From Orwell to Mueller: Fiction Becomes Fact

As a Congressman, most of my reading consists of bills and material to prepare for hearings and other responsibilities. But events in Washington as of late have me thinking of a few novels.

A bill the House Democrat majority passed reminded me of George Orwell’s 1984.

One of the key ideas in Orwell’s book is “doublespeak.” For example, the Party in control of the novel’s totalitarian state uses the slogan “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.” The words contradict each other or are used by the party to mean things at odds with what they actually mean.

It is a helpful concept to keep in mind when looking at a bill Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recently pushed through the House called the “Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act,” when the bill does nothing to protect Americans with preexisting conditions.

For the record, I support protections that ensure people with preexisting conditions are covered by health insurance. I have supported legislation that includes these protections.

In contrast, this bill only mentions preexisting conditions in its title. The substance of it imposes restrictions on the executive branch in granting waivers to states, allowing them flexibility to innovate in their health insurance markets to bring down costs. A study by the healthcare consulting firm Avalere found that the seven states that have requested these waivers to create reinsurance programs reduced premiums on the individual market by an average of 19.9% after a year.

Under the guise of “protecting Americans with preexisting conditions,” this legislation would take away from states tools that have improved the health insurance market.

The concepts of 1984 also seem relevant when considering the Mueller investigation.

After two years and at least $25 million, the Muller investigation found that President Trump and his campaign had not colluded with Russia to win the White House. Yet opponents of the President continue to accuse him of obstructing an investigation into a crime he did not commit.

Robert Mueller was allowed to complete his investigation, so what did President Trump obstruct? The report details instances where he vented his frustration about the investigation – which is understandable – and brought up the idea of firing Mueller.

I think of these sessions as him venting his frustration, paralleling King Henry II of England, who when feuding with Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket famously asked, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Except in the case of President Trump, none of his subordinates acted on his frustration.

So “obstruction of justice” is the President musing, without any action taken, about ending an investigation into a crime he did not commit. That is Orwellian.

While we are on the Mueller investigation, another novel comes to mind: Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. The book’s title is often used to describe a paradoxical situation.

A paradox certainly seems to confront Attorney General William Barr, who is being held in contempt of Congress for not breaking the law.

It fell to him to decide what to do with the Mueller report once it was completed. Although he was not required to release it to the public, the Attorney General opted to do so within weeks of receiving the report.

This version contained certain redactions, so he made available to congressional leadership and the chairmen and ranking members of the relevant committees a version of the report in which 98.5% is available to be read. The only parts that remain redacted are grand jury material, which cannot be disclosed according to the law. Thus creating a Catch-22 situation.

The majority on the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt of Congress because he did not give them the complete report. If he complied with their demands, he would be breaking the law. For upholding the law, he is held in contempt. It should be noted that Speaker Pelosi and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) have not even bothered to view the less-redacted report, even though they are eligible to do so.

I wish these actions of the House majority were from a novel, but unfortunately, they are too real. I urge them to drop the doublespeak and get to work on the pressing issues that really affect American families.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.