Bob McDonnell

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Robert F. "Bob" McDonnell (1954-) is the Governor of Virginia. A Republican, he succeeded Tim Kaine (D); a Virginia governor cannot succeed himself although he can serve nonconsecutive terms. In November 2009, he won with 59 percent over Democratic State Senator Creigh Deeds (D).

While much of his career has been as a fiscal and social conservative,, a Washington Post publication, said he moved more toward the center in the gubernatorial race.[1]

Campaign and Governor

In the campaign, Governors Tim Pawlenty (R-Minnesota), Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana), and Haley Barbour (R-Mississippi) appeared with him. [2] In the campaign, he focused on jobs, education, transportation and health care in the increasingly Democratic state.[3] When asked about his master's thesis, which had opposed working women and feminism, he said
"Virginians will judge me on my 18-year record as a legislator and Attorney General and the specific plans I have laid out for our future -- not on a decades-old academic paper I wrote as a student during the Reagan era and haven't thought about in years. Like everybody, my views on many issues have changed as I have gotten older." He said that his views on family policy were best represented by his 1995 welfare reform legislation and that he "worked to include child day care in the bill so women would have greater freedom to work." What he wrote in the thesis on women in the workplace, he said, "was simply an academic exercise and clearly does not reflect my views." [4]

Confederate History Month

McDonnell had issued what came to be a controversial proclamation, designating April 2010 to be Confederate History Month. Richmond, Virginia, had been capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. The sensitive issue in the proclamation is that it did not mention slavery, certainly one of the motivations of the Civil War.

The Washington Post asked academics and politicians about the effect of the proclamation. Several made the point that even more than slavery, the possible endorsement of secession tied into current anti-government anger that manifests itself in calls for an emphasis on state sovereignty and nullification, rallying cries of some American conservative groups"[5]

  • Sean Willentz, Professor of History, Princeton University: "Does Gov. Robert F. McDonnell truly believe that Virginians should be proud that, a century and a half ago, their state joined and participated in a violent effort to dissolve the Union? Secession was and is a form of treason. Recent years have brought the resuscitation, mainly on the fringes of the political right, of defenses of secession and of its close political cousin, nullification. These writers rail against the government as an illegitimate or quasi-legitimate "regime," which upholds an oppressive, vaguely defined establishment. Coming in this increasingly toxic political atmosphere, McDonnell's proclamation is all the more disturbing, because it is fully in line with the politics of today's extremist fire-eaters. As we have seen, associating himself with this fringe will not help his political image."
  • Ed Gillespie, Former chairman of the Republican National Committee; volunteered as general chairman of the Bob McDonnell for Governor Campaign:"n signing a Confederate History Month proclamation without any mention of slavery, Gov. Bob McDonnell made a serious mistake in the third month of his governorship. His reaction to the mistake, however, told us more about him than the mistake itself. In an era of polarized politics, many elected officials who find themselves in a situation such as McDonnell's adopt a "never apologize, never explain" approach. Or they issue a "non-apology apology," usually containing the clause "if anyone was offended by my actions." McDonnell flat-out apologized, publicly to all Virginians and privately to many individuals he knew he'd personally let down. He acted, amending the proclamation to state "that the institution of slavery led to [the Civil War] and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights." And he accepted personal responsibility, not blaming staff. ... He immediately recognized the mistake of the proclamation as originally written and expressed genuine remorse. The amendment about the evil of slavery was an act of reconciliation."
  • Larry Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics: "There is no issue like the race issue. All smart politicians know it and treat it with care. That's why this is such a mystery. Gov. Bob McDonnell is shrewd, and surely he remembered the turmoil generated by the Confederate History Month proclamations of his two GOP predecessors, George Allen and Jim Gilmore. The context of recent Virginia Republican controversies on minority rights -- macaca, McDonnell's graduate school thesis, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's letter to colleges about gay rights -- should also have generated flashing yellow lights for McDonnell and his staff. They goofed big-time, and they know it. The apology was fine, but this gaffe attracted such massive, negative publicity that McDonnell is stuck with the consequences. This Philadelphia-born, Northern Virginia-raised governor doesn't have an Ol' Virginny resume, but he's going to have to demonstrate his racial inclusiveness again and again. ...McDonnell has a path to recovery, but he and his fellow Republicans need to accept and truly embrace 21st-century Virginia, where tolerance and sensitivity are not politically correct weaknesses but expected behavior for people representing this diverse New Dominion.
  • Gerry Connolly, U.S. Representative, (D-Va): Gov. Bob McDonnell is a man of good intentions, but he stumbled badly when he decided to side with those who cater to one expression of Virginia's past and ignored a class of human beings who suffered terribly before, during and after the Civil War. Only revisionists want to pretend the Civil War was a fight for states' rights. ... We can recognize history for what it is without glorifying it. We should recognize both sides of that conflict, all lives that were lost, and all who suffered. By ignoring slavery, McDonnell reminded Americans and the world about some of the more tragic aspects of our past when so many of us have worked so hard to create a New Dominion where we celebrate our inclusiveness and a wonderful tapestry of diversity that doesn't have the slightest resemblance to the Virginia of 150 years ago. McDonnell's serious error has marred Virginia's reputation by sidestepping a key lesson from our history. We cannot forget that only 50 years ago, we were still fighting to win basic freedoms for African Americans in the commonwealth after a century of lynchings, institutional racism and "massive resistance." The political fallout for McDonnell and the commonwealth will be temporary if he now focuses less attention on the darker side of the Old Dominion's past and more on the bright, inclusive future of the New Dominion.

Previous career

He had been the elected Attorney General of Virginia, its chief law enforcement officer, after serving for 14 years in the Virginia House of Delegates from Virginia Beach, rising to Chairman of the Courts of Justice Committee, and Assistant Majority Leader.

After military service, he spent 21 years in the U.S. Army on active duty and in the reserves, he worked in business, and then became interested in public service. He enrolled in a Master of Public Administration program at Regent University, established by Pat Robertson, and simultaneously enrolled in its new law school. While in law school, he had an internship with the Republican Policy Committee, graduating in 1989 and becoming a prosecutor in the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.[6]

Master's thesis

In his master's thesis at Regent University, obtained in their library by the Washington Post, "he described working women and feminists as 'detrimental' to the family. He said government policy should favor married couples over "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators." He described as 'illogical' a 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried culminates with a 15-point action plan that McDonnell said the Republican Party should follow to protect American families.:[4]


  1. Robert F. McDonnell,, a Washington Post company
  2. Bob Lewis (8 September 2009)
  3. Marc Fisher (22 February 2009), "McDonnell Casts Himself As a More Moderate Choice", Washington Post
  4. 4.0 4.1 Amy Gardner (30 August 2009), "'89 Thesis A Different Side of McDonnell: Va. GOP Candidate Wrote on Women, Marriage and Gays", Washington Post
  5. "Topic A: How badly did McDonnell stumble?", Washington Post, 11 April 2010
  6. Meet Bob, Governor Bob McDonnell