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Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.

That was the final line spoken by Agent Hotchner in a rerun on A&E of an episode of "Criminal Minds."  What, might you ask, could it possibly have to do with the race for Attorney General in the Commonwealth of Virginia?

The Democratic candidate Steve Shannon is someone I first met through his wife, Abby, whom I met because she was the LA who handled education for my friend Rep. Nick Lampson of Texas.   And Steve and Abby were concerned with dragons, the dragons who abducted little children, which is why they were responsible for founding the first Amber Alert in the DC metro area.  

And Steve was a prosecutor, someone who handled crimes committed by sexual predators.  

And whether or not dragons exist, monsters do.  Sometimes they run for political office.  I believe if one looks at the public record of Steve's opponent, State Senator Ken Cuccinelli, one will see someone whose record in public office and his declared intentions have monstrous implications.  Which is why this race is so important.

Please keep reading.

I asked you to please keep reading.  Please keep reading to learn more, to understand why I feel strongly enough to devote such effort to this subject, to put my reputation and credibility such as it is on the line, to beseech you to do what you can - monetarily, calling friends and family in Virginia, volunteering - to ensure that Steve Shannon ensure that the office of Attorney General not go to someone whose ideas are almost beyond belief, in the realm of fairy tales, or, given that this will be all Hallow's Eve, of monsters and goblins.

Realistically this should not be a close race.  While much of the responsibility of the office of Attorney General is not involved with the criminal law, it is important to the voters that the person who seeks the office have some experience with criminal law.  Steve Shannon gave up a private law practice to become a prosecutor, for far less money, before he later went on to service in the House of Delegates.  His opponent has no prosecutorial experience.

Both men are from Fairfax County.  Which means local professional associations and media organizations know both men well.  Yet in NoVa almost all of those endorsing have chosen Steve over his opponent - business groups, chambers of commerce, and - in what must have surprised many - even the very right-wing editorial board of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star found Ken Cuccinelli so extreme that they chose his Democratic opponent.  Let me start with them.  In this brief editorial the board notes that Cuccinelli

is subject to disconcerting enthusiasms. His bill to push Congress to deny citizenship to the kids of illegal immigrants is the sort of idea that jollies only the least tolerant Virginians, and another failed measure, making criminals of journalists who knocked on the doors of mourners, is further evidence of Mr. Cuccinelli's vulnerability to ad hominem temptations.

ad hominem temptations - that is far milder than the opinions of other newspapers around the Commonwealth.  The Washington Post, endorsed Shannon in this editorial, in which the editorial board noted Cuccinelli

is a provocative hard-liner who at times has struggled vainly to attract a single vote for his more far-fetched initiatives.

 They go on to say

However, there is reason to worry that Mr. Cuccinelli would treat the job of attorney general as an ideological crusade. We take him at his word when he says he intends to fight with the federal government over constitutional and legislative issues that stick in his craw....He attacked the efforts of some Republican lawmakers to secure adequate funding for schools and roads. He doubts the science of global warming and casts aspersions on the motives of those who are concerned about it. He peddles outmoded, half-baked and prejudicial theories about homosexuals.

 Similar criticisms and concerns about Cuccinelli and his intent for the office can be found in newspapers around the Commonwealth, who in contrast find Shannon a solid choice for the position of Attorney General  Consider, for example:

the Bristol Herald-Courier, which wrote favorably of Shannon

In our view, Democratic Delegate Steve Shannon has articulated a vision of the Attorney General's office that is best in line with the needs of residents of Southwest Virginia - from his ideas about addressing prescription drug abuse to developing contractual agreements that allow public universities and private businesses to partner on projects that would bring jobs to the region.

while noting of Cuccinelli:

But we are troubled by his past efforts to ask Congress to amend the Constitution to deny citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants.  Children born in this country are citizens of this country. Cuccinelli also has supported a measure to bar journalists from knocking on the doors of bereaved families. Both these bills failed to generate support, but they signal Cuccinelli's possible social agenda.

Let me make a small discursus to demonstrate the inherent bigotry of Cuccinelli's position.  The 14th Amendment established that anyone born in the United States was a citizen.  This was in part in response to the reaction of Southern States (including Virginia) after the 13th Amendment freed the slaves -  they might no longer have been property, but the South asserted they were not citizens.  Since no slaves were to have been imported after 1808, unless in 1868 an ex-slave was more than 60 years old, s/he was declared a citizen.  In theory those older were not.  By Cuccinelli's reasoning, unless an elderly slave could prove s/he was legally brought into the US, albeit as property, any descendants should have been denied citizenship, as the parents were undocumented.  It also bespeaks a mindset of imposing upon children the punishments we believe due to the parents.  In a sense, that is an example of 'corruption of blood' which the English legal tradition explicitly rejected.   And the idea of amending the Constitution to punish or restrict rights is - with the sole exception of our failed attempt at alcohol prohibition - alien to both the spirit and the history of our Constitution and the increasing of the guarantees of rights and liberties over the 221 years since ratification.  

Returning to reactions around the Commonwealth, perhaps we should consider the Roanoke Times, which began its editorial

When Virginians choose their next attorney general on Nov. 3, they will either continue the levelheaded, no-nonsense approach preferred by most previous holders of that office or install an ideological firebrand who would impose his radical morality on the commonwealth. We recommend they select the former in Steve Shannon.

 an ideological firebrand who would impose his radical morality on the commonwealth - what might that represent? It is worth quoting three paragraphs that lay it out in detail:

Among his stranger proposals as a legislator, he would have denied divorce to couples with minor children in cases when one spouse objected, urged Congress to amend the Constitution to deny citizenship to people born in the United States to noncitizens, and allowed people seeking a concealed weapon permit to complete their training online without ever handling a gun. Astoundingly, that last one became law.

Cuccinelli is a crusader against a woman's right to choose, gay rights, workers and any effort to confront climate change. To his credit, he does not duck on those issues. He affirms that, as attorney general, he would file states' rights lawsuits against the federal government if Washington passes laws contrary to his ultra-conservative views.

He also admits he would not defend any state law he deems unconstitutional, and that includes many progressive measures. Never mind that it is the attorney general's job to defend the commonwealth's laws and the courts' job to decide what is constitutional.

One can find similar concerns in other papers around the Commonwealth, for example in the Virginian-Pilot, which concludes

To put it politely, Cuccinelli’s election would bring embarrassment to Virginia, instability to the state’s law firm and untold harm to the long list of people who don’t fit his personal definition of morality.


Even some strong conservatives are on record as opposing Cuccinelli.  We read one such in the Augusta Free Press where we read

Now to the attorney general’s race between Republican State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Del. Steve Shannon. Both are from one million strong Fairfax County. Shannon, in spite of being half my age, is the clear choice. Steve Shannon, a former criminal prosecutor, has been endorsed by more than 40 law-enforcement and first-response organizations. Ken Cuccinelli has this view of the law (4/9/09): "I will not defend what I, in my judgment, deem to be an unconstitutional law."

Why is the AG choice so clear? First, the two personalities are very different. Ken always seems mad and uptight, wishing to change the world and Virginia to his own likeness. Steve is a pleasant guy, usually with a slight grin. But his face is firm whenever he talks about enforcing the law. Put it this way: Shannon is running on a platform to make our lives safer whenever we leave home; Cuccinelli is more concerned with what we do while at home.


Here's the voice of a libertarian in the same publication, who begins  

Here’s a pop quiz: Who said the following:

"When you look at the homosexual agenda, I cannot support something that I believe brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul."

A. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad B.Vladimir Putin C. Ken Cuccinelli

Although most folks might guess it was Mr. Ahmadinejad, the Holocaust-denying president of Iran, it was in fact Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for attorney general of Virginia. (Apologies to President Ahmadinejad, who probably wishes he had said it first). Unfortunately, this jarring statement is nothing unusual for Mr. Cuccinelli, who’s made a career of anti-gay comments and votes as a state senator from Fairfax County.

 The author, David Lampo, of the Log Cabin Republicans, and a long-time libertarian, provides a list of what he finds wrong with Cuccinelli:

No real libertarian has a record (like Mr. Cuccinelli does) of
· Opposition to repealing the state sodomy law, even though it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court
· Opposition to allowing private companies to offer health and life insurance benefits to domestic partners of their employees
· Opposition to prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for state and local government employees
· Opposition to allowing local governments to choose what benefits they give their local employees
· Opposition to any kind of legal protections for gay and lesbian couples, even the limited rights embodied in domestic partnerships or civil unions
· Support for banning gay/straight alliances in public high schools
· Support for state funding of abstinence programs

TheWashington Post followed up on October 30 with an editorial with the title Mr. Cuccinelli's bigotry  This, like similar reactions around the Commonwealth, was in reaction to remarks Cuccinelli made in an interview with the Virginian-Pilot,key parts of which are quoted in that paper's endorsement of Shannon.   The Post is quite explicit in its condemnation:  

Homosexual acts, said Mr. Cuccinelli, currently a state senator, are "intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law-based country it's appropriate to have policies that reflect that. . . . They don't comport with natural law. I happen to think that it represents (to put it politely; I need my thesaurus to be polite) behavior that is not healthy to an individual and in aggregate is not healthy to society."

Putting aside what Mr. Cuccinelli has to say about homosexuals when he's not trying so hard to be polite, let's call his comments what they are: bigotry. Bigotry is as pernicious today, applied to homosexuals, as it was a century ago or less, when immigrants and minorities were its main victims. And it is just as familiar. Appeals to "natural law" and "intrinsic" rights and wrongs were the usual cliches deployed to justify the old-time religion of hatred then directed at African Americans, Jews, Italians, Irish and other immigrants.

 The editorial goes on to note

As a lawmaker in Richmond, he has displayed contempt for non-English speakers; for those who care about global warming; and for the First Amendment. Many of his fellow Republicans regard him as occupying the far-right fringe of the party, the ultimate small tenter.

the ultimate small tenter -  in a sense these words apply not just to his conception of who is legitimately part of the Republican party, but - and this is of far greater concern - who is included in the words We, the people of the United State with which our Constitution begins.  It is clear that the idea of the equal protection of the law propounded in the 14th Amendment - which, by the way speaks not of "citizens" but of "persons":  nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. - is something that Cuccinelli is prepared to reject.  Somehow I am reminded a lines from a song called "The John Birch Society" sung decades ago by the Chad Mitchell Trio, in which we hear the paranoid expression "There's no one left but thee and we, and we're not sure of thee"!!  Somehow I can hear Ken Cuccinelli expressing such sentiments towards anyone he does not believe meets his standards (or should we say prejudices) of who should be included in the social contract.

Ken Cuccinelli has signed on to the Tea Parties.  No surprise, lots of Conservative Republicans have done so.  He has said he will sue the Federal Government under the Tenth Amendment - a useful application of the power of the office, NOT.  He has said he will not argue for laws with which he personally disagrees if he thinks them unconstitutional, despite the obligations of his office to so, and here I note the US Justice Department has filed a brief supporting the Defense of Marriage Act even though they think it should be repealed because it is their duty to argue on behalf of federal statutes until they are declared unconstitutional by the Courts.  

If I have not already scared you enough, there is video of Cuccinelli telling a conservative audience during his primary that he was not sure if he and his wife would register their then forthcoming child with Social Security because the government uses social security to track people.  Now one is not legally required to register a child, unless one is taking an income tax deduction as a dependent.  Still, think of the paranoia explicit in that statement, and what message it gives to those who encounter it.  Should this be part of the mindset of someone in the position of chief legal officer of a major state?

Steve Shannon is a good a decent man, with a solid track record  of achievement - as a prosecutor, as a state legislator, as a citizen, as a father and husband.  And yet he risks losing to a smooth talking bigot, in part because of the current political dynamics nationally, in part because of the nature of running on the undercard in Virginia, where we have three statewide races simultaneously, but the lion's share of the attention goes to the gubernatorial race.  

At the edges of some medieval maps one might see the legend "here there be dragons" with illustrations of sea serpents.  These marked the end of the known world, with the fears inherent in the unknown.

And yet, as children know, the monsters and dragons are part of everyday existence.  They are under the bed, they are in our imagination, some seek to use them to manipulate use - pace the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs and others of their ilk.

Ken Cuccinelli is potentially more dangerous than either Beck or Limbaugh, because he would have the power of office, an ability to discriminate, to refuse to protect the rights of minorities he does not respect.  He can distort our legal processes in very harmful ways.

But, as Chesterton reminds us, fairy tales help us to remember that dragons can be killed.

As horrible as the thought of the like of Ken Cuccinelli in state wide office might be, the people of the Commonwealth - and those who care what happens - can still make a difference.  

Steve Shannon is worthy of the office of Attorney General on his own merits.

Ken Cuccinelli would not only be a disgrace.  He represents something truly frightening in American politics.  

Which is why we must demonstrate that this is one dragon that can be killed.

Originally posted to teacherken on Sat Oct 31, 2009 at 02:54 AM PDT.

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