At some point, Bob McDonnell’s high-wire balancing act is going to come to an end. The only real question is whether he makes it safely to the other side and climbs down (on the right side, we’re sure), or ends up tumbling from his perch in a tangle of flailing limbs and contradictory policy positions.
The most recent whiplash-inducing executive acrobatics came one day after April Fools. Governor McDonnell—fresh off of one feel-good photo op (a bi-partisan jobs bill signing in Northern Virginia) and days before the next (an appearance at Virginia Commonwealth University promoting “telemedicine,” whatever that is)—decided to squander any reservoir of goodwill he might have built up by resurrecting the long-dormant “Confederate History Month.”
In fact, not only did McDonnell drag this contentious issue out of Virginia’s musty historical dustbin for the first time in eight years, but he did it with a proclamation that, at first, contained no mention of the “peculiar institution” of slavery whatsoever. (He later apologized for this “major omission” and added a line of text to the proclamation calling slavery “an evil and inhumane practice.”)
Asked by the Richmond Times-Dispatch about this bizarre oversight, McDonnell dismissively informed the newspaper that he “focused on the [issues] I thought were most significant for Virginia.”
And so it goes. This kind of schizophrenia has been the hallmark of Gov McD’s first few months in office. It seems that every slight sop to the left (look, Maureen McDonnell planted a Michelle Obama-esque garden behind the executive mansion!) is soon followed by a much larger lurch to the right (gee, looks like McDonnell appointed notorious GOP vote-suppression expert Hans von Spakovsky to the Fairfax County Electoral Board—which then inexplicably voted to stop distributing foreign-language voter registration applications!).
And nowhere is this schism more apparent than in McDonnell’s budgetary and economic pronouncements. He shot out of the gate with a few crowd-pleasing fireworks, from reopening shuttered rest areas to promoting green power and vowing to make Virginia “the energy capital of the east coast.” But the realities behind the happy talk aren’t quite so rosy.
In fact, even as the governor was confidently informing CNBC’s Larry Kudlow that “I closed a $4 billion shortfall without raising taxes,” local governments all across Virginia were already scrambling to figure out how to plug the holes left behind by the General Assembly’s proposed draconian budget.
In addition, McDonnell’s triumphant austerity continues to be undercut by his Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, who is currently wasting untold thousands of dollars on frivolous, unwinnable lawsuits against the federal government. (How much taxpayer scratch is the Cooch blowing? We may never know, since he continues to defy Freedom of Information Act requests.)
So it’s somewhat ironic that McDonnell was recently tossed a political lifeline by the very subject of the AG’s continuing legislative onslaught.
Yes, with one surprising, environmentalist-infuriating pronouncement, President Barack Obama brought Bob McDonnell’s dream of besting Texas (or at least Louisiana) in the petroleum sweepstakes one step closer to fruition.
Of course, any potential profits from drilling for oil off of Virginia’s shores are years, if not decades, away, and all royalties have to be split 50 ways. But who cares? There’s black gold in them thar hills! (And by hills, we mean deep sea sedimentary rock and basalt.)
So good luck with the drilling, governor. But be careful: After all, oil can be a pretty slippery addition when you’re trying desperately to keep your balance.