Before getting started, I will point out that I’ve been reading George Will’s columns for almost as long as I can remember. Back in the pre-internet days, our local paper used to run his syndicated columns every Sunday alongside those of Molly Ivins as a sort of right vs left balancing act. I’ve always admired Will’s craft as a wordsmith, even when I disagreed with some of his positions.
George Will has been on the NeverTrump train pretty much since it pulled out of the station, which is perfectly fine. Everyone has to make up their own minds on such things. But his despair over the results of the 2016 election may be taking a toll on him now. For evidence, I point to his recent column at the Washington Post where he enthusiastically sings the praises of Rhode Island’s Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo and his suggestion that she would be the ideal running mate for Joe Biden. After delving into her lengthy resume, Will concludes that she would be the perfect Vice President to “restore adult supervision in Washington.”
Joe Biden’s choice of a running mate will matter to the electorate’s large moderate majority more than such choices usually do, for two reasons. Biden will be 78 on Jan. 20, 2021. And his choice will indicate whether the trajectory of the world’s oldest party will be determined by its left-wing minority that strenuously opposed his nomination, or by the party’s temperate majority, which produced the Democrats’ 2018 success.
The Democratic left, with its addiction to indignation and its aversion to practical politics, might recoil from Raimondo because she understands the enormous financial sector of a nation now chin-deep in red ink…
A Biden-Raimondo ticket would achieve the left’s primary goal, the removal of President Trump. And the resulting administration would restore adult supervision in Washington.
The idea that an elder conservative thinker like Will would be taking such an interest in the welfare and prospects of the Democratic ticket really isn’t all that surprising in the era of the NeverTrumpers. But this sort of uncritical analysis of Gina Raimondo’s record in New Hampshire misses the mark badly.
At one point in the column where Will is listing the Governor’s many accomplishments, he notes that her poll numbers “have soared during the pandemic,” presumably because of Rhode Island’s high per capita coronavirus testing numbers. There are two points to make about that statement. First, it’s not as hard to get those numbers when you’re running a state with such a comparatively tiny population and a similarly small amount of acreage. And second, her poll numbers had very little room to go anywhere except upward. Until very recently, Raimondo had consistently ranked near or at the very bottom of the list of American governors in terms of popularity and approval ratings. (At the beginning of February her approval rating stood at 35%.)
There are plenty of things to point to that should deter any conservative (and probably a fair number of liberals) from feting the Rhode Island governor in this fashion, and some of them also have to do with the pandemic. As you may recall, when New York City was experiencing the worst of the pandemic surge, Raimondo’s first impulse was to send out both the state police and the National Guard to try to turn back any cars with New York license plates attempting to cross the border into her state. She eventually had to back off from that policy when the courts intervened, so she settled for imposing a mandatory two-week quarantine on any New Yorkers finding lodging in Rhode Island.
Let us also not forget that the Governor remains in the midst of a very serious ethics investigation over a suspicious-looking deal she arranged regarding the contractor who handles the state’s lottery system. The company in question was given a massive extension/renewal deal on their contract without any other bids being considered. And this was being done while one of the principal architects of the deal was not only a close associate and fundraiser for the Governor but also the former CEO of that company who retains close ties to them.
And how did she respond to those allegations? By repeatedly ignoring FOIA requests for information about how the contract was handled and who was involved in it.
If you’re looking for a promising pick in the Joe Biden veepstakes because you hate Donald Trump, that’s up to you. But Gina Raimondo has demonstrated some of the worst authoritarian impulses imaginable as Governor, along with conducting business in an ethically questionable fashion and opposing transparency regarding her activities. I hardly think those are the characteristics we’re looking for in someone who could wind up being only a heartbeat away from the presidency. And that’s particularly true when the heart in question is beating in the chest of a man of Joe Biden’s considerable age and dubious grasp on his mental faculties.