Kaine’s absent, and it’s not all his fault

DNC Chairman and Governor Tim Kaine, no mistake in the order of those titles, should release his past travel schedules, as today’s Virginian-Pilot says.

As they say, what security concerns could there be in telling us where Kaine was last week? Unless terrorists are into time travel.

But FOIA frustrations aside, the fact that Kaine is jaunting around the country at $1,000 a plate dinners telling bad jokes and giving worse speeches isn’t entirely his fault, and it likely won’t change until we change this:

Virginia Governors can’t run for re-election.

I used to have a strong affinity for our one-term-mandated Governors. It ideally puts the Governor in the position of running on a key issue, winning, implementing it, and leaving. When campaigns run that way, Virginia works great.

They haven’t worked that way in a while. The recent template has been:
(1) campaign saying one thing
(2) get elected
(3) break campaign promises and do the opposite
(4) leave, knowing the voters can’t do much about it

Imagine what Tim Kaine’s 4 years would’ve been like if he knew he’d face the voters again at the end of that term. Would he have pushed tax increases? Would he be spending this year flying all over the nation for the DNC?

Not in a zillion years. He’d be at every BBQ, cookout, baseball game in the Commonwealth talking about what he did for the past four years and, knowing he would have to do so, he might have done something during them besides stand close to Obama.

But for me, the overriding principle is the need for elected officials to face the voters at least once after being given the job.

I came to the conclusion a few years back that an elected official who can never run for re-election is about as close to an appointed leader as there is. There is no recourse for voters, no way for Governors to ever need to be accountable to the people, and outside of the rare opportunity to run for the US Senate, no chance Virginia voters will ever voice their opinion about their Governor again.

Many in the General Assembly passionately think that’s fine. They can wait out any “bad” governor for four years, a tick on a General Assembly clock, and do it all over again with the next one.

So, while I think Tim Kaine shouldn’t block the public from seeing what he’s doing and where he’s doing it, and while I think it would be nice to have a Governor whose actually interested in being Governor, I can’t fault Kaine entirely for spending the year auditioning for his next gig.

After all, we forbid him from even attempting an encore.

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  • Steve Vaughan

    Agree that Virginia’s governors need to face the voters again.
    Many of them do spend their last year auditioning for the next job.
    How many people remember George Allen’s Christmas giveaway tour of the state, when he went around giving away money to every cultural institution in the state, Monticello, Jefferson Forest, etc…..a big pork fest that was basically a downpayment on his Senate campaign?
    As for governors serving as party chairs, it does usually mean that they don’t do EITHER job very well.

  • I am not passionate about this issue in either direction. I could live with allowing our Governors two or even three terms in office, as long as we did not go beyond three.

    However I will point out that what Brian describes as being the downside of our one term Governorship will still be true of any Governor is his final term in office if he wins reelection. In fact, as I travel around the nation, it is not unusual to hear of a Governor in other states who are in their second and final term of office described as a lame duck almost from the moment they win the second term.

    I think there are stronger arguments in favor of at least a second term then what Brian brings up. However there are also some pretty strong arguments against it. As far as I am concerned, there are strengths and weaknesses in both directions, so I can live with either (as long as it is not unlimited terms in office).

  • David, yes I thought of that, about the last term of every term-limited Governor is a lame duck one. But that’s better than every term being one.

  • Brian, yes but that is one of the strengths in the argument against. It is part of the checks and balances. Here in Virginia we have a part time legislature. Keeping every Governor a lame duck balances things out.

    Now, if we wanted a full time legislature, and gave these legislatures enough of a salary so that they were always ready and able to respond to everything the Governor was up to? Well then…. but that is not the way we do it.

  • Brian (not that one)

    I second the claim that a second term just puts off the “appointed leader” problem for four years. Further, maybe this problem could be a feature, rather than a bug. It frees a Gov to do what he believes is best for the Commonwealth w/o worrying about clinging to power. I’ll grant that this notion is cold comfort if you disagree with the Gov about what is good for the Commonwealth.

    This debate is so Virginia. If we aren’t clinging to a governmental relic bequeathed to us by Thomas Jefferson, we’re holding on to one from Harry Byrd.

  • tx2vadem

    Why not just allow recalls? Then they are always subject to the wrath of an angry electorate.

  • I’m opposed to all term limits. There should never be an arbitrary reason that prevents the electorate from voting for whomever they like to office.

  • Tex,

    Yeah, let’s follow California’s lead and allow recalls. I hope you noted the sarcasm. I think our system of checks and balances prevents the Governor from getting too far out of control. Looking at the results over there in California (and I get over that way at least a couple times a year) I do not think we want to follow their lead. Impeachment is one thing, but recall is yet another.

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