Friday, September 05, 2014

It's Schadenfreude Time: Crooks In Virginia Edition

Yesterday's post was about a court ruling that angered me: not the ruling itself, but the bastards - BP Corporation - being held to account for their reckless greed and destruction.

There was another ruling that day that amused me: because it was ex-Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell's jury finding him and his wife guilty on various counts of bribery, corruption, and sheer arrogance.

So now I'm getting around to the schadenfreude portion of this blog.  This is the part of the malicious enjoyment where I lean my head back and guffaw.  A deep, throaty, almost maniacal laugh.  Kinda goes like this:


McDonnell is... was... one of those defendants where the sympathy train left the station years ago.  An up-and-coming Republican pol from Virginia, with enough charisma to swoon a room full of fund-raisers and a background catering to the social conservative platform of "family values" (aka Full-Me(n)tal Patriarchy, Pro-Fetus agenda).  He lucked into the national stage as a successful governor of a swing state, able to retain his Far Right credentials yet position himself in public as the "sane and normal" one when compared to his fellow Virginian wingnuts (Hi, Cuccinelli!).  This was a guy getting vetted for being Veep in 2012.  This was a guy who could have parlayed his position into a front-runner for (what is turning out to be wide-open for Republicans) the Presidential ticket in 2016.

This was a guy who couldn't figure out how to keep his corruption on the down-low and in the back rooms.  I mean, corruption is a bad thing no matter which politician is committing it, but there's something to be said about being savvy enough to keep it off the radar...

The feds were able to catch McDonnell's family hanging around with a deep-pocket fund-raising buddy (Jonnie Williams), not only taking money and gifts from him but also turning around and avidly promoting their buddy's diet supplement company.  While Quid Pro Quo is painfully rampant in modern politics, most other politicians tend to be a little more subtle about their deals.

The trial just finished was a soap opera drama worthy of a Lifetime Channel miniseries.  Rather than present a unified defense, Bob and his wife Maureen decided on a finger-pointing approach of accusing each other of being manipulated by a sweet-talking businessman who took advantage of a crumbling, loveless marriage.  Bob especially went with a "crazy wife" defense that essentially threw Maureen under the bus (figuratively, but if someone brought a bus to the front of the courthouse he well could have tried it literally).  For a politician who once stood on the virtue of a husband "defending and providing for his family," this was pretty hypocritical.  It was also pretty tone-deaf.

But the signs were there early: when first charged, McDonnell was offered a plea deal on just one felony charge (meaning minimal jail-time) that would have included all charges on his wife getting dropped (it's a standard practice by prosecutors to pile on charges to make sure a deal can get enforced made).  Even then, McDonnell said no to the deal, figuring he was better off winning over a jury and walking away clean.

Turns out the prosecutors were able to win more than one felony conviction after all.  Hindsight can be a pain, right Gov?


As Jim Newell at Salon noted, How could McDonnell be so stupid?:
...In modern politics, corruption charges are usually more tediously complex: Money was wired here and then laundered via a pass-through, which made its way through another pass-through and was distributed through a foundation before ending up at a nonprofit designed to help such and such’s interests with a client trying to change regulations in foreign markets, or whatever. Not in this case. The prosecution just had to show the jury images of the idiot governor showing off his flashy watch that was given to him by the rich businessman for whom he did favors in return. How much simpler could this get? It’s only a degree of reality or two away from an old-timey political cartoon of a tuxedoed plutocrat, smoking a cigar, handing over a big bag marked “$$$,” to a crooked politician slapping his back and cackling.
God, the stupidity...
...Because the defense — the now infamous defense — that they took in court reeked of desperation all the way through. If you’re willing to testify for days about the stunning levels of dysfunction in your marriage, as the best hope for your exoneration, doesn’t that suggest that you may not have the strongest case? Doesn’t that suggest that perhaps you would’ve been better taking a plea deal? It didn’t even cohere...
I would argue it wasn't stupidity.  It was arrogance.  Hubris, the Greek word for Pride: Pride, the highest of the seven deadly Christian sins.  You'd think a rock-solid self-promoting Christian like McDonnell would have learned about the price of Pride in Sunday schools.  That it leads to one hell of a fall.

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