Democrats starting an ethics commission sounds like vampires starting a beach volleyball team but, hey: It’s a free country. And as burgermeister of this Potemkin village, who better for the pretense of bipartisanship than “Burger” Bill Bolling?
[As a side note, I never got the whole “Burgers with Bill” thing because while I do like burgers, I don’t enjoy careerist party hackery as a condiment. Until, that is, I learned that burgers with Bill also means you get to throw burgers at Bill, whereupon it all made sense.]
Shortly after Terry “I can’t believe he’s the governor” McAuliffe announced Burger Bill Bolling as co-chair of a “bipartisan ethics reform commission,” and after the Guffaw Heard Round The Commonwealth had subsided, Bolling made the following comments:
- “The role I’ve been given to fellow Republicans is saying what needs to be said”
- The Republican Party in Virginia has become extreme and ideological
- “We need to be a party of inclusion not exclusion”
- The party must be a big tent that welcomes young voters, women and emerging Asian, Hispanic and Indian voters
- “The focus should be on policy, not politics”
Indeed, who better to instruct Republicans about big tents and the futility of politics than the man who, one year earlier, was widely considered a candidate to get himself booted out of the GOP altogether.
The man who must bank on short memories.
The man whose name in print preceding an “-R”, one year on, has us all saying: You’re gonna need a bigger tent.
Driving home the point, The Washington Post approved the commission appointees as “respected” and “distinguished.”
Within a couple of days, Burger Bill and his co-chair proudly announced their arrival on the scene and Virginia’s corresponding good fortune to be on the receiving end of “the highest ethical and governance standards in the nation,” because: “In Virginia, common sense has always won out over cynicism and the petty politics of short-term gain.”
Which is all quite appropriate because nobody would associate Bill Bolling with cynicism or petty politics.
A week later, Bolling issued another public statement, reminding us that “the public’s trust is hard to gain and easy to lose,” and promising us “a series of meaningful recommendations for the General Assembly to consider.”
To no one’s surprise, then, the ethics commission’s first orders of business were announced: “elimination of partisan gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts, and allowing future governors to run for consecutive terms.”
….Which evoked a widespread: “Huh?”
Followed immediately by a double “Huh?”
Reagan’s voice mail was “simply another example of how the Virginia Way has been practiced, and how on the edge it is …”
When it comes to ethics in Virginia, the fight isn’t between Democrats and Republicans. It’s the political class of both parties vs. the public as a whole.
For those who do not know, I’ve researched this “Virginia Way” and found that what it means is that everyone involved in politics and government, apart from ideologies or principles or party affiliation, is, in the end, a breadwinner. People on both sides of the aisle – candidates, consultants and public officials alike – have families to feed. Yes we must pursue goals and represent voters and whatnot, but let’s remember we are all professionals and this is always much more than a cause: It’s a career.
Part of the bemusement and – here’s that word again – cynicism over the commission’s mission was undoubtedly because, only days after announcing said commission, things got very unethical:
On the very day Gov. Terry McAuliffe was announcing the formation of an ethics reform panel with a wide-ranging mandate to recommend changes to state laws, The Washington Post broke news that the governor’s chief of staff had dangled a possible state job for the daughter of state Sen. Phil Puckett to keep him from resigning his Virginia Senate seat…
As you may recall from reading the portion above, none of Burger Bill’s public statements managed to touch on this state of affairs.
And ditto from Bolling just a few days ago when the headline read Sen. Warner discussed job for Puckett’s daughter, Puckett’s son says.
He has the time and motivation to lecture about extremism, pettiness and the lack of inclusiveness, but when an actual instance – a potentially monstrous instance – of ethical lapse by a sitting U.S. senator becomes front page news: Not a release nor a statement nor a quote nor a chirp from Bill Bolling.