Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Most people recognize that Barbara Comstock has fumbled her leadership role. She’s a poor public speaker, terrible at press interviews, and is tone deaf when it comes to important issues.

Clearly, the Virginia GOP did not chose Barbara for her leadership skills. They picked Comstock to be a follower, a rubber stamp.

But Barbara Comstock has also proved to be a terrible follower. She has angered her constituents on both the left and the right because she hides her positions until the last possible moment, or waits until after the issue has already been resolved. She often fumbles her support for Administration initiatives.

Her timidness has alienated many voters in her district and even produced a true conservative challenger, decorated combat pilot Shak Hill, who has called Comstock a “major obstacle” to conservative initiatives.

She’s paying a big price for her weakness. Her social media feeds are full of salty comments from both sides about “Whiplash Barbara” and “Cowardly Comstock.” The Washington Post has repeatedly cited her nickname, “No Comment Comstock,” a Twitter hashtag that follows her like a bad smell. The Urban Dictionary even has a new entry to describe her behavior: “comstocking.”

Here are some examples of why people think Comstock is failing as a leader, and as a follower. (There are certainly more, and we welcome your suggestions.)

The Trumpcare Vote

Comstock voted six times to repeal Obamacare and advance President Trump’s replacement bill. Then, as Trumpcare drew closer to a final House vote, Comstock went into hiding to avoid her constituents and the press, concealing her position on the final version of the bill.

At the last possible moment, she voted against Trumpcare, a cute political move that was a relief to middle-class voters but enraged much of her conservative base as another Comstock attack on President Trump. She failed as a leader for her district, and as a follower for her party.

Tragic White Supremacist/Neo-Nazi Violence in Charlottesville

Comstock is a Virginia resident and should be a leader on Virginia issues. Yet she waited for Speaker Ryan to issue a statement before she could muster the courage to say anything about the recent violence in Charlottesville. (Ryan tweeted at 11:59 am, Comstock followed at 1:00 pm.)

Side by side comparison of tweet times

Why did she feel the need to wait for Speaker Ryan before addressing an important issue in her own back yard? Was she afraid of angering Trump voters, who remember how harshly she criticized him during the campaign? She later added another tweet and a three-line press release on her website. She has done nothing since then. Three tweets and a three-line press release are not Virginia leadership. Nor a profile in courage.

Syria Civilian Protection Act

Comstock issued a press statement on November 15, 2016 that reads like she was a leader on sanctions legislation related to war crimes in Syria. In fact, Comstock was not even an original sponsor of the bill. She added her name as a co-sponsor an amazing four months after the bill was first proposed and just one day before the bill passed on a voice vote. Neither a good leader, nor a good follower. (Not to mention dishonest.)

Trump Missile Strike in Syria

Comstock issued a press release shortly after President Trump’s controversial strike against Syria for using chemical weapons. But the press release doesn’t actually say if Comstock supports the strike or not! It simply restates Trump’s reason for the attack, and leaves voters entirely in the dark about Comstock’s views on this use of military force. She failed as a leader, and as a follower, by leaving doubt about her support for the Administration.

Gen. Michael Flynn Fired Over Russia Ties

Comstock was silent about the turmoil over Michael Flynn until February 15, when she retweeted a Washington Post article that outlined the debate over how the investigation should be handled. In the context of a national debate over Russian interference in our democracy, Comstock’s ten word tweet was meaningless, showing neither leadership nor a good follower’s support for the Administration.

Comstock’s inability to lead, and her clumsy efforts as a follower, arise from the same character flaw: her distinct lack of courage.

That’s the reason she never holds town hall meetings. She is safer in small, pre-screened groups that don’t ask tough questions. She fills her days with art competitions, winery visits, Lyme disease fundraisers, middle school class visits, and secret lunches with campaign donors. She leads on no important policy issues or legislation, and draws criticism from all sides for her clumsy efforts to support the Trump Administration as a follower.

There’s an old military saying that applies to Barbara Comstock. Shak Hill will certainly recognize this one.

Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

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