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Deeds on McDonnell Thesis: It's Relevant

Rosalind Helderman

Bob McDonnell's 1989 master's thesis is a relevant topic for the Virginia governor's campaign that helps shed light on McDonnell's record in public life, opponent Creigh Deeds said this afternoon in his first public comments since the publication of the thesis in the Post on Sunday.

"The thesis explains the social agenda that has apparently driven his legislative agenda during the years," Deeds said. "If anything, this ensures people understand there are very clear differences between me and the other guy in terms of our record. Records are important."

Deeds said he was not entirely surprised by some of the ideas expressed in the thesis, noting that McDonnell sponsored legislation to establish covenant marriage in Virginia four times, backed numerous bills restricting access to abortions and voted in 2001 against a resolution that urged equal pay for men and women.

He said the thesis explains the ideas McDonnell pursued once elected to the legislature, a "social crusade" that did not include the economic development the Republican has now made the center of his campaign. Deeds said his own record has focused on improving education and creating economic opportunity.

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said, "It's good to see Creigh has come back from California and wants to talk about records. We will be happy to talk about his lifetime 94 percent rating from big unions, his championing of greater government spending, and his strong support for 3.5 billion in tax hikes in just the last 5 years.

"We'd also like to discuss his vision for Virginia's future, but we haven't seen one of note. Creigh should spend more time finding a transportation plan for today and less time trying to find quotes from a decades-old graduate school paper," Martin continued.

Deeds said he was a "little disturbed" by some of the McDonnell's 20-year old language, particularly McDonnell's assertion as a student pursuing a master's and law degree from Regent University in Virginia Beach that working women were detrimental to the family and that federal child care tax credits were harmful because they encouraged women to work outside the home.

McDonnell has said he has changed his views about working women because of life and legislative experience over the last 20 years. He says too that he no longer believes, as he argued in the thesis, that government should discriminate against unmarried people and homosexuals.

"I guess it's for the observer to figure out whether one's views really have changed, but I think the record speaks for itself," Deeds said.

And Deeds rejected the idea that McDonnell's master's thesis was a mere academic exercise that should be out of bounds for the campaign.

"He wasn't 20 years old when he wrote it. He was 34. I was 34 when I was sworn into the House of Delegates and certainly the things I did when I was 34, I'm going to be taken to task for in this campaign," he said. "Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. This was a guy, he was a father, he was a husband, he'd been in the military. He'd been out in the world. It's relevant."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  September 2, 2009; 2:33 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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Keep trying to smear McDonnell with his 20 year old thesis; we aren't paying attention. Down go your subsciption rates.

The Washington Post-- since 1972, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party.

Posted by: bobdame | September 2, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

McDonnell wrote his thesis at age 34. I believe voters deserve to know the truth about what his beliefs really are. I also think there are scary similarities between the GOP's beliefs and the Taliban's... sexism, homophobia to name two. What is even scarier to me are women who support him for holding these beliefs.

Posted by: remorse | September 2, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

remorse, do you not realize that McDonnell's wife and 3 daughters (including the one who was just out of active military duty) are working or have worked very recently, and more than 1/2 his staff (he hired) are women? What about that?

Certainly doesn't say "Taliban" to me. Says, "American". No more, no less.

Posted by: SpotsySteve | September 2, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

By the way, this ludicrous "story" is only relevant to 2 people. One is Creigh Deeds, who is hoping people forget about his total lack of a vision, plan or objective for Virginia.

The other is Anita Kumar who apparently thinks this is going to win her a Pulitzer. Not to be pithy- but guess again.

Posted by: SpotsySteve | September 2, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I'm waiting to hear what Bob McDonnell's legislative accomplishments are that go against his Thesis. Otherwise, it looks like he is simply out to doing what he said should be done, election-year "visions" notwithstanding.

Posted by: tws1372 | September 2, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

tws- I believe this was among the 10- count 'em, 10- Post articles on this "issue" so important it apparently needs more coverage than the economy, or transportation, or education.

It's also on McDonnell's website. I suggest you do a little legwork and click over there and take a look-see.

Posted by: SpotsySteve | September 2, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

If McDonnell has changed his Conservative views then why are all his Conservative friends coming out of the woodwork and saying that the "middle of the road" and "mainstream" McDonnell is not the person they know? One long-time friend is even having to try to explain to district captains why McDonnell is not the Conservative they thought he was.

I think his friends know him better than the people who are listening to a politician who is speaking opposite to his voting record.

Posted by: alysheba_3 | September 2, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

This has propelled me to take a close look at McDonnell's voting record. His campaign has made it seem that he's a moderate Republican -- not so.

Posted by: seaduck2001 | September 2, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

If the thesis is really so irrelevant, why are so many people complaining about the Post's coverage of it (including blogs)? Shouldn't it die out on its own due to lack of interest?

Posted by: valandsend | September 2, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I used to lean to the Republicans in my voting however the Virginia GOP keeps digging up these extreme right wing religous zealots like McDonnel, Marshall and the rest of them. These guys are not middle of road moderates and they have no real solutions to Virginia problems. McDonnell wants to sell the ABC stores a huge source of annual revenue, for a one time payout. Their only mantra is no new taxes. They are ultra-extreme right wing fanatics like Rush Limbaugh. I can not vote for these extremists it would be like voting for the Taliban of the USA.

Posted by: Brian_in_VA | September 2, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

it's ironic how many McDonnell supporters want to run away from his core conservative beliefs as stated in his thesis -- the product of a fully formed adult, not some college kid experimenting with ideology or, as some suggest, just trying to impress his professors (that's an insult to both McDonnell and Regent U even if/though it is a third rate school at best).

McDonnell doesn't even have the balls/class/courage to stand behind his beliefs as backed by his legislative record (covenant marriage, gender inequality, etc.).

Instead he fears that it will reveal him for just part of the American Taliban fringe coming out of Regent & the narrow minded intolerance of Pat Robertson and his ilk.

Posted by: fendertweed | September 2, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

A really good reporter might have asked Deeds if he wrote any graduate papers and would he be so kind as to release them to the press. This would have given the reporter some glaze of impartiality especially if the answer was then reported.

Posted by: genericrepub | September 2, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Just remember, when it comes to the Obama Messiah, nothing he did or said in the past, or radical church he attended for TWENTY years, or dangerous people he associated himself with are relevant - those things are DISTRACTIONS.

Also, I seem to remember a little paper that Senator Webb penned during his tenure at the Naval Academy.

However, when the issue is a Republican's past, EVERYTHING is relevant.

Keep up the good work WaPo. Your cheerleading for the Democrat party never ceases to amaze me.

Posted by: aaronburr94 | September 2, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Although I completely disagree with McDonnell, I can't say as I blame him for denying his beliefs in the face of an unruly mob of pseudo-intellectuals bandying about terms like "American Taliban". This thesis is certainly nothing he should martyr himself over.

Posted by: Wallenstein | September 2, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Of course Deeds would say it's relevant. It's all he has against a candidate of superior intellect, greater experience and better ideas to move Virginia forward. Deflecting attention from the issues...a strategy for any candidate in desperation mode. I just hope the McDonnell campaign doesn't stoop to Deeds' level.

Posted by: conservativemaverick | September 2, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

So now Creigh Deeds makes it clear, by his readiness to pounce and knowledge of the material, that he is in fact the one behind this smear, and now in cahoots with the Post.

When he saw he was behind 14 points, he went down deep into the sleazy politician's playbook. How much did you pay your "opposition research team," Mr. Deeds?

This is really no different than what happened with 63-year-old Mayor Riordan's election as Mayor of Los Angeles in 1993. Late in the race his opponent raised a 20-year old drunk driving conviction (when he was in HIS FORTIES, Mr. Deeds) and it backfired with the public - he was elected with an even greater margin.

No voter likes unfairness. And pulling a thesis out 20 years after the fact and then twisting a man's good service to his community and state is character assassination. It WILL backfire, because Virginians are fair-minded.

Posted by: FreedomFirst2 | September 2, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

McDonnell is a right wing nut. No question. But I'm more afraid of what he will do to the state financially. Remember Gilmore? He's from the same cloth. They want to destroy the government, and they care nothing for public education or even the very basics... like transportation... as long as the rich corporations keep their money. With no accountability, since VA is the only state with a one-term governor, he'll work to make a national reputation among republicans with no concern for what his policies will mean long term. Just look at what Allen and Gilmore did to our state colleges.

Posted by: davidbrowne | September 2, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Well, if Bob McDonnell's school record is relevant, surely Barack Obama's is too. Oh, that's right; it's secret...too bad.

Posted by: MaggieLeber | September 2, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

"By the way, this ludicrous "story" is only relevant to 2 people"

So that would explain the 1000-plus comments per article on the WaPo! (1700-plus on one story as of last night).

It's relevant to Virginia voters, sorry!

Posted by: hitpoints | September 2, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

"The Washington Post-- since 1972, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party.

Posted by: bobdame | September 2, 2009 4:14 PM"

Yeah right. That's why the Post was a big supporter of Bush's Iraq war. That's why the Post endorses Frank Wolf for re-election every year as they did Tom Davis before he recently retired. That's why Post columnists include George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Gerson, Kathleen Parker, and until his unfortunate demise, the late Robert Novack. That doesn't even include giving editorial page space to the likes of Newt Gingerich, Dick Armey and many GOP lawmakers.

If the Post were biased (to say nothing of competent), they would have asked long ago before anyone knew McDonnell had written a thesis why he chose to attend Regent University; they would have pointed out that it was a Pat Robertson-founded school with an agenda to "Christianize" the Justice Department with rightwing zealots. They would have asked McDonnell to explain his views towards Robertson and his extreme agenda. It's about time the public learned about McDonnell's true ideology.

Posted by: Cookerhiker1 | September 2, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Please. This isn't a smear; it's something he wrote as a 34 year old graduate student! As a 27 year old, a Virginian, a voter, and someone who has written a thesis of my own, I certainly expect to be held responsible for my positions and actions, and I expect no less of those running for office.
Fendertweed is absolutely right.
McDonnell can defend his thesis or respond to it in any way he likes, and I for one am willing to listen to him, but it's certainly a valid line of inquiry for voters.
Don't be bitter just because Deeds found it and you're embarrassed of it.

Posted by: emilyduvbar1 | September 2, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I love the way Republicans make excuses.
McDonnell's paper clearly illustrates his views which are pathetic and behind the times unless your a Republican. He clearly does not deserve to be in office of any kind.
What Republican's do excel at is hypocricy.
I suggest he put a diaper on his head and join Vitter for a party.

Posted by: fotoartiste | September 2, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

(Eyes glassy) "Rush says to hate liberals. Must hate liberals. Must hate Obama. Must hate Post. Must hate hate hate. Rush says so. Must follow Rush. Must hate liberals. Must hate..."

Posted by: KidTJ | September 2, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Funny to read all the squealing from the Democrats who see their fate coming in 2010. A 20 to 50 seat change in the Congress is likely. Hopefully Pelosi, Dodds, Frank and their ilk will be handed walking papers. Reid is toast and other Senators that have been on the Spendocrat wagon will also be leaving DC.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | September 2, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Those are squeals of glee, bubbette.
By election day 2010, the economy will be improving. Of course, then Republicans will say the president has no effect on the economy and it's just the economical cycle.

Oh, and by then, there will have been a few more GOP sex scandals.

Posted by: hitpoints | September 2, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

It's a shame MCDonnell didn't have to go through a primary with a conservative opponent. That would have been hilarious.

Posted by: st50taw | September 2, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

To deserve the trust and votes of Virginians, McDonnell must be honest about his past. He must explain when and why he started to repudiate his past opinions. Did he flip/flop policies only after the Post outed him or was it some time earlier?

Posted by: 1observer | September 2, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

If you want to make everything relevant to past thought processes and thesis' then take a look at Obama first and what he thinks about a single payer system, among other things. Take a look at what his wife stated when she said that this is the first thing America has done that is good and you know can tell after you've seen the hate in her eyes and voice. Then take a look at every one of his czars who run around unchecked by anyone and are un-vetted by the FBI or SS and some are marxist and communist from their statements alone and the causes they have can connect the dots for yourself after that.

Posted by: DamianPalmares | September 2, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Talk about Obama is irrelevant to Va. politics.

Posted by: 1observer | September 2, 2009 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Oh it's very much so relevant.

Posted by: DamianPalmares | September 2, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Explain if possible. Obviously Obama isn't running for Va. gov. so your talk is just a diversion and distraction from the subject. Let's focus here. What else would you like to discuss here? The miserable condition of radio? Fishing in Ohio?.

Posted by: 1observer | September 2, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Sounding like a family values kind of guy 20 years ago was OK. Complaining about the lack of "morality" in government was OK 20 years ago.

Since then America has seen what disaster befalls us when these folks actually get control of government. Holy wars against Islam, Faith tests for US attorneys, restrictions on women's rights, Faith-based restrictions on Federal money for birth control, sex education, science funding and education. These folks showed their cards over the last years and I haven't heard McDonnell apologize yet.

Posted by: thebobbob | September 2, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

bobby Boy needs to explain why a Roman Catholic went to Regents. Sorry Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and their ilk have a long history of anti Catholic bigotry. The members of religious right barely tolerate us Catholics and only because we are prolife.

Mcconnell like Cucinelli is a far right zealot. Did Mcconnell home school his spawn like Kenny?

I have always voted Republican for prez but come on the Va Republican Party has to put up more mainstream candidates then Kenny and Bob. I suspect they will probably bring back psycho Ollie North and have him run for office in VA

Posted by: omarthetentmaker | September 2, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Who cares what his thesis was about 20 years ago....obviously Obama's views didn't stop him from becoming President. Obviously his appointees to these czar positions don't mean one little bit to anybody. You can promote socialism or communism up until the day your sworn in as long as after that you abide by the rules and it's okay. Straight ticket GOP or Lib...get these socialists out of office or we will all be in trouble.

Posted by: DamianPalmares | September 2, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

You and everybody else should care about McD's weird and hateful opinions from 20 yrs ago. Without a good honest explanation, a reasonable person would have to presume he still has the same opinions.

Posted by: 1observer | September 2, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

All I'm saying is look at what is going on now with the Obama administration. Should we be concerned about him and his admin? Very much so and I understand what you are saying but if you apply your suggestion or thought process on a broader scale than just this minor election, you will understand what I am saying. And for the record, the GOP has run consistently in the black or at least deficit neutral on a Governor level for a very long time. We know who is fiscally more responsible on a broader scale and over a longer period of time. That's what we need now. Dems just want to spend and worry bout it can bring Bush up but it goes back much further than him.

Posted by: DamianPalmares | September 2, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Why are you so unfocused and talking about Fed. deficits here? Yes, I remember the reckless and unnecessary deficits of Repubs like Bush and Reagan and the surpluses of Clinton. So what?

Posted by: 1observer | September 2, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

So why would you want to even put their party in control of anything? Where did the surpluses of Clinton come from? Taking from social security? Yeah that's a great surplus.

Posted by: DamianPalmares | September 2, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Because it starts at the bottom and goes to the top or the other way matter how you look at it. If the Dem party of spending is in control and you have a lesser governor that is Dem and wants to do what his party wants, which right now is pretty much bankrupt the US....then yes, the federal deficits do matter and you should look at how the federal GOV mandates or governs fiscal responsibility.

Posted by: DamianPalmares | September 2, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, but the question here is of relevance, especially granted the coverage. I'm willing to believe there were 1000 comments on some of the many articles written on this- Deeds has about that many staffers, right?

Here's the problem: VA Dems won recent elections by focusing on bread and butter issues, which fundamentally are the only ones anyone gives a damn about. Conversely, the GOP lost because it tried to play label politics, branding Kaine as too liberal, etc.

What do we have now?

A Republican who has put out literally dozens of new and innovative ideas on bread and butter issues. He's done it the whole campaign, in a disciplined way and without fail. Kaine left our budget in disarray, our economy in shambles and no transportation solution. Sorry, but that's his legacy right now, and we're reminded of it EVERY TIME WE PASS A REST AREA.

Deeds, the Post's golden boy? No transportation plan. No clue on how to grow the economy. His only fix for transportation or the budget is to raise taxes in a recession. No innovative ideas, at all. No compelling reason to vote for him on the issues, on the merits.

As a result, since Aug 1 all he's talked about is abortion and a 20 year old thesis. Gee, sign me up to vote for that guy!

Fact is, Deeds is playing label politics, and you all know it. This, we have proof of. The Post is actively abetting this. It's a shame because the media- the whole reason for the first amendment- is supposed to educate the voters to make informed choices. The Post? More interested in proving relevance by backing its golden boy.

But label politics did not work for the GOP and it won't work for Deeds now. You have to show how you'd govern, and Deeds hasn't done that, at all.

Education? Transportation? ECONOMY? Budget? McDonnell has been singularly focued on these issues from day one, with him and Bolling rolling out one proposal after another.

The Post? Nary a mention. Oh, but this 20 year old thesis, this bears 11 articles over 3 days? Come on.

The merits of the arguement, that McDonnell is an extremist based on the thesis?

Well, his wife and 3 daughters all work. His staff is more than 1/2 female. So it would seem pretty illogical for him to be anti-working woman.

His legislative record? As Attorney General for the last 4 years, he proposed more than 100 bills. All but a few got passed. Deeds voted for 98% of them. None dealt with abortion, none. Does this seem like a zealot to you? If it is, Deeds is almost as much of one!

And to call Russell "Crack" Potts McDonnell's "friend" is a laugh. He ran as an independent for governor against Kilgore. He would have faced- and lost- a GOP primary had he stayed a senator. The 2 people they got to say something against McD both had axes to grind. And certainly were no "friends" of McD.

Bottom line, this faux story as about as much merit about McD as Obama's reverend had for him- probably with a similar outcome.

Posted by: SpotsySteve | September 2, 2009 8:58 PM | Report abuse

From the article:

"voted in 2001 against a resolution that urged equal pay for men and women"

Totally misleading to the point of being dishonest. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 so equal pay for men and women was already the law of the land in 2001. This resolution - which was more of a proclamation - was to recognize "Equal Pay DAY". 32 others also voted against it.

The WaPo is once again intentionally twisting words and facts to deceive.

Posted by: JackESpratt | September 3, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

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