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CASEY: 'Damning with faint praise' elicits big reader reaction

CASEY: 'Damning with faint praise' elicits big reader reaction

A number of readers thought I went a bit overboard in defending Reps. Ben Cline, R-Fincastle, or Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, from slings and arrows in recent Letters to the Editor. A few got the joke, though.

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Rob Neukirch of Floyd spied the headline above last Tuesday’s column — “In defense of Reps. Ben Cline and Morgan Griffith” — on his phone. It was accompanied by a sinking feeling.

He thought, “Oh no, what’s happened to Dan?” Neukirch wrote in an email. Then he read the rest of the column, which appeared five days after April 1.

“You got me!” he wrote.

His missive was among scores emails, phone calls and online comments regarding the column. Which means it’s time for the April reader mailbag.

The tongue-in-cheek defense of Western Virginia’s representatives followed an onslaught of unkind Letters to the Editor published in this newspaper. Most indicated disgust with Cline’s and Griffith’s support of “Stop the Steal” efforts to overturn the election of President Joe Biden.

My screed adopted a tone of unfettered optimism. At least the 6th- and 9th-District congressmen aren’t subjects of an investigation for sex trafficking — like their colleague, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. And at least they don’t give some women the creeps. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., has done that repeatedly.

And hey, they don’t spout crazy QAnon nonsense, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

That stuff’s got to worth something in Cline’s and Griffith’s favor, right? In an online comment, Sandi Saunders of Hardy wrote “wrong.”

“That is really, really reaching for a positive in a Trump Party sea of seditious, duplicitous, delusional denial,” she wrote. “I look to the Republicans who stood up to Trump and his dishonest, corrupt, inept ‘leadership’ when I think of decent Republicans.”

And she wasn’t alone.

“I am a great fan of your common sense and mostly righteous views,” Thelma Atwell Miller of Rural Retreat wrote in an email. “However, I cannot let Ben and Morgan of the ‘Freedom Caucus’ off the hook on the basis of ‘it could be far worse.’ They were indeed spinelessly reckless in their lack of condemnation of Trump’s actions and QAnon’s truly dangerous agenda.”

Then there was Sally Mullikin of Richmond.

“Both [Cline and Griffith] need to be replaced,” she wrote in an online comment. “It’s about what they haven’t done, yes!”

“We have set a low bar for our elected officials. What exactly have they done to help your readers? Seriously, what?”

Charlie Reynolds of Roanoke left me a voicemail message that ended with, “You may be getting a little soft.”

“Those guys, Griffith and Cline, deserve everything that they get,” Reynolds said. “They deserve every arrow that’s slung their way until they reform better.”

But other readers took the joke in the spirit in which it was intended.

“Thank you for your hilarious column in the Tuesday Roanoke Times,” wrote Mary Elizabeth Whartenby of Galax. “[Cline and Griffith] deserve everything you said and more. You gave my husband and me a great start to our day.”

Another was Donna Frost of Roanoke County.

“I enjoy all your Roanoke Times’ articles, and today’s (‘In defense of Reps. Cline and Griffith’) was particularly clever and accurate. Keep writing,” she wrote.

“Thank you for another dose of clarity and truth,” wrote Kyle Noble of Independence. “I may be Yellow Dog Democrat, but I know honest reporting when I see it.”

“Oh how I despise Ben Cline, that weasley little creep,” wrote Naomi Delzell of Roanoke. “Thanks for a great morning laugh! I’ll be posting it to his next Twitter lie.”

Mike Hutkin wrote that the column had not changed his mind.

“Thanks for pointing out … that my stalwart representative, Ben Cline, has some potentially positive virtues,” Hutkin said in an email. “I now feel bad for thinking him to be a sedition backing supporter of everything that is against democracy and common decency.

“However, that still leaves me with the ‘vote him out’ members of the 6th District as we fight our way back to a government based in truth, honesty, and representation of ALL the people.”

It seems Tim Sweet of Radford understood the joke. But he reacted sourly.

“Could you at least disguise your liberal bias a smidge?” he wrote.

Hey, I tried. A lot of effort went into that column. Thankfully, Patrick Hinely of Lexington recognized it.

“You have brought wonderful new dimensions of subtlety and irony to the concept of damning with faint praise. Right on and write on,” he wrote.

Thanks for all the letters, emails, phone calls and online comments, folks. Please keep them coming!

Contact metro columnist Dan Casey at 981-3423 or dan.casey@roanoke.com. Follow him on Twitter:.

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Dan Casey knows a little bit about a lot of things but not a heck of a lot about most things. That doesn't keep him from writing about them, however. So keep him honest!

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