Bob McDonnell’s bad memory

BOB MCDONNELL’S BAD MEMORY…. It’ll generate more attention as the election gets closer, but Virginia is home to a competitive gubernatorial race this year, and Sean Trende has a rundown of the various factors in the open-seat contest. There’s one angle, though, that stood out.

Ed Kilgore directed our attention to this item from Trende’s overview, regarding former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell, the likely Republican candidate.

Regardless of who the Democrat is, much will depend on the performance and perception of Bob McDonnell. As mentioned above, McDonnell avoids many of the problems that have beset previous Republican nominees. But there is one potential problem — he is a bona fide social conservative. McDonnell will likely be attacked for his law degree from Regent University (founded by Pat Robertson), and comments he made while he was a Delegate to the effect that anyone engaging in oral or anal sex could be found in violation of Virginia’s “crimes against nature” law (he also claimed not to remember whether he had ever violated the law).

Kilgore noted, “Yeah, I don’t think it will be too long before every late-night comic in the world has some high-profile fun with McDonnell’s 2003 comment that he doesn’t really recall whether he’s ever violated the state’s sodomy laws. And he’s not well positioned ideologically to claim that this is a ‘private’ or ‘family’ matter.”

Right. McDonnell insisted that those who engage in oral or anal sex should be eligible for prosecution. Asked if he’d ever personally committed this “crime,” McDonnell told reporters, “Not that I can recall.”

So, McDonnell might have violated Virginia’s “crimes against nature” law; he’s just not sure. It is, by my standards, slightly worse than, “I didn’t inhale.”

To be sure, I don’t care what McDonnell does (or has done) in his bedroom, and there are going to be far more important policy issues at stake in the election. But given that the likely Republican candidate, who got his degree from a radical televangelist, believes in prosecuting Virginians based on their sexual practices, and isn’t sure whether he’s personally committed this same “crime,” I wouldn’t be surprised if voters heard more about this as the Virginia campaign progresses.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.