Mrs. McDonnell
Mrs. McDonnell and a portrait of Mrs. McDonnell (Laura Vozzella / The Washington Post)

In EJ Dionne’s column today, he muses about what can be done with the passion engendered by the acquittal of George Zimmerman, since we only ever seem to talk about race when people are all really mad at each other. If the particular case is over, as it seems to be, what now? How can we move forward with dignity and a sense of purpose and make things better?

But PostScript waded into the comments, and mostly just found a whole lot of racism, and the daring of others to call one racist, and counter-accusations of racism and stuff. So, life being short and fragile and all that, PostScript abandoned those comments to end up in Marc Thiessen’s column on the bewildering behavior of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

In a refreshingly candid (if arguably cynical) piece, Thiessen takes as given some uncomfortable truths about our political system — for example, that a popular ex-governor is guaranteed millions in lobbying and consulting fees after his term is over in a perfectly legal game of influence-peddling. And also — equally uncomfortable and often unstated — that for a politician’s soul, $150,000 is selling out cheap.

McDonnell stands accused of taking that much money from friends before his term is up. But even worse than corruption is petty corruption. Thiessen asks: How could McDonnell sell his birthright for a mess of watches and wedding receptions and free dental work? What was he thinking?

tone2 sums it up nicely:

Are you surprised that he and his wife are corrupt and greedy, or are you surprised that they were so cheap?

Well, exactly. This is the behavior of greedy people, but the truly greedy, one would think, would keep their eyes on the millions McDonnell would get upon graduation from politics, reputation intact.

giffordj suggests they needed the money and needed it RIGHT THEN:

Mr. Thiessen, you left out the part about why Gov. McDonnell felt he couldn’t wait for the revolving door. Evidently, he and his wife had bought $3.6 million worth of home, beach and ski real estate at the peak of the market, then suffered about a $1 million paper loss that left them “underwater” on mortgages and unable to sell the properties. Did they bite off more than they could chew? Did they need cash to avoid a big foreclosure loss?

That might make sense if they didn’t the spend the money on extravagances once they got it. A wedding reception? Seriously?

TJDemo argues McDonnell also squandered the priceless commodity of bipartisan support:

The irony here is that after a couple of GOP governors who were highly partisan jerks, McDonnell did a pretty good job. He had his priorities right and was not divisive. As a independent, although I normally vote Democrat I have voted Republican. So McDonnell probably had a future. As I say, HAD.

Traveler112 thinks McDonnell hasn’t actually damaged his future all that much:

One of the sad facts is that the type of people who hire former politicians are not the the type of people with deep regards for ethics. They only care about the lobbying power a former politician offers. So, I bet that even if McDonnell faces charges at some point, the big lobbyists in Richmond who typically hire ex-politicians would still hire McDonnell.

Peterjdennis agrees that McDonnell will survive:

With the daily barrage of hit pieces from the WaPost Mcdonnell disapproval numbers have moved up t0 35%. Has the WaPost become irrelevant? At least Thiessen understands that VA Governors are limited to 1 term, he should also know McDonnell has done nothing against VA law.

Rivery has more in that vein. It’s inexplicable, she-he says, unless McDonnell knew for a fact his behavior was legal:

What astonishes me most, as a Virginian, is that McDonnell is no legal rookie. He has a law degree, he was Attorney General. He had no idea that his actions were wrong? He wasn’t picked up at Home Depot to become governor. How does he not know, after decades of legal training and practice, that he was routinely screwing up and that he will pay for it?

And Buddydog says this wouldn’t have been a problem at all if only they’d used a PAC:

I don’t see what the problem is here. The Supreme Court has said that, effectively, contributions of money to politicians are just a form of protected speech. Star Scientific was just exercising its free speech rights. The $6,000 Rolex watch was just a form of political expression. Every Virginian, naturally, has the exact same rights to exercise their own form of political expression by giving tens of thousands of dollars to McDonnell. Right?

PostScript is pretty sure she wouldn’t feel cheap selling out for $150k, but it’s hard to know, really, without it ever being offered. It would therefore be much more likely, empathy-wise, for her to be able to forgive Gov. and Mrs. McDonnell were she ever put in the position herself of seeing a check made out to her for $150,000. She is just saying.