Richmond has brought in many notable professors from a number of diverse fields that have gained recognition for the university and enhanced the academic experience for the students.
This is because these professors choose to become part of the Richmond family instead of holding an air of superiority over the students and faculty. This was not the case during Tim Kaine's tenure at the university.
Gov. Kaine served Virginia from 2006-2010. When Richmond announced that he was to join the faculty for the spring of 2010 as a professor in the Jepson School of Leadership and the T.C. Williams School of Law, students lined up to register. I have to admit, I was also looking forward to having a former governor on campus. It was a tremendous opportunity for the students to learn from a public figure who served in such a prestigious executive role in our own commonwealth of Virginia.
I hosted a radio show titled, "The Final Countdown" during my junior and senior years on WDCE with three good friends -- Madeline Small, Alex Johnson and Robert Kettlewell. The show was unique in the fact that it was the only talk show on the station. Therefore, an excellent opportunity for us to interview one of our very own esteemed faculty who served as chairmen of the Democratic National Committee.
My initial contact with the governor was on Feb. 14, 2011, when the governor's response to my invitation for him to come on the show was that he would be "Glad to do it," and that his assistant, Sherrie Harrington, would handle the scheduling of the interview. From then on, though, it became a nightmare to nail him down for an interview even though I offered to pre-tape it at his convenience.
The excuses for not appearing ranged from his schedule being ever-changing to numerous condescending emails explaining how "busy Governor Kaine is." It took until Feb. 25 for Ms. Harrington to offer me a date to tape the interview.
Harrington asked that I submit all the questions in advance. I found this request unusual considering none of my guests including President Ed Ayers, Gov. Mitch Daniels, professor Larry Sabatao, or Tucker Carlson, etal. asked for the questions in advance. Nevertheless, I was happy to oblige the request.
The questions ranged from, "Obama said that the deficit commission was 'not just another Washington gimmick,' yet he has yet to act on any of their recommendations. Why are the Democrats and President Obama ignoring the recommendations after praising the commission at first?" to "How do you manage to balance being chairman of the DNC and being a professor of leadership at the University of Richmond?" They were not softballs, nor did they attack him personally or attempt to goad him into a gaffe.
Sherrie Harrington sent a quick and accusatory response:
"The governor is very multifaceted and your interview questions need to reflect that. The majority of your questions are political in nature. You need to include more questions about who Tim Kaine is, not just obvious sound bites from daily headlines. You failed to ask him about the classes he teaches. Since that is your audience, you need to include that ... As a member of the Richmond family, the tone of your questions seems a little harsh. Your questions should be asked in such a way as to present an unbiased viewpoint."
I made some revisions, but was not about to allow Harrington to dictate what questions we asked or tell me what my audience wanted to hear.
We definitely wanted to inquire about the governor's background, but were not interested in softball questions like, "What inspired you to return to the classroom?" or "Favorite color?" or "Boxers or briefs?" Gov. Kaine was chairman of the DNC at this particular time, so of course we wanted the interview to center on current political topics.
The next morning, March 11, 2011, Harrington sent a short email canceling the interview because of a "scheduling conflict." No other explanation was offered. Harrington did not take an active lead in rescheduling the interview, forcing me to once again reach out to her. Harrington was then intentionally slow in responding to my request to reschedule the interview.
Since the governor was supposed to be a member of the Richmond family, should Harrington not have gone out of her way to reschedule the interview? The canceled interview was a month after I initially made contact with the governor, yet Harrington pushed our show to the back of the media requests.
I know for a fact that any other professor at the university would not have done this. We had the privilege of interviewing President Ayers twice, and he went out of his way to accommodate our show. All Richmond professors we contacted were thrilled to contribute to the promotion of WDCE and to encourage students to take an active role in the political process. Apparently, Kaine did not feel the same way.
Harrington put off my request to reschedule the interview until Kaine finally declared that he was going to run for Senate. This enabled her to direct me to the "Kaine for Senate" scheduler. I now had to go through his campaign for an interview, though the governor was a Richmond professor.
Therefore, I took it upon myself to confront Harrington directly in order to ensure that the governor would appear on "The Final Countdown" before the end of the semester. I asked her right off the bat if we could schedule a date, as it had proven difficult to do so over email. She proceeded to tell me that she could not schedule anything until after the governor's trip to China (which he never went on), and she then pointed to a stack of papers on her desk indicating that all these people wanted to get on his schedule and that I would have to wait my turn.
I then expressed my frustration with how difficult it had been to schedule an interview, and that was when she really showed her true colors. She told me that: "This is not a political interview. The governor determines what type of interview it is. You can ask some political questions, but this is not a political interview. The governor determines that, you don't determine that."
I then pressed her on why it was not a "political interview" and she replied that, "I did not say that the governor did not want to have a political interview; I said this is not a political interview." She went on to say, "I [Harrington] had a problem with the tone of your questions and the way that you presented them." She was finally cutting through the smoke and mirrors to explain why she had chosen to stonewall the interview.
She continued: "You don't dictate this interview. We dictate the interview. We dictate how it's going to happen. We dictate that." The problem lay in the fact that Harrington was using her position as Gov. Kaine's assistant as a power grab. She has served on Kaine's staff since he was on the city council in Richmond. The power of the governor's position had clearly gotten to her head.
As I expected, the Governor did not make an appearance on "The Final Countdown." This entire experience reflects poorly on the university, but mostly on Kaine and Sherrie Harrington. Was the governor really trying to avoid a no-name college radio show because he did not want to answer a few tough questions? Did he consider himself above a college radio show, or could he not afford the time for a 15-minute interview?
As for President Ed Ayers, Gov. Mitch Daniels, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, professor Larry Sabato, Mike Barnicle, WSJ editor Stephen Moore, Tucker Carlson, professor Ted Ritter, professor David Kitchen and professor Vincent Wang, they gladly gave their time to give an interview to a small-time radio program because they understood the importance of encouraging college students to take an interest in current events and in the future of the country.
Too bad Gov. Kaine did not make the same choice. Too bad! Gov. Kaine seeks the privilege of representing Virginia in the United States Senate, yet does not care enough to have a dialogue with "The Final Countdown" and its university community. Kaine was hired to teach at the University of Richmond and to bring the school recognition.
It was also to provide a cushy job for his longtime aide, Sherrie Harrington. We need politicians with character who are willing to answer the tough questions and make the difficult decision to represent us in Congress. We need representatives who treat their constituents with respect and decency instead of an air of superiority. I encourage all members of the Richmond family to say "no" to Tim Kaine on Nov. 6.