Virginia Pundit Watch

Will Vehrs



Top Politicos Taking Flak


In an attempt to jump-start the slow news month of August, pundits were either chronicling attacks against Virginia’s top politicians or making charges themselves.


Attorney General and presumptive 2005 GOP gubernatorial nominee Jerry Kilgore has had his hands full fending off controversies in both Richmond and his native Scott County. Margaret Edds of the Virginian-Pilot reviewed the “distractions — some niggling, some serious.” She doesn’t believe the long-running eavesdropping scandal or the Election Board contretemps in Scott County threaten Kilgore’s standing in the Republican Party, but it doesn’t make his “autopilot” road to coronation “universal.”


Gov. Mark R. Warner has been flying high since the tax-raising end of the General Assembly, taking leadership of the National Governors Association, speaking at the Democratic National Convention, and being identified as a “rising star” in Newsweek.  Suddenly, from out of these cheery blue skies, Gregg Easterbrook of The New Republic identified Warner as the poster boy for the “government waste” practice of using private planes instead of flying commercial. Virginia’s governor got a waiver to fly into Reagan National Airport 46 times since September 11, 2001, far surpassing the 26 flights of the next most prolific user, Georgia’s Republican Governor Sonny Purdue.  Easterbrook, a specialist in environmental issues, charged that “the new private jets being sold every year equate to three times the petroleum waste and greenhouse-gas emissions of the new Hummers being sold each year.”


Ed Lynch of the Roanoke Times, perhaps suffering from the effects of the rain and humidity, issued an unusually mean-spirited attack on Virginia State Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke. Edwards is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for Attorney General in 2005. Lynch, a professor at Hollins University, wrote that Edwards “has an inflated, arrogant and totally unwarranted image of his own accomplishments.” He denounced an appearance the senator made as a guest speaker in one of Lynch’s classes, claiming Edwards spoke down to the students: “He even pronounced the words with exaggerated slowness, as though doubtful that senior year political science majors would understand what he was talking about. 


It’s hard to imagine Professor/Pundits Larry Sabato of UVA and Robert Holsworth of VCU launching such a tirade against a guest speaker in one of their classes.  If Lynch aspires to their lofty status, he might want to stifle his partisan instincts and let his students decide.


Media Bias, Continued


The charges of conservative or liberal bias against the editorial boards of Virginia’s newspapers are recurring phenomena. In a Roanoke Times Guest Commentary column, retired Army Officer Max Beyer took those charges to ridiculous lengths. He attacked the man who made the space available to him, Editorial Page Editor Tommy Denton. Beyer aimed at what he called the “Tommy Denton Manifesto,” a long-forgotten piece from December 2000. He claimed Denton “glories in being biased” and “is an extremely divisive voice being disseminated from a newspaper having a monopolistic position in the community.” In a reckless, over-the-

top reference, Denton's editorial pages were accused of “taking a page of instruction from the Nazi Joseph Goebbels.” When Goebbels gets mentioned, any serious discussion of “media bias” is over.


Virginia’s Obama


Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate for the US Senate from Illinois, electrified the Democratic convention in Boston with his keynote address.  According to Bob Gibson of the Daily Progress, Virginia Republicans boast a similarly gifted speaker with a compelling personal story, former Charlottesville Delegate Paul Harris. Harris is reported as mulling a race for Lt. Gov. in 2009.


Lighten Up, You’re on Vacation


Poor Gordon Morse. Even on vacation in California, he can’t resist using Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “girlie men” remark to flog his pet analysis of how Virginia went to hell in a hand basket when Democrats tried to be nice and Republicans got tough. His Washington Post piece is one long lament that Virginia Democrats “assumed voters would remember all the good they had done” when they faced a “hard, mean and relentless” challenge from the GOP.


-- August 9, 2004














Will Vehrs grew up in Prince William County. He has a degree in American history from the College of William and Mary and an MBA from Chapman University. Will's experience includes a stint with a Fortune 500 company and economic development work in state government. His "Punditwatch" column appears on and Jewish World Review, as well as on his own Punditwatch website. He also writes for the Quasipundit political site.