Thursday, July 13, 2006

Jim "Jaws" Gilmore returns

It’s summertime and look who’s back in the news -- James S. “Jaws” Gilmore III. Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Jeff E. Schapiro writes that the former Virginia governor is seriously considering another run for office in, “Gilmore may run again for governor.”

“Former Gov. Jim Gilmore is taking the first steps toward a possible comeback, launching a state political-action committee that could help bankroll a campaign for governor in 2009.”

Well, I can’t imagine another candidate the Democrats would rather run against in 2009. And, I must wonder what Republicans in their right mind asked Gilmore to run. I bet you one chilly Pabst Blue Ribbon that it’s entirely his idea.

Perhaps the reader wonders why I put the nickname “Jaws” on Jim Gilmore. Well, five summers ago, when his own dismal disapproval ratings were below sea level, he launched a commission, a Shark Task Force, to study the peril of shark attacks on Virginians.

With the news of a pair of shark attacks off the nearby coast, Gilmore must have thought he heard opportunity knocking on the door. Immediately, the semi-savvy player donned a pith helmet and shark-hunting khaki outfit to strike a pose.

Standing in defiance of an enemy that no one could possibly defend, Gilmore must have imagined his popularity would soon soar again. Note: Washington Business Journal (SEPT. 5, 2001): “In response to the recent shark attacks at Virginia Beach and in North Carolina, Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore has convened a task force to examine the issue. The shark task force will be headed by Secretary of Natural Resources John Paul Woodley, State Del. Terrie Suit (R-Virginia Beach) and several marine experts ... Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recently said that the media attention to the recent spate of attacks is overblown.”

Blithely ignoring the sitting president’s brother, Gilmore might have cocked his pith helmet to one side, to listen to what sounded like, “Knock, knock.”

In 1997 Gilmore had galloped to triumph with his No-More-Car-Tax mantra. Virginians liked his blue collar style. Then, as governor, he stubbornly stayed on that same tired workhorse issue through his four-year term, until it collapsed in a heap in the spring of 2001. Meanwhile, Gilmore’s handling of the Hugh Finn right-to-die-with-dignity case was diabolically clumsy; his handling of the Sally Mann censorship flap at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was bull-in-a-china-shop clumsy.

So, with some justification Governor Gilmore is remembered for his stubbornness and his awkwardness. I just don‘t want anybody to forget his boldest move of all -- the Shark Task Force.

“Knock, knock....”

“Who’s there?” Gilmore may have whispered, thinking he heard the shark musical theme from “Jaws” playing in the background.

Two months after the launching of Gilmore’s Shark Task Force, Republican Mark Earley lost in Virginia, handing the keys to the Governor’s Mansion to Democrat Mark Warner. Gilmore wasn’t National Chairman of the Grand Old Party long enough to do much more than be remembered for being fired, and, of course, denying that he was fired. Note: USA Today (Nov. 30, 2001): “Gilmore resigned, effective in January, saying he wasn’t willing to commit to the extensive travel and time away from family required to prepare for the 2002 elections. He leaves after less than a year in office, a period marked by disappointing elections...”

Well, as history unfolded, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 overshadowed all else in the news for a long time. So, lame duck Gilmore and his Virginia Shark Task Force’s findings were ignored on December 14, 2001.

Furthermore, the first sentence of the VSTF report sort of made it unnecessary to read the rest of it. Note: “In more than 390 years since the English settlement of Virginia there had never been a fatal shark attack in Virginia waters until September 1, 2001 when a 10-year old boy named David Peltier was attacked near the Little Island Fishing Pier at Sandbridge...”

The report went on to say that sharks usually live in the ocean and every now and then one of them bites a person who is also in the ocean.

Soon, late at night, Jim "Jaws" Gilmore may hear a familiar sound. “Knock, knock...”

Putting his ear to the door, Gilmore might ask, “Who’s there?”

From the other side of the door the shark music will be there, louder this time. But maybe this time there might be more -- a voice! It's a voice that will sound something like, Attorney General Bob McDonnell, or perhaps, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, saying, “Candygram.”


Anonymous said...

I wasn't too poltical astute at the time, but while a student at JMU, I worked for the school newspaper. Gilmore was on campus campaigning for Governor, and I had (what I thought) was the honor ask him a few question. I'll never forget how weired the whole thing was...well, Gilmore gave me a few minutes (I guess as a courtesy to the school newspaper) and I asked him a few run of the mill questions. no bid deal, right?

No, the whole time I spoke with him, he never once looked at me directly, other than maybe a glance.

Instead he focused in on this suit (think youngish looking guy with a bowtie - someone you'd see at a Uva tailgate) the whole time, and as he spoke, this guy shook his head in agreement. It was if i wasn't even there...

the whole incident left with a very creepy feeling, and whenever I hear his name it makes me think of this time...

Great piece by the way....

Oh, and by the way, he was an terrible governor too..surprise, surprise..

K said...

Oh, ducky -- and what will be his irresponsible campaign promise this go-round?

But, then, I can't help but relish the prospect of a whole bunch of radical-right GOPers thrashing each other in 2009!

Bryan J. Scrafford said...

I might be completely off base here, but I thought you could only serve as Governor for one term?