Welcome to day three of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s wild medical school yearbook ride. At this point, Northam seems to have gone into bunker mode, releasing a series of conflicting statements, but thus far not scheduling any more interviews or public appearances. The questions he’s chosen to answer thus far, with the exception of whether or not it was him in the now infamous yearbook photo, aren’t the ones that people are asking. But the inconsistencies in his various explanations and answers have even those most likely to want to believe him struggling not to scoff. Even the editorial board at the Washington Post came out and said that the story strains credulity.
We endorsed Mr. Northam in the 2017 gubernatorial election on the strength of his moderate, forward-looking record and platform. Given that record, it was reasonable for him to ask a little more time to try to prove his case. But 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.
That sort of hits the nail on the head, doesn’t it? We just don’t have much hope for a definitive resolution here. People have been asking who the editor of the yearbook was and if they had a faculty supervisor. Assuming either of those people are alive and willing to come forward, would they even remember such details after all these years? Even if we got someone coming forward and claiming to be either of the people in the blackface/KKK picture, they could turn out to either be a critic or supporter of Northam, making up a story to either sink him or save him.
What we’re left with is the likelihood of an experienced politician reacting in the way that the Governor has thus far. (Which is largely the point the WaPo was making.) If someone shows you your own yearbook page from med school and you see that picture, a five-alarm fire bell has to be going off in your head. Assuming you honestly had no recollection of posing for such a photograph at the age of 25, what on Earth would possess you to go on television and say that it was you and make a grand apology?
From that point, the answers and explanations became even more bizarre. First, there was the suggestion that facial recognition software might clear his name… for a person wearing a full face hood. The software might have a shot at identifying the guy in blackface, but the only way that would definitively clear anything up was if it identified Northam.
Then we had the even more perplexing response. No, no, no… I was the guy in the other blackface photo. That one didn’t play very well either.
What we’re left with, at least as I’m reading the situation, is a guy who looked at the evidence and determined that nobody could definitively and convincingly determine he was in the picture and decided to roll the dice. Yesterday morning I only gave Northam a 60/40 chance of resigning because he likely knows there’s a chance he can outlast this thing and finish his term.
If he fesses up and resigns, his political career is over. But now he’s claiming it definitely wasn’t him in the picture and he’s confident nobody can say for sure that he was. Could the legislature impeach him over this? Well… they could. But would they? As I said yesterday morning, if he doesn’t resign there’s a better than 50/50 chance he lasts out the term.