congratulate the Sorensen Institute on this 14th
annual alumni gathering. I thank the benefactors,
the staff and all of the participants. I thank you,
Sean, and I raise a toast to Bill Wood.
how far we’ve come in Virginia. It hasn’t been
easy. It takes work to elevate politics to something
a macaca could understand. Where would we be if were
still trying to confront the evils of civility and
decorum and bipartisanship?
would we be had not this campaign for the United
States Senate found the n-word as an issue?
Thank God—the g-word—thank God we don’t have
to deal anymore with the honest brokerage of ideas
in our political discourse. Wouldn’t that be
old friend of mine in Carroll County recounted to me
the story of his father’s stubborn mule. The mule
had a mind of its own and sometimes refused to go.
He’d just stop and no amount of beating and
cursing would make him go again until he was ready.
He stops in the road one day and my friend’s
father loses his temper. He gets out of the wagon
the mule is hooked to and gathers a bunch of broom
straw from the side of the road, packs it under the
mule, and strikes a match to it. The mule pulls up
just far enough to pull the wagon into the fire and
it burns the wagon up.
you in the mind of Virginia’s transportation
debate, doesn’t it? We’re burning our wagons up.
is an economic upside to this idiocy, though. If it
keeps up, look for most of the bicycle manufacturers
to open plants here.
in search of a good and proper balance, Sean had my
friend Frank Atkinson lined up for the program this
evening as a sort of ballast to me. I got a note
from Frank the other day.
was very much looking forward to being with you for
the Oct. 14 reunion dinner for the Sorensen
Institute, but I had to call Sean yesterday and back
out. I have a Jamestown 400th event that evening
down in Jamestown, and it’s the unveiling of the
new African-American galleries there — something
the federal commission, which I chair, has actively
supported — and I just do not feel that I can miss
it. You will just have to hold forth without
rebuttal, which is a frightening thought for me.
had every intention of taking off the gloves with
Frank this evening, but in deference to his good
work on the Jamestown 400th — well... Listen,
people invite me to things like this because they
think I know something about politics. They are
mistaken. I know less about it every day. I just get
dumber and dumber. I was hoping Frank could be here
to help me sort some of this out.
example: I know there must be a good answer to this.
Maybe somebody here could help me out. Nationally,
Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the
Presidency — and blame the country’s problems on
the Democrats? Hello? What am I missing?
think that’s tricky — how about this? Not all
Republicans blame the Ds. Some of them blame
Republicans. What’s with that?
see. What else? Here’s one. Foolish me -- I
thought conservatives stood for smaller government,
less spending, more individual rights. Where did I
get off the track? Somebody help me out with that
one. I can’t quite connect the dots on this one
is it that local governments in Northern Virginia
screaming the loudest about congestion and growth
control legislation spend the most on economic
development? Maybe you smart folks from some of
those People’s Republic communities could explain
that one to me.
want the jobs, but not the people? Is that the deal?
That makes as much sense to me as the government
borrowing money to cut taxes. You know nobody in
their right mind would go for that.
a news flash for you: Gilmore for President! Bless
his heart. Gilmore remains the only governor in my
memory who did exactly, precisely what he said he
would do going in, but on this one he might have
been into that tainted spinach.
Wayne was a good Republican. He uttered a line — I
think it was in the movie El Dorado — that all
politicians should say out loud to themselves from
time to time: “Pilgrim, life is hard. It’s
harder if you’re stupid.”
Hillary Clinton really wanted to help Jim Webb,
she’d endorse George Allen. Strike that. Somebody
must have slipped that in when I wasn’t looking.
Foley’s office got a bag of mail last week that
contained a thousand ‘thank-you’ notes — all
from the Allen campaign. It was the break Allen had
been waiting for.
Foley took him off the front pages and gave Chris
Mathews something else to fleck spittle about,
Allen's campaign reminded me of my mother's anguish
and confusion at my grandfather's funeral. At the
"viewing," a bizarre ritual we practice
here in the South wherein strangers show up and brag
on how "natural" the corpse looks, my
mother squalled out — you could hear her for a
mile — "Oh, my God! He don't even look like
grandfather died at 83, as bald-headed as an egg.
The casket my mother was caterwalling over contained
a man who looked to be about 55, with a full head of
black hair. It was a big funeral home. We were in
the wrong room.
the way, just as an aside, when my mother passed
away the girls who work with me at the bank all came
to her funeral. About a year later we were making
small talk in the office over coffee one morning and
one of them asked brightly, “How’s your mom?”
“She’s still dead,” I said. “How’s
the point: It is easy to forget, but forgetting
doesn’t change the facts. Nor does wishful
thinking. Virginia is still a Red state — by
6 to 8 points, in my estimation.
don’t believe it? Look at all the nut-case bills
we see in the legislature since Republicans got the
majority. But hey, Virginia Democrats have their
go-to guys in this department, too. Think Algie
Howell and Bob Hull. What should be the core,
primary functions of state government -- educating
our children, moving the goods and services of our
commerce, providing some livability standard for our
elderly and others who truly cannot provide for
themselves, and making our neighborhoods safe places
to live, work, and raise our families -- these core
functions are no longer driving public policy in
Virginia. We somehow seem to think that we can
shrink to greatness -- that we can put off forever
the critical investments we need in transportation,
education, health care and a slew of other areas
that are so central to our well-being. Instead, we
spend out energies on the fringes—on abortion
bills, on gun bills, on flag bills and the pledge of
allegiance, on bridge names and license plate
comes the marriage amendment. Intellectually, in the
abstract, of course I believe everyone is entitled
to equal access, equal protection, and equal rights
under the law. I believe that down to my bone
marrow. I’ll tell you this, though: Men marrying
men and women marrying women is not something you
want to be campaigning on in Meadows of Dan.
are signs that enlightenment may be taking root,
even in my neck of the woods — enlightenment in a
manner of speaking. I asked one of my neighbors, an
old-timer in bib overalls, his view on
homosexuality. He stared at me, tucked his thumbs
into his bibs and said, “Son, it’s your mouth.
You can haul coal in it for all I care.”
am of two minds on this one — at least two. Jay
DeBoer, the former delegate from Petersburg, is a
close friend. He sent me a poem at Christmas. It
pretty much sums up my view on this marriage thing.
Roses are red Violets are blue I'm schizophrenic...
And so am I! I think I’ll stop there. Both of us.
October 23, 2006