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Race to Richmond

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The Washington Post Profiles Robert F. McDonnell

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David Klarich, a Regent student who was in his early 20s at the time, looked up to the 30-something man with a family. "He was very principled, very committed to Christ, very thoughtful about public policy, and you knew he had a future in politics," Klarich remembered. "I think people expected a lot from him. That wasn't unusual at Regent. In fact, that was what was expected of all of us, I think. We were trained with the intention not to stay put after we graduated but to get out there and practice where we were called to be."

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School officials regularly spoke of preparing graduates for positions of leadership in the public sector. Klarich would become the first Regent Law graduate elected to public office, winning a Missouri state House race at 25.

A year later, when McDonnell entered politics by running for the House of Delegates, his constitutional law professor, Herbert W. Titus, proudly attended his candidacy announcement. "I felt he had a chance to be very successful," Titus remembered. "Bob was part of the Republican resurgence at the time. . . . This was the kind of thing we hoped our good students would do, try to apply what they had learned."

The founding dean of Regent Law School, Titus had served as chairman of a three-member faculty committee that supervised McDonnell's thesis, the professor and McDonnell discussing the development of the paper in meetings during which Titus offered gentle guidance. He listened to McDonnell's goals for the paper, which argued that social changes, federal welfare policy and Supreme Court decisions had undermined family values. Titus made broad suggestions and critiqued McDonnell's work.

"It was more general suggestions, because I think Bob had a fairly good idea what he wanted to do," Titus remembered. "The [thesis] is presented now [by critics] as a radical position; but it's hardly radical. The ideas expressed by Bob in the thesis were quite compatible with the idea of family as God created it and its importance to the economic life of the nation -- the idea that you can't be a fiscal conservative if you're not a social conservative. Bob is right."

Today, Titus has avuncular praise for McDonnell. "Bob was a family man, very congenial, someone you liked," he said. "His commitment to family [issues] was obvious. This was the kind of person you wanted to see get involved, someone who wanted to apply the principles and approach learned here."

Titus defined that approach in his classes: Students would be learning a different perspective than that taught at most universities. Titus said he taught the "Blackstonian view," a series of legal concepts derived from the writings of 18th-century English legal scholar William Blackstone that he said dramatically influenced the Framers. At the heart of the Blackstonian philosophy was that man's law derives from God's law.

Titus says the modern American judiciary has violated God's laws, with court rulings that empower citizens to decide for themselves about such matters as contraception and sexual relations, free of regulation by the state.

Biblical passages made it clear, Titus said, that God deemed marriage as the only permissible relationship in which a person could have sexual intercourse. Therefore, said Titus, it logically followed that, as a means to protect the marital relationship, states had the authority and obligation to prohibit intercourse outside of marriage.

As measured by his thesis, McDonnell's view on the matter echoed Titus's. In the thesis, he criticized a 1972 Supreme Court decision in Eisenstadt v. Baird, which declared it unconstitutional for a state to prohibit the purchase of contraceptives by an unmarried person. McDonnell wrote that the court had "illogically extended" the notion of marital privacy to unmarried persons "at a time when every state made sexual intercourse between unmarried persons a crime." In a reference to the broader issue on Titus's mind, McDonnell's thesis scorned the idea that the state should be barred from regulating aspects of private sexual behavior, excoriating the "perverted notion that each individual should be able to live out his sexual life in any way without interference from the state."

The role of women and their rights remained a fluid question in Titus's legal view. Although Titus argued emphatically that legal distinctions based on race were morally wrong and unlawful, distinctions based on sex were sometimes legally permissible, he has said, "because God created two sexes."

In 1996, McDonnell became a member of Regent's Board of Trustees, a position in which he served until 2004. By then, the Titus view on permissible sexual distinctions had become firmly rooted in university policy. Critics have cited Regent's "Equal Opportunity Policy" -- which includes a section addressing sex discrimination -- in contending that McDonnell long tolerated sexually discriminatory policies at Regent.


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