I know, I know, I’m supposed to be utterly enthralled by the trial of Bob and Maureen McDonnell. Scandal! Intrigue! He said! She said! Affair(s)! Or not! Corruption! New York shopping trips! Ferraris! Rolexes! $10,000 wedding gifts!
Sorry, but on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is absolutely rapt attention and 1 is a snoozefest, I’m probably at a 3 or 4 max right now with this pathetic trial of grifters, trashy/shallow/vapid losers, liars and tawdry slimeballs.
Why don’t I care? First off, I have never liked soap operas. Or TV. Or gossip about who’s dating who in Hollywood. Or tons of stuff that most Americans apparently find fascinating. Sure, there’s some “schadenfreude” (great German word) for yet another right-wing “family values” politician (once dubbed “Taliban Bob”, by journalist Jim Spencer of the Daily Press, for T-Bob’s persecution of a lesbian judge under Virginia’s bizarre “crimes against nature” laws) proven to be a massive hypocrite, but other than that…meh.
Second, other than their friends and families (and the high-priced attorneys involved in this case), who cares what happens to the McDonnells at this point? They have no power, nor are they ever likely to have power or a political future again, regardless of the outcome in this case. Why do I say that? Because, even prior to the case itself, the McDonnells’ once squeaky-clean image — one that I never bought but a lot of Virginians did for some strange reason — was down the toilet bowl and long gone into the sewage treatment plant. The point is, the McDonnells’ trial is not like the case of Rod Blagojevich, who was still Governor of Illinois when he “was arrested at his home by federal agents and charged with corruption,” followed by the Illinois House voting 114-1 (with three abstentions) to impeach the guy. Now THAT was both dramatic AND had real political implications. In the case of the McDonnells, at this point, I’m not seeing any political implications to them, no matter what happens in this trial.
Third, I actually find the attention being given to the McDonnells’ trial to be harmful, in the sense that it’s sucking up media oxygen on idiocy and frivolity (the “crush” defense? Maureen staring “raptly” at Jonnie Williams? seriously?!? I know the media loves the “freak show” and frivolity, but just…barf!), while truly important issues are ignored. Most relevant to this case, the issue that we SHOULD be focused on is why Virginia’s ethics laws are so pathetically weak (our state received an F grade from the Center for Public Integrity and others), and why it’s so hard to get our General Assembly to strengthen them? How about a total ban on all gifts – tangible, in kind; travel, meals, entertainment; whatever – to elected officials? Also note that, as a ProgressVA investigation found, “the law would not have prevented any of the 756 gifts received by lawmakers in 2012.” So what are we doing about this situation? More broadly, what are we doing to rein in all the money from corporations, lobbyists, and wealthy individuals that’s sloshing around our state government? So far, basically nothing, and this soap opera of Jonnie Williams and the McDonnells isn’t moving us any closer in that direction, as far as I can determine.
Finally, while the press is expending significant resources covering this trial’s blow-by-blow, he-said-she-said idiocy, there are important elections coming up in Virginia for the House of Delegates and State Senate, which will have serious implications for the balance of power in the latter legislative body. It also would be interesting if some of the journalistic “juice” now focused on the McDonnells’ pathetic soap opera could, for instance, take a look at the extreme positions of Dave Brat, or why the Republican Party of Virginia can’t seem to (or doesn’t want to) get rid of the raving bigot who serves as the party’s Treasurer, or a serious review of the damage Eric Can’tor has done to our country during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, or a million other topics more important than the has-been, will-never-be-again McDonnells.
So yeah, as a Virginia political blogger, I guess I’m supposed to be watching this trial with rapt attention. Yet for the reasons listed above, and more, I just can’t bring myself to care that much.
P.S. If you DO care about this trial, Del. Scott Surovell has some thoughts on week #1 (gack, only week #1?!?). Enjoy (?).