McDonnell has served for 37 years in government, as the statement noted, with no hint of scandal. While the state’s gift laws are vague, supporters are baffled by the appearance of impropriety associated with unreported loans of this magnitude. And now, after letting the matter drag on for over a month, he now says he is “deeply sorry.”
Plainly one can sense the degree of regret he must feel (“I am committed to regaining your sacred trust and confidence”). His conduct and now his apology have to a minor degree ensnared Virginian Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, although polls show voters don’t hold the now-GOP gubernatorial nominee responsible for the scandal. In any event, it limits McDonnell’s utility to the Cuccinelli campaign and distracts from Cuccinelli’s attacks on Democrat competitor Terry McAuliffe’s shady business record.
It is not clear this will end the controversy (although any legal action would be tricky given the state’s lax gift laws). But Cuccinelli can at least take some comfort that by the time most voters start paying attention to his race, this will be “old news.”
This isn’t the first time a successful pol has screwed up, but it is among the strangest. For a guy with a squeaky-clean image and a record of significant accomplishment as governor (on transportation, jobs, energy and education), it is a sorry way to end a political career.