Virginia Tea Party Patriots Convention: Cuccinelli Superstar

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 9 2010 3:34 PM

Virginia Tea Party Patriots Convention: Cuccinelli Superstar

RICHMOND -- Up to now, there hasn't been a good way to tell if the "rock star" status of Ken Cuccinelli is being oversold at this convention. We're in Virginia. He's Virginia's attorney general. It only makes sense that they'd love him.

And then Cucinnelli joined George Allen, the state's governor for four years and senator for six, for the afternoon National Policy Forum. Allen is widely expected to challenge Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) in 2012. Before his speech, he staked out the hallway and shook hands with Tea Partiers; every four or five seconds, one would beg him to return to politics.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

Advertisement

So far so good. Onstage, however, Allen was well-liked but workmanlike. He got a standing ovation even though a group called Virginians for Constitutional Government was passing out fliers calling him a "Tea Party FAKE" and "Bush-era SELLOUT" who supported Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind. The speech that followed lacked, well, fire. Allen went through the accomplishments of his term as governor. His nods to the Tea Party were just a little awkward. "I have a tie," he said, "that has the signatures of all the signers of the Declaration of Independence, with Thomas Jefferson prominent." The crowd loved it but no one throw roses on the stage.

Enter Cuccinelli. His opening ovation was louder than Allen's, for what that's worth. But from that point, Cuccinelli tossed hunk after hunk of red meat, harking back to his lawsuits against the federal government and putting them in context as part of a last ditch effort to save the country.

"If we lose this case against health care," said Cuccinelli, "federalism is dead."

He effortlessly moved back and forth between soaring appeals to history and the Constitution and, well, jokes. One way to look at the health care bill, he said, was to replace the mandate for health care -- his lawsuit is "not about health care," but about federalism --  as a mandate for something else. Like a Chevy.

"Folks, I own a Chevy Equinox," said Cuccinelli. He paused for effect. "You don't want to own a Chevy Equinox."

Moderator Barbara Hollingsworth asked Cuccinelli to expand on that. Why would it be the death of federalism? Cuccinelli responded with prose five shades deeper than Grimace, starting with the fact that the "we filed our lawsuit a mile down the same street" where Patrick Henry gave his "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech. (Of course! It was in Richmond.) And then he compared the bill to the Stamp Tax.

"Today we have a Congress and a president that think they have the power that King George and the Continental Congress acknowledged that they did not have," said Cuccinelli.

I'm struck by how adept Cuccinelli is at using strong and loaded language without coming off as cruel. Dismissing the idea that Barack Obama would respond to Republican midterm wins by moving right, Cuccinelli said he wouldn't: "We will still be taking it in the teeth." He also called the health care mandate a "diktat," a word I associate with the impositions of the Treaty of Versailles.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Doublex

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

It’s Fine to Use Facebook to Serve People With Legal Papers, Court Rules

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?