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Peter’s Take: Mr. Cuccinelli, Un-ring That Bell

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotVirginia Governor Bob McDonnell belatedly has promised to return gifts he received from a wealthy Virginia businessman — while arguing he did nothing illegal in accepting them.

By contrast, Governor wannabe Ken Cuccinelli insists he has no intention of returning any of the more than $18,000 in gifts he received from the same businessman. Cuccinelli’s “explanation”: the gifts he received (e.g., a catered Thanksgiving dinner, private jet trips, luxury vacation lodging) are the kinds of gifts that literally cannot be returned (unlike McDonnell’s Rolex watch). To quote Cuccinelli, “There are some bells you can’t un-ring”.

Mr. Cuccinelli, don’t insult our intelligence.

You can place a dollar value on every gift you received from businessman Jonnie Williams. You are perfectly capable of writing him a check for the total amount of all those gifts. Your refusal to do so is sending a message to the voters of Virginia about your personal ethical standards. As I have previously written, it’s a disappointing message — a message that says a lot of bad things about you.

Since it is so obvious that your refusal to return your gifts would be contrasted unfavorably with McDonnell’s agreement to return his, why have you taken this stand? Is it because you think you are tougher or smarter than our current Governor? If that’s not the explanation, what is?

Don’t expect us to accept your excuse that “there are some bells you can’t un-ring”. You are trying to sell yourself to Virginia’s voters as a savvy lawyer who knows his way around a courtroom, noting that this experience helps qualify you to be our Governor. For this reason, your striking misuse of the phrase, “there are some bells you can’t un-ring,” is an embarrassment to your candidacy.

That phrase is most appropriately used in a courtroom when information has been given to jurors that they are not supposed to have. After that happens, the judge frequently offers to instruct the jury to disregard the information, but the lawyer for the party that might be harmed if the jury relies on the information often moves for a mistrial on the grounds that “there are some bells you can’t un-ring”.

Mr. Cuccinelli, you don’t seem to be able to use your legal training very well.

Mr. Cuccinelli, get out your checkbook and un-ring that bell.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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