Not that this is a big surprise or anything, but Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is ending another year as AG just as he’s behaved his entire term in office: in a hyper-political and ultra-partisan manner that has been, and continues to be, a disgrace to his office.
In the current case, Cuccinelli has inserted himself into an intra-Republican-party dispute (over access to the Republican presidential primary ballot here in the Commonwealth), one that he certainly has a right to have an opinion on as a private citizen, but also that he would be wise – if wisdom were one of his virtues, which it clearly is not – to keep a low profile on, at least in his role as AG.
I also find it fascinating and ironic that all of a sudden this staunch “conservative” has become a big fan of an activist judiciary, and/or of a legislature telling the state party how to run its own affairs. On this topic, even as the AG’s office works to defend Virginia in court, the AG himself keeps talking and talking about it, expressing his view “our system is deficient” (he suddenly came to this realization a few days ago, apparently), that “Virginia owes her citizens a better process,” and that “We can do it in time for the March primary if we resolve to do so quickly.”
Of course, it might just be poor political judgment on Cuccinelli’s part to mouth off on a subject that he’s in the middle of litigating, but that in and of itself does not appear to be a legal problem. It is, however, another kind of problem, insofar as Cuccinelli’s supposed to be acting professionally, in his capacity as the Attorney General of Virginia, but is simultaneously demonstrating (yet again) that he’s far too partisan to effectively do that very thing.
By the way, can AG Cuccinelli be any more disrespectful to Judge Gibney, who just finished ordering Cuccinelli to produce a “three page statement of authorities regarding any conflict that may exist given his public declarations about the subject matter of this case?” Oh wait, I almost forgot that disrespect for a federal judge is actually a badge of honor for the current crop of “conservative” presidential candidates. Heck, even George Will understands this, arguing (correctly, for once) that disrespect for the judicial branch is fundamentally ANTI-conservative. In this case, clearly it’s more about Cuccinelli positioning himself politically – and by championing whoever his favorite non-Romney candidate happens to be, while also cleverly taking a shot at his rival Bill Bolling, who strongly supports Romney – than about any “conservative” principles. In sum, with Ken Cuccinelli, he’s a rabid ideologue, no doubt, but he’s also a clever, conniving – and highly skillful in his own way – politician. All in all, it’s not a combination we should admire, although it certainly is a combination that history has taught us to fear.
UPDATE: Vivian Paige wonders whether it’s actually April Fools’ Day. The obvious snarky comment is that Ken Kookinelli is a fool every day of the year, not just on April 1.
UPDATE #2: Doug Mataconis explains why what Cuccinelli wants to do here is almost certainly not going to work.
In order for a law to become effective immediately upon signature by the Governor, it would have to be passed by supermajorities in both houses of General Assembly, not just any supermajority, but a 4/5ths supermajority…the State Board of Elections has already said that the ballots for the March 6th primary will be printed by January 9th, two days before the legislature convenes. Additionally, as a matter of law, absentee and military ballots must be ready to be mailed no later than January 21, 2012, ten days after the legislature convenes. Absent what would essentially amounts to unanimous consent, as well as an agreement to skip the normal committee process, it would be next to impossible for the legislature to pass a law and the Governor to sign it in time for the SBOE to be able to do the job it is required to do under the law.
Either Ken Cuccinelli doesn’t know any of this, in which case he’s incompetent, or he knows it full well and is simply posturing politically. My guess is the latter, but I certainly wouldn’t rule out the former.