By Paul Goldman
Editor's note: Paul Goldman is a guest columnist for DecisionVirginia.com. The views expressed below are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of NBC12.
It is considered the “most stupendous home run in the history of baseball” according to a sportswriter in reviewing the terrific book Babe Ruth’s Called Shot: The Myth and Mystery of Baseball’s Greatest Home Run by Ed Sherman. The legendary moment occurred at Wrigley Field during Game 3 in the 1932 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs.
In his last World Series, facing a 0-2 count amid incessant booing from the rabid Windy City fans, Babe Ruth lifts his right arm and points with two fingers at the spot in the bleachers where he intends to hit a home run on the next pitch? Eighty-tow years later the debate continues, did he or didn’t he?
Clever in the ways of public relations, the savvy Babe would avoid answering the question. He knew the story had already become folklore, due to the famous headline in the old Scripps-Howard newspapers on the game entitled “Ruth Calls Shot as he Puts Home Run No.2 in the Side Picket.”
Today, former Governor Bob McDonnell tries to do what Babe Ruth definitely did – hit a home run – and to likewise do what legend says the great showman may have done: hit the round-tripper after pointing at those daring him to do it.
Well over a year ago, then-governor McDonnell said he couldn’t wait to publicly refute the false allegations of public corruption. At the time, he was the most popular GOP governor of any major state in the union, destined to be a major contender for a spot on the 2016 Republican national ticket. The federal allegations relied mainly on the word of Jonnie Williams, a Virginia businessman, once listed as one of the state’s richest man due largely to stock holdings in Henrico-based Star Scientific, Inc. He founded the company to promote a proprietary “safer” cigarette, but it later turned out he had been blowing smoke. Now, the clever huckster claimed to have discovered a cure for Alzheimer’s and other diseases while curing tobacco in a store bought microwave. Recently, the FDA warned him about making unproven claims for his latest snake oil.
The former Governor has flatly denied having any illegal quid-pro-quo deal with Jonnie the Rat, a one-time friend who originally swore he had no such deal with McDonnell. Williams claims a guilty conscience, not a federal “get out of jail free” immunity deal, made him change his story.
For three weeks, U.S. prosecutors presented a masterful corruption case, built on the famous adage: “Some things are too coincidental to be a coincidence," but they presented no direct evidence of the alleged deal. Even Williams only said McDonnell should have known the $170,000 in cash, gifts and loans were not given out of friendship but as part of a quid-pro-quo expectation.
Now comes Mr. McDonnell to the plate. Like “The Babe” of legend, he has promised to hit a home run today. His lawyer, Henry Asbill, was impressive yesterday. The DC boy seemingly getting acclimated to our Southern climate, but he is only a bit player now.
In my view, the defense team strategy has made it harder by seeming to claim the former governor’s legal troubles should be blamed more on wife Maureen McDonnell's alleged personal issues than Williams’ alleged duplicity.
This should be a lot simpler case. In the end, can a Richmond jury in good conscience believe beyond a reasonable doubt the testimony of a known huckster who said one thing before getting immunity and now claims the opposite, or a former governor with a reputation for honesty who has willingly given up his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent to answer all the questions under oath?
This is a pitch Babe Ruth could hit out of the park today. I think Mr. McDonnell can do it also.
But unlike The Babe, the prosecution will get their turn on the mound tomorrow and a good part of next week, not to mention the right to later put on a rebuttal case. That’s for later, however. For today, it’s all about Robert “The Babe” McDonnell.
His been “calling the shot” for months.
Now its game time.