“I allowed my life to get way out of balance.” — Bob McDonnell
Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell will soon settle into his new life in prison. It is a long trip down from where he once dwelled. It is said he has gone from arrogance to humility; the reality of consequences stemming from bad choices will do that to a person.
In an Associated Press article by Larry O’Dell and Alan Suderman entitled: “Ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell gets 2 years for corruption,” we learn the sad journey of a once proud politician.
“Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, once on the short list to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison for taking bribes to promote a dietary supplement. The punishment was far below the 10 years prosecutors initially wanted, but still more than the community service the former governor, his defense team and hundreds of supporters argued for.”
Accounts from the courtroom made mention of the fact that family members wept at the verdict. They said that McDonnell, on the other hand, was stoic. According to the article:
A jury in September found McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of public corruption. The couple accepted gifts including a $6,500 engraved Rolex watch, $20,000 in designer clothing and accessories, and free family vacations in exchange for promoting a purported miracle cure made by Star Scientific Inc.”
The governor had delivered the 2010 Republican response to the State of the Union Address. He became chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2011. Yet, he had the feet of clay of many men and women who have been overwhelmed by life and chose an unethical path.
Behind the scenes, the former governor saw his personal life start to crumble as his marriage began to deteriorate. His wife became increasingly flirtatious with Jonnie Williams, the president of the scientific company. Perhaps to prevent his marriage from dissolving, the former governor stated he extended Williams political courtesies. The jury instead found 11 counts of corruption. The acceptance of tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in hardly a courtesy; both McDonnell and his wife are heading off to jail in February.
By all accounts, McDonnell was at heart a good person.
“The judge noted the outpouring of support for McDonnell, more than 400 people wrote letters and supporters packed the courtroom, and concluded that ‘he is a good and decent man who has done a lot of good in the public area.’ But he added that the jury found an intent to defraud, and ‘all the grace and mercy I can muster can’t cover it up.’”
Villains and the Broken Heart
During the course of the trial it was reported that the couple, by then separated, did not as much as look at one another. Several people have observed that her behavior became increasingly erratic. While she was supposedly “inappropriate and flirtatious” with the scientific company executive, and while the judge could obviously see the outpouring of support for the disgraced governor, the decision to make corrupt choices was in the heart of the governor.
In protected testimony, Williams “said he spent freely on the McDonnell’s to secure meetings with administration officials and a launch event at the Executive Mansion for his tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory supplement Anatabloc as a treatment for ulcers, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and other maladies.”
At any time, the governor could have put down his ethical foot and he could have refused to go along with the corruption. He knew the ethical consequences of his choices.
If we are looking for a villain, the villainous behavior originates at the top; Williams was no more than a temptation, and the governor’s wife, who is also heading to jail, may have held sway over the governor’s beat-up heart, but her involvement with the ethical breach could have been quickly ended.
It is said that the State of Virginia is again tightening up its ethics laws for politicians. It is all well and good, but the ethical responsibility must always come from within ourselves.
Granted, it is very important that a system of ethical checks and balances must be firmly put in place throughout government, but a person who was not been given ethical training or has never had that training reinforced, will be easily tempted to go down the wrong ethical road.
The judge was right; at some point we must take responsibility; it cannot be covered up and it cannot be chased away by a letter writing campaign.
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