Perriello repeatedly refused to back a particular policy and said that instead he would support the policy of the new president (hoping it would be Barack Obama). Perriello wants people to have health care but won’t sign onto single-payer. He wants to end the occupation of Iraq but won’t commit to ceasing to fund it. And so on. Perriello, on his own, without public pressure, is not guaranteed to make us proud.

But with Tom Perriello in Congress we will no longer have to be ashamed and disgusted by our so-called representative. Congressman Virgil Goode is campaigning on hatred for immigrants and religious minorities, and he’s just signed onto a resolution aimed at starting a new war with Iran. Perriello should be going after Goode on these issues and contrasting their positions – yes, even if that requires having a specific position himself.

Six years ago Goode helped to frighten and defraud the nation into a disastrous war in Iraq that has gotten worse each year since then. Now Goode is helping to push similar scary stories about Iran in an effort that appears aimed at dragging us into another war. Goode is a cosponsor of H Con Res 362, which requires “imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran.” That can hardly be done without a naval and land blockade, which is an act of war. Does Goode want another war? The public does not. The citizens of Virginia’s Fifth District do not. And yet no reporter has so much as asked Goode about it. They would if Perriello made it an issue.

I recently blogged that Goode was focusing his reelection campaign on hatred for immigrants. Goode replied on another website:

“The blogger’s statement is false. I do not hate anyone. The blogger also does not distinguish between legal and illegal aliens. The illegal aliens have not followed the process and procedures that those being sworn in as citizens on July 4th have followed. The illegals and the proponents of amnesty want to jump in front of those going through the legal process.”

So, Goode’s concern is to get all legal would-be citizens through the process quickly without any law breakers slowing any of them down or cutting in line. Except that Goode has repeatedly said that he wants to reduce legal immigration, and wants to undo legal immigration policies that allow people to legally immigrate from the Middle East, and that he is motivated in these positions by his fear of Muslims taking over his supposedly Christian country. He also has a habit of sliding back into discussing illegal immigration while keeping the focus on Muslims, whom he considers “potential terrorists.”

When Congressman Keith Ellison proposed to be sworn into office using a Koran, Goode sent the following words in an Email to his constituents:

“When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand.

“I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.

“We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country.

“I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

“The Ten Commandments and ‘In God We Trust’ are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, ‘As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.'”

If you go to Goode’s campaign website you’ll find this right at the top:

“Illegal immigrants take jobs from our citizens. I’m working to stop illegal immigration and secure America’s borders. We must keep America strong and free by supporting the war on terrorism. While the United States has had a number of successes in fighting those who want to destroy America, our borders are porous and are far too open to illegal immigrants, potential terrorists, and drug dealers.”

Now, maybe that’s not hatred in Goode’s mind but purely the encouragement of fear and hatred in potential voters. But which is worse?

Perriello should challenge Goode on a number of levels. Immigration is driven by the inability of people to earn a living where they are. What will Goode do to make it easier for people in other countries to earn a living? But when people need shelter and heed the message of the Statue of Liberty, it is inexcusable to scapegoat them for other problems we have not solved. We lack jobs and infrastructure because of corporate-driven policies Goode has supported, including the $5 trillion occupation of Iraq. The surest way to flood the world with Iranian immigrants is to bomb their country.

Let’s compare Goode’s and Perriello’s positions on some other issues, in so far as their positions can be discerned from the two candidates’ websites.

ECONOMY

Goode:

“I have supported and will continue to support federal investment in the economy of the Fifth District of Virginia. I have been fortunate to secure, through my work on the Appropriations Committee, many millions of dollars in direct investment in the Fifth District. In addition, my amendments to TEA-21 provided funds for Fifth District Highways, including I-73, Route 29, Route 501, and off Route 58. As a member of the State Senate, I was one of the leaders fighting for the Route 58 Corridor Legislation, which provided for recordation tax funding for much of the Route 58 construction. Measures that I have secured through the Appropriations committee have brought water and sewer improvements, assistance for community revitalization efforts, and funding for technology, agriculture, aviation, and transportation initiatives. These measures have been important to keep and attract business and industry to the Fifth District….I am pleased that the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and the President finally adopted legislation that provides for a buyout of tobacco quota holders and tobacco producers. The buyout is being funded by the users of tobacco products all across the United States. Over the next decade, over $450 million will flow to Southern Virginia as a result of this legislation”

That’s the extent of his statements on the economy, with no mention of the massively expensive war but with a comment in support of curtailing the pittance America gives to struggling nations (not exactly a policy designed to reduce immigration). Goode adds a bit of xenophobic fantasy about a mythical North American Union to arrive at a position of “not favoring” agreements like NAFTA:

“I oppose the placement of our Armed Forces under United Nations command. We need to curtail expenditures to the World Bank, the IMF, and to many foreign nations….We need to block any union between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The sovereignty of the United States must be preserved. Hopefully, we can continue to get cosponsors for my resolution against the North American Union….Agreements like NAFTA and the trade provisions in fast track authorization lead to the erosion of this country’s vital manufacturing base. I do not favor international trade agreements such as these that result in a loss of American sovereignty and jobs.”

Perriello:

“Tom’s top priority in Congress will be to bring new jobs and economic relief to families in Southside and Central Virginia. He believes that the key to our economic revival is workforce development, infrastructure, and support for small business. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes—only a major commitment to economic revival for our communities….Tom will support immediate tax breaks for small businesses and long-term solutions to reduce healthcare, energy, and commodity costs….Tom supports increased domestic oil production and closing the “Enron loophole” on oil speculators. He will demand a major investment in emerging technologies and an increase in efficiency standards to lower costs and boost job creation….Tom will increase support for vocational programs, training facilities, and our great community colleges. He will also support a national program to recruit and retain quality teachers for underserved rural and small-town K–12 school districts….Tom will invest in Southside’s transportation infrastructure, broadband, and historic downtowns to attract new employers and spur growth….NAFTA has devastated workers in the 5th District. Tom will support trade policies that reflect America’s values, punish employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens, and end billions in tax breaks to companies that move good American jobs overseas….Whether producing feedstocks for biofuels or bringing locally grown produce to market, Virginia’s farmers and farmland must be protected and supported. This includes assuring that small farmers and consumers are helped, not hurt, by subsidies and regulations….Tom will fight to ensure that all hard-working Americans are guaranteed a living wage and secure retirement…..Tom will end the practice of giving tax breaks to companies that take American jobs overseas and will make sure that corporations and CEOs are held accountable for their actions. Tom’s number one priority is economic REVIVAL for the 5th district.”

Gotta give that one to Perriello.

EDUCATION:

Goode:

“We must continue our commitment to research in higher education and to strengthening the Pell Grant and Stafford Loan Programs. I am especially pleased by the tens of millions that the University of Virginia has received in research grants from the National Institutes of Health. Washington should not be running our local school systems. We need to leave local education decisions to the states and localities. We should improve federal funding for special education so that our states and localities can more properly address school construction, teacher needs, and other educational issues. I am opposed to national testing of public school students and voted against ‘No Child Left Behind’ with its new mandates and new tests that must comply with national standards.”

Perriello:

“There is no higher calling for government than to help its people reach their God-given potential, and there are few better ways to do that than to ensure that all our children receive a quality education. We must support our local teachers and help recruit and retain new ones. We must develop better ways of evaluating our schools to encourage a focus on knowledge and learning. Educational opportunities must begin earlier and continue later in life by prioritizing a pre-K year, affordable and accessible college education and vocational training, and the lifelong skills training required to ensure American workers remain competitive in the global economy.”

With the possible exception of pre-K there’s nothing in Perriello’s statement that any candidate anywhere in the country could be paid to oppose. Specifics would help, but sadly aren’t needed to best Goode’s poor excuse for a position.

NATIONAL SECURITY:

Goode:

“We need a strong national defense. I support policies to encourage the recruitment and the retention of personnel in the Armed Forces. Strength is a necessity for deterring foreign aggression and combating terrorism.”

That’s IT, and he means it. He thinks the largest military and empire the globe has ever seen is engaged in defense and needs to deter possible foreign aggression. I mean, John McCain is clearly going senile, but what’s Goode’s excuse?

Perriello:

“Americans are less safe today than on September 12th because of the decisions made by this Administration and many in Congress. Tom has spent much of his career fighting for justice-based security solutions in Western Africa, Darfur, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Tom was one of the first signers of the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq, which will allow peaceful and political reconciliation to take place. Tom believes that to be safer, we need to be giving our intelligence officers the resources they need, not our constitutional rights.”

The so-called “Responsible Plan” is a vague statement in support of eventually ending the occupation of Iraq someday — which is better than Goode’s been able to manage. The reference to constitutional rights could be interpreted as opposition to Congress’s recent trashing of the Fourth Amendment through the FISA “modernization” bill. Perriello would find that position garners a ton of support if he came out and made it explicit and specific. His party’s leadership passed that bill but claims to oppose it, so Perriello could oppose it while being safely loyal.

OIL:

Goode:

“The United States must be free of foreign fossil fuel. Freedom from the Middle Eastern sheiks, Nigeria, and Venezuela is necessary for a continued bright future for our country. We cannot allow OPEC to control our energy supply. The United States must develop various alternative fuel sources. I am pleased to have sponsored legislation that has brought almost $2 million to the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Southern Virginia for a project that includes deriving biofuel from switchgrass, miscanthus and hybrid poplars. When fully developed, the results of this program could significantly enhance agriculture and forest products throughout the 5th District of Virginia. The hydrogen fuel cell, biodiesel, and other alternative energy sources have potential in making us much less dependent on foreign fossil fuels. I also support the utilization of nuclear power and expanded drilling opportunities for natural gas and oil in this country so that our energy needs are met by domestic and not foreign sources. I have supported and continue to support, tax credits for solar, wind energy, and other renewable energy sources. I have supported and will continue supporting drilling in Alaska. Being free of a need for foreign fossil fuel will enable us to be less involved in the shifting sands of the Middle East.”

Solar? Water? Wind? Geothermal? Why support only biofuel, which puts automobile fuel tanks in competition with the stomachs of brown skinned, Muslim, and other apparently unimportant human beings? Goode is not concerned for people’s lives or for the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels. He’s purely xenophobic and wants to burn AMERICAN fossil fuels.

Perriello:

“Our national security, our climate, and our economic competitiveness demand that we achieve independence from fossil fuels during this generation. Our leaders have lacked the courage to do what is necessary to make our country safe and to encourage the ‘dot-com’ boom of the next generation: alternative energy and efficiency technologies. Tom will ensure that the farmers, businesses, and consumers of the 5th District have the tools and the incentives to lead America through this challenge.”

Sounds better than Goode but also fails to mention solar, wind, etc., but hints at biofuels.

HEALTHCARE:

Goode:

“I support increased funding for research aimed at combating and curing illnesses such as diabetes, lupus, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and heart disease. I hope that we can continue funding for health initiatives like community health centers in rural areas. I support refundable tax credits to encourage assistance for the uninsured to get health care assistance coverage…. Our seniors and the disabled need help with their prescription drug costs. We are fortunate to have in America many advanced and diverse medicines, but they are often very costly. A voluntary, flexible benefit that has catastrophic coverage means that seniors will not have to choose between food and their prescriptions. The House of Representatives voted in favor of a plan that helps the less well off seniors the most and helps seniors and the disabled with large prescription drug costs. It is likely that improvements will be needed to Medicare Part D in the future. I also support prompt payment legislation for community pharmacists…. A big factor in medical costs is the high cost of malpractice insurance for our physicians and other health care providers. I support tort reform that will limit attorney fees and the amount of damages recoverable for noneconomic losses.”

So, Goode says nothing about providing those who lack it with health care, but does say he’ll try to take away patients’ right to sue for malpractice.

Perriello:

Amazingly, the Issues page on Perriello’s website doesn’t mention healthcare. He does not seem to have a definitive platform to stand behind. He has, however, made various statements on the subject. In January, he criticized Goode’s opposition to expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

TAXES:

Goode:

“Tax Reductions and Fairness: I support the elimination of the Death Tax. Death should not mean the end of the family farm or the family business. Under federal law a 50% death tax often precludes families from having the homestead or their parents business.”

Note that at the peak of this phony campaign, the Farm Bureau searched for cases in which a family had lost a farm and was unable to find a single one. Nobody is taxing death, but some of us would prefer not to establish a permanent unmerited nobility.

“I support and have voted to terminate the current IRS Code at a date determined in the future so it can be replaced with something simpler and fairer. There are several alternatives to the current Code and include the Fair Tax, the Flat Tax, the Transaction Tax, and others. Between the current IRS code and the Fair Tax, I would support the Fair Tax with certain modifications. For example, the Fair Tax, which is basically a national sales tax, has a prebate of $180 per month per person, which should be limited to United States citizens, who are adults and who reside in the United States. I am a cosponsor of H.R. 25, the Fair Tax.”

Note that there is nothing “fair” about reducing taxes on corporations and the super-wealthy while imposing them on the rest of us.

Perriello:

He has no statement on his Issues page, but he has favored tax cuts for small businesses, and has criticized Goode’s backing of tax cuts for enormous businesses, including oil corporations.

SOCIAL SECURITY:

Goode:

“We must preserve and protect Social Security. I know first hand how important Social Security was for my mother, who lived to be 87.”

Perriello:

He has no substantive statement, but he has purchased advertisements that include this goal: “protect our Social Security”.

CRIME AND GUNS:

Goode:

“We need to maintain capital punishment for certain murders and to fully prosecute those who commit crimes with firearms. I fully support the right of an individual to protect himself or herself against assault and violent attack. I am honored to be co-chair of the Second Amendment Caucus.”

Perriello:

He has no statement that I’ve seen.

VETERANS:

Goode:

“I support improving funding for veterans’ health care and providing health care benefits to all veterans. We also need to insure that the Veteran’s Administration works with and on behalf of our veterans. We need to slash foreign aid and redirect billions for veterans’ healthcare and the like. I am a supporter and cosponsor of significantly expanding educational benefits for veterans.”

Perriello:

He has no statement on his Issues page, but he urged Goode unsuccessfully to support Senator Jim Webb’s so-called GI Bill. Of course, the bill was actually a relatively teeny amendment attached to a mammoth funding bill to extend the occupation of Iraq for another full year, thus producing thousands of injured and traumatized veterans as well as dead bodies, and neither Perriello nor Goode nor Webb said a word against it.

ABORTION:

Goode:

“I have cosponsored and voted for the ban on partial-birth abortions, and the bill has passed the United States House of Representatives and signed by the President. I hope that legislation banning partial birth abortions will withstand court challenges. I have a consistent pro-life voting record and will continue that record.”

Note that Goode appears not to care at all for babies once they are born and wants to deny the children of immigrants citizenship when born in this country. With over a million corpses in Iraq, whether Goode is consistently pro-life is debatable.

Perriello:

He has no statement but should.

GAY BASHING:

Goode:

“I believe that marriage should be a union between a man and a woman. I am opposed to gay marriages and so-called gay civil unions. I support the federal Marriage Protection Amendment.”

Perriello:

He has no statement but should. He should challenge Goode’s bigotry and scapegoating, even on these issues that are simply designed to divide and mislead.