No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Barnie Day



Finger-wagging Partisan? Moi?


Ross McKenzie's recent jab at me is best seen as a back-handed maneuver to distance himself, and the Times-Dispatch, from Bob McDonnell and the far right wing of the GOP.


"Please, don't throw me in that briar patch!"

-- Bre’r Rabbit, in the Uncle Remus stories of Joel Chandler Harris, 1881

Reconsider a Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial, entitled "Then and Now", of September 12, 2003 and learn a lesson in What You See Is Not What You Get.

Regarding a rough race for an open-seat special election in late 1996, Barnie Day, a political junkie and later a Delegate from Patrick County , lashed out at the defeated Republican. “Sooner or later,” said he, “the state Republican Party is going to understand that attack, junkyard dog politics isn’t going to sell in Southwest Virginia . I don’t know how many lessons it’s going to take.”


The other day Day gave a red-meat speech to a group of hardened Democrats. Partisan it most definitely was. And — maybe — mean.


'And Bob McDonnell. Bless his heart. Bob McDonnell, running for Attorney General, the man who sits in judgment of our judges, the man who cannot remember if he himself has ever engaged in sodomy. Think about it. He can’t remember. He can’t recall. Think about that for one minute.'


It doesn’t take too long to think that’s “attack, junkyard politics.”


Bless his heart. Once upon a time Day gave his political enemies finger-wagging advice — apparently finger-wagging nearly seven years later he himself fails to heed.


My initial reaction to Ross Mackenzie’s piece and his comments about the "mean", "red meat", "partisan" address I made a few weeks ago to the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia was as follows:


Ross, you must know — as surely you do — that attorney general hopeful Bob McDonnell chairs the House Courts of Justice Committee and routinely grills judicial candidates on their private behaviors.  (Read your own clip file on Verbena Askew.)


You must know, too — as surely you do — that he said he couldn’t "recall" if he himself had ever engaged in sodomy.

Whether this be mere hypocrisy or quantum amnesia doesn’t matter. It isn’t "attack" or "junkyard" politics to point out a simple truth. If you weren’t such an ideological knuckle-dragger you could see the difference.


That was my initial response. But then I think: No, Ross Mackenzie is way, way too clever for that.  There is something fishy going on here.


Why would he so blatantly repeat a charge against McDonnell, and give it wider currency, if he didn’t want it repeated, if he didn’t want it to have wider currency? Why would he do that?


There were many better ‘attack’ examples in the speech than the observation on McDonnell. After all, it was pretty much a slash-and-burn speech.  And partisan? As partisan as I knew how to make it. (I was addressing the Central Committee of the Democratic Party, for crying out loud, what else would it be?) But the crack about McDonnell was a throw-away line. Nothing to get your panties in a twist about.


So I think to myself: What’s going on here?




And then it came to me: Steve Baril. As in, Steve Baril, The Other Republican Candidate For Attorney General.


Of course.


For some time I have thought that maybe my imagination was at work, but now it is clear: An ever-so-subtle, but real — and in the context of things, significant — editorial shift is underway at the Times Dispatch.


That’s what’s afoot here. Mackenzie and Company want the shots taken at McDonnell. They just don’t want to take them themselves. Not yet, anyway.   


(Here, dear readers, take a deep breath. As hard to believe as it is, what follows is for real.) 


The Times Dispatch is — finally — putting a half-step distance between itself and the right wing of the Republican Party of Virginia. 


There have been other indicators. You have to read closely. But the trace evidence is there. It shows in the columns. It shows in the house editorials. Not there yet -- still willing to hide discomfort with McDonnell and his ilk behind a speech I gave to hardcore Democrats — but the shift is unmistakable. 


Which brings me back to Steve Baril. He’s raising a lot of money. A lot of the legal heavyweights around town — and around Virginia — like him. A lot of them. And, apparently, so does the editorial staff of the Times Dispatch, there being no other explanation for the ‘Then and Now’ editorial.


And that’s okay. But why not be a big boy about it and say so?


The game is up, Ross. 




But, hey, don’t you feel better? You can come out of the closet now. You don’t need to use some bear-baiting speech I made. You want to derail McDonnell, and you’re not by yourself. Don’t be afraid. You’re going to have a lot of help. Come on out. It’s okay.


-- September 25, 2003


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Barnie Day

604 Braswell Drive
Meadows of Dan, VA