Posts Tagged ‘McDonnell’

Office Pool 2: How Long Before McDonnell Has to Disavow Another of his Crazy Actions?

April 14th, 2010 1 comment

Honestly, I can’t keep up with Va. Governor McDonnell’s pratfalls. Anyone who reads this blog knows about his walk-backs of his homophobic and racist appeals to his “right-wing” base. Now he’s having to explain his new “literacy” test for ex-felons who want their voting rights back. This post by a William and Mary student is hilarious:

I also feel the need to mention the actions of a far more nefarious governing body. One would imagine that Gov. Bob McDonnell would have met his racism quota for at least the rest of April when he declared it white history month without mentioning that white people used to be allowed to own other people, but apparently not. Albeit in an altered form, McDonnell has reinstituted literacy tests. The same literacy tests used to disenfranchise black people after the civil war, which I assume, like slavery, McDonnell was unaware of. For some reason, Virginia (along with Kentucky) requires an act of governor to reinstate a released felon’s voting rights. Now, instead of merely filling out a form, a released felon must write an essay to McDonnell detailing what he has contributed to society since being released from prison. On the one hand I am interested in anything that will take up McDonnell’s day so he has less time to figure out how to reanimate the rotting corpse of Jefferson Davis, but on the other, based on his knowledge of history, I’m fairly sure he can’t read. I have no doubt that is only the beginning of McDonnell’s master plan to create a tear in the space/time continuum in order to escape the frightening social progressions of the 20th century.

I’d like to open the comment boards to future acts of the governor that he might consider when deciding how to further Virginia’s devolution.

May I be the first to offer one such “future act”?

Perhaps McDonnell can attend a KKK rally, and then claim afterwards that:

(1) He wore the white sheet by mistake; he’d intended to wear a floral print and thereby make an ironic statement about intolerance; or

(2) By attending, he was affirming what’s good about the KKK (its long history, its sense of community) while not getting bogged down in stuff that was “less significant for Virginia.”

In any case, the rift in the space/time continuum is now starting to become visible. As it opens wider, the pace of “one culture warrior step up, one step back” should only increase. My own office pool entry is: five days until next right-wing fiasco.

“View Bob McDonnell With Alarm!” (E-I-E-I-O)

April 7th, 2010 No comments

Let’s face it: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is an inept head of state who can’t even manage to keep his culture warrior pants neatly pressed. For anyone who’s been paying attention, he’s already done enough to disqualify himself from any Presidential ambitions he’s widely thought to entertain.

First, there was the embarrassing imbroglio over gay rights, when he had to act to quell a public riot over his Attorney General’s “request” to the states’ universities that they rescind any non-discrimination policies protecting gays and lesbians. Ken Cuccinelli’s AG opinion had been given whiskey courage by McDonnell’s own “guess the missing words” Executive Order that had promised not to discriminate on almost every conceivable basis — except sexual orientation. But when McDonnell faced the heat over Cuccinelli’s tone-deaf follow-up, he flamed out spectacularly, issuing a strongly worded “Executive Directive” that did protect against sexual orientation discrimination in state government, citing a number of legal sources he’d somehow missed in putting forth his earlier Order. The full story is here.

At the time, I wrote that McDonnell was an especially wimpy kind of culture warrior: One who believed in all sorts of natural law piffle about homosexuality, but didn’t have the courage of his convictions, when challenged. Today, he’s provided Exhibits B through about ZZ in support of my point. It turns out that sometime last week he’d issued some kind of play-to-the-Dixie-base proclamation that April was to be Confederate History Month. Unless April suddenly runs for only about two days, though, it seems like there’d be some time in that month to consider the role of, oh, slavery in the Civil War and the confederacy. Instead, silence on that small detail, in favor of this gush: It’s important to “understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War, and to recognize how our history has led to our present.”1

When initially questioned on the omission, McDonnell, typically, made matters worse with this read-it-to-believe-it statement:

McDonnell said he did not include a reference to slavery because “there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia.”

It “involved” slavery? And that wasn’t one of the most significant issues “for Virginia”? Translation: It wasn’t one of the issues that the base wanted him to focus on, and he thought he could slip the Proclamation through. But it didn’t work. By today, the outrage — now reinforced by this inane ‘explanation’ — had reached a level eerily reminiscent of what had whacked him after GayGate. And again, McDonnell apologized (caved, backed down, went into pillbug protective mode) and wrote a brand new Proclamation that prominently mentioned slavery. As with the Executive Directive, you can’t fault the statement on content, even though we’re now more than a week into the month that’s being proclaimed:

Whereas, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history….

So, here’s the disturbing pattern that’s emerged: McDonnell does something that he thinks will energize “the base” but doesn’t stop to consider that every other group then wants his head on a pike. Once they show up at the statehouse, complete with flaming torches and pitchforks, he chuckles over the silly misunderstanding, issues an apology, and tells them to return to their homes.

Didn’t he run on a platform of fiscal responsibility and competitiveness? Bob, forget about your incinerated Presidential aspirations and stick to basics for a few years.

  1. Wait! Our history has led to our present?! Why didn’t I think of that?

McDonnell: No Discrimination Against Gays (Really?)

March 26th, 2010 No comments

VA Governor Bob McDonnell (whose topsy-turvy actions on gay rights I’ve chronicled here) now says that there would be no need for a state law protecting the LGBT community against discrimination.  Why not? According to this quote (h/t Joe.My.God), there’s no problem in need of a solution:

I don’t know that we need it based on the numbers that I’ve seen….There really isn’t any rampant discrimination on any basis in Virginia. If you’re going to have a law, it needs to actually address a real problem.

This is a very prosecutorial/attorney-general way of looking at the issue: We only see cases that are reported, brought, and litigated. There’s something to this approach. After all, discrimination laws have a cost (suits can be frivolous, and give bad employees an “out” for lousy work), so we at least want a real problem before we’re going to pass a law.

Unfortunately, the McDonnell approach is staggeringly limited and naive. First, by the logic of his statement, there should be no anti-discrimination laws on the books: If there’s no “rampant discrimination on any basis,” then we should repeal all of the laws, given the cost I mentioned above.

I doubt McDonnell would support such repeal efforts, though. Why? I can think of three reasons, all of which are likely at work here. First, he doesn’t really believe what he’s saying. Second, it may be that there’s no way to repeal laws banning discrimination based on sex, race, religion, etc., without ensuring a swift, forced political retirement. (Compare: anti-gay discrimination.) Third, he realizes that laws have an important symbolic, messaging effect.

Of course they do. And enacting a law protecting against sexual orientation discrimination would send a powerful, state-sponsored message that the state stands with its LGBT citizens (although I’d be surprised if “T” were to be included) and against unjustified discrimination. McDonnell himself has conceded this point in the Executive Directive he signed a couple of weeks ago, affirming an anti-discrimination commitment (albeit not an enforceable one.)

But that’s not even the best reason to pass such a law. McDonnell doesn’t see — or pretends not to, anyway — that anti-gay discrimination is insidious. Gays and lesbians are much likelier to remain closeted in states where they can be fired just for being gay. And closeted people don’t claim discrimination, because you can’t discriminate against something invisible. But that just means that the discrimination is of a different, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” sort, not that it doesn’t exist.

Moreover, anyone who was discriminated against would be very unlikely to report it in a state that doesn’t protect the reporter. You’re demoted, transferred, or passed over for promotion because you’re a lesbian? A few may turn to the ACLU, Lambda Legal, or some other civil right organization, but most will swallow the discrimination and soldier on, having few occupational choices and no legal recourse.

Does any of that count as a problem, Governor?

Virginia AG Dives Head-First into Culture Wars, Hits Cement

March 8th, 2010 1 comment

I might have been writing about William and Mary’s basketball team, which will play for the CAA championship this evening. But instead, I’m constrained to talk about something disturbing involving my alma mater, and the state’s schools more generally.

A few days ago, I reported on the rumor that Virginia’s new Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, had commanded the state’s universities to rescind their policies that prohibited discrimination against gays and lesbians. No one would talk.

Well, in an article that reminds us of the continuing vitality of and need for the mainstream media, the Washington Post obtained a copy of the letter and reported the story on Saturday. It does indeed “advise” the state’s schools to withdraw the policies, which he acknowledges are “benign.” This is one of the worst moves by a public official since — never mind, there are too many to choose from.

The letter never should have been written. The law isn’t as clear as Cuccinelli says it is. The cases in which the AG has found that such policies exceed the state’s authority involved municipalities or, in one infamous case, the Governor’s Office (when Gov. McDonnell was AG, he opined that Gov. Kaine had exceeded his authority with an Executive Order extending non-discrimination protection to gays and lesbians). None of them involved a university, and for good reason.

Although the state’s universities are of course “public institutions,” they’re not like municipalities, or state agencies, and everyone knows that. As even Cuccinelli recognizes in the letter, they enjoy a certain necessary amount of autonomy. But that autonomy isn’t only granted to allow the school to carry out its day-to-day functions; it’s also a recognition that universities need a certain freedom to act in order to flourish. Cuccinelli is right to say that they can’t contravene the General Assembly, but supplementing the state’s anti-discrimination policy isn’t the same thing as contravening it. In other words, he puts the burden in entirely the wrong place: If the Commonwealth of Virginia feels that it wants to put itself out there on the issue, it should be required to pass a law specifically stating that universities within the state system may not offer protection based on sexual orientation. (Update: A former governor and AG of Virginia, Gerald Baililes, agrees with me.) Presumably, even the newly red-again state isn’t stupid enough to do that. In the silence, the current list of protected classes should be regarded as a floor, not a ceiling — a floor on which the universities may build further protections, both to affirm their basic commitment to equality and — more practically — to attract the most qualified professors, administrators, staff, and students.

This will quickly turn into a PR nightmare for the state. Most of the members of the universities’ governing boards are staying mum for now, as they figure out what to do. But at least one member of George Mason’s Board of Visitors — a Republican, by the way — called the action “reprehensible.” Senator Mark Warner stated that Cuccinelli’s action will “damage the Commonwealth’s reputation for academic excellence and diversity.” A student at Old Dominion University opined that we’ll see “the gamut” of protests on this one. He’s right, I’d imagine — and hope.

None of this can penetrate the true believers’ thick skulls. One spokesman for the Family Foundation said: “I find it hard to believe that this would be the final straw in whether or not someone’s going to come to Virginia’s universities…They are some of the best universities in the country.”

Well, part of the reason for their excellence is their refusal to accede to paleolithic principles, even if the Commonwealth lags behind. And here’s a counterexample on the “final straw” argument: Me.

When I was down to the final, difficult decision about whether to attend William and Mary or Brown University — a close and difficult call — had this issue come to my attention, I would have chosen Brown. And if William and Mary and the other state universities (where “state university” is defined as a school that gets 14% of its operating budget, and none of its endowment from the state) continues to get slapped around by the state in this way, the entire state will be off my daughters’ list of college possibilities. So, there.

Even McDonnell wisely avoided addressing this issue directly when he was AG. Cuccinelli should have done the same, but apparently he’s determined to take down his own party and to make the state a place of last choice for anyone who cares about basic equality. The opinion isn’t self-executing, though. Let’s see whether the universities’ boards have the cojones to resist.

Virginia’s Slide into the Dark Ages Continues Apace

March 1st, 2010 No comments

First, Va. Reactionary-in-Moderate’s-Clothing Governor Bob McDonnell issued an executive order pointedly omitting sexual orientation from the list of permitted grounds for firing state employees. In so doing, he rescinded the earlier order from his predecessor, Gov. Tim Kaine. To be clear, that means that the state can: Ask interviewees for state positions if they’re gay; refuse to hire them on that basis; and fire those discovered to be gay. This should have surprised no one; as Attorney General, McDonnell had opposed the previous executive orders, finding that the the governor’s office had no authority to extend protections not afforded by the legislature. (Never mind that this sort of executive order offering protections against sexual-orientation discrimination are common and rarely questioned; they can at least state the policy of the executive office, even if they can’t grant rights to enforcement.)

Now, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has reportedly asked Virginia state schools, including my alma mater (William and Mary) to overturn policies barring sexual-orientation discrimination, invoking the same “no authority” argument. What is going on here? The AG surely has actual issues to deal with, and anyway can’t expect that the College is going to rescind its policy, or to start discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. But the developments are just weird enough to have inspired a state senator in neighboring Maryland to have urged local corporation Northrup Grumman not to relocate to Virginia. Here is the letter, which also mentions that McDonnell and Cuccinelli rejected a request from a consortium of the major state universities (including W&M and UVA) to allow for health benefits of same-sex partners even if the employees paid for those benefits in full.

Although a corporation responsible to its shareholders for the bottom line will focus on a number of economic climate issues in deciding where to locate, nothing would make my day more than for Northrup Grumman to choose either Maryland or D.C., and, for good measure, cite the increasingly gay-hating policies of Virginia as a reason for doing so. Maybe the loss of business is actually something they’d understand.

One more thing: It’s particularly outrageous for the state to be  so heavy-handed towards its universities when it’s cut funding for them to the bone. According to this story from a few months ago, the percentage of William and Mary’s operating budget that comes from the state has dropped, over the past thirty years, from 43% to 14%. And the cuts, they just keep on comin’. That same article explained that the College was going to have to rebalance its budget in Draconian ways because of:

“a 15%, or $6.2 million, reduction in state support, announced in September 2009 for the current fiscal year ending in June 2010.  This was the most recent in a series of state reductions in operating support for the College as the state wrestles with balancing its own budget.  Since April 2008, William & Mary has seen its state support permanently reduced by a total of $16.7 million, or 32%.”

Well, things are tough all over, as they say. But faculty salaries at the school have become an embarrassment, strong in-state high school students are being rejected in favor of higher-revenue-paying out-of-staters…and now this. The College should start thinking about a way to go completely private. Otherwise, they’ll continue to get less and less, and pay — in reputation, at least — more and more. Let the state keep its 14%-and-falling.