GOLDMAN: McDonnell threw Cuccinelli under the bus
Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.
RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Is Governor Bob McDonnell on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s campaign payroll?
If not, Terry had better report all the governor’s help as an in-kind contribution, perhaps even a gift under Virginia’s loose political reporting laws.
Last Tuesday, on a Northern Virginia radio show, Governor McDonnell took the cheapest shot yet at Republican gubernatorial nominee and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He attacked Cuccinelli for doing what the legal profession required. He attacked the attorney general for doing what a Democratic judge said was the right thing to do under the circumstances. McDonnell actually undercut his own lawyer’s standing and further fueled attacks on the lawyer for the size of his legal bills.
Thus the governor was not only wrong as a matter of law, but he clearly showed he had all the qualities of a dog except loyalty. Pathetic.
But, it is also true Cuccinelli set himself up for what could be a fatal political attack.
I warned of this potential months ago when writing a column for another blog on the tradition of Virginia’s attorney general resigning to run for governor.
Democrats, including myself, successfully used the failure of an attorney general to resign (the only one in the modern era) to win a gubernatorial race.
In that campaign, the Republican attorney general should have seen his political problem coming months away. But he got arrogant. Thirty-two years later, so has Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He should have seen his political problem coming months away. But again, he too got arrogant.
Let me explain.
Last Tuesday, the governor was asked about Tony Troy and his law firm, the legal eagles appointed by the state to advise Mr. McDonnell on certain legal matters connected to the upcoming criminal trial of the former chef at the Governor’s Mansion.
The Troy law firm appointment has become a political hot potato now that the firm billed taxpayers $53,000 in legal fees. This $53,000 number made headlines around the Commonwealth.
McDonnell knows this is merely the initial bill. The final fee will leave $100,000 in the rear-view mirror. The governor knows this.
So what did he say?
Basically, he blamed it all on Cuccinelli. The governor said he never asked for Troy to be appointed by the state nor paid by the state. Yet McDonnell not only accepted the services, but used Troy as a key legal defender for the very reasons appointed.
Today’s column focuses on one thing.
The fact that Governor McDonnell has revealed himself, to any experienced political person, as being unworthy of leadership of a great state, a commander-in-chief willing to leave his own men on the battlefield to save his own hide. Even when letting them bleed to death won’t help him politically at all!
The judge in the ex-chef’s case – a Democrat – agreed that the attorney general did the right thing, as a matter of law, in declaring his office had a legal conflict under the rules.
But contrary to what the media has reported, the conflict, as a matter of law, would NOT have gone away if the attorney general resigned his office to run for governor.
The conflict ran with the Office of Attorney General given their role under state law. It did not depend on who sat in the attorney general’s chair temporarily.
In that regard, the media has bought the Democratic campaign attack a line I predicted would be used against Cuccinelli if he didn’t resign. It didn’t take much insight for me to make this prediction. Such a conflict, sooner or later, was inevitable. This is why attornies general resign to run for governor! Otherwise, in a political contest, they leave themselves open to attack with no useful defense.
Democrats have no moral responsibility to point out any nuance here. It is up to Cuccinelli to explain the legal rules.
GOOD LUCK ON THAT IN A CAMPAIGN YEAR!
The attorney general choose to remain in office, thus creating his own political mess. That part is all on him.
But in regards what McDonnell said, that is all on the governor.
I say, to any competent lawyer anywhere, he has revealed himself in the worst way. First, he blamed Cuccinelli for appointing Troy, the governor said he never asked for Troy or any attorney to be appointed.
Why then did he accept Troy as his attorney? Why did he meet with him all these weeks? Why did he make him a prominent member of the McDonnell legal team?
It was cash and carry from Jump Street – the governor knew it.
He could have said no. There was no legal obligation for Mr. McDonnell to accept the state’s help.
SO LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE HERE.
The governor wanted Troy’s help, he needed Tony’s help and he wanted it without having to pay.
This being the case, he has no moral, political nor decency basis to now say that it was all Cuccinelli’s idea, and thus his fault for the $53,000 legal bill.
The governor threw his own lawyer under the bus, embarrassed Troy and set him up for huge headlines around the state when the next legal bill arrives. The governor threw his party’s own gubernatorial candidate under the bus by giving Democrats a huge political gift, one that they will use in 2013 as those of us used in 1981 against [Marshall] Coleman.
Again, Cuccinelli set himself up for this, by not resigning. If he had not been in the office when the conflict came to light, the Democrats would not have been able to connect the dots because the new attorney general would be the face of the issue.
So in that regard, Cuccinelli has been his own worst enemy, advised by advisors who can’t advise. If McAuliffe can’t win under these circumstances, he is in the wrong business.
I repeat what I wrote yesterday: Unless the Governor calls a Special Session, unless he pro-actively embraces his errors, “man up” by not blaming anyone else, and moves strongly ahead with a positive, reform agenda to fix the problem, he is DOA as a state or national figure of any repute.
Cuccinelli is as flawed a candidate for governor as any in recent state history. That’s on him.
What’s on the governor is this: all the qualities of a dog except for loyalty.
Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.