It's hard to imagine how Ralph Northam could have handled the crisis that has engulfed him more incompetently — unless he had gone ahead and performed the moonwalk.
With many Democrats and liberal commentators demanding that he resign for the sake of the party, the Virginia governor has been about as effective as the L.A. Rams offense in the Super Bowl.
It's a bit sad, on one level, to see a guy's career implode because of a spectacularly dumb mistake he made 35 years ago.
But Northam fumbled the opportunity to say he had grown, changed, and now realized what a terrible thing he did with the racist yearbook photo back in 1984.
That's because he did a 180 on his story, first apologized for posing for the picture — whether it was in blackface or KKK garb, he didn't say — and then denying that was him.
And then — who thought it was a good idea to hold this presser? — Northam says that while he wasn't in blackface in the med school yearbook, he was in blackface while doing Michael Jackson in a dance contest. And that just happened to be the same year.
What's more, as reporters kept asking perfectly reasonable questions, Northam seemed incapable of delivering a coherent message. This was evident from the beginning when he stiffly read a statement from a piece of paper. How did this guy get elected with such lousy communications skills? (And yes, he accused his GOP opponent Ed Gillespie of racist rhetoric in that 2017 campaign.)
It was just a total train wreck. And Northam's bumbling and inconsistent defense in 2019 shifts the spotlight from what he did as a 25-year-old medical student.
But he's been an effective governor, which is why you'd think such Dems as Terry McAuliffe, Doug Wilder, and the party's presidential contenders would cut him some slack. But they obviously believe he can no longer be effective in Richmond and would hurt their 2020 chances in Virginia.
When the yearbook story broke, I said it was no coincidence that it was leaked after two days in which Northam was being hammered over a radio interview on a late-term abortion bill in the commonwealth. He was seen describing how a woman and her doctor would discuss whether to abort on the day of birth. (As I've noted, most of the networks ignored that story — and The New York Times and The Washington Post framed it as a matter of partisan Republican attacks — until the racist photo surfaced.)
Now The Washington Post has found a direct link between the controversies. Two staffers at Big League Politics, the website that broke the yearbook story, say the tip came from former medical school classmates of Northam who were angry about his stance on late-term abortion.
Big League Politics, a right-leaning site run by a former Breitbart reporter, has now published an unsubstantiated allegation of sexual assault against Virginia's lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax. (It is one of history's ironies that if Northam resigns over a racist photo, his number two, an African-American, would succeed him.)
After issuing a statement denying he ever assaulted anyone, Fairfax held a hallway press conference yesterday and seemed forceful and confident in dismissing the allegation — a marked contrast to Northam's stumbling style.
The allegation is from a woman who says that during the 2004 Democratic convention, Fairfax proceeded from consensual kissing to forced oral sex. But Fairfax dismissively asked reporters, does anyone think it's a coincidence that this surfaced when he may be on the verge of becoming governor?
Fairfax told reporters that the Post had looked into the allegation around the time of his inauguration and decided against publishing anything.
But he got some pushback from the paper, which said: "The Washington Post could not find anyone who could corroborate either version. The Post did not find 'significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations,' as the Fairfax statement incorrectly said."
So Virginia politics is, to put it mildly, a mess. Maybe Northam thinks things will blow over if he can hang on until everyone moves on to the next scandal. But after admitting the Michael Jackson impersonation, it's more likely that he'll be moonwalking into history.