The Bob McDonnell campaign is being forced to deal with questions surrounding the thesis he wrote twenty years ago while a graduate student at Regent University:
The Virginia governor’s race ignited Monday over Republican Robert F. McDonnell’s 20-year-old graduate thesis: Democrats assailed him in e-mail blasts and interviews for what he wrote about working women, homosexuals and “fornicators,” and McDonnell tried to explain his views to crucial moderate and female voters.
After a sleepy summer filled with rural RV tours and policy papers on energy and the economy, news of the thesis, first reported Sunday in The Washington Post, pushed the race to a fever pitch.
McDonnell’s opponent, Democrat R. Creigh Deeds, bombarded state and national media with details of the thesis, submitted by McDonnell in 1989 for a master of arts in public policy and juris doctorate in law from Regent University in Virginia Beach.
McDonnell, meanwhile, spoke by telephone to reporters for nearly 90 minutes, saying that his views have changed on many of the issues he explored as a graduate student. He also released a list of women who support his campaign.
“I’m disappointed but not surprised that my opponent wants to make this a central issue in the campaign,” said McDonnell, the former state attorney general and a 14-year veteran of the House of Delegates. “During my years in the General Assembly, Senator Deeds would suggest that I have this undue focus on social issues. That’s just a flat misrepresentation.”
At the same time, though, McDonnell did take the opportunity during the conference call to disavow some portions of the thesis:
In an extraordinary, hour-long conference call, Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell said he repudiated some of the words he wrote in his now-controversial 1989 Regent University graduate thesis — including writing that feminism was an enemy to the traditional family and criticizing contraception for unmarried couples.
“Since 1989, my views on a number of things have changed,” he told reporters on the call. “I am fully supportive of women working in the workplace. My wife works, my daughters work.”
He also said on the call that he “fully” supports “equal pay for men and women,” and said he would “do nothing” to change the state’s laws on contraception.
That’s unlikely to make this issue go away, though. The Virginia Democratic Party has already released this web video highlighting the thesis:
And, the Washington Post is out this morning with a hard-hitting editorial:
Mr. McDonnell’s study, written in 1989 at age 34 in support of his master’s degree in public policy and degree in law, is a full-throated attack on liberals, modernity, the Great Society and inheritance taxes, among other supposed ills, which he linked to and blamed for homosexuality, declining morality and the degradation of the traditional family, along with the proliferation of pornography, out-of-wedlock sex, day care, birth control, pregnant teenagers, divorce, single mothers, working women and feminists.
The thesis is a wistful ode to a bygone 1950s America, when, Mr. McDonnell noted, 70 percent of American families were led by working fathers and homemaker mothers, and “every state in the union made sexual intercourse between unmarried persons a crime.” Sounding at times like an Old Testament prophet, Mr. McDonnell wrote that government must discriminate in favor of married couples and against “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators,” for “[t]he cost of sin should fall on the sinner not the taxpayer.”
And, echoing a theme we’re likely to hear from the Democrats from now until Election Day, the Post argues that there isn’t much different between thesis-era McDonnell and 2009 McDonnell:
[I]n his 14 years in the state’s General Assembly, Mr. McDonnell did aggressively pursue a socially conservative agenda largely in line with his thesis. As governor he could do the same, although he would be constrained by a legislature at least partly controlled by Democrats. He could not ban abortion and contraception, but he could help restrict access. The Bob McDonnell who wrote that thesis would make a divisive, disruptive and partisan governor — a sharp departure from the tradition of generally pragmatic executives who have helped make Virginia one of the better-managed states in the union. Virginians deserve specific answers about where the thinking of his early middle age has shifted, and where it remains consistent.
Will this be a game-changer ? Only time and the polls will tell, but this seems to be the opening that the Deeds campaign was looking for.
By the way, if you haven’t read the thesis, you might want to check it out for yourself.