Irene offered a window on Governor McDonnell’s mettle. The one situation where he could have demonstrated decisiveness was passed. Good fortune protected those whose safety was placed at risk and protected his weak character from judgment. But we are reminded his blather about public safety, like all else, is foofaraw.
There was a telling contrast between the executives whose states, cities, and companies were affected. Governor Christie demonstrated that he is a strong, confident executive while making and enforcing hard choices. Governor O’Malley was businesslike and reassuring. Mayor Bloomberg acted early with unprecedented decisiveness. The power companies up the east coast rallied the troops and called in reinforcements.
Governor McDonnell couldn’t act on the one call that was his to make: to reverse the lanes on I-64 out of Hampton Roads. This resulted in a 20-mile or more backup, leaving thousands vulnerable to the weather and to the potential for foul play. There’s your public safety left flapping in the winds. There was no excuse. National Guard troops were mobilized. Convoys of state police were dispatched to Southeast Virginia. The transportation system was designed for such a requirement. But to take the decision meant accountability and responsibility and vulnerability to criticism. This is a man who revels when he can claim responsibility for anyone’s success. And his dances in the end zone, taking credit for faux accomplishments are becoming legend. That’s okay, he’s in the company of the Cox Communications executives who decided that calls about down service didn’t need to be answered; not even a recorded message.
By yesterday, most people had missed that failure by our own Governor to reverse the lanes on I-64. Then there was a story in the Virginian Pilot that was a bit of a soft-shoe by personnel with the Virginia Evacuation Coordination Team for Operational Response. They can say what they want, but having watched Governor Christie closely as Irene approached his state, you can conclude this: he wouldn’t hide behind some staff organization when it came time to make a decision. And this decision didn’t require that much judgment. Governor McDonnell just doesn’t have the temperament to make the hard choices and call it the way it is. He’s too busy avoiding responsibility.