Ask McDonnell and Obama: Governing Is Hard

He promised a lot and has done little. No surprise. Let’s cut elected officials some slack.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

After eight long years of the other party's rule, his election seemed to promise, well, change we could believe in.

Robert McDonnell became an instant Republican hero when he won election as governor of Virginia last fall. And why not? He promised miraculous things: to end the legislative deadlock in Richmond and solve the state's transportation and education crises--all without raising taxes.

The GOP was so happy, it chose McDonnell to give the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address.

So, how has Gov. McDonnell done, now that his first session of the Virginia General Assembly has gone into the books? Ehhh. Not so good.

"Even before the legislature arrived…McDonnell decided to put off the vital question of how to find the billions of dollars needed to repair and improve the state's roads," wrote Robert McCartney in the Washington Post the other day. "There's also no sign of how he's going to pay for another whopper of a promise, to expand colleges and universities by 100,000 degrees over 15 years."

I am not writing this to gloat. I love the commonwealth, which provide me with a first-rate education and many happy and memorable experiences when I lived there, some years back. I hope that, before his term is over, McDonnell finds a way to fulfill his promises.

I note his slow start only to suggest that, as the Democrats in the White House and Congress have also discovered, it is no fun to be governing in an economic downturn, when people want action and resources are dwindling.

This is an appeal for realism. We can sit around and blame Barney Frank or Phil Gramm; George Bush or Barack Obama; Tim Geithner or Alan Greenspan, and it may make us feel better--it is, after all, our American right to gripe--but it won't make a lot of difference. Hard times is hard times. They are…hard.

Take, for example, McDonnell's proposal to sell the Virginia state liquor stores to private buyers and spend the proceeds on roads. It was one of his campaign promises that Virginians expected to see debated in the legislative session.

"But when one of his transition teams looked at the issue in December, it decided quickly that the matter required a lot more study. What sort of companies are going to buy the stores, and under what regulation? How does the state make up for losing the more than $100 million a year that the stores generate? How does it prevent unsightly private stores from popping up in places where they aren't wanted?" McCartney noted.

"It turned out to be a whole lot more complicated," a Republican delegate told the Post. Exactly. If this stuff was easy, the Democrats would have gotten it done.

It is, no doubt, a naïve suggestion--but maybe we all need to cool it a bit, in this hyper-partisan era, and cut our elected officials some slack.

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