RICHMOND, Va. -- After several weeks of heavy snow and sub-freezing temperatures, the sun came out and the snow began to melt in Richmond last Saturday for the inauguration of Republican Bob McDonnell as Virginia's new governor.
There were more minorities among the estimated 5,000 who attended than I have seen at any recent GOP function. The tone was different, too. Boxes were placed at entrances, inviting donations to the Federation of Virginia Food Banks. There were several references to the earthquake in Haiti and calls for donations to relief efforts there.
McDonnell is not a stereotypical Republican. Should he be labeled a truly compassionate conservative? The Wednesday before his inauguration, McDonnell joined volunteers at the Central Virginia Foodbank and packed food for the needy. The next day, he visited Carpenter's Shelter in Alexandria, a homeless shelter in Northern Virginia, and then Henrico County's Regional Jail East in New Kent County. Such places are not known for harboring pro-Republican sentiment.
Virginia Supreme Court Justice Barbara Milano Keenan, who swore in McDonnell, was the first woman to swear in a Virginia governor. President Obama has nominated her for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. McDonnell pledged to work with President Obama to expand charter schools and performance pay for outstanding teachers. Some Democrats are giving the new governor initial high marks for his attitude toward them. The contrast between how McDonnell treats Democrats and congressional Democrats treat Republicans is stark.
In his inaugural address, McDonnell hit notes conservative Republicans want to hear. He pledged to build "A Commonwealth of Opportunity" and if this sounds a little like former President George W. Bush's "Ownership Society," that's OK. He compassionately reached out to the "tens of thousands of our family members, friends and neighbors who have lost their jobs" and those who "worry they could be next;" but conservatively added the means to the end of creating more jobs is not more government, but less: "...we will reduce burdensome taxation and regulation that impede job creation."
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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