The McDonnell Implosion

Politico‘s Alexander Burns sums up the “Huh?” factor in the rapidly escalating fall of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell:

In 2010, the political world pegged Bob McDonnell as a president in the making. Last year, they put him on every VP list. As recently as May, they called the popular Virginia governor a political model for his would-be successors in Richmond, Democrat and Republican alike.

And now – well, now nobody’s sure what to call Bob McDonnell.

Suddenly under legal and political siege, McDonnell is the subject of one of the swiftest downfalls in recent memory: once known as a spotlessly clean, law-and-order politician, the governor stands accused of questionable financial dealings that range from the tacky to the jaw-dropping.

The McDonnell saga has gripped Richmond – and increasingly Washington – as a cascade of embarrassing disclosures have buffeted the governor and his wife, Maureen. A series of Washington Post stories have documented their cozy relationship with a donor, Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, who gave financial gifts to the McDonnell family including a cumulative $120,000 in the form of a check to Maureen McDonnell and a cash infusion to a family company

.

With a federal investigation well underway, downcast McDonnell allies say they see little hope that the governor’s reputation will recover, and some privately express doubt that he’ll be able to serve out his term. They describe a pervasive mood of shock and gloom throughout the governor’s extended political family.

Even before this scandal began to break, I had some major doubts about the common depiction of McDonnell as some sort of political genius. He could not, after all, impose his Lieutenant Governor, Bill Bolling, as his successsor on a state GOP frantic to nominate the extremist Ken Cuccinelli. Instead he may well convey the actual office to Bolling as a sort of sad booby prize if he’s forced to resign, leaving Cooch and his zany friends in charge of the state GOP entirely.

UPDATE: Yeah, commenters; you’re right; the O’Jays don’t belong in a Worst of Disco cavalcade. But the song, aside from being perfect for the O’Donnell situation, does capture the cheesy materialism and self-regard of the Disco Era pretty well. I’ll always associate it with a late-70s documentary on Reggie Jackson (it formed a good part of the soundtrack) that focused on that immensely talented ballplayer’s craving for praise and money.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.