Asheville Daily Planet, January 2019

Mark Meadows made a bid to be Donald Trump’s chief of staff. Trump turned him down. Aw shucks. We came so close to getting rid of a bad congressman. Bad, but how bad? What are his badnesses? Read on. I wrote a column back in 2012, when he was running for Congress, about how Meadows was campaigning against a 1992 UN initiative called “Agenda 21,” a voluntary plan for environmentally-friendly global development. George H.W. Bush signed it for the United States. Meadows bought into dark theories about Agenda 21, that it’s a plot to take away private property rights. Alabama had passed a law calling Agenda 21 a precursor to world government. The word “kook” didn’t appear in my column, except by logical conclusion.

In last year’s election campaigns, I noticed that my county’s Democrats were more exercised against Meadows than against (snort) Michele Presnell or (ptui) Ralph Hise. And I noticed that TV commentators, when talking about Meadows’ bid for chief of staff, often mentioned that he’s unpopular in Congress.

Why do Democrats wish him gone and congressional Republicans wish he’d never come? I asked Google. An NPR article popped up: “Meadows, 57, has rebelled against the establishment Republican Party. He helped shut down the government in 2013 and oust John Boehner from his House speakership in 2015.” Actually, the media gave Meadows and Senator Ted Cruz equal credit for the 2013 shutdown. Meadows precipitated the crisis with a letter to Boehner, demanding that Obamacare be defunded in the budget. He is reported to have said: “It’s best to close the government in the short term to win a delay on Obamacare, despite the potential negative impact on the economy.” It was his first year in Congress, and he was already doing jumping jacks to attract attention.

I think the Obamacare issue is diagnostic of Meadows, as a politician and as a man. He fanatically wanted Obamacare repealed – until he read the Congressional Budget Office report, that the GOP replacement bill would greatly impact coverage for pre-existing conditions. It’s reported that he wept, remembering the experiences of his father and sister. He now favors protecting pre-existing conditions. Meadows tends to be quick and loud on issues and then back away. NPR reports that “Meadows wants to cut off all 10 million Americans who today get federal subsidies to buy health coverage, which he says the country can ill afford.” Obviously, nobody in Meadows’ family gets subsidies.

Meadows’ healthcare positions would certainly be one reason for Democratic disapproval. Now try this one on: “How ridiculous is [the idea of global warming] when you have our fighting men and women, they get up and they say, ‘Man, it’s a little chilly, maybe today is the day that we’ve got to worry about climate change.’” He got headlines last year on the Mueller investigation. He tweeted in July: “I just filed a resolution…to impeach Rod Rosenstein.” His words seemed to dance with joy on the page.

An Asheville editorial opened like this: “We are routinely appalled by the views of Mark Meadows….Now, however, his actions have gone beyond simply appalling. In his attacks on the Department of Justice, Meadows is targeting the rule of law for political advantage.” (Two weeks later, after consulting GOP leadership, Meadows dropped the impeachment idea and suggested contempt of Congress instead.)

He’s often said that he does what his constituents want him to do. Right. But it would be more honest for him to play the sound track of “Showboat” as background to his tweets. Meadows’ bid to work for Trump is puzzling. Is he tired of the Congress gig? Or is he wonder about reelection? Before 2020, the courts will rule on gerrymandering, and the 11th District will likely be drawn fairly. With Asheville back in the district and some red counties gone, he will need an enthusiastic base. But it’s also likely that Trump will be totally discredited