McDonnell seems to be following the Mary Todd Lincoln defense, the notorious wife of our 16th president remembered, in large part, for her lavish spending that caused her husband considerable angst. In McDonnell’s case, his wife got a load of gifts and cash and bought stock in Jonnie R. Williams Sr.’s company, keeping him largely in the dark, he says. It was she, the governor says, who really went to bat for Star Scientific.
That may be all true, but McDonnell and his entire family benefited from the mega-donor’s largess. If he was blind or chose to avert his eyes from what his wife was up t,o he might escape criminal liability, but it sure doesn’t meet the standard Virginians expect of public servants, let alone their governor. McDonnell’s apology is the classic too little, too late damage control we’ve become used to in Washington, D.C. But Virginians pride themselves on having a clean, responsible state government.
Whatever the feds’ decision, it would behoove McDonnell to consider resigning. His effectiveness as governor is over. His behavior doesn’t warrant his continued presence in the executive mansion. And he is doing his party’s candidates no favors by hanging around until November. There is a respected, capable lieutenant governor in Bill Bolling (who ironically stepped aside to let McDonnell avoid a primary in 2009) who would make an appropriate substitute until the new governor is installed.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (who has a much less substantial connection to Star Scientific) and GOP state attorney general candidate Mark Obenshain might be wise to call for him to step down. It’s the right thing to do and it would send a clear message about their own standards. Admittedly, it would look like political expediency, but remaining mute is no profile in courage.
This is, by supporters’ and opponents’ admission, a stunning and tragic end to an otherwise very successful governorship. No, McDonnell is not exactly King Lear (or his wife Lady Macbeth), but hubris and/or greed have undone one of the country’s better governors. That’s a darn shame, if not exactly Shakespearean.