That 'partisan' Tim Kaine
By Lee Hockstader
Here’s a pop quiz for the pundits and lawmakers who can’t help but bash Tim Kaine on his way out of the governor’s office in Virginia for his alleged paucity of achievements.
Quick: Name one piece of significant legislation -- just one -- that Kaine could or would have passed had he toned down his alleged partisanship, broken bread nightly with his GOP critics and sent roses to Republican legislative leaders and their families.
Stumped, right? Well, don’t worry. The Republicans who blocked Kaine at every turn can’t name one either.
In fact, now that Kaine is on his way out the door -- today is his last full day as governor -- GOP leaders are admitting publicly what everyone in Richmond knew already. Namely, that Kaine is as bright, personable and engaging as governors get. His supposed partisanship, endlessly cited by Republicans to blame Kaine for their own obstructionism and myopia, wouldn’t even register in Illinois or New York or, well, name any state you like -- let alone Congress, where plenty of Democrats will barely talk to a Republican, and vice versa.
It’s absolutely true that under Kaine’s watch, Virginia slipped further behind on for its most critical need: transportation. It's equally true that the blame for this lies squarely with Republicans in the House of Delegates. In defiance of any semblance of logic, they refused to consider higher taxes to build new roads and bridges, or even to compensate for the toll that inflation has taken on the gas tax since it was last raised in 1986. Even top Republicans who privately admit that raising the gas tax makes perfect sense are too timid to say so publicly. In this category I include several of the most senior figures in the incoming administration of Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell, as well as his most senior advisors outside of government.
Republican leaders in the House of Delegates blocked Kaine because they were determined not to beatify yet another Democratic governor by handing him a major legislative victory, as they did by helping Mark Warner enact major new taxes for education in 2004. The Warner tax package, passed with the help of 17 House Republicans, instantly lionized him within the Democratic party and, for a time, transformed him into putative presidential material. Republicans were equally determined to punish any member of the GOP caucus who broke ranks to back Kaine in raising taxes for transportation. Anyone who doubts that should check with those 17 Republican defectors from 2004, most of whom faced primary challenges the next year.
Look around the country. Being governor in any state the last few years has been about managing catastrophically dwindling budgets, not passing major legislation. Republicans and other critics of Kaine in Virginia are mostly a parochial lot; hilariously, they bash him for overestimating revenues in Virginia, not pausing to consider that every state save possibly North Dakota has been dealt the same hand.
So, quick, name one notable law that Kaine could have passed if he’d never said an unkind word about Republicans. The silence is deafening.
| January 15, 2010; 9:31 AM ET
Categories: Hockstader | Tags: Lee Hockstader
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