Tim Kaine: Fustest with the Leastest in Shades of Gray

Confederate cavalryman Nathan Bedford Forrest was once asked how for his advice on how to be successful in combat.  His immortal reply? “Get there Fustest with the Mostest”.

Our governor is trying to show he can govern from the opposite end of the spectrum, by getting there fustest with the leastest…

 These days the Gov is racing around the commonwealth, trying to prove his relevance by seeking input as to how to address the General Assembly Transportation bill.  As I drove into work in the gloaming light of a NOVA morning, I almost felt sorry for him. 


The Gov gambled the GOP majority General Assembly would again train wreck on transportation, and create an issue for the fall.  Swing and miss, strike one.

The Gov, certain his gamble would pay off, did not have a plan of his own to offer as a counter balance.  Swing and  miss, strike two.

Now, he has to cobble together some type of coherent response, and will face future sessions of the legislature without the team of Chichester and Potts running intereference for him.  Ooooooooooooh…fastball on the corner, Strike Three with the bat on his shoulder.

How did it come to this?  How is it he is so tone deaf to politics?

I suggest it is because he likely came to the office with as little public exposure and strength as is possible.

Think about it.  His claim to fame in getting the democratic nomination for Lt. Governor in 2001 was being Mayor of Richmond.  However, that position was elected from and by the membership of the city counsel and not from the entire city.  Nice title, but not as impressive upon closer inspection.

His election as Lt. governor was similarly less than resounding.  He won the primary with a plurality, and then clung to Mark Warner coattails and barely got by a weak GOP statewide candidate.

He was elected governor less on his own credentials than on Mark Warner’s reputation and the ineptitude of the Jerry Kilgore campaign.  He campaigned for office by being against new taxes, and since being elected has decided there are few new taxes he will not entertain…unless they are proposed by the GOP majority House of Delegates.

 So you have a man who has been elected consistently by seeking a slightly darker shade of grey, and eschews the challenge of bright, bold colors.  It is little wonder he cannot get a lot of folks to follow him.

Now, all the above I drafted a couple of days ago and tucked away for future consideration…then I get to see that somehow Jeff “Good Copy” Schapiro seized similar language in today’s RTD.

Tim Kaine is always searching for new shades of gray. This gets him in trouble with a General Assembly for which issues are largely black or white. His handling of transportation is the most recent example of a Kaine-sian trait that worked for him as a lawyer but works against him as governor….

He once favored plowing in to transportation $500 million that otherwise would go to schools, police and human services. This would have been a general-fund grab he now opposes as a threat to — you guessed it schools, police and human services.

And what of Kaine’s campaign promise to resist higher taxes until transportation funds were constitutionally designated only for asphalt? The tax pledge and lock box have been paved over by layers of thick, gooey rhetoric.

So clearly I am not alone in this line of thought…although I shudder at the company I am apprently keeping. Then Schapiro steps in it…he claims:

Further, Kaine is a victim of his predecessor’s success. Were it not for a GOP rebellion in the House in 2004, fellow Democrat Mark Warner would have been denied the $1.4 billion tax increase for education, law enforcement and social services that transformed him into presidential prospect.

In reality, he is the both the victim of his predecessor’s duplicity. Warner went to the GOP, said the state would run a deficit and threaten the AAA bond rating without a tax increase. Many good republicans took Warner at his word and voted for the increase. Imagine their surprise when it turned out the state would have had a surplus even without the tax increase.  However, since GOP folks voted for the tax increase-no matter how well intentioned-the democrats now had cover on the issue of raising taxes.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. In the wake of this, is it realistic for anyone to think the GOP in the house will take Kaine’s word? He did not offer a plan, he has not offered any compelling factual or data based argument to validate his desire for higher taxes…yes, a desire for higher taxes from the man who campaigned as saying he would not raise taxes.

He has gotten elected to office by low margins pulled in by friendly coattails or inept opponents.  He did this by seeking shades of gray, a trait noticed even by the noticeably anti-GOP columnist Jeff “Good Copy” Schapiro, instead of bold colors and creative new initiatives that would allow him to try to do what he wants.

Of course, that would require him to lead, not to simply react.  That would mean trying to get there “fustest with the mostest”.  That would mean actually standing up and stating what he believes…and I don’t think we are going to see that in the near future.

 Given his allegiance to shades of gray, I don’t think this should surprise anyone.


5 thoughts on “Tim Kaine: Fustest with the Leastest in Shades of Gray

  1. Bwana,

    First of all your analysis of Kaine’s failure to show any leadership on transportation was very much on target as was Shapiro’ column. However your comments on the success of Warner are off by a half-mile. As one who was there Warner did not fool anyone. The bonding agency did write a letter to say that our AAA rating was in jeopardy. It did not say that we had to raise taxes; it said that he had to bring our expenses in line with our revenues — beyond just an annual balanced budget.

    During the development of the 2004 biannual budget it became very apparent that the House GOP could not write a minimal budget without significant new revenue. Many ideas were floated with the House settling on the Hamilton bill to roll back a series of exemptions to businesses that do not have to pay sales tax on items they purchase. This approach largely targeted public utilities and some smaller entities like taxi cab companies. According to the House this would generate $650 million. Of course the Senate budget was predicated on significantly more revenue and they rejected the idea that the elimination of those exemptions would generate $650 million. Thus the foundation for the impasse was born.

    Now understand the House GOP took this position because during the first two years of the Warner Administration the GA had cut $6 billion out of the general fund or about 20 percent of the general fund. Some 500 plus positions were eliminated. By any measure that is real money. Howell/Griffith and all acknowledged that they had to have over a one-half billion dollars in new revenue to produce a realistic budget.

    Of course then we had the stalemate that dragged on from March to April and May. In retrospect that seems mild by what happened in 06. But there was one big difference: In 04 the Senate had just been reelected and would not have to face the voters until 07. In 06 both the House and the Senate were two years out for reelection and Chichester and company would not shut down the government when their own people were on the firing line. Yet we still came damn close.

    Ironically the 07 transportation plan was a reflection of the 04 tax bill. In 04 the House GOP did not have a plan other than saying no. The Senate was just elected and could afford to wait and risk shutting down the government to get its way. In 07 the Governor did not have a plan and the Senate and House were both scared to go home without something to show for transportation. Even with the concerns over the transportation bill in 07 many senators were reluctant to just say no.

    Also, while many media types like to point to the defeat of Senator Allen as an important ingredient for the compromise so too was the role of Governor Kaine. The Governor made it very clear that he out to take down both House and the Senate. He very clearly embraced the role of party leader. Consequently he helped push the Wampler/Stolle/Norment team to break bread with Howell and company. While there are significant ideological differences between the House and Senate, a common enemy helped the two camps find common ground. As you may remember there were many Democrats in the state who were mad that Warner was not more partisan. For example, Ken Plum, Kenny Melvin, Chip Woodrum and others berated Warner for not being more aggressive with the Republicans. Yet because he did not embrace the party leader role he was able to forge alliances with GOP members when he needed it most. Right now no GOP member in the House and probably few if any in the Senate really trusts Tim Kaine. He has a long way to go in the remainder of his term.

  2. Pingback: Timmy! slammed from right and left « Virginia Virtucon

  3. Well Bwana:

    I have said it before and apparently, I will have to say it again, ‘IS ANYBODY SURPRISED!’ Gov. Tim is a rube (note not a rebel) without a clue. I have known him for quite a few years now and it amazes me, that for a well educated fellow, how truly inept he is. But, we have only ourselves to blame…We as a state elected him. For all of his current bravado and travel to “get” the transportation solved, he will capitulate on the transportation plan, because he can not afford to have it blow up in his face, since he campaigned on it. His handlers will find a way for him to save face and make the plan his own and we will be stuck with the consequences of the rest of his term of office. It going to be a long two years. “Not a sermon, just a thought!”

    Bwana Fan In Vienna

  4. Bwana-

    Interesting analysis of Tim Kaine’s background, but a similar analysis would likewise explain a great deal of the mess we now face in Washington and in Iraq. To borrow NLS’s term, I offer “The Accidental President”:

    George W. Bush had less political office experience when he was elected governor of Texas than Tim Kaine did in Virginia. Specifically, Bush had NO political office experience. His “experience” consisted of a lackluster academic career,a DWI arrest, and an unclear National Guard record, followed by different failed business ventures and his participation in the ownership of the Texas Rangers (a team that, with the exception of one season in the 1970’s – well before Bush – never won more than 87 games in a season prior to Bush’s election as governor and has an all-time post season record of 1-9).

    Then, only because Lawton Chiles, unlike Ann Richards, actually won reelection against a Bush brother in 1994 – a huge year for Republicans – “W” managed to jump ahead of his brother in the pecking order. So, 2000 rolls around and the GOP rallies behind the son of the guy who lost to the loathed Bill Clinton.

    “W” gets elected President and promptly has 9/11 fall in his lap so that he can resume his cheerleading career from his Yale days. The reality is that it’s not terribly hard to rally a country that has just been surprise attacked on its own soil for the first time in 60 years. When the real challenges hit, however, like making diplomatic decisions and responding to natural distaster, his responses, respectively, are to make up evidence to go to war against another country and to let a city sit flooded for days before actually doing anything. One might say that Bush’s lack of experience came home to roost.

    All of which makes Tim Kaine look pretty impressive, whether or not he really is.

  5. I think NLS called Kaine the accidental governor, not moi. I don’t think it is really fair to label either one of them accidental. I reserve that term for guys who move up in office after the death or expulsion of an incumbent…John Tyler being my favorite example.

    But you leave out one thing that also separates the two and goes to explain the difference. Bush beat Ann Richards, an incumbent Democratic Governor, in his initial successful electoral win. I think winning such an upset convincingly helped feed his sense of the validity of his own judgement and ideas. Kaine has moved up by holding a big title that he got by winning an election within a population group smaller than a House district, riding coattails, or watching his opponent implode.

    I suggest the difference in path to their current office is indicative of the personality of each man and also holds a key to analysing how they run their respective jurisdictions.

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