Eventually there’ll be a lesson from the McDonnell trial. For now, though, the revelation is how easily polished politicians can embrace and superimpose parallax and conflicting images without challenge. What we see depends upon where we stand. We too often choose the view that eliminates the discomfort of cognitive dissonance.
You might recall that Bob fashioned himself as a friend of business; the “Jobs Governor.” Now that it is convenient, he feigns disinterest in the details of business and investment. Even Jonnie Williams recalls an investment proposal putting the Governor to sleep during a plane ride. Many remark that it is a shame that such a fine man finds himself in this situation and look for someone to blame. Maureen is a convenient straw-woman; for them and for Bob’s attorneys. Some say that he is so bright that it is surprising that he was taken in by a snake oil salesman. Others believe that he was simply too trusting. This reflects a public persona that he cultivated along a path of retrofitted accomplishments and, as it turns out, malleable, maybe even bankrupt, fundamental values.
Bob was born with the gift of physical charisma; aka good looks. Many people rely on that gift to advance themselves. If you’ve got it, flaunt it, so they say. But when there is not sufficient desire to develop internally yet personally ambitious, the alternative to interpersonal and intellectual development is building socio-pathological, manipulative skills. Bob McDonnell’s accomplishments were singularly adequate and hardly distinguished but sufficient to pass as achievement among a close knit group of Virginia Beach, then statewide sycophants.
Bob cuts a dashing figure and his looks and gregarious personality cloaked an indifferent intellect long enough that he could measure new acquaintances to expose the parallax facet that charmed them sufficiently, closing the sale of a vacuous façade. Objectively, there is nothing to demonstrate that Bob has a personal or moral anchor. At least he’s never acted to provide evidence of significant conviction. The perfect opportunity presented itself after 9/11. If he had remained in the army reserve beyond achieving the minimum number of years for a pension, he might have managed to serve on extended active duty through years of war during which the military was short-handed. In fact, he could have always asked to be brought out of retirement. But he avoided that risk while his daughter served in Iraq. Contrast that to radio personality and self-made millionaire Clark Howard who after that attack, having no military background, enlisted in the Georgia National Guard at what must have been close to service limits for age with no benefit of rank and experience (Howard is now a Captain).
And those we marry? Are they not a reflection of ourselves? Really? A pro football cheerleader? An adult child who grew up sharing the same benefits of objectification? Willing to be whatever the attorneys want her to be so that the parallax view of her involvement shields her spouse?
A man who was raised Roman Catholic, attends arguably THE Catholic university, Notre Dame, then somehow ends up in a university that is the spawn of a man who, if he were honest, would have denied McDonnell’s Christianity? In the Pat Robertson style of Christianity, Catholics are disqualified as Christians because they have not been “born again.” One must assume that for the fast comradeship between McDonnell and his mentor Robertson to have grown so strong, Bob must have acknowledged and deferred to this demand. This would have been a seductive and personal process that passed without notice except between them. It is not like public confirmation and a sociopath would recognize that advantage. Having done so, though, McDonnell would have denied the very essence of his Catholicism, rebuked his baptism and confirmation as baseless. That is a personal and moral foundation built of sand; a man with a soul up for bid. Possibly a man willing to stave the wolves using his wife with the goal of having his own reputation born again. The ends would justify the means.
We are all indeed works in progress, so change is not inherently a contradiction. However, being born again is not the same as conversion when you continue to embrace, as Bob has at least publicly, the Catholic dogma and doctrine. In his case it appears to simply serve two different constituencies; provide two views of what may appear the same personal values; demonstrate he is willing to be whatever anyone wants him to be. A chameleon.
There is a certain beauty to belonging to the born again crew. You see, when you are born again, you are renewed and possess a spotless soul. If, it seems, you stumble afterwards, it turns out you must not have been born again after all and you are still eligible for rebirth because you never really accepted “the truth.” Who knows how this works with other variants of this theme like the purity balls and regaining virginity, but in this case by vowing greater devotion and sincerity each successive time you can creep to moral perfection and the great reward on a road paved with your transgressions and good intentions. Quite the opposite terminus Bob McDonnell’s Catholic upbringing would advertise for the same path; an internal socio-pathological parallax rationalization.
On Friday a caller to Tony Macrini’s radio show explained her view: Jonnie Williams is Satan, Maureen, Eve, and Bob a vulnerable Adam led innocently to temptation by Williams acting through Maureen. Seriously, that is what the woman expressed. Though Macrini was dismissive, that, or some other redeeming creation, is what the defense attorneys hope is a view of one or more of that Richmond jury of Bob’s peers: Bob is not guilty, rather a victim of colluding schemers he paid little attention to while they worked to undermine him. And being from the side of the political spectrum that is always beating the blame the victim drum, this is so sweetly ironic. Whether or not the defense that is being fabricated is true, what is certain is that while the entire family is suffering, it is Maureen that is the sacrificial offering in this attempt at redemption.