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Reputation and Consequence

baghdad_bob [1]

Reputations are a funny thing.  They take lifetimes to build and just minutes to destroy, which is why when Willie Deutsch posted on rumors that Governor Bob McDonnell was on his way out over corruption charges tonight [2], it did what most Bearing Drift readers recognize as a risk — the reputation of an entire blog, built assiduously over the course of years, was literally pushed onto a limb.

 Of course, most folks did what any number of normal people would do.  The text messages went out, Twitter went berserk, and within moments we had repudiations from the Governor’s Office stating that the rumors — at least, as presented by Mr. Deutsch — were false.  From McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin himself this evening:

False — and that’s on the record.

Now just to be clear, any longtime reader of Bearing Drift knows that we are no fans of disgraced former RPV chairman Jeff Frederick.  In fact, allow me to be explicitly clear on this — Jeff Frederick was a train wreck, so the very idea that Governor McDonnell’s current mess is somehow “comeuppance” for what Frederick did to himself is ludicrous to the extreme.

However, all of this having been said, it is no secret whatsoever [3] that the FBI are indeed asking questions, that lawyers [4] are talking, and that rumors of resignations and indictments are running rife in Richmond and elsewhere.

…which is why the Bearing Drift community — editors, contributors, and readers — owe it to ourselves to do far better than merely tossing out rumors.  As UVA Professor Larry Sabato so artfully explained:

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 12.25.53 AM [5]

For those unfamiliar with blogging, Bearing Drift operates under a similar rubric to that of RedState with one minor exception — while at RedState anyone can indeed post, only select posts are promoted.  Here at Bearing Drift, we have a unspoken code of ethics.  “A gentleman (or lady) does not lie, cheat, or steal; nor do we associate with those who do.”  Every post, for good or ill, makes it to the front page without the filter of an editor.

Bearing Drift editors and contributors spend a great deal of talent and time ensuring that when we do post stories and opinions, we do so with integrity.  That is a tradition begun here by Jim Hoeft and Brian Kirwin, and upheld by the likes of Norm Leahy, Scott Lee, Brian Schoeneman, and myself.  We take a great deal of pride in this, and rarely are we burned by exhibiting trust in our contributors.

For the record, Mr. Deutsch stands by his sources and stands by his post.  Should his post prove erroneous, Mr. Deutsch understands that he may very well be removed as a contributor here at Bearing Drift.

Those are consequences Mr. Deutsch has accepted.

The man (sic) who pushed out the RPV chairman (sic)  over trumped up corruption charges while running for governor is currently in the middle of finalizing a plea agreement which includes his resignation as governor.  More to come soon.

Whether or not this is true is known to about three or four parties: the Governor himself, the FBI, any mediators that may or may not be involved, and assorted staff.  No grand jury has met, no indictments have been offered, and there isn’t — at the moment — a scintilla of evidence that the Governor himself has been embroiled in any illegal activity.  To the contrary, evidence points towards the fact that the Governor has acted within the law, however distasteful this might be to others who, perhaps rightfully, wish that Virginia had better ethics and higher standards when it comes to gifts, trips, and so forth.

The bottom line is always muddied by politics.  Democrats would love nothing more than to take down McDonnell — and with him, the public perception that the GOP can govern the Commonwealth — and drag this into the general election in a Cuccinelli/McAuliffe context.  A quick and safe end to the drama would be painful to their political ambitions, regardless as to whether the ethics are resolved.  Likewise, it isn’t as if Governor McDonnell hasn’t made enemies within the Republican Party as well, not only among those few remaining Frederick loyalists (whose number could be counted on a three-toed sloth) but among those upset about the transportation bill passed this year.

Bearing Drift owes it’s readers two things: (1) an unvarnished and truthful opinion about the facts of the day that (2) does not create context that does not exist.  When Bearing Drift’s reputation — and that of its editors and contributors — is borrowed or stolen to that end, Bearing Drift as a community has been swift to punish and preserve.  Count on it.

So to everyone — big deep breath.  There are no Americans in Baghdad.

In the battle between shifting facts and changing narratives, the truth has a funny way of winning out at the end of the day.

UPDATE:  JHPolitics is confirming the story as well [6], but is keeping tabs on events.  Stay tuned…