By every political measure, this should be the GOP's year in the handful of key 2009 elections taking place. Joblessness remains high, voters are mad, and the Dems are pretty much the ones in power...with a big target on their backs. Yet it's a sign of the modern Republicans' woes that they could actually blow slam-dunk gubernatorial races in New Jersey (where polls suggest the hapless Jon Corzine is actually catching up) and now in Virginia, thanks to a bizarre right-wing screed that the frontrunner produced in 1989 as a then-34-year-old student.
The Washington Post yesterday reported on the masters thesis of Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell. As the paper noted, McDonnell argued, among other things, that working women and feminists are "detrimental" to the family; that government policy should favor married couples over "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators;" and that the court decision legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried couples was "illogical," because at the time non-marital sex was itself a crime.
Since the report came out, a befuddled McDonnell, who had been leading in the polls by double-digits, had gyrated between embracing the paper and repudiating it, but in his most bizarre comment he appears to blame it all on Ronald Reagan:
"Not to insult any of you, but I bet a lot of you are younger than me and don't remember the 1980s very well. A lot of this thesis of it was written in 1988 while I was interning with the Republican House Policy Committee, when Ronald Reagan was president. I really believed family was the bedrock of society. I had several kids at the time, and had read the writings of Ronald Reagan, which declared that family was the base of society — a comment sounds just like Tim Kaine back in 2004, who said family was the backbone of society."
Reagan certainly made pro-family comments (is there a politician in either party who doesn't) but I'm not aware of him ever overtly attacking women in the workplace, which probably would have been bizarre after his marriages to working actresses Jane Wyman and Nancy Davis, and he also wasn't the type of politician who spent a lot of time openly railing against "fornicators." Reagan was very conservative but a) he wasn't stupid and b) the sad truth is that Reagan himself would likely be viewed as a moderate if not even a liberal in today's extreme Republican Party, despite its claim to be built in Reagan's image.
Bob McDonnell needs to take responsibility for what he wrote, and let the voters judge it accordingly. In an increasingly purple state that's elected Tim Kaine, Sen. Jim Webb and went for Barack Obama in 2008, I don't think they'll be kind.
(Photo by Alex T. Paschal/ Sauk Valley Newspapers)