Today’s Washington Post Editorial pointed out many positive attributes of Governor McDonnell, who was sworn in today at noon in Richmond at the State Capitol. It is a worthwhile read so therefore will be reprinted in its entirety.
GOV. ROBERT F. MCDONNELL — he sheds the hyphenated “-elect” at noon Saturday — has struck many of the right chords in the run-up to his inauguration as Virginia’s 71st governor. His performance during the transition, at once wary of partisan triumphalism and mindful of the state’s grave challenges, has been as focused, disciplined and effective as his successful electoral campaign last fall. That has set the stage for him to lead a state that, despite solid past management and a wealth of natural advantages, is reeling from a national economic downturn.
A key to Mr. McDonnell’s success in setting a constructive tone so far has been his cabinet appointments. In electing to retain Rick Brown, who has been Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s finance secretary, the incoming governor has opted for stability and continuity in the area of state government that needs it most. And in tapping former Prince William County Board chairman Sean Connaughton as his transportation secretary, he has picked a proven, able and pragmatic administrator to focus on Virginia’s most urgent problem: its badly overwhelmed transportation network. It remains to be seen whether Mr. McDonnell, who pledged to address the transportation crisis in his first year in office, will, in fact, deliver a critically needed plan to generate fresh and dependable new funding to build roads and bridges.
Mr. McDonnell’s only real misstep to date is to have acceded, at least until now, to the demands of his designated trade and commerce secretary, Robert C. Sledd, that he remain on the boards of three private corporations even while serving as a full-time cabinet secretary. That sent a signal that the new governor would tolerate the appearance of conflicts of interest in his government. But amid the outcry that followed that initial decision, Mr. McDonnell has signaled that he may, in fact, prefer that Mr. Sledd give up the board memberships rather than go to the mat in the cause of lax ethics. That would be wise.
To his credit, the new governor also distanced himself from one of his longest-standing and most generous financial backers, Pat Robertson, after Mr. Robertson’s contemptible comment blaming the disaster in Haiti on Haitians themselves. (According to Mr. Robertson’s reading of history, Haiti brought misery upon itself by making a pact with the devil to throw off the French colonial yoke in the 18th century.) Mr. McDonnell promptly issued a statement saying he disagreed with Mr. Robertson (a first), despite having taken more than $100,000 from Mr. Robertson over the course of his career, and expressing sympathy for Haitians. Perhaps Mr. McDonnell will finally see fit to make a clean break with a polarizing figure who has become an albatross around his neck.
Mr. McDonnell has also taken pains to get the symbolism right as he prepares to move into the governor’s mansion amid the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. He has cut his own salary and asked his cabinet to do the same, scaled back the inaugural festivities, volunteered in food banks, and visited a homeless shelter. In making so many of the right moves, Mr. McDonnell is buying himself credibility he will badly need as he prepares to make billions of dollars in spending cuts to an already depleted state budget and help steer Virginia toward better times.
Governor McDonnell surely has his work cut out for him. Virginia is in economic crisis. His leadership will be critical and will impact Virginia for decades to come.