Should There Be A Political Statute Of Limitations On Acting Like An Idiot?

The cases of Ralph Northam and Mark Herring raise a question of when, if ever, something we did in the past should follow us for the rest of our lives.

Writing in reaction to the news out of Virginia about Governor Ralph Northam, Kathleen Parker at The Washington Post wonders where we draw the line regarding behavior that people engaged in when they were younger:

Given today’s mounting pressure on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to resign because of a photograph in his 1984 medical school yearbook — and last year’s inquisition of Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, which included Senate questioning about his high school yearbook — we clearly have a new exception to certain electability (or, as the case may be, confirmation): “if a yearbook reveals that I was once young and foolish.” Implicit in this new category is that personal evolution isn’t possible and redemption is dead.

Which raises several questions we must ask ourselves: What is the statute of limitations for being an inconsiderate, thoughtless, jerk-goofball-hellraiser? Can a person who misbehaved or acted offensively in high school, college or graduate school ever change? Does having lived an exemplary life as an adult mean anything?

The verdicts in both of these cases were swift and unyielding in the public square, where all accusations seem to be adjudicated these days. Kavanaugh, based largely on a single person’s uncorroborated recollection, was virtually condemned as a would-be rapist. Although ultimately confirmed, he is forevermore besmirched in certain quarters.

Much of what was treated by some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee as the closest thing to evidence against Kavanaugh came from his high school yearbook page. Did he or didn’t he drink a lot of beer? became an essential question of his character among Democrats on the committee. And, in some twist of logic, his answer some 40 years later was supposed to be correlative to his guilt or innocence of sexual assault. Obviously, sexual assault is a horrific crime, but without conclusive evidence or corroborating testimony, there’s no basis for a prosecution.

In Northam’s case, a photo on his personal page in his yearbook featured two individuals — one wearing blackface and the other dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The image isn’t just offensive; it’s appalling. Even way back in 1984, most would have found it so.

Did the young individuals think they were just goofing around? Most likely, but again, the image is too hurtful in the glare of history. Klansmen were and are terrorists who murdered, raped and lynched African Americans and burned communities during a reign of terror that affected multiple generations. Horror, not humor, is the only appropriate response both to this history and to those who would mock it.

Interestingly, both Northam and Kavanaugh 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, again, 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, even at the lower-court level. And then where would he go? What would he do with a ruined reputation and the forever suspicion that he was guilty?

Kavanaugh’s story ended as it should have. By any measure of fairness, Northam deserves a chance to further redeem himself as governor.

National Review’s Rich Lowry raised a similar question on Twitter:

As a preliminary matter, it’s important to get one thing out of the way. Parker is, I think, incorrect to analogize the Northam and Kavanaugh cases in the manner that she does. Northam stands accused of having engaged in behavior that is admittedly deeply racist and offensive, and he has handled it in perhaps the most ham-handed and incompetent manner possible. At the same time, though, while it’s true that wearing blackface or dressing as a member of the Ku Klux Klan are both deeply offensive they are not illegal. Kavanaugh, on the other hand, was accused of having committed what amounts to sexual assault. The fact that it may have occurred many years in the past is largely irrelevant. While both Northam’s behavior when he was 25 and Kavanaugh’s behavior when he was in his late teens was arguably relevant to judging their fitness today, it seems rather obvious that the allegations against Kavanaugh were far more serious and, as I said, potentially criminal. For these same reasons, I am excluding from this discussion the accusations being made against Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Faifax. As with the Kavanaugh charges, if true these rise to the level of serious criminal charges, and the fact that they occurred in the relatively recent past makes them arguably more relevant to judging Lt. Governor Fairfax today than something that happened thirty years ago.

Notwithstanding that point, Parker does raise a legitimate point when it comes to Northam and, as we learned yesterday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who admitted that he had darkened his skin as part of a routine where he imitated 80s rap singer Kurtis Blow.  At some point, we’ve all done things in our past that we would prefer never come to light. People such as James Joyner, Steven Taylor, and myself were lucky enough to grow up before the mobile phone era where it has become a virtual certainty that anything someone does at any given point in time in public can and be photographed or caught on video and shared with a wide group of people many of whom we probably don’t even know. To the extent, there are embarrassing, awkward, or controversial moments in our past they are either recorded in photographs or in the memories of friends and family.

The Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat generation has no such luxury. They’ve grown up in an era where virtually everything can and has been captured and posted online, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not. Imagine being a parent in 20 years and having your kids discover those pictures from Spring Break in Cancun, or that bikini shot you thought only went to a few friends. Better yet, imagine a future employer finding that stuff and how they might react to it. It’s enough to make you want to put the smartphone back in the box and hide in the house, isn’t it?

For better or worse, though, this is the future that we’re faced with and the question that Parker and Lowry raise is going to have to be answered. While some behavior ought to be inexcusable regardless of how long ago it happened, what are we to do with those things we did in our misspent youths that come back to haunt us when we’re 59, as Ralph Northam is, or 57, as Mark Herring is? Does there come a point at which what someone did as a teenager or in the early 20s becomes something that ought to be forgotten unless there’s evidence that it somehow reflects on the person they are a quarter-century later? What kind of behavior is forgivable and what is unforgivable?

I can’t say I have answers to all of these questions, and I’m not sure how they should apply in the world of politics, but it’s clearly time that we started trying to answer them.

FILED UNDER: Society, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s the year 2040 and most Americans are either vegetarian or Vegan. Polls show 60% support for the proposition that ‘meat is murder.’ A photo appears of a candidate eating a hamburger in 2019.

    It’s the year 2040 and attitudes toward pet-owning have shifted. It’s now seen as a form of abuse, keeping cats indoors, restraining dogs on leashes, caging birds. A photo appears of a candidate dressing a cat in a Halloween costume.

    Mores change. Society evolves. There has to be some kind of sliding scale applied here.

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  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    raise a question of when, if ever, something we did in the past should follow us for the rest of our lives.

    As soon as Republicans stop insisting that one mistake must follow a woman for the rest of her life…then we can talk about racist nonsense like black face.

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  3. @Michael Reynolds:

    This is in part what I’m thinking. Although I would note that wearing blackface and donning Klan garb were not morally acceptable in the mid-1980s either. Although it was apparently more common than some of us realized. One journalist on Twitter posted screenshots yesterday of a mid-80s yearbook from the University of North Carolina. The amount of Klan and Confederacy related stuff in there, especially on the pages devoted to specific fraternities, was pretty shocking to be honest.

  4. reid says:

    Good question. I’ve evolved into a pretty liberal-minded person over the years (50 years old now). I had a slight libertarian phase in my late teens. I hung out with people over the years who were conservative, so I was a bit, too. I also engaged in stupid shock “humor” at times. I didn’t do anything so crazy as dress up in blackface or KKK robes, but I grew up in the north; maybe if I lived in Virginia it’d be a different story. (I hope I would be better than that.) So this talk of “he was 25 and should’ve known better” is a little wrong, to me. We don’t magically become “woke” adults at 18 or 21. We change throughout our lives.

    I (and others) tried to discuss this on facebook and was roundly scolded by liberal co-friends.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    The KKK and blackface stuff is absolutely vile. The AG going blackface to honor (in his mind at least) a rapper he liked does not sink to that level, at least not from what we know right now.

    The bigger problem is the vice governor, Fairfax. I read the accuser’s complaint. It is at very least credible if not dispositive. Stupid’s one thing, shoving a woman’s head down on your dick is a felony.

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  6. @Michael Reynolds:

    This is why I said we need to leave the Kavanaugh and Fairfax cases out of the discussion when talking about this. Those are different animals from just acting like an idiot.

    In Kavanaugh’s case, the part of the story that would be relevant here would be the beer drinking. Heck, I drank beer (and more) before I was 21, although not to excess. Ooops, I guess I can’t be Governor now.

  7. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It would be hard to find a teenaged boy who didn’t drink beer at some point.

  8. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    By 2040 meat will be grown in factory labs from cultured cells, and freely consumed by all.

    The hamburger bun, though, mocks those with gluten sensitivity.

    BTW, all my dogs, and my one cat, never wore a collar indoors. So I’m good 🙂

  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    Did the young individuals think they were just goofing around?

    That’s the thing. They weren’t just goofing around. This was about the fraternities (the white, privileged, male students of the university) publicly expressing their dominance over the minority students at the institution by publicly demonstrating that could openly humiliate them and not only were they not punished, the university actually supported them in their efforts.

    That’s why they can’t be forgiven now: because they still refuse to own up to what it was they actually did. How can they be forgiven, when they haven’t even repented?

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  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    There’s a big difference between drink a beer underaged and routinely getting blackout drunk for days at a time.

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  11. @Stormy Dragon:

    There are a lot of people who had drinking problems in their past, should we hold that against them forever?

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  12. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Compare George W. Bush, who admits he had a drinking problem, got treatment, and no longer drinks vs Kavanaugh, who denies he ever had one and get enraged at anyone who suggests it.

    Again, the issue is that you can’t be forgiven for something that you haven’t actually repented.

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  13. James Pearce says:

    @reid:

    I (and others) tried to discuss this on facebook and was roundly scolded by liberal co-friends.

    Shocking. Progressives (are they really “liberals?”) do not seem to appreciate how they have become the 21st Century version of the evangelical moralists from my youth.

    As in, “How can they be forgiven, when they haven’t even repented?” At least the evangelicals have a guidebook to consult!

    As to this question:

    What kind of behavior is forgivable and what is unforgivable?

    This is my answer: Mass murder is unforgivable. Everything else….well, I believe in clemency.

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  14. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Pearce:

    As in, “How can they be forgiven, when they haven’t even repented?” At least the evangelicals have a guidebook to consult!

    I’m a progressive now? LOL

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  15. MarkedMan says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    How can they be forgiven, when they haven’t even repented?

    I don’t understand this. Hasn’t both the Governor and the AG come forward and expressed their regret, numerous times? You can argue that their apologies don’t matter, but to pretend they didn’t apologize is disingenuous.

  16. @Stormy Dragon:

    Unless you have evidence that Kavanaugh drinking beer has an impact on his performance as a Judge I don’t see how what happened when he was in Prep School and college is relevant today.

  17. Michele says:

    For the record, the WaPo editorialist, Kathleen Parker, is a she and not a he.

  18. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    @Doug Mataconis:

    I think context is the key as well as whether the idiocy is mean-spirited.

    All young adults are, by default, ignorant; and most are also idiots.

    Obviously, another factor is time-frame in which the idiocy occurred.

    I was in college in 1984 and knew that blackface was very, very bad, but I lived in the north and thus realized that treason in support of slavery was a morally bad position.

    You could argue that blackface in the old confederacy states in 1984 was simple young person idiocy:

    Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who admitted that he had darkened his skin as part of a routine where he imitated 80s rap singer Kurtis Blow.

    At least Herring had good taste – Kurtis Blow was fairly awesome. Too disco-ey for my taste, but still a solid guy and a godfather of the genre – a lot of stuff from that Sugarhill Gang era had that disco backbone. It took Grandmaster Flash to alter that cycle.

    Kurtis Blow – The Breaks (1980)
    https://youtu.be/FcLITA7Ugw0

    If his imitation was genuine and fannish and not mean-spirited, I would potentially forgive that. But still, this is well into the time when blackface should be understood as offensive and demeaning. It utterly depends on Herring’s intent and take.

    Also, naive and ignorant proto-politicians should understand zeitgeist and future history. No proto-politician should be in the same room as someone doing blackface in 1984, let alone being the one doing it. You need to understand and act as if future audiences are going to judge your choices.

    Northam was 25 and a medical student. He has utterly no excuse. Bye now, please shuffle off the stage if you could be so kind, thank you very much for damaging the brand, you grasping simpleton.

    As to Fairfax: if the allegations are true, he needs to go immediately to jail. There is no / none “young idiot” defense for sexual violence ever.

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  19. MarkedMan says:

    Slightly tangential: these episodes have crystalized my thinking about certain organizations. I’ve always been viscerally repulsed by the very idea of a fraternity or sorority. The Mormon faith has always creeped me out in a way that, say, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have not. I grew up in the Catholic Church and am well aware of its horrible faults, but insider groups like Opus Dei immediately set off warning bells. And, as different as these groups seem to be, the negative reaction I have is somehow the same. Bottom line, if a group has secrecy as part of its fundamental makeup, it is best to stay away from them. No matter the good intentions they may have started with, they will attract people who need secrecy for other reasons, and they will subvert and take over. And one of the oldest ways to guarantee that everyone is equally invested in the secrecy is to coerce new or reluctant members into actions they know, at some level, to be wrong.

  20. de stijl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Heck, I drank beer (and more) before I was 21, although not to excess.

    I drank beer to excess and beyond before, during, and after I was 21. Along with a whole boat load of other intoxicants of various sorts and effects. Also, to utter excess.

    That really, is not the problem with Kavanaugh. In fact, I totally approve of youthful exuberance and experimentation. I don’t really trust someone who didn’t, frankly.

    Exuberance does *not* extend to sexual coercion or violence. That is never okay ever.

    The problem our lot has with Kavanaugh is not beer consumption.

  21. James Pearce says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I’m a progressive now? LOL

    Evangelical moralist, progressive….Hard to tell the difference these days. But do you, dude.

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  22. de stijl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    This was about the fraternities (the white, privileged, male students of the university) publicly expressing their dominance over the minority students at the institution by publicly demonstrating that could openly humiliate them and not only were they not punished, the university actually supported them in their efforts.

    Being a member of a college fraternity is not, in and of itself, damning or even bad.

    It depends on the behavior.

  23. @de stijl:

    Again, this is why I am not including the allegations against Kavanaugh and Lt. Governor Fairfax in the discussion. They rise to a different level due to their seriousness.

  24. @de stijl:

    I largely agree with your points.

  25. @Michele:

    Yes, I fixed that

  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @de stijl:
    Ditto here re: excesses and I have to add crime to the drugs and booze and whatnot. Then again, I’m not asking for anyone’s vote. In fact I keep my distance from campaigns, not wanting to get my stink on people I support. Running for office isn’t for everyone, unless you’re a member of the Republican party where no standards beyond whiteness are relevant.

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  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I can’t say I have answers to all of these questions, and I’m not sure how they should apply in the world of politics, but it’s clearly time that we started trying to answer them.

    I would say that is exactly what society is trying to do and as always we are probably doing it the worst way possible. It’s gonna take a few years to sort this out and even then it’s gonna be fluid and messy.

  28. Stormy Dragon says:

    @de stijl:

    Being a member of a college fraternity is not, in and of itself, damning or even bad.

    No, but Fraternities are very much part of the establishment.

    The fact there were so many yearbook photos of fraternities do they exact same “goofing off” demonstrates who it wasn’t just random kids organically doing stupid things, but rather an expression of the systemic racism inherent in the institution. It’s basically the modern equivalent of the kryptes terrorizing the helots.

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  29. Paul L. says:

    “Should There Be A Political Statute Of Limitations On Acting Like An Idiot?”
    Only for Democrats.

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  30. DrDaveT says:

    Yet again, quoting from a previous article’s comment thread:

    Because (again) what requires Northam to step down is his behavior after the photograph became public, not the actions depicted in the photograph. I had thought we had established this beyond question in the previous threads about Northam (and Kavanaugh).

    It is possible to have been an idiot (moral or otherwise) in the past, and get over it, and be qualified for public service. Northam’s actions show that, even if he (hypothetically) has long since repudiated racism and racist behaviors, he hasn’t yet overcome other disqualifying idiocies.

    Neither James nor Doug responded substantively to this (oft repeated in various forms) bit of nuance in the previous threads, and now James has again (on the coattails of Kathleen Parker at WAPO) zoomed in to focus on the wrong question. While there might be academic interest in what the moral statute of limitations ought to be on various past offenses, only the most fatuous of observers have thought it was the key issue in the case of Kavanaugh, or Northam, or any of the other exposé targets.

    You cannot separate the question “what should be our attitude toward Person X having done Y, Z years ago?” from “what have they done in the meantime, and what do they have to say now about what they did then?”.

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  31. Slugger says:

    I believe in repentance and forgiveness. However, I think we should set high standards for our leaders, higher standards than for regular citizens. It is one thing for someone to want to sell you an insurance policy, and it is another thing for them to seek high elected office. The sexual thing is too creepy for ordinary forgiveness; it sounds like a crime to me. The KKK is a terrorist organization, and supporting it out of ignorance is forgivable for an ordinary citizen but not a governor. I would not be entirely comfortable having an MD who did such things. I believe that a leopard can change his spots, but it is hard to do and actually uncommon.

  32. KM says:

    Should There Be A Political Statute Of Limitations On Acting Like An Idiot?

    Better question: Who Gets to Decide What That Limitation Should Be?

    What I’m finding interesting about this whole affair is *who* exactly is asking if there should a statue of limitation and it is almost without fail the white, male, middle-to-upper class pundits chiming in that yeah, we should give folks a pass on their past. Not really seeing a lot of the people to whom this would be consider offensive (minorities for the blackface cases, women for Fairfax and Kav) being the ones asking for a pass on “young and dumb”.

    Because “acting like an idiot” in this case is usually their realm to begin with – if you’re poor, a minority, female or disadvantaged in some way, you don’t get the second chance a lot of y’all are pondering. “Acting like an idiot” when black tends to get you sent to jail or worse. If you’re poor, it kills whatever chance you had at a better life before people can ponder how unfair it all is (you also tend to do jail time too). This ability to make mistakes and then decades after getting a pass on them getting *another* pass is privilege as Stormy pointed out. The haves want to give themselves an out and will push for behavior deemed unacceptable in other groups to be viewed with compassion within their own.

    Test case: video of a potential rags-to-riches candidate doing meth pops up. Do they get a pass with “young and dumb” or “that’s just what the kids did back then”? Of course not! Meth gains no friendly voters. He’s done even if he’s reformed

    Test case: video of a potential rich scion abusing opioids not prescribed to him in his dorm room with his frat boys pops up? Does he get a pass? Nowadays, he’s probably get a sympathy vote even if he “still has issues at times”

    I’m not against forgiveness for past mistakes. I’m against this push for certain things to just be let go because that urge is not universal and is almost solely directed towards not ruining certain men’s careers. It really feels like a social CYA rather then a real plea for change.

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  33. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Hasn’t both the Governor and the AG come forward and expressed their regret, numerous times?

    Not exactly, in Northam’s case. He started with an apology, then decided to claim that he had apologized prematurely because it wasn’t him in the picture, then walked that back to a semi-apology that left people confused about exactly what he was claiming, while admitting to having dressed in blackface at some other time, etc.

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  34. @DrDaveT:

    I think the question of “what requires Northam to step down” depends on who you ask. The vast majority of Virginia Democrats, for example, were calling on him to step down before that train wreck of a Saturday press conference so they were saying that the mere fact that the photograph had appeared on his yearbook page and that he apparently acknowledged that one of them was him in a written statement rather than on how he handled it from Saturday forward.

    I tend to think Northam does need to step down, largely because I think he’s basically lost his credibility as Governor and that the Commonwealth can’t afford to be effectively leaderless for the next two years. The subsequent allegations against the Lt. Governor, as well as the admission by the Attorney General, make that situation more complicated but I think the issue remains the same.

    As for the rest of your point, I can’t say I know enough about Northam as either politician or a person to know if he has redeemed himself from what happened in 1984. The same goes for Herring.

    (Again, the Fairfax allegations are of a different variety. They need to be taken seriously. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the statute of limitations on sexual assault in Massachusetts, where the Fairfax incident allegedly took place, is 15 years. The 2004 Democratic National Convention was held in Boston in late July. This means that, at least theoretically, Fairfax could still be subjected to criminal prosecution.)

  35. HelloWorld! says:

    It would have to be 5 minutes or no one would be eligible for office.

  36. de stijl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The fact there were so many yearbook photos of fraternities do they exact same “goofing off” demonstrates who it wasn’t just random kids organically doing stupid things, but rather an expression of the systemic racism inherent in the institution.

    Okay. I get your point, but I think you’re going too broad here. Fraternities are not inherently bad. But a large amount of bad behavior occurs there and is implicitly ignored by or endorsed by craven members.

    Fraternities are very much part of the establishment

    That is granting them and giving them way too much power. It’s essentially true for Harvard, Yale, and a very, very small handful of other schools, but in other areas, it might grant you a probationary sales job at the Big Jim’s Auto Emporium. Stress on the probationary. You may get a foothold, but you better damn well sell those Nissan Pathfinders above quota or you are out on your butt, SAE brother or not.

    The Regional Sales Manager is more “Establishment” and has a ton more power than a secret handshake.

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  37. Stormy Dragon says:

    @de stijl:

    To quote the New York Times:

    Fraternity men represent a very small percentage, only 2% of the male population in the United States. However, that 2% is a very powerful group of individuals. Fraternity men have gone on to hold many of the top positions in our nation, from the business world to the political arena.

    Approximately 80% of the top executives of Fortune 500 companies are fraternity men. 76% of current United States Senators and Congressmen are fraternity men. 100 of 158 cabinet members since 1900 have been fraternity men. 40 of 47 Supreme Court Justices since 1910 have been fraternity men All but two United States Presidents since 1825 have been fraternity men.

    And in this case, those fraternities led to being the governor and AG of Virginia.

  38. Stormy Dragon says:

    @de stijl:

    Put another way, you’re right that Regional Sales Manager has more power, but the secret handshake is what gets you to the front of the line of consideration for Regional Sales Manager

    In southern parlance, being in the fraternity helps prove Northam is “bona fide”.

  39. Stormy Dragon says:

    UPDATE: Turns out Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment has a blackface yearbook issue now too.

  40. de stijl says:

    @KM:

    “Young and Dumb” gets you a pass or two, sometimes three if you’re white. Class does count in the equation. Otherwise, you’re deemed a thug and treated as such. Young bucks and los hermanos feroz do not get second chances from police or prosecutors.

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  41. de stijl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I may have to re-think my position. You’re making a very good case.

    I see fraternity bro’s as doofy ineffectual simpletons based on my experience and my geography. I might be wrong.

  42. Stormy Dragon says:

    @de stijl:

    I see fraternity bro’s as doofy ineffectual simpletons

    Well there are. They’re just ones who have made it through the first filter on the way to being doofy powerful simpletons. =)

  43. MarkedMan says:

    @KM:

    Test case:

    So, speaking for myself, a) I don’t see much inherent differences between your 2 examples, and b) there isn’t enough information in either example to judge whether that person is capable for the job. How long ago was it? What have they done since? Where they recreational users or addicts?

  44. de stijl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    UPDATE: Turns out Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment has a blackface yearbook issue now too.

    Seriously, at this point you kind of have to blame the culture.

    Three of the top four VA pols did blackface. That is indicative of a problematic culture that condones and endorses these behaviors. Outside of contextual fan-based explanations a la Herring (potentially), the sheer amount of blackface is super troubling.

  45. Teve says:

    @de stijl: Xeni Jardin has been on Twitter for the last several days explaining that she grew up in Virginia in the 70s and 80s, it was racist as fuck, and she got her broke ass to California as soon as she possibly could, by hitchhiking.

  46. de stijl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    My “doofy ineffectual simpletons”

    vs. your

    “doofy powerful simpletons”

    Well done. Nice contrast and you bent my words back on myself. That deserves a tip of the hat.

    And you made a hell of a factual case above of which I was ignorant.

    You win the day.

  47. gVOR08 says:

    I doubt Kathleen Parker adds much heft to any discussion. I read some of the comments on her piece. The comments are better.

    Among other things, the WAPO commenters raise what I think is a very relevant difference in circumstances between Northam and Kavanaugh, that Parker kind of skipped over. Northam is the duly elected Governor of VA. Kavanaugh was in the middle of a hiring process in which Senators could reject him for any reason they felt like. (Not mentioned in comments, as far as I have read, is that governors of VA can’t serve consecutive terms. Northam’s gone in two years whatever happens. Kavanaugh, we’re stuck with for life.)

    I don’t have any dog in this fight nor any strong opinions. My initial reaction was that the pendulum, after being held way right forever, has swung too far left, but some overshoot is pretty inevitable, and Northam, fairly or not, should step down. Since, partly because of Doug’s thoughtful piece a few days ago, I’ve felt Northam seems inept, and a little confused. But it’s not my impression he’s lied or otherwise compounded the original sin with sins in the present. While Kavanaugh appears to have lied like a rug and confirmed every impression that he’s s a partisan hack. Bottom line, bad things happen to good people all the time, but much less often to elite, white, frat boys. I can live with whichever way the Northam situation goes.

  48. MarkedMan says:

    @KM: Yes, I’m a white male in the upper middle income bracket. Here’s my opinions anyway. If you chose to discount them because of my gender, race or income bracket, well, it’s a free country.

    Northam – If he was lying when he changed his story about being int he picture, then he should resign. Lying today is fatal and we don’t need to look further. If it wasn’t him in the picture but he did go to a costume party as a rapper 35 years ago, then we should take a close look at his intervening years to see if this was an ongoing pattern of disrespect and racism. If not, then he should stay in.

    Justice – If he assaulted a woman 15 years ago and never owned up to it and tried to make reparations then it is immediately disqualifying. Right now we have a he said / she said situation, and the stories aren’t even mutually exclusive. He might have thought he was coaxing her in a consensual sexual situation and she might have felt pushed into doing something she didn’t want to do. Did she tell him that at the time? Did she tell him afterward? If so, how did he react? Absent this information, is this a pattern? What has been his behavior since? Are there other women he have similar stories?

    Kavanaugh – Whatever actually happened when he was sixteen, he flagrantly lied during his nomination. He should never have gotten the job and he should be impeached and removed.

    Warren – The Indian descent story is ridiculous. This is the equivalent of Swift Boating. It’s a garbage “charge”, and she has been straightforward about it since it surfaced. The reality is that there is no legal standard whatsoever for checking a race box on a form. None. There is no percentage of ancestry or proof required. In her case, there was a family story that a great-great-great had been ostracized from their family because the person they married had “Indian blood”. She internalized that story and made it part of her own. Since then she became aware that people whose present day lives are shaped significantly by being of North American aboriginal descent resent people “playing at being Indians”, so she has dropped it and repeatedly apologized. It should be the end of the story.

  49. Pete S says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I assume that despite being a Republican this could be problematic for Mr Norment within his party, if he didn’t warn them before they started running their mouths that this type of personal history is truly bipartisan in the state of Virginia.

    I also assume that this puts an end to resignations. I don’t see how the 2 Democrats can resign and assume that when his turn comes assume that Norment will do so too.

    @de stijl:

    Seriously, at this point you kind of have to blame the culture.

    Three of the top four VA pols did blackface. That is indicative of a problematic culture that condones and endorses these behaviors. Outside of contextual fan-based explanations a la Herring (potentially), the sheer amount of blackface is super troubling.

    When the Northam picture first appeared we saw some criticisms of the opposition research done during the primaries and general election. Is it safe to assume at this point that the picture was found but written off by the campaigns as “no big deal, this is Virginia?”

  50. KM says:

    @MarkedMan :
    Reasonable questions. Hmm, for the thought experiment…..

    Meth user – was sporadic and peer-pressure based. Let’s say, only when hanging out with his crowd (somewhat unrealistic but I’m making a point) but there’s photographic / video evidence because it was funny to take that pic then. Went clean years ago due to health issues but it’s getting dragged up because his opposition is trying to paint him as “white trash that never got out of the trailer park” while running for well-to-do district. Is genuinely ashamed of their previous life choice. Chances of relapse: as close to zero as possible

    Opioid user – for fun and because that’s what you did in their circle. Never any injury or condition to warrant it, solely recreational. Had the help source it for them and may have been douchey enough to turn them in to CYA. “Can stop whenever I want!” but in reality has become a problem. If he’s stopped, it wasn’t by choice. Puts on a good public face though and proclaims this was a “youthful indiscretion”. Pissed this is being brought up and rages about a smear campaign on all the talk shows. Chances of relapse: good to high

    Now, in this case I’ve tried to make the meth user the clearly more sympathetic one and the one who’s trying to turn their lives around. However, in real life the stigma of meth use is extremely tied to class. He’s going to be viewed far more negatively then the opioid abuser, especially in the current “crisis” climate. See, you’d think “young and dumb” would cover the meth user but good money says he’s going to get hit with all the negativity associated with the drug he used while the more serious abuser gets the soft touch and “acting like an idiot shouldn’t be held against you.”

    My point is we trot this whole “let’s just forgive because it’s socially inconvenient not to” for the dominant social class only. The reason we’re seeing all of the top VA leadership – GOP and Dem – having all this dirty laundry suddenly get aired is become they all basically come from the same socio-economic place. It’s no surprise the outlier problem is Fairfax but even that problem’s one that gets consistently swept under the rug for powerful men. Fish in a tainted pool and don’t be surprised your catch is poisoned.

  51. gVOR08 says:

    @gVOR08:

    Since, partly because of Doug’s thoughtful piece a few days ago,

    Sorry, Jame’s piece.

  52. de stijl says:

    @KM:

    the thought experiment

    I can’t really criticize a thought experiment. You get to establish the premise.

    However, most prolonged drug abuse and addiction is the result of trauma and not youthful exuberance gone wrong or too far. Competently reared, relatively well-adjusted kids can easily become addicts, but it is much more likely that physically and sexually abused kids will become so.

    Oblivion is a state of being that is very attractive when you have a lot to try to forget.

    Oblivion requires chemicals. Chemicals beget dependence. And then addiction if the brain is wired that way and is fed properly.

    A shockingly large amount of drug abuse and addiction is best understood as a side-effect of childhood physical and/or sexual abuse.

    I understand that many addicts were not abused as kids. But, the number of child abuse victims that later become addicts is astonishing.

  53. MarkedMan says:

    @KM: You’re cheating a bit here, as you are allowing us to see inside their minds. But in a real life situation, we can’t. We only see what is on the surface. And that is the dilemma of human justice. In most situations we cannot know what really happened and we don’t get a view into what they were thinking then or now. There is no “Regret-O-Meter” we can hook them up to in order to measure contrition. So we have to decide what we consider proof enough.

    The incident with Justice is an example of this type of dilemma. My daughter has argued that women don’t lie about this. I agree this far: women almost never lie about this. But I personally know one case where a woman absolutely lied about abuse by a boyfriend (Her roommate came home to find her sobbing on the couch because her ex-boyfriend had just tried to break down the door and come after her. The roommate immediately confronted a family member of the ex-boyfriend, only to find that the ex-boyfriend was 1500 miles away.)

    And this weekend I talked to someone who I’ve known my whole life. She repeated a story from her college days, but this time it was substantially changed. 40 years ago she shared a house with a bunch of other college students, all women. There was a serial rapist operating in the area, and she had a cautionary experience that involved her being the only one home during the holidays and having a serious fright when a roommate unexpectedly returned. The rapist was subsequently caught just a few blocks over. Except when she told the story this time, the rapist was actually caught in the house she lived in, but after she had moved out. I know this person well. She wasn’t telling me a lie or exaggerating. She now remembers this is how it happened. And it is consistent with other things in her life that traumatized her or upset her. As the years go by her remembrance of a number of incidents gets more dramatic and traumatizing.)

    So these are the things that go through my mind when I hear such charges. My reaction is to believe the women. But I also wonder if there could be more to the story. Sometimes there isn’t, for example, Harvey Weinstein, where the proof is overwhelming and consistent. And sometimes it’s murkier. And I realize this can be in the eye of the beholder. The same daughter who told me that women never lie about these things then later mentioned that she thought Woody Allen might be innocent of the abuse charges. (She’s a film student and I think that might influence her.). My initial reaction was “no way”, but now she’s put a sliver of doubt in my mind, at least about the specific abuse charges against Mia Farrow’s daughter. (Just a sliver.) But that doesn’t change the fact that he is a loathsome, disgusting, morally bankrupt man based on what is simply in the public record.

  54. Paul L. says:

    @Teve:
    Ever notice that Xeni Jardin, Melissa Click, Elizabeth Warren and Christine Blasey Ford all sound alike.

    Progressives should have defended Melissa Click the same way that the Trumpers defended the Covington Catholic high school MAGA smirker from Progressives and Never Trumpers.

  55. de stijl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    It’s totally okay to despise Woody Allen. He married his wife’s adopted child. Even if the sexual abuse allegations are utter fabrications, he is demonstrably a very bad person.

    Plus, and this is just me, he makes terrible unbelievable movies that make no rational narrative sense whatsoever.

    If your daughter is now semi-Team Woody, that’s fine. Just shut your mouth for now. Let it play out.

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  56. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    I was stupid enough to say this:

    Three of the top four VA pols did blackface.

    The fourth person is actually black.

    I’m an idiot.

  57. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    It’s the year 2040 and attitudes toward pet-owning have shifted. It’s now seen as a form of abuse, keeping cats indoors, restraining dogs on leashes, caging birds. A photo appears of a candidate dressing a cat in a Halloween costume.

    Interesting idea, but people, and particularly American people, are not likely to ever be willing to give up the opportunity to control the lives, lifestyles, and actions of others wherever those opportunities exist. Abolition was an anomaly, not a sign of intellectual, spiritual, or moral growth; we simply boarded the train later, it isn’t SRO yet.

  58. grumpy realist says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Also, a lot of dogs are like toddlers, very eager to dash out into traffic after something that has caught their interest and with NO sense of danger.

    Dogs with a strong prey drive are especially prone to this. There’s a reason I kept mine on a leash most of the time….

    (I’m also in favour of putting toddlers in harnesses and linking them to their parents if they’re out walking around in public in a semi-crowded area. Far too easy for a toddler to disappear by accident.)

  59. the Q says:

    Just waiting till pics of public officials in Boy Scout uniforms from the 60s or 70s results in humiliation for being part of a national homophobic group of white male cultural elitists.

    If one can turn Mary Poppins into a racist caricature, make no mistake, this one with the Boy Scouts is right around the corner.

    Lets take it one step further, in 30 years anyone against gay marriage the last century will have their statues toppled and their names disgraced as close minded homophobes. We blanch today at Lincoln’s quotes about the future of ex slaves in the U.S. We cringe at our founder’s slave owning. We will wonder why the gay hate of the late 20th century?

    Like I said in another post, there is a HUGE difference in a now liberal Dem posing in a KKK robe 35 years ago as a joke in a yearbook , versus a conservative Republican dressed in the same attire in front of a burning cross. Same outfit, completely different context. Yet, we fail this distinction. I don’t think the Dem should resign if on balance his/her life’s work has been to support equality vis-a-vis the wingnut’s continued racism. Yet we insist the punishment be the same. Equating Franken with Roy Moore.

    I hope Northam sticks to his guns and fights the Maoists. Lets save our outrage for the true enemies – wingnut extremists, not our own.

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  60. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Slugger:

    It is one thing for someone to want to sell you an insurance policy, and it is another thing for them to seek high elected office.

    Again as with Michael’s comment above, I’m not sure that I agree. When I am buying insurance, the factors that I need to consider are involved with the policy meeting my needs. As to which agent to pick, I’m not sure that I care–which may explain why I buy my auto insurance and health insurance on line. Same with politicians. We should be choosing people who will act in the interests of the constituencies they represent. I stopped voting when absentee ballot issues involving the unreliability of mail service in Korea emerged. I’ve continued to not vote because it’s easy and I keep asking myself–although less on the city/county level–“where is ‘none of the above when we need him so desparately.'” Back in the day when I did still vote, I tried to assess who I thought would be most likely to hold to an agenda that would bring the best results to the nation (which probably explains at least partially why I always voted third party candidates even though I knew I was “throwing my vote away”). What Candidate X did in college is not something I care much about (again, criminal activity adds an additional issue) compared to where Candidate X stands now and what he or she is going to do when elected. I expect people to be venal and self-serving and have low character, but I care more about how they will do the job and, in fact, am willing to overlook small graft, spoils system decisions, picayune patronage, and other faults of “the swamp” if the overall result is government that responds to the needs of the locality/state/nation well.

    BTW, this is not what we happen to be voting in overall, and the importance of electing “a good person” as President/Governor is that such a person will be able to offset the effects of an incompetent Congress/State Legislature. Over my life time Obama was such a person, but the rest of the gang seems to have been, in the words of a late and lamented friend of mine “a parade of doofuses, each one more hapless than the one before.” My hope would be that with Trump with had reached the hapless doofus nadir, but it seems the GOP sees itself as the Marianas Trench of doofusissity, so I expect to be wondering where “none of the above” is again in 2020.

    The nation seems bent on making sure that “Character Matters” (a phrase originated by Rush Limbaugh IIRC) so be careful what you wish for. At this moment, I would also advise the good citizens of Virginia to be careful not to follow in my footsteps and make perfection the enemy of good, but it’s not my state, so they can pick their own poison. And of course, everyone is free to note, and discount, my post as the trolling of some ignint cracker who doesn’t even vote.

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  61. Teve says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: it’s an interesting thought experiment, but what makes it not really analogous to this blackface situation is that even if attitudes were to change tomorrow, in 2040 most living Americans would have eaten meat and had pets. It is not the case that most living Americans today were participating in black face a few years ago.

  62. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: It’s possible that both Stormy and you are correct and looking at different facets of the same gem. Consider that “top positions” overall are as rare as professional sports Hall of Famers. Now add Arthur Ashe’s observation that a significant problem with our honoring of aptitude in athletics was that we end up training “thousands of kids for dozens of job openings.” Is it possible that the Greek system has a similar scale of participants to opportunity? Stormy is noting that the myth of “meritocracy” (i.e. that anyone with spunk and ability can achieve great things) is, simply put, a myth–the fact that it sometimes happens is the work of fortune, not spunk and ability. You are noting that being a Greek doesn’t “guarantee” anything (except of course when it does) because there are more Greeks out there than there are opportunities. Both of you can be right at the same time.

  63. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    @de stijl:

    Three of the top four VA pols did blackface.

    Three out of three. The fourth is black already.

  64. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The reality is that there is no legal standard whatsoever for checking a race box on a form. None.

    I would say “yes, but…” on that statement. Partly because checking the box as Native American is at least indirectly implying ability to register as a member of a tribe. Membership in a tribe does have a “legal” standard in that in order to register as a tribal member, one must meet the heritage standard of the tribe in question. You can’t simply go to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and register, you have to offer proof. The link below explains the details, which are pretty complex–starting at 50% (one parent).

    Ironically, Senator Warren appears to meet the requirements for the Cherokee Tribe, which only requires lineal descent. Her grandmother was Cherokee? She’s in.

    link

  65. Teve says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Stormy is noting that the myth of “meritocracy” (i.e. that anyone with spunk and ability can achieve great things) is, simply put, a myth–the fact that it sometimes happens is the work of fortune, not spunk and ability.

    who was it that said graveyards are full of indispensable men?

    If there’d been no Michael Jordan, there still would have been NBA championships. If there’d been no JK Rowling, there still would have been New York times best sellers. If there’d been no Jeff Bezos, there still would be gigantic internet retailers.

    Do you know why you know Alexander Graham Bell’s name? Because he beat the other guy to the patent office by a few hours. That’s it.

  66. An Interested Party says:

    At least the evangelicals have a guidebook to consult!

    I doubt if there’s anything in that guidebook that explains to them how to be such raging hypocrites when it comes to supporting Trump…oh wait, there is something in there talking about being judged by the company you keep…

    I hope Northam sticks to his guns and fights the Maoists. Lets save our outrage for the true enemies – wingnut extremists, not our own.

    Once again you are saying that going around in blackface is no big deal…if that doesn’t deserve outrage, than nothing does…

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  67. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: When I was in college, there was a day care center across the street from our campus and the children used to come and play in our quad and on the lawn next to the student union. There were about 10 or so of them and when I saw them I thought it was clever that the staff had decided to have them cross the not particularly busy street (but still an arterial with a 35 m.p.h. speed limit) holding a rope that was tied around the waist of the lead child with the other end looped over the wrist of the last child. They looked cute crossing the street all holding onto the rope. I thought they looked a little like mountaineers even though the terrain was level.

    I was surprised when the director was terminated after one of the mothers of the kids saw the process and complained about the kids being “leashed together like dogs.” [sigh]

  68. de stijl says:

    @The abyss that is the soul of cracker: \

    The fourth is black already.

    Beat you to that by several hours. I may be an idiot, but I’m not a dullard.

    —–

    Regional Sales Manager

    Fountains of Wayne had a really great album called “Welcome Interstate Managers” that had a buttload of great bittersweet pure pop songs.

    This was the album that featured “Stacy’s Mom” which you may remember – in a way was a two edged sword in that it was super catchy candy pop, but other than Stacy’s Mom they were mostly peddling plainsong longing nostalgia and quiet heartbreak. They got noted for a song that really did not fit their ethos.

    There are a lot of good to great songs on that album that you should check out, but I’ll go with Hackensack.

    https://youtu.be/TVoFq7zc5po

    If you want to pervy watch cheesy sing-along pop Stacy’s Mom feel free to Google it, but realize the video is an explicit negative critique of the Phoebe Cates emerging from the pool scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and thus you are Judge Reinhold – a literal and figurative wanker.

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  69. DrDaveT says:

    Is my reply to Doug in moderation?

  70. de stijl says:

    Virginia Is For Lovers! ™

    (some restrictions apply)

  71. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:You bring up an interesting point. There may be some programs or scholarships that require enrollment in one of the 500 plus recognized tribes. But I haven’t heard that Warren perjured herself on applications and I’m sure we would have heard if that were known.

    Admittedly I haven’t checked in years but in the past I looked at the instructions, if any, that accompanied picking your ethnicity on various forms. I never saw any that actually defined membership. Sometimes the Pacific Islander category lists a geographic area but it doesn’t state a minimum percentage. And it certainly doesn’t get into conundrums like Fiji, where roughly half the population is of Indian (India) descent, brought over by the British generations ago.

  72. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: BTW, the link you gave was from an American Indian site that described what was required to be enrolled in a recognized tribe. That’s not really a proxy for ethnicity. Because of the various rules, there are people excluded who have substantially more American Indian blood than some who are accepted. And if the proper documents are missing, sometimes from the 19th century, a person can be excluded despite having grown up on reservations for generations. In the age of casino money, tribal membership has become a hotly litigated hornets nest, and not really concerned directly with general ethnicity.

  73. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Someone the other day mentioned leashing children together at which I replied that this was an excellent thriller scene. Car careens into line of kids roped together, kids in the middle splayed over the hood, the kids on the ends dragged and tossed, and when the car turns flying through the air to smash into. . .

    One of many opportunities I’ve given my wife to say, “Remind me why I’m married to you?”

  74. Barry says:

    @James Pearce: “As in, “How can they be forgiven, when they haven’t even repented?” At least the evangelicals have a guidebook to consult!”

    What people are mad about is that the guidebook seems to say ‘if Republican, all is forgiven’.

  75. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Well, everybody’s gotta have a gig and a place to row it.