IN RICHMOND, politicians like to wax sentimental about the “Virginia Way,” by which they mean a brand of politics glossed by high-minded civility, rhetorical restraint and what passes for bipartisan comity. In fact, there is a second, less upright Virginia Way — complacent about public ethics and the laws necessary to enforce them.
The tragedy of former governor Robert F. McDonnell, indicted on federal corruption charges Tuesday just 10 days after leaving office, is that he exemplified both. Mr. McDonnell achieved important, ground-breaking accomplishments; he was a capable, substantive public servant; he was admired on both sides of the aisle. Yet he also exercised atrocious judgment as the state’s chief executive, indebting himself to a favor-currying businessman. Now Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, is the first of Virginia’s governors, a roster that stretches back to Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, to face criminal charges.
Meanwhile, in the other Virginia, the government has decided to get tough on the above ground hazardous chemical tanks. Very soon they are going to order the owners of such tanks to tell the state where those tanks are.