First, Bob responds he wrote this thesis 20 years ago when he was a student. Like much of his disingenuous campaign so far, this explanation is deceptive. Bob is making out like he was a kid when he engaged in, as he repeatedly calls it, an "academic exercise." That is just not true.
Bob was a 34-year old man preparing to enter public life at the time he wrote this. Is he seriously suggesting he bears no accountability for the ideas expressed in this work?
Second, Bob repeatedly states he was simply engaged in an "academic exercise" with this thesis. Again, this is demonstrably false. The thesis is not simply ruminations of the social upheavals of the day; rather, it is a plan for and a call to action. More damning, however, is the fact that at least through 2005, McDonnell was introducing legislation aimed at implementing the policies set forth in the thesis, according to the WaPo.
Furthermore, this scenario fits in exactly with the mission of Regent. The stated mission of the school is to train and graduate students who will reach positions of influence in society for the specific purpose of implementing public policies that reflect a particular strain of extremely Conservative, Christian Fundamentalism.
So clearly, this was not simply an "academic paper he wrote during the Reagan era and haven't thought about in years." This paper is Bob McDonnell's Manifesto.
Finally, Bob says, “Like everybody, my views on many issues have changed as I have gotten older." Fair enough. But these are pretty serious ideas he expresses in this thesis/Manifest -- a 93-page thesis itself is not something one puts together casually. So a cavalier dismissal of his ideas just doesn't wash.
For one thing, his explanation that he changed his mind is at odds with his record as a legislator, discussed above.
But even looking past that, if he did indeed change his positions as he got older, McDonnell needs to explain how and why. The passage of time alone does not change us -- the salient questions are: What experience did he have since 1989, what books did he read, what did he learn, who were his mentors, that effected such a profound change in his worldview.
Interestingly, McDonnell refused to talk to the AP last night, and only issued the written statement to avoid having to answer questions.
Before this election is over, Bob will have to give a full and fair accounting of who he truly is to Virginia's voters -- if he can. I suspect, however, it is too late for him, even at this early point in the election, to do so without destroying his credibility completely, given the amount of deception and distortion that has gone into trying to paint him as a moderate.