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.
To quote Tina Turner: What does love have to do with it?
Remember gubernatorial hopeful Bob McDonnell running as the “family values candidate," the “Eagle Scout” who could never tell a lie, the “Christian conservative” who took the Bible seriously such as the command to always honor and protective his wife, the man who lectured the rest of us on the need to take personal responsibility for our actions? Remember that guy? It made for great television advertisements.
Now we know it was all a gigantic fabrication. His defense team has been eager for the jury to know it. Forget the campaign slogan “Bob for Jobs.” It should have been “Bob for Bob, suckers!”
VCU board member and retired Professor Bob Holsworth, a leading commentator on the trial, says the former governor’s defense strategy is not merely to throw his wife, Maureen McDonnell, under the bus, but to back it up over her a few more times.
“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” ACDC famously sang. Only here it isn’t cheap: the price is the total destruction of Bob McDonnell’s character.
“We had to destroy the village in order to save it” is a famous condensed quote associated perhaps unfairly with an American officer during the Vietnam War.
When the NBC Today show broadcast my predicting the McDonnells were prepared to suffer any indignity to win acquittal, it seemed provocative. But not any longer.
“We had to destroy Maureen, and Bob too, in order to save them” is the talk of Virginia legal circles. For the last 20-odd years, Bob McDonnell deliberately cultivated an image of moral rectitude based on old-fashioned values. Now he says: It was all just politics.
“Blame Mo, not her beau” is a patently absurd defense to this particular public corruption trial. According to the defense, Jonnie Williams never had any quid-pro-quo illegal deal with the former governor. Williams himself didn’t claim to have direct proof of this alleged deal, he merely said McDonnell had to know what the conman wanted when taking the money.
No deal, no crime. That’s Law 101. According to the defense, the governor never did anything for Mr. Williams rising to the “official act[ion]” required for a conviction to each of the 11 corruption charges. If that is true, why then do Mrs. McDonnell’s alleged personality, if not pathology, issues matter?
But you say, “Paul, you’re a dummy. If Bob and Maureen were so estranged that they didn’t talk and whatever, then how can they have been co-conspirators?” Easy. And Judge Spencer, in his instructions to the jury, is going to spell it out since the law is clear on this point. But the defense might be right, they may have muddied the waters.
Co-conspirators don’t have to talk, they don’t even need to approve what the other did. The indictment says Williams only gave his first checks after discussing at least the catering bill with then-Governor Bob McDonnell in the first days of the alleged illegal "scheme" of corruption.
If that is true – so far the defense team hasn’t denied it - then whatever else follows is legally on Bob, whether he knew about it or not, whether his wife did X or Y out of love, greed, or revenge, if it can be showed to have been in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy.
If Williams had only met with Maureen, and never with Bob, then the relationship of the McDonnells might well be key. But here Williams and McDonnell interacted directly.
Why is Maureen the bigger enemy than Jonnie the Rat Williams?
“I’ve been a total political fraud for years, but trust me now” is high risk, especially since Bob McDonnell’s defense to the bank fraud counts is likely to be his having made an honest mistake? At the start of the trial, raising reasonable doubts about Mr. Williams’ character seemed a winning defense strategy.
When did they decide the better strategy would be to raise reasonable doubts about Bob McDonnell’s character?