OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy

Sunday, June 11, 2006 :::

The Ugly Columnist Returns

I've learned a valuable lesson.

Never underestimate a newspaper columnist's bile. Particularly when said columnist is Jeff Schapiro.

Only a week after penning a highly useful piece that gave readers some perspective on the current budget tussle, this week's entry swerves violently back into swamp of bete noirs, where readers are introduced to its newest and possibly most horrible resident: Attorney General Bob McDonnell.

Why is McDonnell? Well, he has issued a legal opinion on the Governor's ability to spend money in the absence of a state budget that runs contrary to the columnist's (no doubt deeply informed) reading of the state constitution. The resulting prose would make even a life-long, liver-damaged, yellow journalist blush:

What do you want to bet that this is not the opinion McDonnell would have written were fellow Republican Jerry Kilgore sitting in the Governor's chair, facing a similar stalemate between the House and Virginia Senate over new taxes for transportation?

But by refusing to affirm the executive branch's prerogative to manage crises, including one created by a legislature seemingly motivated more by spite than substance, McDonnell again raises discomfiting questions about his capacity for governance.

Goodness gracious me. We can only assume that if McDonnell's opinion said exactly the opposite, then Schapiro would have penned a Byronic ode lauding his judgment and political vision.

Or not. After all, McDonnell is a Republican (a gay-bashing, Pat Robertson leaning, anti-tax lovin', accidental election winner, according to the less family-friendly passages in the piece). That fact alone disqualifies him from receiving anything remotely associated with praise.

But our intrepid columnist, eager, as always, to heap scorn upon scorn, tosses this barb at the AG's feet for good measure:

...McDonnell -- who beat State Senator Creigh Deeds by fewer than 400 votes in November -- has his own constituency. It is difficult to fathom how he expands his base for '09 with an opinion that will please only the right wing of the GOP.

And by getting in Kaine's face -- some Republicans, for sure, expect that -- McDonnell may be inviting an even bigger constitutional headache: a possible effort, after 154 years, to switch from an elective Attorney General to one appointed by the Governor.

So there you have it. McDonnell's offenses are so grave, so truly hideous, that the only possible way to prevent their like from reappearing ever again is to rewrite the constitution (Dick Howard, call your office).

I'm not entirely sure McDonnell's opinion would hold up in court. There's a case to be made that it is sound, just as there is a case to be made that it is not.

However, rather than discuss what he sees as weaknesses in McDonnell's brief, Schapiro resorts to character assassination -- the cheapest and most shallow line of attack a columnist can take. But certainly the easiest (it is a Sunday, after all).

With efforts like this, is it any wonder why the long-serving Schapiro is still mired in the newspaper world's minor leagues?

::: posted by Norman Leahy at 6/11/2006 7 comments


"You know what the fellow said: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they also produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love -- they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." -- Orson Welles, The Third Man

"The graveyards are full of indespensable men" -- Charles de Gaulle

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