The Blog Squad

Friday, October 28, 2005

Which is it? Doug the incompetent or the "last best hope"?

In looking back on the Times-Dispatch's endorsements of gubernatorial candidates, I got a little sidetracked. (Just out of curiosity I wondered if they had ever endorsed a Democrat and unsurprisingly they have endorsed Republicans at least since 1985 when the paper's archive starts online and probably back to Abe Lincoln ... oh, wait ... maybe not Lincoln.) Anyway, it sure is interesting how the paper's position on Doug Wilder has changed. Doug Wilder earned this enthusiastic endorsement for Richmond mayor from the paper last year:

"Who more logical than Doug Wilder, its prime mover, to implement a new governmental arrangement for this beloved city on the James — and to turn it around at last? Who more obvious to move the ball finally across the goal line? There's none better. The Times-Dispatch urges his election as Richmond's first popularly elected Mayor under a plan approved overwhelmingly by the voters a year ago."

And ...

"On Tuesday, Richmonders should vote for Doug Wilder - the visionary who is their favorite son, and likely their last best hope."

My what a long way Mr. Wilder has come from this, in 1989, when the T-D endorsed his opponent, Marshall Coleman, for governor:

"First, given Wilder's record in and out of office, we have genuine questions about his ethics, his competence, and his honesty — his pattern of opportunism and deceit. Second, his legislative record belies his current claims to political mainstreamery. Throughout his many years in the State Senate, until elected Lieutenant Governor, Doug Wilder was a legislative bomb-thrower. We intend to discuss the details of his record in future editorials. It is enough to say here that his reported statements this year regarding such issues as the death penalty, taxes, and right-to-work are insulting to Virginia's long tradition of right reason and conservative moderation. ..."

So who changed so dramatically? The paper or Doug? As they are so fond of saying over there on the Editorial pages — just asking ...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Is it OK for Creigh Deeds to call himself "conservative"? Why not?

I think by now if you've been reading this blog you know how fascinated I am by the nuances and subtleties in political messages, especially in campaign ads. Right now, Creigh Deeds, Democratic candidate for attorney general, has my attention. His fairly ubiquitous TV spot is very interesting for what it says and does not say. First off, it makes the point that he supports the death penalty, of course, as any AG candidate surely must in Virginia. But it also is a subtle hint that he stands apart from Tim Kaine on this issue. The second striking thing is that it never once mentions he is a Democrat and goes so far as to have a sheriff say: "Creigh Deeds, an attorney general with conservative values to keep you safe."

I wonder how this sits with people. Does it offend uppercase-C conservatives for a Democrat to say that Deeds has conservative (lowercase-c) values? Does it put off Democrats to hear one of their candidates use that phrase? It's part of a larger discussion that I wish would start in this country. This business of "Liberal values" and "Conservative values" (in the political context) is bull, perpetuated by the Anne Coulters and Michael Moores of the world who would have us believe that one's politics come with a predetermined set of values that do not intersect with those of the other political persuasion. I just think this is nonsense. There are good values and bad values. There are uppercase-L liberals with conservative values (think: the family who bans TV, toy guns, and violent video games) and there are uppercase-C conservatives with liberal values (think: the kid from the prominent family whose permissive parents let him do and have everything). And there are people throughout the spectrum of political thought who believe in God, put their families first and love their country.

You wonder if Deeds is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of voters who aren't paying close attention. Why not identify yourself as a Democrat and say you have conservative values? Have we really gotten to a point where people simply don't buy it? If so, we are more divided than I thought.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Is a turtleneck worth a thousand words?

I received one of the funniest campaign mailers of the election season yesterday from the Republican Party of Virginia. It targets "Liberal Tim Kaine" (used just like that four times) on the issue of illegal immigrants. Kaine supports using tax dollars to subsidize illegal immigrants, blah blah blah. That's not the funny part. The funny part is the picture of Kaine. As pictures go, it's not funny at all. It's not one of those "let's-find-the-least-attractive-picture-ever-taken-of-this-guy-like-when-he-has-a-mouthful-of-tuna-salad" kinds of pictures. It's funny because of why, I believe, it was used on this mailer — front and back.

The first thing I noticed about the picture was that Kaine had a lot more hair. Hmmm, I thought. That picture must be pretty old. Why would they use a picture of Kaine when he looks younger, thinner and has more hair. Then I noticed the green turtleneck. I'm sorry but nothing says tree-hugging liberal to conservatives like a green turtleneck. When could this picture be from? Oh, there it is in the background, very clearly on a sign behind Kaine — 2000 and the end of a word,"
It's a Gore/Lieberman sign!

The best photo the Republican Party could find to paint Kaine in the worst light is a five-year-old picture that exposes him as (gasp!) a Democrat!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Just in time for Halloween it's Tim Kaine back from the dead...


That, my friends, is the sound of Tim Kaine opening that coffin.

A few posts ago I said that Jerry Kilgore was pounding the nails into Tim Kaine's coffin with his assault on Kaine's death penalty position. My butter-knife sharp political analysis concluded that the death penalty does indeed matter a great deal to Virginia voters.

Two polls released yesterday and today would seem to prove me wrong. Yesterday's Times-Dispatch poll showed that Kaine and Kilgore are tighter than ever in their race for governor. Kilgore's over-the-top commercials using grieving family members of murder victims to attack Kaine's faith-based opposition to the death penalty seems not to have made a difference to Virginia voters. Today's T-D poll explains why. Only 7 percent of voters identify crime and the death penalty as the most important issue to them in the election. It is ranked as the fifth most important issue behind education, state taxes and spending, roads and transportation and economy, jobs and growth.

On the environment, Kaine got some more help recently from a weird source: Rolling Stone magazine. In the Oct. 20 issue with Paul McCartney on the cover (come on, can't we get Annie Liebowitz to shoot these covers anymore? Was that the best shot they could come up with?) Sorry, anyway, on page 44 there is a scathing little sidebar on Marvin Bush, the president's brother, who the magazine says, "profited handsomely from illegal dumping" when an investment firm he co-founded bought a waste-disposal company and proceeded to illegally dump as much as 6,500 tons of waste per day in Page County.

The piece singles out Tim Kaine, the lieutenant governor, as having blown the whistle on the dumping in 2003. Here's where it gets even better for Kaine. The piece asserts that it was Jerry Kilgore as attorney general who "repeatedly delayed hearings on the violations, turning a blind eye as Marvin's company continued to dump more than 1,000 tons per day. While the hearings remained stalled, Kilgore was tapped to head President Bush's re-election campaign in Virginia."

Kilgore, the piece adds, never brought any criminal charges or levied any fines and "kept the Bush name out of the mess."
Oddly, the magazine doesn't mention that Kaine and Kilgore are going head-to-head in a nail-biter gubernatorial race.

It will be interesting to see if Kaine will pick up on this little gift — or perhaps aligning himself with Rolling Stone will just give Kilgore more ammunition to throw the L-word around. Couldn't hurt. That death penalty thing sure didn't work...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Time to cleanse my palette

Oh, even I am getting sick of talking -- well, typing -- politics and so, please bear with me please as I wade to the shallow end of the pool where it's warmer (you know why) and just more pleasant. So happy to hear that Jennifer Aniston is moving on with Vince Vaughn. He's no Brad Pitt in the looks department but hopefully, he's no Brad Pitt in general, the scumwad. (Still, I loved him in um, ... I'll think about it...) ... And in my most evil thought to date, do you know that I truly wished postpartum depression on Katie Holmes? It is so sick and I will confess it the next time I see the inside of a confessional because, really, the girl's done nothing wrong except get herself brainwashed. But having seen postpartum depression fairly close up and the havoc it can wreak on whole families makes you realize what a dope Tom Cruise is. (Still, I loved him in um,, this one's harder than Brad Pitt) ... And if anyone other than my husband and me are still watching The Apprentice tell me how funny it was last night that Jen couldn't pronounce the name of the movie Zathura and kept saying Zinthura over and over to Jon Favreau. How did she not get kicked out on her butt? ... This new radio station Liberty is interesting in a weird way. You'll hear something great out of left field like Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" and then it's Roxette with "She's Got the Look," (which may hold the distinction for worst lyrics ever in a pop song). The station's tagline is "we play anything." Clearly. Well, enough idle chit chat. I'll talk to you all on Monday with a few thoughts about the Attorney General's race. ...

Oh, right! Twelve Monkeys!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hey, T-D! Thanks for reading me! Now about that editorial...

Since I don't believe in coincidence, let me just say that I am flattered that the folks at the Times-Dispatch editorial page are reading this obscure little blog so closely. If only they could get it right. A couple of posts ago, I pointed out a link between the so-called "moral authority" given (and also denied) Cindy Sheehan and now given the families of murder victims in Jerry Kilgore's commercials that are pounding Tim Kaine on the death penalty. Today, in its editorial section, the T-D does the same thing but, of course, with only the view as seen through its own ideological prism.

The point I was making was that the same people who excoriated Cindy Sheehan for protesting the Iraq war after her son was killed would most likely turn around and grant the moral authority of murder victims' families to speak out for the death penalty and against Tim Kaine. Conversely, the same folks who now condemn Jerry Kilgore's ads as exploiting the grief of those families probably gave Cindy Sheehan deference in her protest.

Of course, the T-D can't look past its politics for even a second: "Well." (They always start their sanctimonious editorials with that "Well.") "If Ms. Sheehan deserves deference by virtue of her grief, then so do Rosenbluth and Mrs. Timbrook. Nobody should be attacking them, or their arguments. By the logic of the Sheehan Effect, they're right and Kaine's wrong — and that's that. Or does grief deserve deference only when used in the service of left-wing causes?"

They start their sentence with "If Ms. Sheehan deserves deference" knowing full well that that statement is not at all a given — that she was the object of scorn from the right, including their own editorial section. In a September editorial they demanded that if the likes of Maureen Dowd granted absolute moral authority to Cindy Sheehan then the same must go for mothers like Rhonda Winfield, who lost a son in the war and still supports President Bush and the war.

The T-D seemed to understand in September what it does not understand today. That it cuts both ways. They easily can say: If you give deference to Sheehan you must give it to the victims' families. But they seem incapable of saying: If you give it to victims' families you must give it to Sheehan.

Perhaps it's time to abandon this notion of granting "moral authority" to anyone, even grieving families, whose politics are highly charged with the emotion of their experience. Perhaps we should simply give them what they deserve: a respectful hearing.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Why not scrutinize Kilgore's abortion views now?

I found the Times-Dispatch's editorial page assault on Tim Kaine's death penalty position interesting this morning, if unsurprising. It was probably the last bit they needed before they endorse Jerry Kilgore. But I wonder if they will rake Kilgore over the coals for his abortion views the way they did with Kaine and his death penalty views this morning. They carefully parsed out Kaine's moral vs. legal objections and I would like to see them do that with Kilgore too. He is obviously pro-life from a religious and moral standpoint but has Kilgore ever made legal arguments for its restriction or abolition, similar to Kaine's arguments that the death penalty doesn't deter crime and that other nations without it are safer than the U.S.? I don't know the answer to that, but I sure would like to see the same intense scrutiny brought to Kilgore's positions.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The hole that hubris dug

Well, folks, where do we go from here?

We've got a multimillion dollar hole in the ground on Broad Street, a concert hall closed and dark until God knows when and — if you will pardon the insolence, Your Most Excellent Highness, sir — a petulant mayor who seems just a bit too gleeful at these developments.

You want to know what I think about the Arts Center? Truly, I have no freaking idea. It all looked so lovely, as artists' renderings always do with their slightly futuristic, gleaming representations of bustling cities. But it always reeked of being too big for its britches, yet another one of the "If you build it they will come" projects that Richmond always gets sucked into. All this talk about the people "who run Richmond" being behind it certainly gave it the imprimatur of legitimacy from the outset. They sold us the idea that their involvement was based on a deep commitment to the arts, but were they really trying to ram something down Richmond's throat it didn't need as a way of "propping up" the convention center? Probably.

Wilder, meanwhile, tried to sell us the idea that he was all about being the tough and responsible steward of the taxpayers' money (while walking around with a security force like Elvis') but did he thwart the foundation at every single turn just to thumb his nose at Jim Ukrop and Booty Armstrong, et al, to prove he's really the guy running the show? Well, probably.

It might not be a popular notion to spread blame all the way around. We live in a divisive time where people are expected to choose a side, assign white hats and black hats and gather all the facts possible that support the position they already hold.

I hate to be all kumbaya about it, but couldn't this whole mess have been avoided early on if — heaven help me, as Rudy McCollum suggested — the parties had gotten behind closed doors and hammered out some kind of deal? But that would have involved compromise, which requires flexibility and even a little humility. Seeing as it was hubris that dug us our big hole, I don't see it getting filled anytime soon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Has the death penalty put Kaine on a swift boat to defeat?

Shhhhh! Can you hear it? Listen.

Thwack, thwack, thwack ...

Those are the nails in Tim Kaine's campaign coffin.

We've all been kind of waiting around for this gubernatorial campaign to finally be about something and today Kilgore made it about something: the death penalty. He's launched a series of new ads featuring family members of murder victims saying things like: "How could you not think the death penalty was appropriate? That's not justice. When Tim Kaine calls the death penalty murder, I find it offensive." Another person says, "Tim Kaine voluntarily represented the person who murdered my son. He stood with murderers in trying to get 'em off death row."


And never mind that Kaine was court-appointed.

The ad certainly depends on the notion that family members of murder victims have the same so-called "moral authority" both granted and denied (depending on your perspective) Cindy Sheehan as the mother of a slain soldier protesting the Iraq war. But in Virginia, odds are, voters are going to grant that authority.

But this isn't really about the death penalty, per se. It's about politics and timing. It's about the thrust and parry of two campaigns in their last month. Kaine has been forced into a position he hasn't faced too much, of being on his heels and of having to create ads that respond to Kilgore's ads. He is, in effect, on a swift boat to defeat.

His response so far has been dreadful. Vague, meandering. Uh, yes, Hitler deserves the death penalty but only God can grant life and only God can take it away except in kind of rare instances like self -defense or a just war ... Oh, mercy. His basic position is not an untenable one as many people of faith feel the same way and many people who tout their support for a "culture of life" also have a disconnect between their positions on the death penalty and abortion. (Ah-hem! Right, Jerry?)

But as a friend just said to me: "This is Politics 101. Somebody asks you if Hitler deserves the death penalty, you say YES."

You wonder if Kilgore's campaign had this up their sleeve from Day One or whether the debate distilled this issue for them and they seized upon it quickly. It's brilliant either way. And I don't know if Kaine will be able to recover but he's going to need to go back on the attack quickly on the most hot-button issue he can find.


But if he keeps up his hummina-hummina defense and goes back to talking about Pre-K funding and transportation lock boxes it could be over well before Nov. 8.

Wait. Do you hear it?


That was Jerry Kilgore pulling the sword out of the stone.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What could those italics mean on Marrs' yard signs?

Driving up Buford Road the other day, I saw a couple of yard signs for 68th District incumbent state Del. Brad Marrs. It's blue with white lettering. Simple, classic even, with the words:

Brad Marrs
Our Delegate

Hmmm. It jarred me because of the italics, as italics are meant to do. To emphasize something. Our delegate, not their delegate, it immediately suggested to me. But whose delegate would he not be?

It reminded me of a story I'd read a while back in the T-D about a Northern Virginia House race where the Democratic incumbent put out a brochure with the words: "Delegate, community leader and one of our own." Her Republican challenger, who was born in Egypt, accused her of "playing the race card." I don't know if that's fair, but italics do mean something don't they?

So what do they mean on Marrs' yard sign? Surely this message couldn't have anything to do with the flap over Marrs' fundraising letter blasting his opponent Katherine Waddell for accepting a sizable donation from a prominent "homosexual businessman"?

Ironic, though, that Marrs chose to use a typeface that isn't straight.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Jerry Kilgore is not the father of my child ... and other debate afterthoughts

A few random thoughts from Sunday night's gubernatorial debate:

Much has been made over Jerry Kilgore's accent but it's really not that severe. There are just subtleties in his pronunciations you need to get used to. A primer:

"Commonwealth" is pronounced "Cummumwealth."
"Rather" is pronounced "ruther."
"Taxes" is pronounced "Texas."
"Tim Kaine" is pronounced "liberal."

Is Tim Kaine controlling his left eyebrow or is it controlling him?

Funny, huh, that Kaine was wearing the red tie and Kilgore was wearing the blue tie?

In as sophisticated a manner as some adults choose their preferred candidate, my 5-year-old daughter declared herself for "the blue-tie guy" (Kilgore) saying, "Oh, he looks handsome to me. He looks like Daddy." (Disclaimer: Jerry Kilgore is not the father of my child.)

Friday, October 07, 2005

The pariah speaks!

Suddenly, I am a pariah.

For those of you who don't regularly read my column in Richmond Magazine, a little background. About a year ago, after a decade living in the heart of the Fan, my husband and kids and I moved out to the burbs. A real cliche, I know. When we first moved, I wrote a melancholy sort of farewell in the magazine while ribbing my new subdivision for its homogeneity. Well, in the August issue of the magazine I wrote about a year in Midlothian with lots of jokes about lawn care and stuff. But I managed to royally tick off half of the Fan (and at least one School Board member) in the process. First there was the nonsensical letter to the editor that ran in the September issue saying: "People should be able to live anywhere they want [AGREED!], but why do they feel it is necessary to down one neighborhood to live in another[?]"

Where the writer got this goofy notion that I was putting down the Fan baffled me, but I moved on. Then I hear from a friend that I'm getting some flak in the Fan about it. OK. Yesterday, I hear from my editor at the magazine that some unsuspecting Richmond Magazine employee went over to Fox Elementary and was accosted by some folks over my column. What is going on here?

Not that I expect that all of Richmond has an encyclopedic memory of my writing, but since my days writing for Style and through to Richmond Magazine I have written essay after essay about my love affair with the Fan -- of lingering hours spent at Sobel's during a snowstorm, of roaming the streets after my dog died and finding solace and comfort from dog owners, and even a glowing tribute to the gnarled, broken sidewalks, for crying out loud!

I suspect what rankled people most was my statement that diversity in the Fan means white doctors and white lawyers and white accountants. ... I went on to say that I'd seen more diversity in my new neighborhood than I ever saw in the Fan.

Sorry, if that bothers anyone but I think I have a little credibility here. Ten years living and six years working in the neighborhood, hanging out at parks, walking up and down its streets, eating in its restaurants -- I think I know what I'm talking about. I am no more willing to perpetuate the myth of the Fan as multicultural village than I am to forward the notion that the suburbs are filled with people who look, act and think in an identical fashion. (OK, so we live in identical houses ...)

If any of you reading this are Fan residents, I'd love to hear from you. I'd love to get a real discussion started here because I'd like us to understand each other. Besides, I was hoping we'd move back to the Fan when the kids go to college. Knowing Richmond, it might take that many years before this blows over...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

You go, Miss Buns!

Ray McAllister's column yesterday was a hoot and it had nothing at all to do with one-word punchlines. It was the straightforward, sort of, reporting that Richmond Sheriff Michelle B. Mitchell listed as her Web site information with the State Board of Elections the e-mail address (Don't bother looking for it. It's already been changed.) McAllister describes how he called Mitchell asking her to explain why it was there and all he got was her typical "no comment" attitude. "That's my personal e-mail," she said over and over. She said she couldn't explain why the state Election Board's Web site included her personal e-mail address but then McAllister delivers the a-ha! at the end when his own reporting leads back to the "statement of organization" form Mitchell filled out, signed herself and filed with the Richmond Registrar, listing the MissBuns e-mail address.

This is just the latest bit of weirdness from our sheriff who, I am sure — if she were a contestant on The Apprentice — Donald Trump would call "something of a disaster." Controversial? To say the least. She's drawn raised eyebrows for having her name emblazoned on sheriff's office cars. She's been in hot water for using money from the jail canteen to buy a PalmPilot and pay for campaign photos of herself. She also stepped into it when she paid herself for unused vacation time.

Then there was the small matter this year of one inmate strolling out of his cell and killing another one.

Mitchell has survived all of this with "no comment" after "no comment." This latest business is nothing more than an embarrassment, but it comes when she is up for re-election and it makes you wonder if Richmond voters are ready to throw MissBuns out on hers.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Jerry, will it make a difference if they triple dog dare you?

What exactly do Tim Kaine and Russ Potts have to do to get a rise out of Jerry Kilgore? Kilgore, having refused again and again to participate in a debate that includes Potts, must either: (1) possess the inner strength and peace of Mahatma Gandhi; (2) have an enormous ace up his sleeve for Sunday's debate or; (3) be precisely the gutless, spineless wimp Potts has outright said he is and Kaine has sortakinda said he is.

Potts doesn't mince words. He's called Kilgore a "coward," "pathetic" and "Casper the Ghost." If this were California, I guess "girly man" wouldn't be far behind. I suppose Kilgore can take the high road and ignore an arguably fringe candidate but the man he is neck and neck with — Kaine — hasn't been much kinder, only subtler in his choice of words.

Now, Kilgore is possibly threatening to pull out of Sunday's debate unless he gets an agreement that no portion of the debate will be used in TV and radio ads. I guess that means he's pretty sure he won't be saying anything so great he'd like people to hear it over and over. And of course he must be terrified that people will actually burst into laughter again at some of his answers as happened at the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce debate with Kaine. If that happens, you can be sure Kaine's campaign will just play the statement and the laughter in every ad from now til Nov. 8.

What exactly is Kilgore's problem? Really, why won't he debate with Potts? The excuse that Potts has no chance to win and therefore shouldn't be heard is the lamest thing I've ever heard. At what point does a man — even a gentleman — stand and fight? Hasn't he been called enough names? Should they triple dog dare him? Call him yeller? Replace the duck suit with a chicken?

If this were real life, a person who refused to stand up for himself again and again would be laughed right off the playground or soccer field or out of the corner bar. But this isn't real life, it's politics — where a person who refuses to stand up for himself again and again just might end up governor.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Thank you, Tim Kaine. I may never eat cake again.

I take it back. Russ Potts' TV spot may not be the most bizarre. Have you seen the new Tim Kaine spot with the cake? Potts' may be the goofiest, but Kaine has managed to put forth a TV ad that is downright creepy. Again, I'd like you to see for yourself, so go to and go to the TV ads section. Basically, it's a female voiceover talking about how Jerry Kilgore wants to cut more and more out of Virginia schools, illustrated by hands slicing into a cake decorated with the proverbial little red schoolhouse and the words Virginia Schools across it. There's a little flag and some shrubbery but it's set against a black backdrop and with each slice the disembodied hands seem to get sloppier with the cutting. It has this weird Carrie sort of vibe so that at one point you are sure a bloody hand is going to pop up out of the cake. But no! It's just tiny Jerry Kilgore! A picture of the Republican candidate is superimposed behind the cake so that it looks like a little Kilgore candle sticking up out of it. The ad goes on to tell us all the wonderful things Kaine would do for schools and then ends on the strangest note of all: A little blonde girl practically snarls into the camera and says, "Hey, Jerry! Pick on someone your own size!"

When little girls start calling you out, you know you've got an image problem, which I'll have more to say about tomorrow...