Brian Moran's WTOP Interview: Not Pretty

Sunday, May 31, 2009

For those of you still thinking about voting for Brian Moran, I strongly urge you to listen to his WTOP interview this past Friday with Mark Plotkin. To put it mildly, it's not pretty. In short: as long as Brian can stick with a talking point, he is fine. As soon as he is asked a follow-up question, however, he is lost (I actually felt sorry for him listening to this thing).

On Marshall-Newman, for instance, Brian says he’s for repealing it but - in spite of his many years in the legislature - doesn't appear to know how to do that. Specifically, Moran misstates the process for amending the Virginia Constitution. Moran appears to think that the vote has to take place two calendar years in a row, perhaps because that is how it happened to work out for the Marshall-Newman amendment. However, the Virginia Constitution actually requires an intervening House of Delegates election between legislature votes. In enacting Marshall-Newman, the sequence went like this:

2005 Session: first vote to put amendment on the ballot
November 2005 – House of Delegates election
2006 Session – second vote to put amendment on the ballot
2006 Election – vote to approve Marshall-Newman

So, even though Moran got the process wrong (it's not "two consecutive years," it's two consecutive legislative session with an intervening House of Delegates election), technically he got it right that the amendment could be overturned (by another amendment) in four years. Of course, this assumes that the votes would be there to do such a thing, which they most certainly will not be (it's not even close in the House of Delegate, probably not in the State Senate either) barring a miracle. In this case, the sequence would go:

2010 Session - first vote to repeal Marshall-Newman (which absolutely positively won't happen, unless progressive Demorats take over the General Assembly this year, but this is how it would go)
2011 – Intervening HoD election
2012 Session – second vote to repeal Marshall-Newman (also extremely unlikely, barring a progressive Democratic majority in both Houses of the General Assembly by then)
2012 Election – vote by Virginians to accept or reject the amendment

In other words, this process - assuming all of the above took place, which it absolutely, positively, 100% certainly will not - would stretch from 2010 through 2012, when the issue of gay marriage would once again be on the ballot in Virginia. Again, I can't stress this enough (and it pains me to say it, because I very much wish it would), but this is not going to happen. Given that fact, for a gubernatorial candidate to pledge that he will spend significant time and political capital over the next four years on repealing Marshall-Newman is simply foolish. Or naive. Or something.

The bottom line is that either Brian Moran hasn’t really thought this one through, or he has thought it through and is simply pandering to Democratic primary voters who hate Marshall-Newman (again, I put myself strongly in that camp, and look forward to the day when we get this abomination out of George Mason's constitution; but it won't be in the next 4 years, that's a certainty no matter who the governor happens to be).

By the way, at the William and Mary debate, where the issue was first raised, Terry McAuliffe got this procedure exactly right in explaining why he would not burn time on it. Here's what Terry said at that debate:
In order to change it here, you know, it has to pass two sessions of the legislature with an election in between. That's a hard thing to try to get done. Let's deal with the reality of what we have to do. I've always been for contractual rights for all individuals. We should not have any discrimination against anyone. I've said that as chairman of the party, and in all the things I have fought for. I believe when it relates to gay marriage, it's a religious issue, and we ought to treat it as a religious issue. To think that I can actually change it, to go and try to deal with a constitutional amendment with what we need to do, that's not going to happen because as I said you have to have two votes in the General Assembly with an intervening election.
Exactly right. Which is what makes Brian's rude, condescending comment to Terry in the Annandale debate - "I don't have time to teach you the legislative process, nor do Virginians have time for you to learn" - so insufferable. It's also what makes Brian's inability to explain this properly on Mark Plotkin's show this past Friday so (unintentionally) hilarious. As it turns out, Terry McAuliffe - the one who hasn't spent half his adult life in Richmond - understands the process of amending the Virginia constitution better than Brian Moran does, at least as evidenced by their statements on Marshall-Newman.

On another subject, listen to Plotkin ask Moran about campaign finance reform. First, Moran says, sure, let's have limits. Then Moran is asked what those limits should be, and it's obvious he doesn’t know what he is talking about. So, Moran backtracks to explaining how the system is based on disclosure (but he seems to say "foreclosure"). Ee gads.

Then there's the Wise County coal-fired power plant issue. Once again, in addition to constantly trying to change the subject - to the proposed Surry County plant, which is not a Dominion Power plant, and away from Dominion's Wise County station, currently under construction, Moran misstates his vote on this subject, claiming that it was only to use "Virginia coal." Sorry, but that's simply not true. In fact, here is the real story: a vote for "a coal-fired generation facility that utilizes Virginia coal and is located in the coalfield region of the Commonwealth." Gee, I wonder what that plant could be. Ha. But seriously, if there's any doubt what the intent was here, see Dominion Power's take on it, which is "Dominion supported SB 651: Includes new coal-fired power station in southwest Virginia" Is that clear enough? If not, how about Brian Moran's own statement on April 19 that he did not regret his vote for the Wise County coal-fired power plant? Case closed on that one.

The interview goes on and on like that, with another awkward moment coming when a caller (who says he's a Democrat and a "fan of Brian Moran's") blasts Brian for the "negative things he's said about some of his opponents" and "outright negative attacks by his campaign" Brian responds by (completely implausibly) claiming, "I'm not familiar with what you're referring to" (and rambles about his endorsements and voting record). Mark Plotkin then cuts in, saying:
...but you have paid for TV and radio ads which talk about one of your opponents, Terry McAuliffe. I've been to debates, yyou've been the most fierce against him. And, are you worried that by attacking him, first of all if he should be the nominee you irreparably damage his candidacy in the general and also that people will say a pox on Moran and McAuliffe...I'm gonna vote for Deeds?
On and on it goes. As I said, it's not pretty.