Post Trying to Macaca McDonnell

Republican Bob McDonnell enjoys a rather sizable lead over Democrat Creigh Deeds in his race for Virginia’s governorship. But the Washington Post, which went after George Allen with amazing fervor in his 2006 race against longshot Jim Webb, is doing what it can to fix that. First, it ran a series of articles about a master’s thesis McDonnell wrote during the Reagan administration. With that having not done the trick, it’s digging up a new charge:

bob mcconnellIn January 2003, then-Del. Robert F. McDonnell helped gavel in one of the most extraordinary judicial reappointment hearings in Virginia history: a seven-hour, trial-like affair that led to questions about whether the future Republican gubernatorial candidate thought gays were fit to serve on the bench.

As chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee, McDonnell sat at the head of the proceedings, with his Senate counterpart next to him and committee members on both sides. Facing them was Verbena M. Askew of Newport News, the state’s first black female Circuit Court judge, whose reappointment was in jeopardy because of allegations that she had sexually harassed a female colleague.

[…]

In comments before the hearing, McDonnell indicated that Askew’s sexual conduct was relevant, telling one newspaper that “certain homosexual conduct” could disqualify a person from being a judge because it violates the state’s crimes against nature law. The words were widely published at the time, and his remarks contributed to a lasting view that sexual orientation was at least one reason for Askew’s ouster.

[…]

McDonnell’s role in the hearing has attracted renewed scrutiny after the publication last week of a 1989 graduate school thesis in which the 14-year lawmaker and former attorney general had criticized working mothers and homosexuals and urged the promotion of traditional values through government. In one passage, McDonnell wrote: “Man’s basic nature is inclined towards evil, and when the exercise of liberty takes the shape of pornography, drug abuse, or homosexuality, the government must restrain, punish, and deter.”

[…]

McDonnell was credited by Republicans and Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly at the time for making sure witnesses supporting Askew were present at the hearing.

He also became known for telling the Daily Press of Newport News that certain homosexual activities could disqualify a person from the bench. “It certainly raises some questions about the qualifications to serve as a judge,” he said. “There is certain homosexual conduct that is in violation of the law,” McDonnell added. “I’m not telling you I would disqualify a judge per se if he said he was gay. I’m talking about their actions.”

What’s particularly rich here is that the Post is arguing that it’s own opposition research on a candidate is grounds for doing more of the same because, after all, it “attracted renewed scrutiny”!  Imagine that.  Indeed, they title the piece “After Thesis Uproar, McDonnell’s Strongly Worded Comments on Gays Resurface.”  One has to love the use of the passive voice to obscure the fact that it’s the Post itself creating the uproar and doing the resurfacing.

Like Allen, McDonnell has run numerous races, including statewide races, before.  He’s faced the scrutiny of the voters and the slings and arrows of opposition campaigns.  These issues have therefore been bandied about over and again.

In what possible sense is a twenty-year-old graduate thesis news? Or even six-year-old public hearings that were widely covered at the time?  This is a smear job, not journalism.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mpw280 says:

    Sounds like how the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times covered for Obama, going so far as to get sealed divorce proceedings unsealed so they could get Ryan to drop out of a race he could have won. The papers are neither fair nor non-partisan and should be treated as propaganda machines for the democratic party. mpw

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Well, it ain’t beanbag.

    At what point would youthful activities become irrelevant? Does the nature of the activity make a difference? Is being a member of a communist organization worse than a graduate thesis criticizing homosexuals? Using cocaine? Does it make a difference if you can draw a line between present actions and history? What are the rules? Are there any?

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    While I myself agree that McDonnell’s thesis is mostly irrelevant, I don’t think that his actions and statements while in office are off limits. Certainly, a governor who proclaims a problem with homosexual contact being “illegal” after Lawrence v. Texas is a governor who might act in a way that is contrary to the rule of law, right?

    Past history as an officeholder is perfectly relelvant to consideration of a political candidate. And, I might add, so is consideration of the use of a racial slur by a candidate who has acknowledged sympathy to the Confederate cause and flies a Confederate flag.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Dave and Alex:

    I think the voters can decide whether issues are “relevant” to a campaign. So, this stuff is fair game for Deeds campaign ads.

    I’m questioning whether it’s the proper role for a newspaper to do this digging – especially on charges (like the Allen Confederacy business) that have been aired previously. It strikes me as essentially a multi-million dollar campaign contribution disguised as journalism.

  5. James, but no one pays attention to AG races and such. It is like the claim that Palin had been vetted because she won as Governor of Alaska. People are more concerned and more interested in the “bigger” jobs. You can’t assume that because the handful of people who followed previous McDonnell campaigns know about it everyone does.

    I mean, hell, I admit I don’t follow state politics much… but I probably follow it closer than most… and anyway, I didn’t know about how much of a nutter McDonnell was. So for me, this is actual news and relevant.

    As for McDonnell’s thesis, Alex, he was 34, and running for state legislative office at roughly the same time. It is as relevant to his views as those books politicians put out when they run for office. If it is fair to pore over Obama’s books for signs of his hidden Marxist/Muslim biases, then certainly McDonnell’s thesis is fair game.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Bernard,

    I prefer my vetting to be done by the opposition parties, whose agenda is transparent. It’s legit for media organizations to step in as fact checkers for actual controversies but not to act as oppo-research for one side. Not if they’re going to be thought of as objective.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    a governor who proclaims a problem with homosexual contact being “illegal” after Lawrence v. Texas is a governor who might act in a way that is contrary to the rule of law, right?

    He said “certain homosexual conduct” would be illegal, not any homosexual conduct. I think he’s referring to the bathhouse culture. Lawrence just held that people had a privacy right to consensual sex behind closed doors. I don’t think it precluded prosecution for crimes against nature that are not private.

    I suspect McDonnell has a pretty stereotypical view of homosexuality, which frankly has some basis in reality at one time when being gay was far less accepted. Ask Larry Craig.

  8. DC Loser says:

    From the WaPo piece:

    In comments before the hearing, McDonnell indicated that Askew’s sexual conduct was relevant, telling one newspaper that “certain homosexual conduct” could disqualify a person from being a judge because it violates the state’s crimes against nature law…Scanlon, who now lives in Colorado and is no longer a reporter, also remembers asking McDonnell whether he had ever violated the crimes against nature statute himself — a fair question, he thought, because McDonnell had raised the legal point. The statute, among other things, prohibits oral or anal sexual contact, regardless of the sex of the participants. McDonnell’s response, Scanlon reported, was: “Not that I can recall.”

    Yeah, right! LOL….

  9. James: What do you mean “for one side.” Do you have any knowledge or evidence of the WaPo suppressing stories on Deeds?

    Look, man, I know it is frustrating. But your party is chock-a-block with lunatics and fanatics. There are plenty of corrupt and stupid Democrats of course, but to get to, say, Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann or Bob McDonnell level of crackpottery, you need to harken back to Maxine Waters 15 years ago. You guys are cornering the market on loons.

    Any accurate reporting is going to note that fact. It has little to do with liberal bias.

    Your argument is essentially that since Republicans are so screwed up, it is unfair to report on politicians since the result will show Republicans in a bad light.

    Well, guess what, stop voting for crackpots like Palin and McDonnell… stop giving Glenn Beck and Rush huge audiences… stop pretending that “death panels” are real… and all your troubles will go away.

  10. James Joyner says:

    Your argument is essentially that since Republicans are so screwed up, it is unfair to report on politicians since the result will show Republicans in a bad light.

    Uh, no. My argument is that newspapers should report news, not dredge up 20-year-old stories.

  11. PD Shaw says:

    Bernard, we know that during Obama’s Senate race his staff wrote letters to the Chicago newspapers about his opponent’s divorce file, all the while, Obama publicly stated no interest in his opponent’s divorce.

    I don’t think closed divorce records should ever be part of the public debate, but if we are going to do this sort of historical reporting (that is, not news), then I think the newspapers should disclose whether they have been asked to cover these things by the opposing campaign.

  12. Steve Verdon says:

    Look, man, I know it is frustrating. But your party is chock-a-block with lunatics and fanatics.

    Yes, and the Democrats are paragons of rationality and civility. Yeah, Van Jones wasn’t a loon and a charlatan. Nope, not at all. And lets face it, the Truther movement is your sides version of the Birther movement.

    Well, guess what, stop voting for crackpots like Palin and McDonnell… stop giving Glenn Beck and Rush huge audiences… stop pretending that “death panels” are real… and all your troubles will go away.

    To that I’ll see your bet with Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, and raise you one Kieth Olbermann.

  13. Gustopher says:

    And lets face it, the Truther movement is your sides version of the Birther movement.

    The Truthers are generally mocked and ignored. The Birthers are generally embraced.

    To that I’ll see your bet with Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, and raise you one Kieth Olbermann.

    Not going to get into a pissing contest on which are more insane, but measure it in viewer/listener-hours, and you’ll see that the lefties just don’t measure up.

    Crazy righties have more of an audience, and more acceptance, than crazy lefties.

  14. davod says:

    “Verbena M. Askew of Newport News, the state’s first black female Circuit Court judge, whose reappointment was in jeopardy because of allegations that she had sexually harassed a female colleague.”

    If the McDonald was making a point about the law, then why should he be penalized.

    “The Truthers are generally mocked and ignored. The Birthers are generally embraced.”

    I call bullshit on this statement. I do not have the link but I read on a liberal web site where a liberal is quoted as saying (and I am paraphrasing – why would the White House have picked up on the truther remarks because they are normal”

  15. steve says:

    James-What then constitutes journalism? Why isnt it news if most people did not know about his remarks about gays? Should journalism consist of just parroting whatever the candidates tell them? Things like Michelle Obama’s Princeton thesis got covered in the MSM. At the time I thought this wold be a trend, and I suspect you will see it happening with all major elections now. While I agree that much of this is irrelevant, as someone above said, what are the rules? There dont seem to be any.

    Steve

  16. PD Shaw says:

    steve, the linked WaPo article does suggest that this may not be news to the Commonwealth:

    In political circles, it was a widely disseminated remark, and it came to symbolize, some said, McDonnell’s role in the Askew affair.

    “It” being McDonnell’s published statement that he didn’t recall whether he committed any crimes against nature. Sounds too funny not to have been widely disseminated, but I don’t live in Virginia.

  17. Andy says:

    Uh, no. My argument is that newspapers should report news, not dredge up 20-year-old stories.

    Well, this is patently absurd. The guy admittedly based his legislative career on several of those points he developed in his thesis. The most recent story is about something that happened six years ago while he was in public office. It seems extremely important to investigate these things.

  18. G.A.Phillips says:

    Well, guess what, stop voting for crackpots like Palin and McDonnell… stop giving Glenn Beck and Rush huge audiences… stop pretending that “death panels” are real… and all your troubles will go away.

    Do you believe that a unborn baby is a Baby human or a inviable tissue mass?

    Do you believes that we came from wet rocks that had some kind of magical cosmic rainbow particle fairy dust sprinkled on it?

    Do you believe that the infinite universe just pooped out of a tiny speck of matter?

    Do you believe that we need to control the population with forced abortions and sterilizers in the drinking water?

    Do you believe that if someone you finds a rat in your rat trap that you should have civil rights abuse charges filed against you?

    Do you believe that your uncles is a monkey?

    Do you believe that your a talking monkey?

    CAN YOU BELIEVE THE THE PRESIDENT SAT IN A RACIST BLACK SEPARATIST CHURCH FOR TWENTY YEARS AND YOU PROBABLY VOTED FOR HIM?

    If you have answered yes or present to any of these questions or have been part of or present at any of these questions you just might be what your so worried about.

    Do think that maybe half of Rush and Becks audiences are little hater liberals sitting in their mommas basements with tape recorders?

  19. Marty says:

    James – When the candidate himself volunteered and directed the two WashPo reporters to his thesis as an example of his philosophy, it’s hardly irrelevant old information. And public statements in a public forum a mere 6 years ago is certainly relevant. What the Post is doing is, well, reporting. I realize that we haven’t see a lot of it in recent years; perhaps that’s why is stands out a bit.

  20. Steve Verdon says:

    The Truthers are generally mocked and ignored. The Birthers are generally embraced.

    Oh really? Van Jones was not mocked and ignored. And the Birthers are not the center of the Repbulican party. Please, you have your kooks, they have their whackjobs. Dennis Kucinnich ring any bells?

    Not going to get into a pissing contest on which are more insane, but measure it in viewer/listener-hours, and you’ll see that the lefties just don’t measure up.

    Crazy righties have more of an audience, and more acceptance, than crazy lefties.

    Shorter Gustopher: I’m not going to get into a pissing contest…but I will.

    G.A.,

    Do you believe that a unborn baby is a Baby human or a inviable tissue mass?

    Depends, before 21 weeks gestation the fetus is pretty much non-viable. Sad, but the reality is that many infants born prematurely before that cut off are denied care since their chances are so low.

    Do you believes that we came from wet rocks that had some kind of magical cosmic rainbow particle fairy dust sprinkled on it?

    No, I don’t believe in creationism.

    Do you believe that the infinite universe just pooped out of a tiny speck of matter?

    The universe isn’t infinite given that it is still expanding.

    Do you believe that your uncles is a monkey?

    Of course not, like I said, I don’t believe in creationism.

    Do you believe that your a talking monkey?

    Sigh

    It is simply astounding the damage creationism has done to people’s understanding of scientific concepts. Here lets try it with something a bit less controversial.

    Are dogs and wolves related? Yes, dogs are a sub-scpecies of wolves. Both start with Canis lupus. For example the Grey wolf is known as Canis lupus where as the domesticated dog (all breeds) are Canis lupus familiaris.

    Now, humans and monkeys (chimpanzees since actual monkeys are only in the same order as humans and chimps) are both hominids. Humans are known as Homo sapiens sapiens and belong to the family Hominidae and sub-family Homininea, whereas monkey are Simia troglodytes and also belong to the family Hominidae and sub-family Homininea. So the relationship between chimpanzees is of greater distance than that between wolves and dogs, but none-the-less they are distantly related. Just as are dogs and wolves.

    No, crossbreeding is not possible with humans and chimpanzees, but it is with dogs and wolves, inter-species breeding is very rare, intraspecies breeding is one part of the definition of species.

    This whole, “my uncle is Steve (not a monkey)” is an amusing demonstration that most creationists just don’t understand scientific concepts. And those that do are simply liars.

  21. G.A.Phillips says:

    lol….

    The universe isn’t infinite given that it is still expanding.

    pray tell how would you know this?

    Of course not, like I said, I don’t believe in creationism.

    Hey now your answering questions like me, but I like it, I like it.

    It is simply astounding the damage creationism has done to people’s understanding of scientific concepts. Here lets try it with something a bit less controversial.

    Rule 5? rule 12? I’m just kidding, I’m sure you did not mean it that way..

    I’m not as dumb as I act Steve, your not going to change my mind by posing theory that has been obliterated by the very science that supposedly supports it.
    A wolf is a dog a dog is a wolf. don’t matter to me how it is artistically fitted into a theory CREATED to explain it with a couple names in Latin slapped on it to fool people into thinking the artist is smart.

    And if you can not understand that I’m am talking poop for the simple matter of trying to act like a liberal, sigh…

    Also that I’m trying to CREATE A CHANCE that I will irritate at lest one of you enough so that you might look at both sides instead of holding the opinion that you can not be wrong about this because the people who taught you agree with you.

  22. G.A.Phillips says:

    http://www.whitcombministries.org/

    Here. maybe this guy won’t scare you away, he is brilliant and makes a compelling argument.Unlike me.