Tuesday, October 27, 2009

McDonnell Position on Opt Out Now Poses Real Danger to Virginia

Now that it looks as though the U.S. Congress is going to pass health care reform with a public option that will include an opt out provision for individual states, the stakes are higher in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, and it is worthwhile to examine the respective positions of each candidate on this critical issue.

While it is true that Creigh’s position on this – when asked about it hypothetically, he said he would look at what was passed and make a decision on whether to opt out based on whether it was good for Virginia – is less that I would like, Bob McDonnell’s position – a blanket promise that under his leadership Virginia would opt out of any public option – was irrational.

In the absract, I suppose, this was merely yet another case of ideology trumping facts and common sense when it comes to Bob McDonnell’s worldview. Take a look at McDonnell’s views on the environment, where he has politically declared off shore drilling environmentally safe despite much conflicting evidence, or on transportation, where he has put any new revenue source off limits despite abundant evidence that it will be necessary, or on climate change, where he has simply refused to recognize the irrefutable science.

Bob McDonnell might not be a member of the Flat Earth Society, but he is damn close.

Still, on each of these issues, the consequences to average citizens of McDonnell’s ideological positions seems speculative or remote. It’s tough for folks in, say, Charlottesville to appreciate how they will be hurt by off-shore drilling, and even the consequences of climate change seem like science fiction to most people. Furthermore, the negative effects of all of these will likely be gradual, so people will have the opportunity to adapt and time goes on.

Perhaps a few weeks ago, given the uncertainty of health care reform in Congress, the hypothetical opt out issue debate between Creigh and McDonnell was similar -- fodder for debate among policy wonks and political nerds, but no immediate practical consequence for Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public.

Given Sen. Reid’s comments yesterday, however, that is no longer the case. A public option with an opt out for states looks more probable today than two weeks ago, and so the candidates’ positions on this critical issue is more significant than it was.

And in light of that, Bob McDonnell’s position has gone from merely irrational to irresponsible, if not disqualifying him from the office he seeks.

Here’s why.

As far as Bob McDonnell is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether the public option would ultimately be good or bad for Virginians. He will just opt out.

But in this issue, lives are at stake, literally, and there is nothing abstract about that. At the very least, Virginia deserves a Governor who will honestly and intelligently evaluate the facts in front of him and come to a reasonable and considered decision, not simply be driven by an ideology, no matter how sincerely believed, that government is bad.

Evaluating the facts, the benefits versus the liabilities, is exactly what Creigh says he will do. It is exactly what Virginia needs.

It is, also, the exactly what Bob McDonnell says he will not do. He has made his decision, facts be damned.

Look, I don’t think McDonnell is callous or doesn’t care about people. I do think, however, he is a prisoner of an ideology from which he cannot break loose, and that it leads to ill-considered decisions that have serious consequences, intended or not.

I am amazed how, in light of this, any reasonably informed Virginian can cast a vote for Bob McDonnell.

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