It's as close to inside-the-beltway political journalism as Richmond gets. After a long day of pushing his newly proposed budget cuts to the General Assembly, Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen — who was dressed in a Redskins-red silk dress suit — kicked back with the Fourth Estate last Wednesday.
The scene at Sam Miller's Restaurant in Shockoe Slip: About 80 journalists, press secretaries, political aides and the governor, consorting amid white tablecloth-clad dining tables, austere brick walls and distinguished-looking portraits of fish. Houndstooth and herringbone jackets were on display; thick-rimmed eyeglasses, graying hair and balding pates in attendance.
While dinner (chicken, salmon and prime rib) wound down, and dessert (chocolate cake with whipped cream) was on the way, the governor got up to roast the capitol press corps at the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association's annual event.
“It's been five days since you've written a story about the thesis,” McDonnell told Washington Post Virginia politics reporter (and outgoing association president) Anita Kumar.
McDonnell didn't go long before attempting to make light of the $2 billion in state budget cuts — including the proposed purging of 500 state jobs and large reductions to be levied on state education and health budgets.
“I have to say this budget is really no big deal,” McDonnell deadpanned. “It makes me sleep like a baby. I wake up every two hours crying.”
Other quips ensued, most received with rowdy laughter. McDonnell also pointed digs at 2009 Democratic primary gubernatorial candidates Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe. Moran, McDonnell said, was “still the least-known of all the Moran brothers.” And he alleged that McAuliffe had left a bag of chicken excrement on the governor's doorstep.
Nor were former governors spared. “As we moved into the mansion I had to get rid of Tim Kaine's eyebrow comb,” McDonnell said. George Allen left his dip cup, and “Mark Warner left Jim Gilmore's political future.”
Back to the thesis. “My wife, Maureen, typed that entire thesis,” he continued. “And it was a typewriter … and she just made a lot of really bad mistakes.” But, McDonnell added, “all that's behind us.”