Once upon a time, the RTD’s Jeff Schapiro bestowed upon then-Sen. Bill Bolling a nickname that most have forgotten: the “Hanover Hun.” Bolling, you see, was a member of the Senate’s conservative clique that managed, despite its paltry numbers, to routinely offend and irritate the chamber’s grandees. The specter of one of these rouges ascending to the dais as president sent a shiver through capitol square. Would Bolling, the rural ruffian, raze the chamber to the ground?
No. For while Mr. Bolling was a reliable vote for Senate conservatives, he was rarely the group’s mouthpiece. That task fell to others, most prominent among them Ken Cuccinelli.
Bollings reticence served him well…right up until it didn’t. Now Mr. Bolling has had his chat with Jeff, and we see that the man Schapiro once viewed as a menace is really a gold mine of good copy. Their tete-a-tete begins with a sketch from a meeting between Bolling and Cuccinelli:
“He sat right where you’re sitting,” said Bolling, referring to the red-and-green striped settee into which I had just settled. “We spent about an hour together. It was a frank and candid conversation.”
During their unannounced Jan. 21 meeting — it was requested by Cuccinelli — Bolling said he and the man who outmaneuvered him for the Republican gubernatorial nomination discussed the subject that has rent them asunder: the campaign ahead.
How frank and candid?
Bolling and Cuccinelli conferred in the lieutenant governor’s suite in the Oliver W. Hill Building, a restored, 19th-century Neoclassical edifice that housed the first state library. The meeting occurred one day before McAuliffe turned the screw a second time, promoting Bolling for an unspecified post in a McAuliffe administration. Perhaps a reprise of his role in McDonnell’s: jobs czar?
Bolling said he didn’t mince words with Cuccinelli; that he spoke plainly about policy and personality, telling him things that are “never easy to say but (are) sometimes necessary to say.”
If so, then it is a big change from the recent past, when Bolling would refuse to take Cucinelli’s phone calls, and snub him at events — save for the rare instance where he would snap at the AG, such as on one occasion, for running a bit late to a meeting.
What we may never know is whether Cuccinelli was equally frank on his side. Did they discuss how Mr. Bolling never wanted Cuccinelli as AG in the first place? Did they discuss the campaign for control of the state Republican party apparatus, where Cuccinelli and his team worked the ground like their lives depended on it while Bolling went fishing (really, he did)?
Or did they discuss their relative efforts in Tampa at the Republican Convention? How many movies did Bolling go to see during that time over, say, working with the delegation on its rules fight? And we’ll save the exploration of where Mr. Bolling was on election night for another time.
Back to more practical matters…such as the idea that only now does Mr. Bolling believe he can truly speak his mind:
In deeds not words, Bolling has said McDonnell is old news.
Bolling has very publicly broken with McDonnell, opposing his proposed tolls on Interstate 95 and his post-Newtown suggestion that teachers carry guns. To comply with federal health care reform, Bolling is endorsing a solution McDonnell resisted: expanding Medicaid. And while McDonnell ducks taking a stand on uranium mining, Bolling favors a continued ban. On transportation, Bolling, once a reliable anti-taxer, now says there’s a case for new taxes.
“There’s a certain liberating feeling to be able to say what you think without regard for the political implications,” Bolling said. “It’s helped me find my voice.”
All of which leads to the obvious question: was Bolling merely a trimmer during all those years, voting as he thought others would want, speaking in tones he thought others wanted to hear, rather than living and legislating by his own principles?
We can only wonder.
One thing we can put to rest, though, is the idea that there ever was a Hanover Hun waiting to run amok in Richmond. Sorry Jeff…your imagination fooled you once again. Fear not: Bolling’s ruse bedazzled a number of conservatives, too.