WASHINGTON: In Virginia, the state’s governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General are mired in controversy. Lt. Governor, Justin Fairfax, has been accused of sexual assault. Governor Northam appeared in blackface as a student. State’s attorney general, Mark Herring, admitted he wore blackface at a college party in 1980.
“It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes — and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others — we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup, Herring said. “This was a onetime occurrence and I accept full responsibility for my conduct.”
Are the actions of Herring and Northam just youthful indiscretion?
For Virginia and Democrats that is an important question. Herring, a Democrat, is third in line to the governor’s office. If Northam, Fairfax, and Herring resign, Kirk Cox, now in the Virginia House of Delegates and a Republican is next in line for the governor’s mansion.
Demands for the governor to resign have come from leading Democrats
Democrat presidential candidates including Kamilia Harris (D-CA), Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) and Julian Castro (D-TX). President Trump has joined this chorus.
Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government. The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 2, 2019
There aren’t two sets of rules for our friends and our foes: Right is right and wrong is wrong. Americans deserve to be respected by their leaders, and racism cannot be excused in our government or anywhere else. Having seen the photo, I believe Governor Northam should resign.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) February 2, 2019
It doesn’t matter if he is a Republican or a Democrat. This behavior was racist and unconscionable. Governor Northam should resign.
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) February 2, 2019
If all three of these Democrats were to resign, the next in line to be governor is a Republican, Gov. Kirk Cox (R). Acting Lt. would be Gov. Steve Newman (R) and a new AG named by GOP legislature.
During the hearings for Brett Kavanagh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, there was much discussion about Justice’s high school yearbook. Questions about messages other teens had written, references to “boofing” and other youthful indiscretions.
In the case of Virginia’s Governor Northam, a pediatric surgeon, Army veteran, and longtime political figure, there is no evidence of racism of any kind.
While his response to the picture on his medical school yearbook page was confused and confusing, no one has accused him of racism at any point in his life.
The same is true for the attorney general and Republican leader in the legislature.
Shall the youthful indiscretion of donning blackface as students, or being involved in it in some way, end the careers of men who have never shown any sign of racial animosity? If so, how many people will decide not to enter political life for fear of something they did, or said, in high school or college coming back to haunt them?
Sadly, political correctness has placed reason aside.
Fortunately, some more sober voices are slowly being heard.
Former Sen Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), who is also, a former vice presidential candidate, says:
“I think, there’s a rush to judgment that is unfair to him (Gov. Northam). One, he says he wasn’t in that picture. Two. I think we ought to, fairly ask him, did he know the picture was on his page of that yearbook. Moreover, then three he ought to be judged on the context of his whole life. I think he deserves a chance to really prove what is his essence, not to, rush him out of office, unfortunately, for political reasons.”
Virginia State Senator Richard H. Stuart, a Republican who is close to Gov. Northam, said:
“No matter the veracity of the picture in question, a man who has devoted his entire life to the service of others should have the opportunity to clear his name. People who have been elected to represent Virginians should have the courage to say what is self-evident to so many people, that poor judgment 34 years ago should not outweigh a selfless service to people from every walk of life.”
Columnist Kathleen Parker, writing in The Washington Post, saw similarities in the challenge to Brett Kavanagh and Ralph Northam:
“…both Northam and Kavanagh were faced with similar decisions, whether to drop out and put an end to the public torture and protect their families or stay the course because surrender would seem an admission of guilt. We know by Northam’s own words that he once played around with blackface, which is disappointing, but does it rise to the level of a firing offense these many years later? For Kavanaugh, dropping out most likely would have meant an end to his judicial career. What would he do with a ruined reputation and the forever suspicion that he was guilty? Kavanagh’s story ended as it should have. By any measure of fairness, Northam deserves a chance to further redeem himself as governor.”
There is, of course, an element of hypocrisy on the part of those calling for Gov. Northam’s resignation.
At the very moment, Senator Elizabeth Warren began demanding that Northam leave office, pictures appeared in newspapers around the country of Warren’s Texas State Bar Association registration. On that card, she clearly lists her race as “American Indian.”
Here is the form Elizabeth Warren filled out for the State Bar of Texas claiming American Indian heritage. pic.twitter.com/VwHifS7BCL
— Amy Gardner (@AmyEGardner) February 6, 2019
Al Sharpton, who led a rally in Richmond demanding Northam’s resignation, initially rose to prominence by falsely charging police officers with racism and sexual assault in the Tawana Brawley case. (Fox Nation: ‘The Mysterious Story of Tawana Brawley’). At the time of their indiscretions, Sharpton and Warren were well beyond their student years.
President Clinton did not face calls for resignation from his party despite his sexual behavior and perjury with the youthful Monica Lewinsky.
Many of the same Democrats who defended Clinton’s behavior now demand Northam’s resignation
Joe Biden, who demanded Northam’scresignation, plagiarized the life and speech of a British Labour Party politician in one of his campaigns. No one demanded his resignation.
There is no place for racism in America. Governor Northam has lost all moral authority and should resign immediately, Justin Fairfax is the leader Virginia needs now.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) February 2, 2019
Comparing Northam, to his Democrat colleagues, Northam’s adult life has none of the kinds of negative behavior to be found in the careers of some of his most vocal critics.
Self-righteousness is now on public display. All of which tells us a great deal about the decline in our political life.
Blackface is offensive and always has been to African Americans.
In the larger society, it was widely promoted as entertainment in, for example, Hollywood and television. A year before Gov. Northam appeared in a dance contest portraying Michael Jackson, Dan Akroyd wore blackface in a scene in the hit movie, “Trading Places” with Eddie Murphy.
In 1980, Neil Diamond darkened his skin for another major film, “The Jazz Singer.”
In the late 2000s comedian, Fred Armison wore facial makeup to portray Barack Obama on Saturday Night Live ( SNL). Also on SNL, Jimmy Fallon portrayed Chris Rock, and Billy Crystal portrayed Sammy Davis, Jr., both in blackface.
Robert Downey, Jr. was nominated for an Academy Award for his blackface role in the 2008 action-comedy “Tropic Thunder.” Joy Behar, Jimmy Kimmel, Ted Danson — good Democrats one and all – have appeared in blackface.
We could fill pages with such examples. Gene Wilder donned blackface in “Silver Streak,” in which he starred with black comedian Richard Pryor. Should all, of these actors lose their current jobs under the label of “racist?”
Common sense seems, slowly, to be emerging. Writing in The Daily Beast, Nicole Russell notes that,
“Holding elected officials, or any grown adult really, to the ‘yearbook standard’ is immature, lacking grace and a sophomoric attempt to equate the behavior of one person three decades ago with their character and behavior now. It’s wrong. Both Democrats and Republicans should not engage in this trivial discourse.”
If we demand “zero tolerance” of youthful indiscretion, only young people who never leave their rooms will qualify. Themistocles told us that, “Wild colts make the best horses.”
Our current atmosphere will guarantee that its opposite dominates our political life. What our current political class has shown a great ability to do is cast the first stone.