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GOLDMAN: Richmond Times-Dispatch is no longer proudly conservative

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Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

RICHMOND, Va. – Wow, has Virginia conservatism gone wimpy!

Instead of “manning up,” conservative editorial writers – at least they claim to be conservative – are begging these days to be accepted as politically correct by their liberal peers.

“Please, I am a good person!” they scream.

Case in point, the transformation of the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial page, from proudly conservative to politically correct.

It continued with yesterday’s endorsement of a big government liberal idea long derided by the newspaper’s high command.

For years, the RTD brain trust dismissed as liberal nonsense the call for a new government agency entitled an “Ethics Commission.” They laughed at the idea of creating some new government agency to act as Plato’s Guardians in matters of determining whether our politicians had been acting ethically in matters of accepting gifts, political contributions and the like.

As Democratic Party Chair, I long thought the idea rather silly. If you understand politics, you realize the type of Ethics Commission envisioned by the RTD would actually not help at all, rather it would be purely “feel good” stuff, expensive too.

In their conservative days, the RTD would point out that states like New Jersey, and New York had such commissions, and they also have far more political corruption than Virginia.

Yesterday, the RTD editorial repeated the arguments in general, but came to the opposite conclusion. This time, because 41 states have ethics commission, it is time for Virginia to have one!

This time, they endorsed this big government idea without even knowing how much it would cost the taxpayers or operate. But since all the other major daily newspapers had endorsed it, the RTD was eager to appear politically correct.

The Washington Post, the Roanoke Times and the Virginian Pilot all have endorsed this new government agency. So the RTD wanted to be seen as enlightened, begging for acceptance.

On what amounts to their “conservative apology tour,” the RTD this year has backed the biggest tax increase in history, wanted to overturn the marriage amendment passed by the voters in 2006, believed the GOP’s abortion plank is too extreme and now it endorses the classic liberal approach to solving problems by creating a new government agency to allow bureaucrats to make the rules.

This is the new liberalism… I mean conservatism? What now exactly makes them conservative, except for their self-professed claim?

But you say, as did the RTD, what we have learned over the past months about our “gifted governor” shows ethics laws aren’t working. They said the McDonnell mess would not have happened if we had a new government ethics agency.

The RTD is right in seeing an historic mess.

But at the same time, they admit that until now, our ethics laws, which they deride, seemed to have worked. New Jersey and New York had governors who recently resigned. They have massive political corruption.

The ethics commissions are jokes. I have helped elect governors of New Jersey and New York. When the Virginia General Assembly decided that Governor Wilder was correct and didn’t have to detail the fundraising of his Inaugural Fund, they changed the reporting law.

Since then, all governors have so reported. Problem fixed.

Bob McDonnell now concedes that he should have reported his gifts even though the law didn’t so require. We can be sure no other governor will make his mistake. But just in case, the 2014 General Assembly session can, and should, fix the loopholes in our laws, making them do what they were intended to do. In effect, a lax law is no law at all.

Moreover, in fixing the loopholes, we can improve their reach and ban certain actions so that the laws are clear, not subject to interpretation.

We don’t need to appoint a new government agency to fix these loopholes, we just need some common sense.

Governor McDonnell is NOT under federal investigation for violating the state’s ethics laws.

The federales are NOT interested in the state’s ethics law because they are too lax, and thus need to be tightened by the General Assembly, no Ethics Commission could do it unless the RTD wants to give them THE BIGGEST GOVERNMENT POWER OF ALL, the right to pass regulations.

Is the RTD going that far, the whole hog of liberal big government? The feds are interested in whether McDonnell violated federal law, apparently the Hobbs Act, if the newspaper leakers are correct.

Bottom line

The McDonnell mess is easily fixed, on the state level, by fixing the loopholes to make the laws have clarity and thus force.

As for a governor who wants to sell his office for personal gain, there is no law that can stop that. I pass no judgment on Mr. McDonnell, believing he is entitled to the benefit of any doubt when his apparent accuser is a sleazy business guy.

Virginia doesn’t need an ethics commission to ensure ethics in its next governor. Rather, it needs an ethical person as the next governor, the same for the 100 delegates to be elected this year also, ditto the LG and the new AG.

Between the RTD, the GOP ticket and the Republican blogs, the state of conservatism – on a principled, intellectual basis – is sinking fast.

Maybe the RTD will next endorse a Conservative Commission to police conservatives around the state and issue edicts telling them what is, or is not, acceptable conservative thought.

Big government conservatism —  that’s a strange philosophy for an alleged conservative editorial page.

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.