I’m not sure if I should care about Bob McDonnell’s thesis


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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14 Responses

  1. Michael Drew says:

    It would be utterly fair game anyway, but the fact that HE BROUGHT IT UP makes even asking the question laughable. Whether you care is up to you, of course.Report

    • Will in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Right. But I don’t think your vote should hinge on a decades-old term paper.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Will says:

        Mine? I don’t get to vote against the guy, but if I did I would definitely reserve my right to do it for exactly that reason.Report

      • Pat Cahalan in reply to Will says:

        A Master’s thesis doesn’t even remotely compare to a term paper.

        Presumably, a Master’s thesis consists of a distilling of 2-3 years training in your particular field, contextualized with your 4 years of undergraduate study. Academic work doesn’t scale in a linear fashion: any reasonably competent undergraduate can whip out a 5-10 page paper in a night (pushing 20 if quality is not an issue), but a 93 page thesis usually requires a substantial amount of references, and that means lots of research and background reading.

        Now, anyone can choose not to care, that’s agreed…

        I personally would find it questionable that anyone had *really* retreated in a significant way from the worldview that was presented in such a way; in my experience, people with extreme social views tend to either remain consistent or dramatically and diametrically change their worldview. There are exceptions (self included), but I’d really want to pay attention to that candidate if I was a VA voter.

        Of course, I’m not… and I’m not following this story, so take the above in that context 😉Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to Will says:

        As noted above, there’s a considerable difference between an undergraduate thesis and a master’s thesis, nevermind the yawning chasm between a “term paper” and a masters thesis. Unlike an undergraduate paper or thesis, a master’s thesis is a culmination of intense professional training intended for your chosen career. Where an UG thesis may be significantly modified by graduate studies, a master’s thesis is going to be the foundation of your own professional career in total.

        While I appreciate what you’re trying to say, calling it a “decades old term paper” is substantively inaccurate to the point of almost being a mirror of the dishonesty on misappropriating Sunstein’s academic pieces.Report

        • Will in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          Fair enough – I shouldn’t have used the phrase “term paper.” But I think that the distinction between political documents and academic papers stands.Report

          • Will in reply to Will says:

            Also, I think people should be encouraged to examine “extreme” views in the academy. Defending a position intellectually and adhering to those views years after the fact are two different things entirely.Report

  2. Mr. Prosser says:

    Since I tend to think the worst of politicians (and am rarely wrong) I assume McDonnell wanted an MA after his name. UVa was probably too hard and required too much time but Regent isn’t much more than a mill and a cram course for the bar exams IMO. So, the guy cynically writes a piece that parrots the school’s party line. Even if it doesn’t reflect his real beliefs it doesn’t say much for his character.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    I would be more worried about the fact that he was in his mid-30’s when he wrote it.

    I mean, sure. If he wrote it when he was 23, I’d see this as a cynical ploy to smear the guy (seriously, I can’t imagine stuff that I wrote when I was 23 coming to light… I was pro-gun control!).

    But he was old enough to know better.

    That said, “Dude, it was 1989” is more of a defense of this paper than a lot of folks (who probably don’t remember 1989) realize.Report

  4. Northeast Elizabeth says:

    McDonnell casually mentioned his master’s thesis in conversation with a couple of Washington Post reporters, who promptly dug up the 93 page document

    Indeed they did! Yet from our alleged “Constitutional scholar” President, we’ve seen nothing of his academic writing but a single unsigned law review note.

    How curiously incurious these alleged journalists are.Report

  5. Mira says:

    I skimmed the thesis, and it seems like exactly the sort of thing someone would have written in 1989 as a master’s thesis at Regent University. Not particularly surprising. So I don’t think anyone should care about McDonnell’s thesis who doesn’t already. On the other hand, though, McDonnell and his opponent should care. I can see someone thinking that while opposition to abortion and support for covenant marriage is one thing, opposition to contraception and support for religion in schools is entirely another, and that it’s just a bit too crazy to stomach even if he has moderated his positions in the past twenty years. I doubt anyone will really change their mind about McDonnell based on the thesis, but it will probably cement the idea that he’s a crazy person in the minds of anyone for whom it’s already there.Report