McDonnell’s condemnable courtroom hypocrisy

Published 9:51 am Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Editor’s Note: If you are looking for Rex Alphin’s column “The Nature of Things,” it will appear in the Life section on Friday.

by R.E. Spears III

I never really expected to feel sorry for Maureen McDonnell.

Virginia’s former first lady was always at the heart of the scandal that finally resulted last week in the conviction of her and her husband on federal corruption charges, making Bob McDonnell the first governor in Virginia history to be tried and convicted for felonious behavior.

Maureen was the recipient of some of the most tangible gifts from former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, and her penchant for high-priced baubles, together with an unblushing willingness to come right out and ask for such gifts made her an unsympathetic character for the average Virginian.

But then the former governor’s defense team took over the trial, Bob McDonnell took the witness stand, and everything changed. Suddenly it became clear there could be something much more evil than a woman who felt entitled to the finer things in life, even if she could not personally afford them.

Far more sinister is the husband who sought to save himself from conviction by subjecting his wife and the mother of his grown children to the ridicule of an embarrassing public litany of her foibles. When he chose to blame Maureen McDonnell for his own illegal behavior, instead of taking the proffered plea deal that would have resulted in a single felony conviction for him, Bob McDonnell crawled through the gutter and into the sewer.

I never would have expected this from the smiling man who sat in our conference room a few years ago as he stumped for the governor’s office and talked about his Christian values. And even as Bob McDonnell abandoned conservative principles in an attempt to create a legacy for himself, I continued to think of him as a man who honored God by loving his wife and standing firm for biblically based values that I hold dear.

But now, with the weight of 24 hours of his own testimony about Maureen set on the balance, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that Bob McDonnell’s yearning for power was a thing of greater substance for him than the value of his family.

Even as he was leaving the courthouse following his conviction on Thursday, Bob McDonnell said, “My trust remains in the Lord.”

That’s the kind of statement that endeared him to evangelical Christians. But the evidence is that he did not put his trust in God. Instead, he put his trust in his lawyers and a condemnable strategy that utterly dishonored his wife and family.

The apostle Paul called on Christian husbands to “love (their) wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her���” (Ephesians 5:25 ESV) Such a love is by definition a sacrificial thing, implying that a husband should be willing to give his very life for his wife.

McDonnell’s actions in court fly in the face of Paul’s instructions. And judging from the content of Bob McDonnell’s own testimony, it seems the former governor put his own ambition ahead of his wife’s needs. When he realized the toll his public life was putting on his marriage — and his testimony revealed that there were multiple clues as he rose through the ranks of local and statewide office — he chose to continue pressing on, all the while using Maureen to bolster his case for Christian family values.

But in this trial, McDonnell has done more to harm the cause of those values than he ever did to help them. Instead of an example of sacrificial love in action, what the world sees now is yet another hypocrite proclaiming he’s a follower of Christ.

And for me, even more than Bob McDonnell’s actions have made me sorry for Virginia, even more than his courtroom strategy has made me sorry for his wife — the blatant and public hypocrisy of “trusting in the Lord” while taking actions that demean His name is utterly offensive.

I pray for healing for his family and a revelation of God’s grace for them all.

Res Spears is a former staff writer and editor of The Tidewater News, and is currently managing editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. His email address is