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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Doug Wilder's Non Endorsement of Deeds Says More About Wilder, Less About Deeds

I have to admit that I have been both puzzled and irritated by Doug Wilder's non-endorsement of Creigh Deeds. For a long time, Wilder has played the spoiler in Virginia politics, but Terry Rea sums it up well here. This quote says it all:
In his statement, the former governor of Virginia and mayor of Richmond gave some clues as to why Creigh Deeds couldn't win his endorsement. In doing so Wilder mentioned Deeds three times by name. Bob McDonnell got one such mention. That while Wilder wrote "I" 13 times.

So, for the most part, Wilder used the space to remind his readers of what he sees as pertinent highlights of his own record. He made no mention of the many feuds he has (had) with various Democrats along the way.
Meanwhile, Lowell gives a brilliant point by point refutation that skewers the faulty logic that Wilder brought to his statement. Here are some highlights:
1. Wilder asks, "Who is best suited by temperament and training to govern in hard times?" I mean, seriously, is there really a question here? I mean, does Governor Wilder really believe that person would be Bob McDonnell, who opposed Mark Warner's bipartisan (and courageous) actions to save Virginia's AAA bond rating from the ravages of Jim Gilmore's governorship? Does he really believe that person would be Bob McDonnell, who thinks that Bush economics is the a great model for America? And does he really believe that person would be Bob McDonnell, who has focused his entire career on pushing an extreme, divisive social agenda? Finally, does he really not believe that person would be Creigh Deeds, a pragmatic/moderate Democrat who will govern in the Mark Warner mold? Whatever.

2. Wilder asks, "Who has presented to the people realistic plans for Education, Transportation, Health Care, Public Safety and Social Services, etc.?" Puh-leeze, this isn't even a close call! As the Washington Post (correctly) has said, Bob McDonnell's transportation "plan" is all "smoke-and-mirrors, wing-and-a-prayer" stuff that "relies mainly on raiding other areas of the budget such as education and public safety to pay for new roads." Wonderful. Or, as Dan Casey put it in the Roanoke Times, McDonnell's transportation plan is "a patchwork that's overloaded with complexity, chock full of wishful thinking and seriously flawed overall" (Casey nicknames it, "Booze, borrowing, tolls and BS"). Or, as Republican State Senator Marty Williams said about McDonnell's transportation non-plan, "It's a disaster." Meanwhile, Mark Warner says that Creigh Deeds' approach to is "exactly the right approach Virginia commuters and businesses need to solve our transportation challenges." Again, tough choice!

3. Wilder asks, "Who has the vision that can inspire confidence and assure people that Virginia can still move forward, even while confronting difficult choices?" Well, Bob McDonnell certainly has a vision. The only problem is, that vision is batshit crazy. What's amazing is that McDonnell's been so open about it, whether in his infamous theocratic thesis at CBN University, or when he urged "the General Assembly to exploit the gap in state road funding as a rationale for reducing state spending on education, public safety, health care and conservation." As the Daily Press wrote about this extreme, Grover Norquist view of government, "That such an ideological purpose lies behind the Republican transportation proposal has been implied all along. McDonnell made it explicit." And that is certainly NOT the "vision" we need for Virginia the next four years.

4. Wilder claims that the Creigh Deeds' position on the one-gun-a-month issue "is puzzling and inexplicable." But what's actually "puzzling and inexplicable" is how Doug Wilder can possibly think that Bob McDonnell - who promised god knows what to gain the NRA endorsement - will be any better on this issue than Creigh Deeds. Also, if Doug Wilder really believes that the gun issue is on the top of most peoples' minds right now, he must not be talking to many ordinary Virginians (you know, the ones struggling to make ends meet, get or keep a job, provide health care coverage to their families, etc.).

5. Wilder states that "it is the time to put our fiscal house in order," completely ignoring the fact that Virginia maintains a AAA bond rating, a sure sign that the Commonwealth does have its fiscal house in order. What does Wilder want, a AAAAAAAAAAAA bond rating? What the hell? And in what conceivable way does Wilder believe that Bob McDonnell will do a better job than Creigh Deeds in maintaining Virginia's long string of AAA bond ratings, "best managed states in the country" awards, etc? That this is even a question is utterly nonsensical.

6. Finally, and to be brutally frank about it, Doug Wilder sounds like a Grover Norquist/"Club for Growth" Republican with his blather about funding "'necessities' rather than 'niceties'". What next, does Wilder want to shrink government - as Norquist famously said - to a size where he can "drown it in the bathtub?" I mean, with all due respect, Governor Wilder, when you refer to "niceties," what in god's name are you talking about? Are you perhaps talking about education, whether pre-K, K-12, or colleges and universities? Are you talking about transportation? Public safety? Environmental protection? Health care? What? And please, Governor Wilder, enlighten us all as to where the "fat" is in a state budget that has now been slashed by billions of dollars the past year as the Republican Recession devastates state revenues (and increases state expenditures for unemployment insurance, etc.) across the nation?

The bottom line is this: on the merits, and with all due respect to Doug Wilder's past accomplishments (as well as his deserved place in Virginia and U.S. history), today he is completely, wildly, bizarrely, laughably off base. On "one handgun a month," Bob McDonnell will certainly not be any more "liberal" than Creigh Deeds would be. And on keeping Virginia the "best managed state in the country," we've seen the results of the ideological Republican approach vs. the pragmatic Democratic approach the past 8 years. That there can be any question in Doug Wilder's mind as to which approach is completely inexplicable and nonsensical. Given that Doug Wilder is a very smart man, and employing Occam's Razor, that leads to one simple conclusion: Doug Wilder simply doesn't get along with Creigh Deeds personally (maybe Creigh hasn't kissed Wilder's you-know-what sufficiently over the years?) and is taking it out on him - but more importantly, on the people of Virginia - yet again. That's just pitiful.
It is indeed sad that personal vendettas and pettiness have clouded the judgment of the man who was the first African American to be elected the governor of any state in the U.S. His accomplishments and his service to Virginia are admirable and nobody can take away his proud legacy or his role in history. That makes it even more poignant that he has chosen to let ego override logic.

But Lowell has a strong point. If it's Creigh's position on guns that Governor Wilder objects to - McDonnell's is no better and is most likely worse - at least, from Wilder's perspective. After all, it's McDonnell who has won the NRA endorsement. So, if Wilder objects to Deeds' votes, helping McDonnell puts Virginia no closer to gun control. For that, Wilder should go out and win the hearts and minds of Virginians, not ruin political careers.

If it's Deeds' position on raising revenue to fund fixing our transportation mess, that is hardly a "nicety" for the millions of Northern Virginians stuck every day in two hour traffic jams. Likewise for those who struggle in Richmond and the Hampton Roads area, or any urban center, with traffic problems. Indeed, if we don't fix our transportation problems by investing in infrastructure and public transit, we will lose out in the race to attract new business to Virginia since business companies do look at quality of life issues and are concerned with how their workers will commute to work. Additionally, these issues impact the environment and pollution control.

Meanwhile, Virginia was just named the best state to do business for the fourth consecutive year by Forbes magazine. All that has been under Democratic governors. Deeds has already pledged to follow in the tradition of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine when it comes to fiscal responsibility and maintaining a strong business environment.

So, whatever Doug Wilder's beef with Creigh Deeds, it's not for any of the issues that really impact Virginia or its citizens well being. More likely, it's all about Doug Wilder, an increasingly petulant old man who has been rapidly winding his way into irrelevance.


DanielK said...

It is very unfortunate the Doug Wilder has put his own issues ahead of what is best for Virginia. He definitely put his own priorities ahead of anything else as noted by his non-endorsement speaking about himself and what he wants. As I've said before my respect for Creigh has grown even more throughout this whole mess because he didn't change who he is in order to gain Wilder's endorsement.

In all, I don't think this is really going to matter as much as Wilder wants it too. People will move on pretty quickly once Barack Obama comes and starts campaigning for him, especially down in Wilder's neck of the woods. The scary this is and I don't think even Shelia Johnson realized this and this is the fact that their actions also hurt both Jody Wagner and Steve Shannon in their races because it's a slap in the face to the entire statewide ticket. Neither of them have vocally came out in support of either of them which could tell a lot of independent voters that they also aren't on board with their candidacies.

Hopefully this will put Doug Wilder into his appropriate place in Virginia history which should be completely irrelevant and one who has put his own interests ahead of the citizens he once represented. Clearly he has forgotten what it's like to represent all of Virginia.

***And for the record, my previous comments elsewhere have indicated that I could have really cared less on who he endorsed. (I don't see him as very relevant anymore in Virginia politics) My issue is his reasoning, logic and self interests he used in coming to his decision.***

J. Tyler Ballance said...

This may come as a shock, so brace yourself:

Nobody cares what Wilder thinks.

Most Virginians don't even know that he used to be the first mulatto Governor in America. If he wasn't our first partly Black Governor, nothing about his term in office would be worthy of note.

This is the Twenty-first Century and we are moving beyond the era of racial politics, walking around money and the days when you had to pay-off the Black preachers to get their flocks to fall into line behind a candidate.

I strongly suspect that the Deeds campaign refused to pay for the endorsement, because they realize that there is no value in it, so they didn't get it.

Anonymous said...

Obama and Kaine sure thought it was important for Wilder to endorse Deeds. I will give you a Afor a great spin.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I actually don't care what Obama or Kaine thought about Wilder's endorsements.

I suspect that Wilder's endorsement isn't as important as it used to be, given the state's demographics. How many new residents have flooded into Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and even Richmond for whom Wilder isn't a factor?

That's not to take away from the man's very real accomplishments or his legacy. But for the many people who have moved to our state since the early 1990s, Virginia's past politics is just not that relevant. They are interested in what a candidate can do to help them today.

Anonymous said...

You might be right that may explain why Deeds is behind in the polls.