More than a quarter century ago, our longtime Washington correspondent (and now senior editor) Tom Bethell began bestowing the Strange New Respect Award on once-reliable conservatives who won liberal praise by adopting liberal policies. Of a sudden, an erstwhile Neanderthal would be treated in the Washington Post as someone who was no longer “simplistic” and “shrill” but rather a figure who had “grown” and showed himself to be “nuanced.” In today’s Post we see the dynamic is still in play, except the party in question is said to be “maturing.” The culprit: Virginia House Speaker William Howell, until recently a staunch opponent of new transportation taxes in Virginia but now hinting he could be flexible on that score. The Post tosses numerous bouquets at him.
“As many political observers see it, Howell is maturing into the leadership role he took on four years ago, which could help the speaker boost his influence.”
Once thought “politically aloof and stubborn,” he was now using “gentle persuasion” and “diplomacy” to bring “unruly” Republicans around, a great improvement on his “battered image” owing to his earlier “feuding” with pro-tax hiking Democratic governors and “moderate” Republicans.
In short, as the headline over the jump in today’s Post reads, “Howell Is Maturing, Some Say.”