Virginia’s extremist attorney general

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By Rick Howell

    During the 2009 campaign for governor, many of us on the Democratic side tried to warn people that voting for Ken Cuccinelli for attorney general would be a great mistake.

    The state senator had a paper trail record as an extreme right-winger who had demonstrated his great desire to pursue his ideological fantasies down whatever yellow brick road he could take.

    Conservative Bob McDonnell headed the GOP ticket and, Lord knows, he was right-wing enough. But Cuccinelli - many of us warned - was even farther to the right than McDonnell. Events are now beginning to prove us correct.

    What happens during a governor’s election is that most voters don’t pay any attention to the “down ticket” races - for lieutenant governor and attorney general - until the final days of the campaign. McDonnell won handily, and many voters probably voted for Cuccinelli just because he, too, had the “R” beside his name.

    In just about two months now in office, Cuccinelli has already shown that he intends to do what he promised during the campaign, and if you were paying attention, you know what that means: unabashed right-wing extremism.

    He said, for example, that he would be willing to file lawsuits against the federal government on behalf of “state’s rights,” a curious concept for a modern politician to invoke. Any student of history knows that “state’s rights” was defeated once and for all in 1865 when Lee surrendered to Grant.

    In the modern era, it has only been revived for the most shameful of purposes, specifically, when it was cited by Southern racists as they tried to resist federal integration directives (remember George Wallace “standing in the schoolhouse door?”).

    Cuccinelli’s first pre-emptive strike was his attorney general’s opinion directed at state-supported colleges and universities, telling them that, basically, it was illegal to adopt non-discrimination policies for gay employees.

    Gays, you see, are one of the “enemy” groups that Cuccinelli intends to target, but does he really need to be told that in the United States we don’t discriminate against anyone for any reason? Apparently, that was necessary, and the person who set him straight was none other than Gov. Bob McDonnell.

    As national commentators and comedy shows were making fun of Virginia for being so regressive and primitive - actually promoting discrimination against a specific group of citizens - McDonnell put a stop to it. He issued an executive order that clearly stated that, in his administration, everyone would be judged by their abilities and their talents only. Any discrimination - for any reason - would not be tolerated.

    The governor deserves great credit for taking that step. But imagine his political frustration at having to slap around his own party’s choice for attorney general.

    Now, Cuccinelli imagines himself a player on the national stage, announcing that if Democrats in the House enact health care reform through the controversial “deem and pass” approach, he will challenge the constitutionality of that move in federal court.

    Well, thank you very much, Mr. Attorney General, for being so dedicated to opposing health insurance for 50 million poor and working class Americans. But the country doesn’t need your “help” in this matter.

    Let’s face it: Ken Cuccinelli is going to be a right-wing loose cannon for the next four years. He was not elected on his own merits; he got into office on the coattails of a popular candidate for governor who ran a smart campaign.

    Now, we’re beginning to see him for what he is. If he continues down this path, decent Virginians everywhere may need to embark upon a campaign that calls for his resignation.

    Our great state should not be embarrassed by this political dinosaur.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.