While the Tracy Thorne-Begland gay bashing in the Virginia House of Delegates by Republicans has made the Commonwealth look beyond backward and reactionary to the rest of the world, there's yet another casualty of the rank unvarnished anti-gay bigotry: Bob "Governor Ultrasound" McDonnell and his Vice Presidential nominee ambitions.
McDonnell (who I've known since 1994) has been trying strenuously to make himself look like a moderate and trying to change the public conversation away from the extremism and neanderthal mindset of the Virginia GOP of which McDonnell is the ostensible leader. The events in the wee hours of this past Tuesday did nothing to help McDonnell's effort to win the GOP veepstakes.
McDonnell's dancing around the issue of Thorne-Begland's sexual orientation has also happily revived interest in McDonnell's own involvement in a similar crucifixion of former Newport News Circuit Court Judge Verbena Askew in 2003. That debacle first earned McDonnell the nickname "Taliban Bob." And then there's the issue of the McDonnell administration's unholy ties to The Family Foundation, a coven of theocracy loving Christianists. TFF President, Victoria Cobb's, husband is a member of McDonnell's cabinet.
Life's a bitch of late for Taliban Bob.
A column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch looks at how the Thorne-Begland matter is blowing back against McDonnell. Here are highlights:
Republicans say Thorne-Begland is unfit for the bench for two reasons: that Thorne-Begland - who, with his partner, has two children - favors same-sex marriage. It has been illegal in Virginia since 2006. And that the former Navy fighter pilot criticized the scrapped Clinton-era rule allowing gays to serve in the military if they kept their sexuality secret - the policy of "don't ask, don't tell."
Sounding like a Washington politician who insists his position on gay rights is evolving, McDonnell - historically, no friend of gay Virginians - said after the vote, "If anyone voted against Mr. Thorne-Begland because of his sexual orientation, that would be very disappointing and unacceptable." Before the vote, McDonnell said candidates for the courts should be considered for their professional qualifications, not their sexuality. McDonnell said, "These ought to be merit-based selections solely based on a person's skill, ability, fairness, judicial temperament." Sexuality should not be a factor, he said, "only their ability to practice law and mete out fair decisions."
That's practically the reverse of McDonnell's position in 2003. Then, as the chairman of the House courts committee, which was considering the reappointment of a Newport News judge who had been accused of sexually harassing another woman, McDonnell clearly established a link between a candidate's CV and sexuality.
In an interview with the Daily Press of Newport News, McDonnell said a violation of Virginia's ban on anal and oral sex between consenting adults - since invalidated by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Texas case - might disqualify a judicial prospect: "It certainly raises some questions about the qualifications to serve as a judge." The judge, Verbena Askew, was removed.
[T]he vote in the wee, small hours of Tuesday... is a nightmare that the governor doesn't need. This is another punch in the nose to McDonnell's brand of happy-face conservatism, not to mention his now even-longer shot at the vice presidency. It keeps alive the potentially ambition-killing narrative he has struggled to change in recent weeks through campaign-type advertising and by barnstorming the state, emphasizing its economic rebound.
That storyline - nice-guy Southern Republican exposed as committed culture warrior - is largely McDonnell's doing... But it is only one data point in a decades-long string of them: McDonnell's 1989 thesis as a law student at Pat Robertson-founded Regent University in which he complained that government policy is wrongly weighted to "cohabitators, homosexuals (and) fornicators." And McDonnell's refusal, as a newly installed governor, to extend an executive order by his two Democratic predecessors protecting gay state employees from discrimination in the workplace.
Taliban Bob worked hard over the years constantly kissing up to the Christian Right and pushing the backward thinking, theocratic agenda of Pat Robertson and The Family Foundation.
Now that it's biting him in the ass, I cannot find a single tear to shed for McDonnell. Past actions and words have consequences as McDonnell is finding out. Nothing would be more fitting to see McDonnell passed over because he's deemed "too extreme."