ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) – This is the end.
The train – more accurately the bus – stops here.
It’ll stop at the way station for former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who will be sentenced Tuesday on 11 federal corruption charges related to, in effect, bribery.
Next stop could well be federal prison for the state’s 71st governor. Prosecutors want at least 10 years behind bars while the defense wants community service.
As for the bus itself? Expect it to keep rolling the way did it did during last summer’s sensational trial and in the recent days preceding McDonnell’s sentencing: Right over the already vehicularly damaged body of his wife, Maureen. There is, after all, the appeals process.
And this bus ain’t exactly that of Ken Kesey and his “Merry Band of Pranksters” lore from the 60s.
That one had LSD.
This one has acid.
“On the bizarro scale, it's a 10,” Virginia Tech senior political scientist Chuck Walcott said in an email last weekend. “The phrase ‘under the bus’ doesn't even fully describe it unless the bus has spiked tires and leaks Agent Orange from the undercarriage.”
That would be a reference to the central theme of the former governor’s defense during trial: Not my fault that my wife is a mentally unstable money grabber. I am but a humble public servant and she, alas, opined for luxury behind my back.
That’s the narrative spun by his lawyers during the trial, and by his sister, also named Maureen, and two of his daughters, Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky and Cailin Young. They said as much in letters to federal judge James R. Spencer in advance of sentencing.
Wrote Zubowsky: “. . .The testimony about my mom was not just part of a defense strategy and was not an attempt to ‘throw her under the bus,’ but unfortunately, was the reality.”
Wrote the sister Maureen: “While Bob is the best human being I’ve ever known, . . .the intimate details of his marriage and wife’s repeated bad behavior was something only known to his immediate family prior to the trial.”
Oh, and dear ol’ sis added that some 25 years ago, her college boyfriend-turned NFL quarterback received a request for money from Maureen McDonnell, for what it’s worth.
During his decades of chronicling American politics, Walcott has never seen anything quite like this.
“Other political spouses have become controversial for their behavior,” he wrote in his email. “Never that I know of has a whole family turned on one and blamed her (or him) for the other spouse's official crimes."
“Certainly Hillary Clinton was a target from the outside (Vince Foster, Whitewater), but her family and friends remained steadfast.”
Maureen McDonnell, not to forget, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 20 on eight criminal counts related to the corruption case.
That may well be when the bus indeed does roll to a merciful stop.
Merciful for her, maybe, but for the Commonwealth itself?
Not really. That’s the word from University of Virginia political wizard Larry Sabato.
“The damage has already been done, whatever the sentence turns out to be,” he said. “The McDonnell soap opera has played out on the national stage for a year now (and) the convictions generated headlines everywhere."
“Prior to this, whether it was deserved or not, Virginia had the image of being a state without the corruption problems that plague Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, and other places."