Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Academic dishonesty

Over the weekend, the Washington Post published an article about a master's/J.D. thesis that the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, Robert McDonnell, wrote in 1989. The thesis, titled "The Republican Party's Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of the Decade," concludes with a 15-point plan to support family values. Among the points are:
(2) Make adherence to constitutional interpretivism, a covenant view of marriage and family, and a deep respect for parental authority, the first areas of scrutiny in the selection of federal and state judges. (emphasis added)

(8) Fight any attempts to redefine family by allowing special rights for homosexuals or single-parent unwed mothers.

(9) Fight the use of federal funds for state sex-education programs or school-based health clinics giving abortion referrals, contraceptives, and family planning.
Elsewhere in the thesis, McDonnell recommends that "every level of government" should discriminate against "cohabitors, homosexuals, or fornicators," adding that "the cost of sin should fall on the sinner not the taxpayer."

He criticizes Supreme Court decisions that extended privacy to married couples who wanted to obtain contraception and eventually to the sexual behavior of unmarried people. He also criticizes working mothers, seeming to link their work to "materialism" and "feminism" rather than the needs of families.

His conclusion also warns that "A people who reject the importance of the family in its God-ordained covenantal form must assuredly reap the consequences."

McDonnell now counters that he should not be judged "on a decades-old academic paper I wrote as a student during the Reagan era and haven't thought about in years." However, he does want to acknowledge the law degree that resulted from that thesis and recently brought up the thesis as an example of his thinking on welfare policy.

The "just a student" excuse is also misleading. McDonnell was 34 when he wrote the thesis and was in the process of pursuing his second graduate degree. Moreover, as a thesis, the "academic paper" had to be presented to a committee. It also most likely was repeatedly revised and eventually defended. The thesis was supposed to be a serious piece of scholarship.

In addition, McDonnell began his legislative career just three years after completing his degree. And many of the points from his thesis were elements of his campaign and legislative career.

The story has some personal interest because at the same time that McDonnell was completing his thesis, I was working on my dissertation on family work-life issues. Two of the chapters from the dissertation were eventually published, and the resulting articles continue to be cited. With nearly 20 additional years of research and policy experience, I can see flaws in those analyses and would certainly make improvements if I were starting over. However, I wouldn't dismiss the articles as "academic exercises."

McDonnell can't have it both ways. If he continues to hold the same strong, religiously-oriented views on family policy, he should say so. If those views have changed, he should explain which ones have changed and why. This, of course, supposes that he engaged in serious scholarship and policy advocacy in the first place.


Anonymous said...

The WAPO has had 3 or 4 stories on this as of this date. Macaca it ain't. Enough already.

What about BHO's Green Jobs Czar, Van Jones . An avowed Communist and 9/11 truther. ? Doesn't bother you ,huh ?.

NBC & ABC ignore Jones.

But some time ago the NY Times focused on Jones . Well not exactly, like a lswer beam. More like a wet kiss.

The New York Times' Thomas Friedman was lauding him.

In print on October 17, 2007, Friedman offered up a Van Jones paean entitled "The Green-Collar Solution." In which Friedman offers nary a hint as to the radical nature of Jones' many ridiculous and disturbing positions and proclamations.

BHO couldn't paass a security background but sadly he was elected.

But was Jones vetted and by who ?

Strange days

Fred Gregory

Dave Ribar said...


What does Jones have to do with McDonnell?

Bubba said...

"What does Jones have to do with McDonnell?"

Bubba said...

"If those views have changed, he should explain which ones have changed and why. This, of course, supposes that he engaged in serious scholarship and policy advocacy in the first place."

Let's see if I understand this now: Senator Jim Webb gets a pass on the same "offense" that McDonnell committed, but McDonell doesn't.

Hmmmmmm,what's the difference? Let me think......

George Neumayr:

"In the PC shorthand of American politics, Republicans, no matter how much defensive and hapless pandering they do, will still be called sexist, and through these capitulations they help to cement the charge: instead of challenging the shorthand, as they should, they confirm it by promising to change their ways."

Of course, Dave wants to talk about the academic and intellectual integrity angle.

Funny, Ted Kennedy never had to face that sort of scrutiny from anyone over his little problems about his changing tune about abortion, and the fact that he was expelled TWICE from Harvard:

"Of course, Kennedy is now endlessly lauded for his support of “women’s rights,” i.e. abortion. But into the 1970s, before the Roman Catholic Church’s influence began to wane, Kennedy was a traditional pro-life New England Democrat.

Here was his take on abortion in 1971: 'Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized - the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.'

....And yet he was always protected by most of the media, who shared his views on just about everything. In 1962, at the behest of President Kennedy, the Boston Globe played the story of his expulsion from Harvard below the fold on the front page. To the very end the Globe did its best to shield him - last week the struggling Times-owned broadsheet broke the story of his deathbed attempt to change the Massachusetts law on Senate succession, without mentioning that he himself had lobbied in 2004 to enact the law he was now denouncing as undemocratic. Only then, he was for stripping the governor of his right to fill a Senate vacancy, because, you see, that governor was a Republican."

Imagine that!

Dave Ribar said...


In what way did Webb get a pass? He had to answer questions about his earlier writing. Webb's writings were described extensively in the Washington Post and other papers.

BTW, are the best arguments that you can come up with--that Democrats have written embarrassing things too?

Bubba said...

You missed the point, Dave, on purpose.

WaPo is engaging in an all out attack on McDonnell, which you are parroting, while not saying a word about Van Jones.

It's a clearly established practice: Obsess on the Republican (McDonnell), while giving "regressives" (Webb, Jones, Kennedy) a pass on their past.

If you don't like McDonnell and what he represen ts, say so. If you insist on calling him out on what he said in the past, have the academic and intellectual integrity to be even handed on your criticism.

Anonymous said...


Bingo. Dave missed the point on purpose. Today the Post published it's 12th hit piece on McDonnell in 11 days and gets mocked for its obsessive bias .

"Post Runs Another Story About Its McDonnell Story: Stories to run until ‘controversy’ takes on life of its own, sources say." ( a parody )

Fred Gregory

Dave Ribar said...

Hmm, the major newspaper serving the Northern Virginia suburbs covering the Virginia's governor race--imagine.

This is the standard "shoot the messenger" approach of politicking.

Recall that McDonnell brought the thesis up with a Post reporter. He was proud of the thing until somebody other than his advisors actually read it.

Bubba said...

"He was proud of the thing until somebody other than his advisors actually read it."


Dave Ribar said...


Are you saying that he has always been ashamed of the thing? Read the acknowledgements page (p. 3) and see if you detect notes of shame or sorrow.

Also, read the Post's follow on story http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/29/AR2009082902434.html .

From that article:

>>The Washington Post learned of the thesis in a recent interview with McDonnell, who mentioned it in answering a question about his political roots. McDonnell brought up the paper in reference to a pair of Republican congressmen whom he interviewed as part of his research. McDonnell then offered: "I wrote my thesis on welfare policy."<<

McDonnell brought the topic of the thesis up. Would he independently bring up the thesis if he weren't proud of it?