Monday, April 12, 2010

Hey Bob, stop whistling Dixie.

C'mon Bob.

I'm really getting tired of explaining to my out-of-state friends that we aren't all neo-Confederate cesessionists who hate gay people and the unemployed.

You ran for office as "Bob for Jobs." Remember that? You haven't created any yet. In fact, the state budget you helped craft will cost thousands of teachers and other local government employees their jobs.

But, look, that's okay. It's a tough economy. Everybody understands that.

You've been trying to stick to your message.  You went on cable news shows and claimed that you'd filled a $4 billion hole in the state budget without raising taxes. That's a good message for you. Of course, it isn't quite true. There are taxes in the budget, although some of them are called "fees," and you filled a large part of the hole by borrowing from the Virginia Retirement System. That's money that will have to be paid back, with interest. The difference between that and the "deficit spending" your pals in the GOP are all over the President for seems largely a matter of semantics to me.

But the fixed-the-budget-without-raising taxes claim is close enough for politics. Particularly on televsion news.

So if that's why people were  talking about Virginia today, you'd be in clover. You'd have to start listening to all those people are who are lining up to tell you, "Yes, you can" in 2012's national elections.

But Bob, that's not why people are talking about Virginia.

They're talking abuot the damned Civil War again.

And they are talking about it because you are talking about it. You couldn't leave well enough alone and you had to revive a tradition buried by the last two governors and issue a proclamation naming April as  Confederate History month.

And, you left out any mention of slavery, the primary cause of Civil War, in your initial proclamation..

Are you nuts?

Isn't 150 years of this garbage enough? Can't we get past this? Virginia has as its heritage Jamestown, Yorktown, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the Bill of Rights and most of the U.S. Constitution. How about we celebrate that instead of the actions of the traitors who threw away that birthright to fight for the right of one human being to own another?

Bob, I can't believe you didn't know better than this. I watched you through a lot of years in the legislature. I didn't always agree with how you voted, but I always thought of you as a sensible man. I know you're not a racist. But  here you are, emulating George Allen, a Confedrate States fan boy who does have racial issues. Your initial proclamation wasn't even as enlightened as Jim Gilmore's. I'd have guessed that was a bar you'd always get over.

That you apologized after several days of intense criticism and issued a new proclamation denouncing the horrors of slavery speaks to the good sense I always thought you had. Frequently GOP politicians, when they get into a pickle like this, just double down and up the ante.

Nonetheless, this controversy has made the state look bad nationally -- we look like a pack of rednecks who are stuck in the past -- and it's damaged your personal brand. When Republicans are considering you for a place on the national ticket in 2012 -- and they will -- the Civil War History Month proclamation is part of the baggage they'll have to consider.

This isn't your first stumble since taking office, making me wonder if the staff that looked invincible as you ran for governor is up to the task of governing.

First, you had the issue of discrimination against gays in state colleges. Granted, you didn't bring that up. That was your intrepid attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, apparently issuing an opinion where no one has asked for one. He said state colleges couldn't protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. That forced you to issue a policy against such discrimination. However, you stopped short of giving that the force of law as your immediate predeccesors had. It made you look weak and exposed the fact that, whatever you said to get elected, you don't in fact support equal rights for gay and lesbian citizens.

I can't believe your staff didn't have a plan to deal with the inevitable Cuccinelli outburts. You served with him in the General Assembly, you served with his ideological clone Bob Marshall in the house for years and years. You had to know he'd do something to embarass you and the state within short order. I mean, you're conservative, Bob, but that guy's crazy. And you knew that.

And yet, you still let him steal the spotlight. He's suing the EPA over climate change science. He's suing Congress over health care reform. Pretty soon he'll be suing the CIA for landing black helicopters on his lawn. And the rest of the country will be wondering if they did the right thing by letting us rejoin the Union in 1870.

And, you know Bob, the Tea Party faction of your party prefers Cuccinelli to you. Can you believe that? But I'm sure your staff keeps an eye on the Republican blogs, so I'm sure you've seen that some of them think you're a useless liberal and Cuccinelli is the man with a plan. If I were you, I'd find a way to stick a fork in this guy.

Not just for your sake, but for the sake of the Commonwealth.

Bob, I see this week that the stumbling continues. The state has used up its unemeployment funds and needs to borrow money from the feds to meet its obligations. Um, Bob, weren't you arguing last year that Virginia should turn down federal stimulus money to extend unemployment benefits? How's that working out for you?

And I see where your Secretary of the Commonwealth has decided to add an essay question to the application for non-violent felons to have their voting rights restored. Bob, do you think this is the SATs? You do realize that this program disproportionately benefits African Americans, right? And I know you're astute enough to understand the analogy that mean people like me will draw between your program and the Jim Crow era "literacy tests" for voting. Are you trying to make a permanent enemy out of the NAACP, which wasn't all that hostile to your candidacy? Does that help you with the base somehow?

It doesn't seem to make sense to me, policywise or politically.

Since I know you're smart guy, I've got to think it was another mistake.

 You won in a landslide last year. But, remember, Barack Obama easily carried the state in 2008. A year is an eternity in  politics. You had some political capital with the people of Virginia. Perhaps even enough to succeed with your plan to sell the state's ABC stores. But these sloppy mistakes are using that capital up. You're starting to look like you aren' t ready for prime time.

You need to find your "A Game" in a hurry.
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