The Morning Jolt


Ralph Northam Has Nobody to Blame but Himself

Governor Ralph Northam (D, Va.), accompanied by his wife Pamela announces he will not resign during a news conference in Richmond, Va., February 2, 2019. (Jay Paul/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Virginia governor Ralph Northam blames everyone but himself for the current scandal, Rep. Adam Schiff suggests that special counsel Robert Mueller isn’t “doing much of a money laundering investigation,” and Kamala Harris admits a violation of the law in her younger years that may stir tougher questions about her record of prosecutions as a district attorney.

Governor Blackface Brags about His Moral Compass and Explains How It’s All Our Fault

When Virginia governor Ralph Northam agreed to his first print interview since his flaming dumpster fire of a press conference, he required the Washington Post to not post audio or a transcript of the entire interview, and the paper assented. (I thought democracy died in darkness.) Why does Governor Blackface think he’s in a position to make demands?

In the Post interview, Northam spoke as if the citizens of his state had done something terrible, and needed to make amends:

“It’s obvious from what happened this week that we still have a lot of work to do. There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equity,” he said. “There are ongoing inequities to access to things like education, health care, mortgages, capital, entre­pre­neur­ship. And so this has been a real, I think, an awakening for Virginia. It has really raised the level of awareness for racial issues in Virginia. And so we’re ready to learn from our mistakes.”

What’s this “we” stuff? Northam added that he would take action to ensure that others would not be as insensitive as he had been: “First of all what I plan to do . . . is to make sure that we have sensitivity training — in our Cabinet, in our agencies. I also plan to reach out to our colleges and universities and talk about sensitivity training. Even into the K through 12 age range, that’s very important.”

Governor, Virginia’s kindergarteners are not the problem. You are.

Then Northam did a televised interview with CBS News, and declared, “Virginia needs someone that can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor. Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere.”

You don’t get to brag about your moral compass when you’re in this situation.

Northam’s quickly offered and then quickly rescinded apology for “the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo” suggests he was willing to admit he was in the photo as long as people would not demand his resignation over it. Northam now claims he rushed to judgment . . .  about himself, and what he did and didn’t do, an explanation that strains credulity.

In the CBS interview, Northam made a reference to “indentured servants” arriving in Virginia in 1619, and interviewer Gayle King quickly interjected, “Also known as slavery.” As the Richmond Times-Dispatch notes, “Northam appeared to be making a technical distinction — Virginia’s key laws regarding slavery were passed after 1640 — but some of the state’s African-American lawmakers thought his comments appeared to minimize the degradation imposed on Virginia’s early Africans.”

Northam declared:

I really think that I’m in a position where-where I can take Virginia to the next level and it- it will be very positive and you know we have a number of inequities in this country right now and in Virginia and we’re in a position to really stop talking so much and now to take action with policy to address a lot of these inequities.

One of the inequities in this country is that some people suffer great professional and personal consequences for saying and doing things that offend others, and others escape professional and personal consequences for doing things that are much worse because of their political and financial power. Northam went on to suggest that the state’s lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax must resign if the accusations of sexual assault are true, and that the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, who also wore blackface to a party, should contemplate resignation.

Got that? Northam thinks he should stay because he can play a role as a healer, but he’s open to his attorney general resigning for doing the same thing at a younger age.

There’s an argument to be made that no one should suffer severe career consequences for legal if tasteless actions taken 35 years ago. But the bigger question before Virginians is how Northam has responded since the revelation of the photos. His explanation of the yearbook photo is implausible and his comments since have been tone deaf. He embarrasses the state every time he opens his mouth. He has no self-awareness, believes he can recast himself as the hero in this narrative, and is eager to lecture the rest of the state — with millions of diverse citizens who have never worn blackface — about the necessity of sensitivity to racial minorities.

Schiff: Mueller Isn’t Investigating Trump’s Finances Enough

Is this the first hint that Congressional Democrats are setting up a “Mueller dropped the ball” narrative?

In particular, Schiff said the House panel plans to investigate Trump’s two-decade relationship with Deutsche Bank, a German institution that has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties in recent years after admitting its role in a $10 billion money laundering scheme that allowed clients in Russia to move vast sums overseas.

Schiff voiced concern that Mueller has shied away from investigating Trump’s ties to the German lender, saying that “if the special counsel hasn’t subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, he can’t be doing much of a money laundering investigation.”

Schiff was referring to reports last year that Mueller’s office had told Trump’s lawyers it was not seeking Deutsche Bank records related to Trump’s accounts or loans. Deutsche Bank became a critical lender to Trump in the late 1990s when major U.S. banks refused to do business with the New York real estate developer after repeated bankruptcies.

In December, Schiff told The New Yorker::

Schiff went on, “At the end of the day, what should concern us most is anything that can have a continuing impact on the foreign policy and national-security policy of the United States, and, if the Russians were laundering money for the Trump Organization, that would be totally compromising… We are going to be looking at the issue of possible money laundering by the Trump Organization, and Deutsche Bank is one obvious place to start.”

For most of the course of this investigations, Democrats have gushed about Mueller’s virtues. When he was named, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said, “Former Director Mueller is exactly the right kind of individual for this job. I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead.” Robert De Niro’s playing him as the ultimate tough guy on Saturday Night Live.

This is the 636th day of the special-counsel investigation. At what point can we call the investigation sufficiently thorough?

Kamala Harris, Pot-Smoking Drug Prosecutor

This morning, Kamala Harris admitted she once smoked marijuana when she was younger.

This would hardly be a scandal in the world of 2019 — except that when running for reelection as San Francisco’s district attorney, Harris boasted she had increased convictions of drug dealers from 56 percent in 2003 to 74 percent in 2006. Almost certainly, some of those convicted dealers were selling marijuana. California did not legalize marijuana for recreational purposes until 2016. She also boasted that she “closed legal loopholes that were allowing drug dealers to escape prosecution.” In one of her books, Harris wrote, “60 percent of the new felony cases annually were nonviolent drug crimes.”

In other words, as a young woman Harris obtained marijuana and enjoyed it, and then later in life she prosecuted people for selling and possessing the same product that she had enjoyed.

ADDENDUM: I thought the technical issues that forced breaking the pop-culture podcast into three parts last week would scare people away. It has not, so thank you for listening!

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