Sentencing Bob McDonnell, or…”Would you like fries with that?”


Poor Governor Bob McDonnell! He is appealing his recent conviction of public corruption on grounds that his corruption was not nearly public enough. In the long list of questions people ask themselves after such disastrous, life changing events, (and an 11 count conviction on public corruption is nothing if not life changing) probably the most poignant is “what if?”

What if McDonnell had only paid Chef Tom Schneider properly instead of telling him to “take it out in trade?” Or what if ex-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli had not decided to prosecute Schneider (presumably in an effort to silence him) on grounds of stealing state property—property he allegedly was told to take by Maureen McDonnell? Then maybe Chef Tom would not have spilled the beans about McDonnell’s happy dance with Star Scientific’s Johnnie Williams to anyone who would listen. Or, put another way, what if McDonnell had not treated his help like second class citizenry? Why, he might still be waltzing around with Rolexes flashing, popping Anatabloc and taking midnight runs in Ferraris. It’s not like anyone else would have said anything.

But no. That’s not really his style. There’s a sense of aggressive entitlement that seems to have swamped McDonnell’s moral compass and caused him to assume a business as usual attitude toward a long list of indiscretions. Now, he must lie awake, sweating the days until his sentencing hearing, hoping they don’t send him packing to the big house for the foreseeable future, wondering “what if?”

But he just might get lucky. There are a few people, on both the left and the right, who think that putting Bob and Maureen in jail for a lengthy period of time is not ideal. Their arguments go something like this: Bob McDonnell, for all his venality, is not a violent criminal. It will cost the state nearly $ 40,000 a year to lock him up. And Virginia is in a budget shortfall anyhow, what’s the point? I tend to sympathize with this view, all schadenfreude aside, but there’s a part of me that still hesitates. What kind of example does that set, after all? Shouldn’t a religious family values conservative be held to account for soiling the good name of Virginia’s governorship and destroying his family in the process? If we let the Governor skip out on 11 counts of public corruption, what does this say to the rest of us? Especially, to the kid from Gilpin Court who is looking at ten years for trying to sell an ounce of weed?

So I was thinking about a suitable punishment the other day and really enjoying myself while imagining all the possible scenarios. Should we go all medieval and chain Bob up in stocks in Capitol Square, let him spend his days there as a counter example to public corruption? That was a pleasant thought, but then I realized we’d still have to feed him and potentially house him to some degree, at least during the winter months.

What was needed, I felt certain, was some way we could make an example of Bob without having to finance his life. If only we could do that, and at the same time make a political point that might help others. I was driving by a McDonald’s when it hit me. Maybe the name of the place clicked, or maybe it was just seeing the despondent look in the attendant’s eyes….

She had done nothing wrong, you see. She had likely spent the better part of her life in dead-end jobs, worked her way through high school, maybe even worked her way through college, but our economy is such that all she could find was this lowly service industry job. And, of course, adding insult to injury, this lowly service industry job hardly pays a living wage because minimum wage has been flat for the last decade thanks primarily to Republican politicians. And Bob is nothing if not a politician who believes in the beauty of the free market and hates the idea of government standard minimum wage laws that might actually make a livable wage possible…that’s when I knew.

I could just see him there. ‘Bob McDonnell’ embossed on a little golden name tag, hair still perfectly coiffed, “Would you like fries with that?”

So, please, don’t send Bob McDonnell to prison to live in country club, white-collar criminal comfort. We should let him get a real taste of hustling a menial job until he pays back his debt to society or, at minimum, the money he owes for his lawyer fees. My guess is that will be a few Happy Meals down the road.

This may also serve as an excellent reminder to treat everyone you meet with respect—even if they happen to be a service industry worker or a chef for the Governor’s mansion. After all, they might just be an ex-Governor, or someone who can do a Governor in.

And finally, maybe Republicans will start advocating a raise in the minimum wage if they know that they, too, might end up hustling fries like their one time front man? It’s worth a shot.

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