February 4, 2019

Northam Under Fire

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

Gov. Ralph Northam clung to office Sunday amid nearly unanimous calls from his own party to resign over a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook.” AP News

Northam had apologized on Friday, saying he was one of the people shown in the photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook… But on Saturday he said he looked at the photo more carefully and is sure it was not him. In a news conference alongside his wife, Northam said he had made other mistakes, including dressing up in blackface to imitate Michael Jackson in a dance contest around the same time.” Reuters

Both sides condemned Northam’s Saturday press conference:

The press conference “was a tour-de-force of evasive answers, implausible explanations, and cloddish tone-deaf rationalizations. After that performance, not only would most Virginians no longer trust Northam with the governorship, they presumably wouldn’t trust him with a set of matches.” National Review

“It strains credulity that a politician of his agility and experience would admit to something so damning from his past, as he did Friday night, if — as he claimed Saturday — he had no actual recollection that it was in his past. Virginians deserve a governor who has leveled with them not just about his vision but also about his past.” Washington Post

See past issues

From the Left

The left condemns Northam and calls for his resignation.

“If I had ever once painted my face black (or white for that matter) or slipped on a Klan hood for a party, I’d remember. Something tells me the governor does remember that night and he knows exactly which get-up he was wearing. And he knows it’s indefensible.”
Daily Beast

“Not only does Northam seem to want you to believe that Klan hoods and blackface were common and forgettable sights, but that white southerners were too dumb to know that invocations of racial violence could be anything but harmless fun…

“In my 25 years in the [deep South], I saw one person in blackface, and no Klan hoods ever… A Klan hood has always been a Klan hood: It’s meant to terrify and intimidate, to make legible the violence intended by the person wearing it. You’re supposed to remember a Klan hood. Northam, I would expect, remembers too.”
The Atlantic

Northam “has lived admirably: Army doctor treating those wounded in the Persian Gulf War, pediatrician who volunteered at a children’s hospice. But some things should disqualify people from public service — a Nazi salute, sexual assault, preying on children and, yes, dressing as a Klansman or in blackface… This isn’t about politics but about right and wrong.”
Washington Post

“In his opening statement, the governor said, ‘In the place and time where I grew up, many actions that we rightfully recognize as abhorrent today were commonplace,’ as though that time and place were 1884. But to live in this country in this century, and still be talking about white men impersonating black people, is to suspect that it’s probably always 1884 somewhere.”
New York Times

Many point out that “if Northam was that certain of his innocence, why didn’t he say so on Friday?... Either he believed on Friday that he wasn’t in the photo—in which case his Friday statements were false—or he didn’t, in which case his Saturday statement was false… one way or the other, he’s been lying.”
Slate

Minority View: There is a curious dissonance between the message activists are promoting—that an offensive gesture from 35 years ago should permanently end a man’s career in politics—and their campaign around America’s system of mass incarceration. When it comes to criminal-justice reform, progressives are preaching that the aim of the system should be rehabilitation, not punishment… But when it comes to issues of racial offence [much of the left] holds expressions of bigotry to be a sort of permanent stain…

“[They] have decreed that certain forms of emotional offence make someone irredeemable while at the same time demanding mercy for those who have committed felonies… The Left claims to believe in compassion and rehabilitation… [But] the more it demands the personal destruction of individuals… the more hollow these representations appear.”
Quillette

Mark Keam, a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates, states, “Everybody deserves forgiveness… But nobody deserves to be governor.”
New York Times

From the Right

The right condemns the photograph but is divided as to whether Northam should resign.

From the Right

The right condemns the photograph but is divided as to whether Northam should resign.

“In 1984, one of the most popular television shows in America featured a race car with a confederate battle flag on its roof. Just eight years earlier, when Northam was 16, Gene Wilder performed in blackface in the movie ‘Silver Streak.’ In the early 1990s, actor Hugh Laurie appeared in traditional blackface in an episode of ‘Jeeves and Wooster.’ None of this is to excuse Northam’s actions, but rather to put them in relevant context

“I cannot support the idea that this photograph of a 25-year-old Northam, on its own, means he is barred from public service for the rest of his life… As we go forward, everyone under 30 has an archive of material to be searched for destructive incidents. Those without discoverable sin are either lucky or a Luddite. A world in which we seek to destroy anyone who becomes relevant with opposition research is not a world we should seek.”
The Federalist

“Northam has apologized and, to my knowledge, has not operated in a racist fashion in his political career. Let’s not kid ourselves — you knew in the eighties that you shouldn’t do stuff like that… But it was thirty-five years ago and Northam has been in elected office for a decade with no accusations of racism… If one cannot apologize and move on or prove through character growth that one is a better person than they were a decade or more ago, there really is no point in trying to improve.”
The Resurgent

“For Democrats, racism has become the default charge for any GOP policy they dislike on crime, immigration, education, the environment, you name it… Mr. Northam wants Democrats to show mercy now for errors of his youth, but that isn’t the Democratic Party that made him Governor.”
Wall Street Journal

These are the New Puritans we’re dealing with here, people for whom real or perceived racial sins - and they get to determine what those are - are the worst sins ever… When every form of perversion becomes acceptable, liberals must signal their ‘virtue’ by righteously condemning what has now become the gravest of sins. And conservatives, fearing the backlash, more often than not join right in… It’s a new world the New Puritans have created and, Right or Left, we’re all living in it.”
Townhall

Others, however, argue that “racial bigotry and hatred in all forms must be denounced and the principles of liberty, equality, and freedom embraced… Gov. Ralph Northam must resign. Any decision on his part to delay appears to be an act of a man weighing what is best for his political future and not what is best for the people of Virginia and the country.”
Daily Signal

“While Northam may not be the person today that he was as a younger man in 1984, one thing seems clear to his growing chorus of critics: He is spinning the truth about his behavior and choices of 35 years ago… While Gov. Northam cannot be removed from office legally over all of this, however, he already is effectively gone — because he will lack the moral, ethical and political [bona] fides to govern as a result of his own shifting responses to this scandal.”
The Hill

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

Calls for Northam’s resignation are “tarring someone forever… without considering whether he may have developed better judgment and better views from age 25 to age 60. It's rejecting the possibility that people actually get wiser as they get older -- that they grow up -- that they improve their judgments, their beliefs, and their conduct. And it's potentially depriving the nation of many valuable public servants because of a dumb thing they did long ago.”
Volokh Conspiracy

On the bright side...

Robot combines vision and touch to learn the game of Jenga.
Science Daily

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