Missing in Action

At last, someone else in the Mainstream Media is asking the same question I’ve been asking: Where is Tim Kaine? The Governor has gone largely missing in action from the transportation debate during the 2007 session even though he has (a) the bully pulpit, (b) veto power, and (c) the allegiance of Democrats in the Senate and House of Delegates who, though they’re a minority, could tip the balance of power between warring Republican factions. Other than urging General Assembly members not to give up on a compromise, Kaine has contributed remarkably little to the debate himself — at least nothing that’s been reported by the press.

Now comes the Washington Times with an interesting angle you won’t read anywhere else:

“Virginia Republicans say Gov. Timothy M. Kaine should play a bigger role in helping lawmakers reach a compromise on the transportation budget.” Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, said Mr. Kaine has been “missing in action” and thinks he and fellow Democrats would rather see talks fail so they can rip Republicans this fall when all 140 seats of the General Assembly are up for election.

“I’m not sure what role he has played,” Mr. Bolling said. “When you look at it, the only thing he has done has been counterproductive.” Mr. Bolling said Mr. Kaine offered a transportation proposal last month that was almost identical to a plan rejected last year.

Kevin Hall, Kaine’s spokesman, insists that Kaine has “worked closely with leaders from both parties in both chambers” to reach a consensus. If so, his labors have been very quiet, behind the scenes and fruitless. Furthermore, whatever he has said, it has done very little to moderate the partisan rhetoric of Democratic legislators.

I have no inside knowledge. I am merely imputing motives to Kaine based on actions, and I will happily retract my speculations should I hear convincing evidence to the contrary. But I really do have to agree with Bolling. I don’t think that Democrats do want to be part of a legislative solution (unless it’s entirely on terms they find agreeable). They do want to see Republicans fail because they do think they can control the spin (thanks to a compliant MSM) and ride charges of a “do nothing” GOP-dominated assembly to electoral victories this fall.

While urging compromise in public pronouncements, Kaine does nothing to advance that compromise. He offers no new proposals. He twists no arms. He does nothing to create a dialogue between combatants.

Don’t mistake my observations about Kaine as a defense of the Republican transportation plan. As far as I’m concerned, the GOP has already compromised itself into incoherence. Their Transportation Abomination is a public policy horror whose financing mechanisms would do more harm than its VDOT/land use reform elements would do good. I agree with those who believe it was cobbled together out of pure political expediency in a desperate bid to stave off electoral disaster this fall. Should the senate-house conferees compromise yet again with the Chichester/Democratic wing of the Senate, it would succeed only in raising taxes, not addressing traffic congestion.

We can only hope that the GOP conferees have the courage of their convictions, abandon further compromise, and take their case to the voters this fall. Voters rejected increased regional taxes for transportation earlier in the decade. Since then, multiple opinion polls have shown that Virginians do not favor higher taxes as a way to address transportation congestion. It’s time for legislators to stand firm for their principles — and then defend their actions with the voters. If they’re not willing to do that, they might as well go home.

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One response to “Missing in Action”

  1. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Tim Kaine is no Mark Warner. Say what you will about Warner (I’m not his biggest fan), but he would have been involved in the process and, in this case, have been pushing Democrats in the GA to buy into some form of compromise. Mark Warner at least believed in what he said he wanted to do. Kaine talks one thing, but does another. Is it 2009 yet?

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