Is this the real Bill Bolling?

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.

  • And the question remains, how many more like him are out there, who mouth the right things for political purposes but go fishing when the rubber meets the road?

  • *shakes head*

    What a shame.

  • Mike Barrett

    It appears as if Mr. Bolling has decided to make it clear that if the republican party is to survive this period of twenty years of arrogance, extermism, and loss that it must actually transform itself. The Party is so far to the right that it has lost its way, and this session of the General Assemby, and the last, have shown that Bob McDonnell’s failure to take on his right wing has been a disaster for the long term prospects off the Party. With a neocon at the head of the ticket this year, perhaps they will win again against an known at the head of the opposition, but long term, this Party, having lost Virginia and the Presidency, the writing in on the wall.
    So Bolling, perhaps motivated by personal loss and disappointment, sees the opportunity to plan grand strategy to save a party gone seriously wrong. He knows that this party could win again as a conservative force but not an absurd nor dangerous force for governance and policy. But if it continues on its current course, that is, insulting reason, liberty, freedom, and rationaliy, it will loss market share and influence.
    Already, the party’s failures to govern in a reasonably fashion, that is, to fix transportation, improve colleges and universities, provide quality K-12 educational opportunities, deal with employees who are livid over lack of pay and benefits, and stop selling Virginia’s assets to private corporations to provide opportunities for them to make money at citizens’s expense.
    Could Bolling fulfill this role? Seems to me he has decided that the republican party is too far gone it needs a major transpormation.

    • EricMcGrane

      Thanks Mike… one needs to visit the Onion site as long as you keep posting.

      • His first paragraph had some credence to it, then the crazy train picked up steam.

        • Really. To hear him, Virginia’s entire school system is in shambles and the buildings falling down, and the only public buildings still left standing in Virginia are jails and prisons. God, he needs to get a life.

  • I find Mike Barrett’s comment that the “Party is so far to the right it has lost it’s way” to be laughable. How is defending property rights and life “extreme”? And the problems with tranportation and budget issues are not caused by too much conservativism, in fact it is the opposite. Conservatives have surged forward to return the GOP to its conservative roots. When you run and lose with milquetoast squish candidates like McCain and Romney, don’t blame conservatives who support them because they have too, not because they want to. Low participation and lack of enthusiasm are the reasons Republicans are losing. If you want to be part of the problem instead of part of the solution, then by all means continue to push the idea the Cuccinelli and others are extreme. The democrats love it. You were correct that the party has gone seriously wrong. Becoming even more democrat-lite is NOT the solution.

    • Mike Barrett

      Thanks for that proof of the very essence of the issue. Far right republicans don’t have to worry much about democracts, but they have much to worry about republicans who witness the loss of Virginia, of the Presidency, and the loss of the broad middle which sees a shrinking and extreme remainer focused on fringe issues that are losing market share. Bolling sees that as much as anyone, and perhaps he is simply trying to save the party he believes in before it withers away.

      • Are you suggesting the reason Romney lost is because he was too conservative?

        • Mike Barrett

          Frankly Lori, I have no idea what Mr. Romney thought nor believed. I know what he said to try to win the nomination and the election, but beyond that, all bets are off. However, had he run farther to the right, I believe he would have lost by more.

  • The Liberty Movement’s Coming

    Only out of touch naive establishment Republicans would find it surprising that Bill Bolling is nothing more then a power hungry butt hurt political opportunist.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.