VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The politics of the nation are more divisive and more divided; that was the pronouncement from the 71st governor of Virginia five days before the general election.
Republican Bob McDonnell voted for Donald Trump four years ago, and even though he’s critical of Donald Trump the man, McDonnell still supports the president’s policies.
“We are not electing a pope. We are electing a president,” said McDonnell in an interview outside his business office in Virginia Beach.
McDonnell was thrust into the national spotlight in 2014 when he was convicted on corruption charges. Two years later, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction just in time for the former U.S. Army officer to vote for the New York businessman who promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
Over the years, from the beltway safe harbor of Virginia Beach, McDonnell watched as Trump denigrated prisoner of war the late Sen. John McCain, made crude comments about women and army generals, promoted a drug the FDA banned for the treatment of COVID-19 and more recently Trump mocked the news media for its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
McDonnell and 11 of his friends caught the virus this summer while attending a neighborhood social gathering. The virus took down the physically fit former Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who recovered at home.
“I ached all over. I was deeply fatigued. I had a deep respiratory cough. I would urge people to wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands — all those things,” said McDonnell.
McDonnell recovered from the virus and donated anti-body rich plasma at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth earlier this month.
“So I got a couple of people I know who had it and it was a joy to do it because they told us they ship these supplies to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places to serve our military, ” said the former Army officer.
While polls show 57.6 % of Americans disapprove of how the Trump administration has handled the pandemic, McDonnell says the criticism is misplaced. McDonnell says the president correctly closed air travel and took steps to increase the production of life-saving ventilators, but for the most part pandemic response should take place on the state level.
BELOW: Full interview with Bob McDonnell
Taking advantage of early voting in Virginia, McDonnell cast his ballot for Trump, indicating the president’s policies trump his personality.
“I’m trying to separate that, so in my mind when I look at the thing that I mentioned before in trying to end these entanglements and foreign wars — in making people in NATO pay their fair share — for defense, there are good things for America,” said McDonnell, who also applauds the president’s challenge of China on trade and the coronavirus. “The Republican party has been way too identified with the personality and persona and style of Donald Trump because that’s not who were are. We are a party of principles.
“Unprincipled” is how McDonnell describes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“For whatever reason, the tone has been too strident, it’s been too partisan. Look, the Congress has been the same way — Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, hyper partisans — ‘we’re 100% right, [Republicans are] wrong. We are going to use investigations to try and destroy you.’ The Republicans are the same — I’m sick of the tone of both parties.”
If Trump is re-elected, McDonnell says he would like to have a little chat with the president on the attributes of a great leader for all.
“In twenty-five years, this is going to be a non-white, nation according to the birth and death rates. We’d better find out how to talk to people [who are] Black, white, brown, Republican or Democrat. We are all made the same way,” said McDonnell.
McDonnell works with a Virginia Beach-based developer, teaches and practices law and he offers political commentary on television and radio programs. He told WAVY-TV 10 he has been approached about a return to politics, but says for now, at the age of 66, “that ship has sailed.”
He is working on a book that he says will reveal how he overcame the pain associated with the federal investigation that crushed his administration, and his family.
“When I went from governor to indicted in 10 days, it broke my heart. I had given 38 years of my life to serve my state and nation to see the full weight of the federal government to come down on me, my cabinet, my entire family [and] my state was just crushing.” said McDonnell.
That book, yet to be titled, should be released early next year.
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