In which I beg to differ

For those of you who don't spend every free moment picking through the flotsam and jetsam that bobs endlessly on the surface of our political sea, you're probably not aware of the existence of one Bob McDonnell. Mr. McDonnell, a former Virginia attorney general and member of that state's legislature, is in the early stages of a run for the governorship as a Republican. So far, no big whoop.

What is causing him no small headache is a graduate thesis he wrote twenty years ago while attending Pat Robertson's Regent University. In it, he expressed some... colorful views on women, contraception and gays, among others. His opponent, as well as the liberal blogs, have been all over it.

From TPM:
The Washington Post yesterday reported on the masters thesis of Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell. As the paper noted, McDonnell argued, among other things, that working women and feminists are "detrimental" to the family; that government policy should favor married couples over "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators;" and that the court decision legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried couples was "illogical," because at the time non-marital sex was itself a crime.


Soon after calling the Supreme Court's decision on contraceptives "illogical," McDonnell blasts "the perverted notion of liberty that each individual should be able to live out his sexual life in any way he chooses without interference from the state" (pg. 15). It was essentially that "perverted notion of liberty," of course, that the Supreme Court would uphold in 2003 when it struck down Texas's anti-sodomy law.
There's a lot there, and it's all quite conservative and out of keeping with what one would call moderate social policy. In other words, it's exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to be written in a graduate thesis by a student at a university founded by Pat Robertson.

Over at Ordinary Gents, Will has ruled the thesis as out of bounds for current political consideration. He writes:
There is such a thing as a sincere change of heart. McDonnell hasn’t disavowed everything he wrote, but he’s definitely walked back some of his more controversial views. In light of the fact that this was written 20 years ago, I’m inclined to give McDonnell the benefit of the doubt. Politicians should at least pretend to be open to empirical or ethical persuasion, and unless the pol in question has a history of being an egregious liar, I’m willing to accept the “changed my mind” explanation at face value.


...I’m wary of the chilling effect academic witch-hunts have on the interaction between experts and politicians. Presumably, we want our political leaders to get advice from academics, who are disinterested and frequently more knowledgeable on a particular subject. Academic documents are also fundamentally different from political ones – they’re less vetted, more exploratory, and ultimately less subject to artificial political constraints. I think this is a good thing, and I’d like to see more practical interaction between the academy and policy-makers precisely because academics have more freedom to come up with good ideas.
As Will notes, McDonnell has indicated that his personal views have not informed his priorities thus far, and will not impact the kind of policy he will implement if he is to be elected. Fair enough. But I don't think it's particularly surprising or objectionable that people have seized upon the thesis and have expected McDonnell to make an accounting of it.

First of all, it is hopelessly naive for any candidate for any major political office to expect any published material to go un-scrutinized or un-exploited. For crying out loud, look at the brouhaha that erupted over a single reference to a "wise latina" that Justice Sotomayor made in one speech many years ago. This is the world in which we live, and it is pointless to pretend that we're all too high-minded to delve into the murky past of any candidate for dirt.

Further, I think it is entirely legitimate for people to want to know the social views of their prospective governor. And the views in that thesis are extreme. Do I think that they automatically disqualify McDonnell from office? No, I most certainly do not. It is not unreasonable, as Will notes, to take him at his word when he claims that his views have changed with time. (It would be an understatement of epic proportions to say that my own social views have changed in twenty years.) But neither is it unreasonable for people to ask about what he said, what he believes now, and how those beliefs would impact how he governed the state.

Will goes on to compare McDonnell's ordeal to the travails of Cass Sunstein, whose lengthy academic paper trail was used against him during his confirmation to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. To which I say, Cass Sunstein must surely have known that it was coming, unless he has been writing those articles for The New Republic from a cave on Mars for lo these many years. Perhaps, as Will suggests, this kind of academic mining will dissuade academics from entering the political sphere. That might be unfortunate in the abstract, but an aphorism about heat and kitchens springs to mind.


  1. Yes, quite so. One would never expect to find a Democrat in high office who decades earlier espoused, say, White Supremicist rhetoric. Like being a senior member of, well, the Klu Klux Klan. Maybe a Grand Kleegle or something like that. No, the Democrats would never tolerate such a thing. Oh, wait...

  2. do you beat yourself in the head before you post in order to maximize your stupidity gj? Trotting out ancient Sen. Byrd as some kind of eternal equalizer is as stupid as you are. Can you ever contribute anything to a conversation besides idiotic snark? Sen. Byrd has long ago renounced and disavowed his beliefs, and I know of no one in the black caucus that shuns him. McDonnell has not disavowed what he wrote because he is afraid of alienating the conservative base, so instead he is trying to finesse the issue without renouncing the central premises of his thesis. As to me, this is entirely up to the voters of Virginia as to how they feel about his thesis (as it is to the citizens of West Virginia and how they feel about Byrd's past activities). I see absolutely nothing wrong with Democrats confronting McDonnell about what his beliefs are now and if in fact they have changed. But as to you, you seem to have no opinion beyond idiotic snark, you wrote absolutely nothing to indicate what you think about the issue at hand.

    By the way, aren't you tired of coming online to be utterly crushed by my superior logic? Are you somekind of intellectual masochist? Do you enjoy being humiliated by your betters (ie. everyone else who has ever gone online here)?


  3. Hi, charo! Say, I have an idea. I understand that you don't think much of me. And, from your writings here, I have wondered if you could pour water out of a boot even with instructions on the heel. So why don't we both play nice for a change, and stick to ratinoal discussion with a salting of snark, instead of these ad hominem Jeremiads? Deal?

    First, my reason for bringing up the Senate's Grand Kleegle, Robert Byrd (D-American Trial Lawyers Assoc), is that neither party has a claim on the moral high ground if we dig back decades. I'm unsure if it is especially helpful to go back 20 to 30 years for dirt when fresher dirt would be more convincing, should it exist. To your observation, the WaPo says that McDonnell does in fact claim his views, like those of Sen. Byrd, have evolved over the decades. And I know of no black group that would refuse to work with McDonnell were he governor. So I'm really unsure how the "four legs good, two legs bad" mentality can use this 'revelation.'

    On the larger point, we have today the most feckless, arrogant, struggling to maintain third-rate standards group of pols on both sides of the aisle. All of them, evvery single one, should be tossed out of power forever. My argument is not that the GOP is so much better than the Dems, but that both are unworthy of power. Neither side has demonstrated the intellectual consistency that would be required to run a lemonade stand without massive subsidies. For every Larry McDonald there is a Charles Rangel; and the Rangels are in power now, so they should be drawing the most snark and criticism.

    We now return to your regularly scheduled polemics.

  4. "is that neither party has a claim on the moral high ground if we dig back decades" So? If a German were to protest the genocide in Darfur, would you throw the Holocaust in their face? Actually, you would but few sane people would. McDonnells views have not "evolved" there is no evidence that it has. He hired women because he was legally bound to do so, but I have no idea if given the chance he would have only hired men. And his views on gays, abortion, etc. have not evolved either, if they have then he is not a Conservative. The only thing that has evolved is the extremity of his rhetoric has lessened.
    He is in a difficult situation, and to be honest I sure as hell would not vote against him based on a thesis but so be it if others do.

    "All of them, evvery (sic) single one, should be tossed out of power forever." Again with the stupidity. That is just cant. And replaced by who and what then? A dictatorship by you? Who are you? We live in a Democracy, you don't like the people in power, run against them but spare me that everyone in power is unworthy.Try reading a little Churchill you schmuck. " "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried." So deal with it and keep your totalitarian fantasies better hidden.

    I am actually kind of surprised how you manage to be so consistently stupid in your pronouncements. Have you ever been outside of America and travelled anywhere? Do you have any idea about even the United States? About the tremendously prosperous society that has been built, in large part by the contributions of the US government and the "unworthy" politicians? Why do you hate America so much? You hate the military (a gun toting protestor is more a patriot than a soldier who gives his life for our liberty), the police (you claimed that no police would do his job to protect you, which is why you feel compelled to carry a gun with you).

    I am starting to wonder if they let the unabomber have access to the internet because you are starting to sound a lot like him.


  5. Hi charo! Regarding the German, if said German *participated* in the Holocaust, yes, I think that would be relevant to protesting Dafur. If you believe Mr. McDonnell's views circa the late 80's are de rigeur to be a Conservative, you are greatly mistaken. Look around you, man. Tossing the current feckless crew from power isn't indicative of a totalitarian view, but the opposite. I respect the individual, they do not. I believe in a limited government, they do not. And as a group, they have proven themselves unworthy of holding the reins of power. I exercise my right to the highest form of patriotism when discussing our present government.

  6. The issue with you is conflating all Democrats with the action of one very old Senator from W. Va. And even a German who participated (and repented from his actions) in the holocaust would not be wrong to protest the genocide in Darfur. You have zero ability to reason. And you certainly do not respect the individual as you seem to somehow believe politicians are not individuals motivated by as many complexities inherent in the human condition and you or I, your idiocy is just to state all politicians are bad, therefore we should have no politicians in office and anyone who runs for office is a politician, ergo no one should have any office but we can all live in some la la land libertarian utopia. Maybe then you might even get laid, (with a real live human female) Hey, stop digging you have reached the intellectual sewer and you can't go any lower.
    The Republican party has become pretty much insane, now you can argue that Republicans and Conservatives are not the same, but there simply are very, very few intelligent Conservatives around. It has become all shock, snark, and invective. You fit in with them very well. Actually, you should get a job at Fox, you seem stupid enough and would fit in quite well.


  7. One more flog at the deceased equestrian...

    Yes, finally you notice that the Holocaust participant must have sincerely repented before addressing Dafur. Bravo! Repentance and humility go hand-in-hand, but somehow, I find it hard to believe that Sen. Robert C. Byrd, erstwhile Exhalted Cyclops of the KKK and Senator who voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, sitting in his office in the Robert C. Byrd Office Building in the Robert C. Byrd Office Complex just off the Robert C. Byrd Parkway near the Robert C. Byrd Airport and Robert C. Byrd National Forest has much humility about anything. So why should the Dafur analogy not apply here, with Sen. Byrd as the pompous "Vee ver chust following OR-ders" type?