The Inverse Political Ratio Between National Prominence and Life
By: Michael R. Shannon
When Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell ran in 2009 the Washington Post spent the campaign trying to persuade the FTC to penalize him for false advertising since his campaign was not built around social issues.
Any time a “conservative Republican,” does not make the three A’s (abortion, abstinence & alternative lifestyles) the centerpiece of his campaign; the Posties are convinced he’s misleading voters.
McDonnell didn’t have to discuss social issues because at that time conservative Virginia felt he was solid on those points. Instead, McDonnell focused on jobs and economic development.
(For what happens during a campaign when the base no longer trusts the candidate see Obama 2012.)
Now social conservatives may have to re–evaluate McDonnell. In sharp contrast to Gov. Scott Walker (R–WI) who remained conservative during nationwide controversy, McDonnell appears to be avoiding controversy at the expense of his commitment to social conservatives. Initially in hopes of becoming the Romney VP pick, now for a spot in the administration.
The differing outcomes of June’s three controversies illustrate my point.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority controls construction of Metro’s Silver Line rail route to Dulles Airport. MWAA has an appointed board of directors, but only a minority is appointed by Virginia’s governor. And only one of the Virginia appointees was McDonnell’s, the other three having been appointed by his Democrat predecessor.
The board initially required a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) specifying only union contractors — or contractors paying union wages with union work rules — could bid on Phase II of the Silver Line.
McDonnell and the legislature objected and the board responded by giving construction firms with a “voluntary” PLA a higher rating during bid evaluation.
McDonnell forcefully responded by reiterating no additional Virginia taxpayer dollars would be forthcoming unless the PLA was eliminated. Then he took advantage of a recently passed federal law and made two new appointments to the MWAA board, even though the existing board refused to seat them.
McDonnell did not budge an inch during the controversy even though there was a danger Phase II would never be built. The MWAA board finally decided completing the line was more important than scratching union backs and it eliminated the PLA requirement.
The governor decisively employed financial and public pressure to bend the board to his will and score a victory for Virginia taxpayers.
The second example is the firing of the University of Virginia’s first female president, Teresa Sullivan, on June 10th.
Rector Helen Dragas, a McDonnell appointee, lobbied other members of the Board of Visitors until she had enough votes to fire Sullivan. Then Dragas confronted Sullivan with the tally and demanded her resignation, without doing so at a formal board meeting.
Although legal, the maneuvering ruffled more than one set of university feathers and it lacked the transparency and ritual hand–wringing demanded of most academic decisions.
Uproar ensued. There were board resignations, “superstar” professors threatened to leave and large donors put a clamp on their wallets.
McDonnell had no role in the ouster and was out of the country when it happened, but the bad publicity was on his watch. Twelve days later he delivered an ultimatum: if the board did not make a final decision on Sullivan by Tuesday the 26th, McDonnell would demand the entire board’s resignation on Wednesday the 27th.
The Board reinstated Sullivan. McDonnell again was decisive and swift.
Compare those two instances with the third. In 2011 McDonnell signed a bill regulating abortion clinics the same way out–patient surgical centers are regulated. This resulted in two outcomes: first veterinary clinics no longer had more regulations than abortion clinics. And second, Democrats finally discovered a small business burdened by unnecessary regulation.
Step two was implementation by the Virginia Board of Health — completely dominated by McDonnell appointees. But McDonnell’s board voted to grandfather existing abortion mills, exempting them and effectively gutting the new law. The decision surprised abortion cheerleaders and stunned pro–life advocates.
Representatives from the Attorney General’s office advised the board it was improper to amend a law passed by the General Assembly, but the board refused to change its decision.
So what did the governor do when his board acted willfully, shocked his pro–life base and affronted the General Assembly? He did nothing. His spokesman said, ““The governor will review the final regulations when the board submits them for his review.”
It’s now over two months later and the governor is evidently “reviewing” up a storm. This gains him nothing from abortion promoters, who will never support him, and erodes the trust of the life community. The delay only serves to avoid MSM negative publicity.
I’m sorry to say it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion Gov. McDonnell is proving to be another Republican who “grows in office” but not in stature.
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at email@example.com.