Before I go any further, I have to say that, as somebody who has frequently been highly critical of Gardner's work, this is a fair, balanced, and extremely well done story. That's important to acknowledge because to be a critic is not always to be negative. When you catch somebody doing something right, it's very important to point that out too. So, kudos to Gardner for an exceptionally well done job with this report.
Meanwhile, here is what's so curious about the story. While McAuliffe and his campaign were happy with it, Brian Moran's supporters were also pleased and were using it as proof of their own points about Terry.
For example, Moran supporter Aimee Fausser used the Washington Post article to further her argument that Terry McAuliffe is not the right candidate to be governor of Virginia. She picked out parts of the article, like this quote:
Terry McAuliffe has a simple message for Virginia: Elect him governor this year and he will bring jobs, because he has more business experience than anyone else in the race.And this one:
Yet McAuliffe's business pedigree is not so simple. He is a dealmaker who made millions from investments. And many of his biggest deals came in partnership with prominent donors and politicians, creating a portrait over the years of a Washington insider who got rich as he rose to power within the Democratic Party.
McAuliffe is, at his core, a salesman -- and even called himself a "huckster" in his autobiography. In his bid for governor this year, McAuliffe is selling the idea that his uncanny knack for making money can bring prosperity to all Virginia. But at a time when public mistrust of millionaires and politicians is high, that strategy could backfire.
But they belie the complexity of a business career built mostly on intricate land deals and dot-com investments, often with wealthy political donors -- and sometimes with no jobs to show for it.And as Fausser sums it up in a very well-reasoned post:
For McAuliffe, politics and business have always been intertwined.
He was Richard Gephardt's national finance chairman and later gave Gephardt a loan from the bank he led, Federal City National Bank. He worked with then-House Whip Tony Coelho on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 1980s and later worked with him at a Washington real estate brokerage, the Boland Group.
McAuliffe made $16 million developing a shopping center in Florida after persuading a top labor leader he knew through the Democratic Party to invest $40 million from the union's pension fund
"I don't want a Governor who views his election as his next big business move. It sounds like no matter what Terry's job is, he's always looking out for himself first..."Meanwhile, McAuliffe's people are very satisfied with that same article. So much so that they sent out emails to supporters linking to it and put it up on their website. From their point of view, it illustrates the argument they've been making, which is that Terry McAuliffe is a successful business man who will bring his Midas touch to Virginia's governor's mansion. According to their reasoning in favor of McAuliffe, his business acumen will make him a successful governor who will bring jobs, economic growth, and prosperity to Virginia.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Lots of candidates, especially those without an actual track record of elected office, have run on their life experience as successful business people. In fact, usually those who make that argument run as Republicans.
And among those who have succeeded with this approach, many have also foundered once in office because they've learned that the skill set that helped them to succeed in business is very different from the skill set that works for a public official. In many ways, the talent, skill, and knowledge that one needs to accomplish one's goals in the public sphere are very different from what it takes to be a successful businessman.
Of course, there are notable exceptions, such as Mark Warner, who succeeded both in business and as governor. But he is a man of unusual depth and ability, and he impressed people with his seriousness and intellectual capacity. He might have been an entrepreneur, but I don't think anybody ever referred to Warner as a huckster - a word McAuliffe freely applies to himself.
The other thing that strikes me is that this may not be the right time and place for candidates to run on their business experience because, as Gardner also observes when she quotes Robert Holsworth:
"People are somewhat skeptical at the moment of certain kinds of business dealings," said Robert D. Holsworth, a political scientist and author of the blog Virginia Tomorrow. "There is a populist resentment that's directed at both government and business simultaneously. I don't know how that's going to play out."I would agree with that summation. In fact, I'm rather startled that McAuliffe's people even took this to be a complimentary article considering its very title is "McAuliffe's Background Could Be a Liability." And although Gardner is very careful to point out that McAuliffe has done nothing illegal or wrong, her main theme is that, at this time, when so many people have been harmed by some of the same businesses with whom McAuliffe has had such lucrative associations, the very background Terry touts may be his biggest liability.
The very "hucksterism" he celebrates may strike a discordant note with a public that is no longer enamored of every robber baron that comes along. I am willing to bet that if people were to watch the movie Wall Street today, they would no longer be cheering as Gordon Gekko gives his "greed is good speech," as they did back in the 1980s.
We know that greed is not good for the average person and that Gekko was not our benefactor. And it may be that pro-business Terry Mac isn't either. In fact, it may be that Americans are finally fed up with hucksters and want public servants.
Both Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran fit that category. While McAuliffe was out making deals and using the Democratic Party, and his access to the highest levels of government, as career accessories, they were toiling in the more unglamorous Virginia General Assembly and the Senate, when both were Republican strongholds. While neither Deeds nor Moran are paupers, neither man is as rich, audacious, or capricious as McAuliffe and that is a good thing - for Virginia.
Of the two serious candidates, my favorite is Moran because his are the more progressive credentials, if by a hair. One can quibble over a lack of purity or an inconsistency here or there, but overall, Moran has stood with women, gays, environmentalists and working people over a lifetime of fighting for our interests. Creigh has, by his own admission, been a bit slower to come around on some issues. That does not disqualify him in the least. He would do the Democrats proud in a general election.
But since on primary day you can only pick one, my first choice is Brian because he was a bit quicker on the uptake when it came to gay rights and environmentalism. Terry, meanwhile, wasn't even in the Virginia race - he was out practicing the art of the deal.