- Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 July 2009 15:15
- Published on Wednesday, 08 July 2009 15:15
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Tim Kaine is a popular and well-liked governor. He is considered honest, straight forward, and generally willing to tell it like it is. That’s a refreshing trait in any politician, and it has served Kaine well in his nearly four years as governor. However, if Kaine isn’t careful, this reputation, and with it his legacy, could be in trouble.
Most political observers would readily agree that Tim Kaine has always been a political governor. This is in contrast to his predecessor, Mark Warner, who tended to downplay his role as leader of the party. Warner helped the party, raised money and recruited candidates, but he did so quietly. He wasn’t eager to agitate the Republicans any more than he had too. He figured, rightly, that he would need their help down the road, so making a lot of political noise just wasn’t advisable.
Kaine, however, has been entirely different. He hasn’t held back at all. During his administration, as he tried to get some of his initiatives through the legislature, he has routinely bashed the Republicans. He made no bones about it, his goals were to build up the Democratic Party and win elections. In 2008, he became actively involved the presidential campaign as one of Barack Obama’s earliest supporters.
Kaine would play an instrumental role in delivering the state for Obama, first in the primary contest against Hillary Clinton, and then during the general election. Turning Virginia blue, after 44 years of voting Republican was a remarkable accomplishment, and Kaine’s friend, now the president, was eager to reward him.
To Kaine’s credit, while the president wanted to appoint him to a cabinet post, Kaine declined. He said his first commitment was to Virginia. But the President was persistent and finally insisted he take the job as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Being DNC Chairman is a big job, and for a party that holds the White House and both Houses of Congress, it carries a lot of responsibility. However, the agreement was that the governor’s responsibilities as DNC Chairman during the remainder of his term would be limited and he wouldn’t take on the job full time until the start of 2010.
Even handling the job part time is demanding, as there is a lot of out of town travel, but Kaine felt he could handle it. But now it seems Kaine isn’t willing to share information about his travel schedule, where he has been and when, and how much his travels are costing and — most of all — who is paying the bill.
The Associated Press has even requested the information through a Freedom of Information Act inquiry, but Kaine’s office declined to respond, noting that the governor’s working documents are exempt from the law’s requirements. All of this seems a bit bizarre.
First of all, this sort of response, being so reluctant to respond to a straightforward request, is out of character. And besides, save for perhaps showing that the job of DNC chair is taking up more of the governor’s time than expected, what harm could it possibly do to release his travel schedule? After all, he is a public figure.
Kaine should remember that the president he supports is trying to create one of the most transparent administrations in history. You name it, from showing where each dollar of the stimulus goes, to the audit records of government departments, everything is being put online. With that in mind, the governor shouldn’t be trying so hard to conceal his travel records. It’s unbecoming, and it’s not good politics.
Kaine’s reputation is still good one. But, sadly, he is putting all that at risk over a seemingly minor matter. Before it’s too late, and before public opinion starts to turn against him, he should, as quickly as possible, come clean with his travel records.
This includes posting everything on the Web, with costs and who paid for it. If there is some fallout from complaints about his spending too much time out of the state, or with how the costs have been allocated, he will just have to live with that.
The bills can always be sorted out. However, damage to his reputation for honesty and openness, if he lets this go on, will be a lot harder to repair.