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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

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Jayne: Herrera Beutler served 3rd well

By , Columbian Opinion Page Editor

She didn’t mention Trump. She didn’t mention impeachment. She didn’t utter the words insurrection or coup or riot.

But as Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler delivered farewell remarks Tuesday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, it wasn’t difficult to read between the lines. After reflecting on her arrival in Congress 12 years ago and talking about meaningful legislation and thanking her colleagues and husband and parents and in-laws and staff, Herrera Beutler closed with this:

“As I depart I would like to offer just a little bit of unsolicited advice to my friends here in this chamber. One way or another, every single one of us, or you, are going to leave office as I am preparing to do now. And when that happens, so many people are going to ask you what you’re most proud of, and you’re going to think back with pride about all the times that you helped someone that you represent out of a really tough situation; or you’ll be proud that you stood strong for what you felt was right; or you’ll be proud of the laws that you passed to help make lives better for Americans.

“But let me tell you what you won’t think of: That time you tweeted something that got 10,000 likes; or that time that you thought of a really mean, clever thing to say about the other party or the other ‘team’; or those times you told part of the truth or maybe not all of the truth and hoped that no one was going to ask you what you really meant.

“The people who elect us put their faith in us to represent them, and we owe them the truth. At times, particularly in the heat of the moment, the truth is the last thing people want to hear, especially if it doesn’t fit their narrative. But that doesn’t make it any less true; and we don’t do Americans any favors if we deceive them or if we stand by quietly as they deceive themselves. Hardcore partisans on both sides will tell you that their party is blameless and that the other party is the only one that engages in deception. But the truth is, there are people in both parties who have made an industry of it.

“I have faith in the American people to eventually put a stop to this. But we here in this body also have a responsibility to the truth. After all, it is the only thing that truly sets us free.”

Herrera Beutler, of course, told the truth in being one of 10 Republicans to vote in favor of Donald Trump’s second impeachment. She correctly saw that Trump violated his constitutional duty.

It cost her politically; after six terms in Congress, she did not advance out of the August primary. Voters instead chose a Republican who echoed Trump’s lies about election fraud, along with a Democrat.

The result of Republicans’ hell-bent desire to burn heretics at the stake was the flipping of Washington’s 3rd Congressional District to the Democratic ledger. Which calls to mind the expression about cutting off your nose …

But that is beside the point. The focus for now, weeks before Marie Gluesenkamp Perez takes office, is on Herrera Beutler’s 12 years of representing Southwest Washington — and her obvious weariness with performative politics.

Regardless of how you feel about her politics, at least Herrera Beutler never embarrassed her constituents. She did her best to represent Southwest Washington, focus on legislation she thought was important to us, and not become embroiled in the theatrics that too often are mistaken for governing these days.

In truth, most people in Congress do the same; but there are enough clowns on both sides of the aisle to make the body look like a second-rate circus.

With the circus spinning around her in January 2021, Herrera Beutler said, “The president of the United States incited a riot aiming to halt the peaceful transfer of power … Hours went by before the president did anything meaningful to stop the attack.”

It was the truth. And despite the legislation that she voted for or against and the constituents she helped, it will stand as Herrera Beutler’s legislative legacy. If you read between the lines, you can see it is a legacy that has served Southwest Washington well.