Would the real John Barrasso please stand up?


Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of Congress. Results of a recent Gallup CNN poll showed a Congressional approval of less than 20 percent. A few years ago, a group asked Americans comparison questions to determine just how badly we hate Congress. Colonoscopies, lice, cockroaches, Brussels sprouts and root canals were all preferred over Congress. 

Yet somehow Americans tend to also approve of their own Congressional delegation. A recent poll in Wyoming showed that nearly 70 percent approve of Senators Barrasso and Enzi. So, we hate Congress as a whole but our own Congress people are A-OK. Results are similar in other states. 

That’s quite the contradiction. How can we account for that? 

I think part of it could be that we’re more inclined to support people we are familiar with, especially here in Wyoming where we may actually have met our Congress people. 

However, following a recent visit I had with Sen. John Barrasso, I think there might be something more going on. 

My personal liberal tendencies are well-documented. I’ll be completely forthright about the fact that I don’t typically care for Sen. Barrasso’s political stances. I was determined to interview him in an impartial fashion for my work here at the Herald, but I was also prepared to disagree with most of what he said. 

I follow our Wyoming Congressional delegation regularly through news, social media and newsletters from our Congress members themselves. I will admit to rolling my eyes and vocally and vociferously disagreeing. I’ve seen Sen. Barrasso over the shoulder of Sen. Mitch McConnell frequently, smiling and seemingly enjoying promoting legislation that I believe would be horrible for the country and for Wyoming. 

I recently saw an interview in which Sen. Barrasso was arguing with the television news anchor about the Affordable Care Act and the recently-failed repeal and replace effort, the Graham-Cassidy legislation. I felt he was rude and didn’t really answer the questions being asked. In my opinion, he failed to explain why he supported Graham-Cassidy other than resorting to a general “Obamacare sucks” type of explanation — which is all too familiar, yet doesn’t really answer the question. 

So, imagine my surprise when I had the opportunity to chat with the man himself. A man who wanted to be called John, who was shaking hands and chatting with my fellow Evanston residents like old friends, who answered my questions and spoke with me as a rational and reasonable human being. 

John spoke of the particular challenges facing healthcare in rural areas like Wyoming. He spoke with pride about Wyoming’s Hathaway Scholarship program and how he was an integral part of its creation in a bipartisan, cooperative fashion when he was a state legislator. 

The John I met and spoke with seemed to think that it was possible to find bipartisan solutions to the problems with the Affordable Care Act. This John spoke about balances and cooperation. 

In other words, the John I met spoke with me like a fellow Wyoming resident discussing important issues. 

The Sen. Barrasso I often see on television speaks like a robot reiterating political talking points. 

Which has me wondering, which one is actually Sen. John Barrasso? 

John had done his homework. I had never met the man previously, but he knew about a recent vacation I had taken with my family. He had read stories I’d written for the Herald. Although he didn’t say it outright, it’s obvious he knew my political leanings, as he threw in a reference to Sen. Bernie Sanders. Why, he and Bernie even like to eat at the same Italian restaurant. 

He said all the right things to make me think that maybe he wasn’t the brusque person I expected to meet — maybe, just maybe, he was a decent guy and I had misjudged him. 

Or maybe, just maybe, he’s a master politician who had done his homework enough to know with whom he was speaking and was telling me things I wanted to hear. 

It’s been several days now since that meeting, and when I think back on it I still don’t know if he was being genuine or if it was a façade. 

I really, truly hope that the John I met was the real deal.

That leads me back to the curious contradiction of Americans despising Congress but being OK with their own senators and representatives. Maybe when we do have the opportunity to meet and speak with our congress people they seem like genuinely concerned, rational people — like us and everybody else.  

It must be all of those other senators and representatives that ruin it – those folks from other states must elect some real clowns! 

But we can’t all be correct in thinking that. 

I’m a movie buff. There’s this Michael Douglas flick called “The American President,” in which Douglas plays the president of the United States. At one point he says, “I was so busy trying to keep my job that I forgot to do my job.” 

I think that’s what happens to our congress people. 

Maybe when they’re in their home state they become more the person they were when they got involved in politics, and hence, we like them more. When they’re in Washington, D.C., they’re more likely to succumb to political pressure and act phony. So we loathe them. 

I’m also an optimist. I tend to always see the good in people and give them the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes this ends up causing me grief, but I still keep doing it. 

I am therefore choosing to believe that John is more the guy I met than the guy on television. In that case, I am imploring John to take that guy with him back to D.C. 

John, find us bipartisan solutions to our problems. 

John, stop reiterating talking points and actually speak to us in a language we can understand. 

John, I believe that you know that a lot of what President Trump does and says is wrong and is demeaning to the office of the presidency, and I am asking you to say so. 

John, I believe that you know that trying to ram legislation through the U.S. Senate is contrary to the entire nature and tradition of that great body, and I am asking you to return to “regular order,” as Sen. John McCain has recently suggested. 

John, I am asking you to give those who disagree with you the same courtesy that I am giving you — give them the benefit of the doubt that they too want nothing but the best for our nation, even if they might see that a bit differently than you see it.

John, I believe that you are better than that — resorting to the blame game when people have legitimate questions on policy and legislation. Blaming Obama or Democrats does nothing to explain your position. Resorting to, “They did it first,” or “They started it,” is childish and is part of why we hate Congress. 

John, help us return to civil discourse and disagreement with a purpose that moves us forward and not just pointless bickering and disagreement that gets us nowhere. 

John, please stop worrying about keeping your job and just do your job. 

John, trust that I have these same sentiments toward all politicians, including those I am more inclined to agree with from a political standpoint, and that by speaking to you, I am actually directing this to everyone, everywhere — politician or not. 

Would the real John Barrasso please stand up?

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