The trial of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen is in full swing and the defense has unveiled its primary tactic to be blame the wife. Because of the wholesome, Christian family-values spin the McDonnells have given themselves over the years, however, this defense gets some inescapably biblical overtones to it. In a tale reminiscent of Adam, Eve and a certain apple, Bob McDonnell is blaming his wife for the more than $150,000 worth of gifts and handouts received from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific Inc. Legally, this would mean that McDonnell is cleared of the charge of corruption since his wife did not hold a public office. It is a solid legal strategy, but the former governor’s history of being family-values oriented is getting in the way and the similarity of his fall from political grace to the fall of mankind is somewhat striking.
The Christian Science Monitor ran an op-ed about the issue of McDonnell’s biblicality. The author pointed out that her own children had noticed the Adam and Eve quality to it and revealed it to her during a conversation at the breakfast table. Normally, this would be a moral lesson much the same as “don’t have sex in the Oval Office,” but from a more adult perspective it is bigger than that. What the McDonnells are showing to the world is not just the supposed breakdown of their marriage, but also the breakdown of conservative values in the face of temptation.
Ironically, McDonnell predicted this kind of event in his master’s thesis, which was on the public policy aspects of the family. In it he said that the “real enemies of the traditional family [were] materialism, irresponsibility, feminism, lust, and ultimately selfishness.” Instead of being the paragon of marriage sanctity, the two of them are an example of just how true this statement was. If there could be an update to the Ten Commandments at this late stage, it might be “Do not covet your neighbors Ferrari, Rolex, money, etc.” And the McDonnells, devout Catholics, would have to confess to missing on that one.
Despite how biblical the McDonnell defense seems to be getting, however, the facts of the case remain. McDonnell is blaming his wife for the gifts, but many of the gifts benefited the governor directly, like the Rolex that had his name engraved on it. That kind of thing is not typically what the man one’s wife is having an affair with gives to her husband. There are two reasons why this might have occurred: either Williams was buying McDonnell off because of the affair or he was buying the governor off for his business. According to the recent testimony of Williams, he had no idea about the crush going on and his “relationship” with the McDonnells was just about buying influence for his company. The favors his company did receive from the governor’s office seem to back up this statement, but the defense is still hammering the crush idea home.
Despite the overwhelming amount of serious testimony occurring right now, though, the press is magnifying the tabloid-esque elements of the case. Maureen McDonnell is being painted as unstable, mentally deficient, and “sneaky.” Some of the witnesses called to testify have said that she screamed at them regularly and had a volatile nature. Some of her emails were read to the court, including one in which she apparently wrote, “I just felt the earth move and I wasn’t having sex!!!!” The four exclamation points are apparently important to the defense, which at this point is publicly slut-shaming the governor’s wife publicly in court. According to some reports, the former first lady of Virginia sat in court quietly, staring straight ahead at all times. Whether this was a sign of guilt or mortification at being so exposed to the world was left open for interpretation.
While the condition and morality of the McDonnell’s marriage is being displayed to the world, the analogy with Adam and Eve seems to grow with every passing day. The story is literally as old as time. Adam blames Eve for eating the apple, Eve blames the serpent, and the serpent was just doing serpent stuff. The retribution for the crime was of epic proportions according to the account in Genesis.
The modern version follows much the same storyline: Bob blames Maureen, Maureen blames Williams, and Williams was just doing the corrupt stuff that everyone expects businessmen to do. In court at least, McDonnell seemed relaxed and comfortable, even laughing at jokes that were told during testimony. Williams is testifying as part of an immunity agreement and will get off pretty much scott free from the whole ordeal. And to Maureen McDonnell is left the punishment of women, or at least governor’s wives. At this point, it is almost unbelievable that Bob McDonnell’s defense has not involved getting literally biblical by pulling out Genesis to read as evidence of why it is his wife’s fault.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury