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Conservatives can run (for office), but they can’t hide

Robert McDonnell, who is running to be governor of Virginia, seems to have stepped into a huge pile of poo of his own making. During a recent interview with the Washington Post, McDonnell brought up the master’s thesis he wrote in 1989 for Regent University, an evangelical school founded by Pat Robertson, claiming “I wrote my thesis on welfare policy.”

Little did he know that the Post would look up his thesis, which is publicly available. What they found was that the thesis was actually “The Republican Party’s Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of The Decade” and contained a blueprint to promote conservative values though tax policy and changes to schools and welfare.

For example, he claimed “Leaders must correct the conventional folklore about the separation of church and state”. He promoted redefining child abuse to “exclude parental spanking”, and wanted to end federal tax credits for child care costs because they encouraged women to work, saying that “working women and feminists” are “ultimately detrimental to the family”. He even said that feminism is one of the “real enemies of the traditional family.” He asserted that governmental policy should favor married couples over “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.” And he described a 1972 Supreme Court decision that legalized the use of contraceptives by unmarried couples as “illogical”.

McDonnell is now hypocritically trying to distance himself from his own opinions, saying that his thesis “was simply an academic exercise and clearly does not reflect my views.” Which is funny, because during his ensuing political career, he has actively pursued at least ten of the fifteen policy goals he laid out in the paper.

He further claimed “Virginians will judge me on my 18-year record as a legislator and Attorney General and the specific plans I have laid out for our future — not on a decades-old academic paper I wrote as a student during the Reagan era and haven’t thought about in years.”

But if he hasn’t thought about it in years, why did he just bring it up in the interview?

Ironically, by protesting that he no longer believes in those things that he wrote in his thesis, he just makes things worse. Moderates will view him as trying to hide his true conservative beliefs, while conservatives think he is a traitor.

Some days, it just doesn’t pay to be political.



  1. Sammy wrote:

    Wait! It took a 1972 Supreme Court decision to determine if contraceptives were legal for unmarried couples to possess? I mean, in 1972 I turned 8, so I wasn’t the target market, but I had no idea.

    Mental note: look up 1972 Supreme Court decision…..

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 10:55 am | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    Not only that, Sammy, but before 1965, contraceptives were illegal for anyone (including married couples) to use, in some states.

    The 1972 Eisenstadt v. Baird ( was an extension of the earlier 1965 decision Griswold v. Connecticut (, which declared laws prohibiting the use of contraceptives unconstitutional.

    I remember it was a huge deal back then.

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 7:03 pm | Permalink