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I Usually Like Jeff Schapiro a Lot, but This Is His Worst Column Ever. By Far.


Over the years, I’ve mocked the strongly right-leaning Richmond Times-Dispatch as the “Republican Times-Disgrace.” But one person I’ve generally enjoyed reading and learned a great deal from, whether I agreed with him or not, has been Virginia political guru Jeff Schapiro. I’ve often highlighted his work on this blog, on Twitter, etc. But not this morning, and not this column (“Schapiro: Herring’s as subtle as a punch in the nose”). As I wrote in the morning news clips, “This is the epitome of “false equivalence” and other flawed reasoning. Definitely the worst column I’ve ever read by Jeff Schapiro – by far!” Let me explain a bit further.

First off, let’s just get out of the way a paragraph that simply makes no sense whatsoever.

History may not be on Northam’s side. Of the past eight lieutenant governors, seven sought the governorship. Five were nominated and four won. Over the same period, eight attorneys general declared for governor and were nominated. Three were elected.

Some quick math: 4/8 LGs (50%) ran for governor and were elected; 3/8 AGs (38%) ran for governor and were elected. So why might history “not be on Northam’s side?” It’s not as if Democratic LGs have been in the habit of running against Democratic AGs for the gubernatorial nomination, either (when was the last time?). What am I missing here?

Second, the following paragraph is just…gack.

In backing Obama on immigration, Herring is again bowing to the new Virginians – Asians and Hispanics. Their presence here is booming. Asians account for 7 percent of the state’s 8.3 million residents; Hispanics, for 8 percent. However, this has not translated to huge numbers on the voter rolls

So let’s get this straight. If Mark Herring believes, as the vast majority of Democrats do, that President Obama’s executive order on immigration was a positive thing, as well as constitutional (note: more broadly, polls are all over the place, with the public divided and answering differently depending on how the question is framed), then he’s “as subtle as a punch in the nose?” I guess that means the vast majority of Democrats are “as subtle as a punch in the nose” for supporting Obama’s executive order on immigration, while Republicans are just “as subtle as a punch in the nose” for opposing Obama on this (and everything else he does). Or something. Who knows.

As if that’s not bad enough, Schapiro’s language here (“bowing?”) is simply unfortunate. And his math, not to mention political logic, are strange: Asians and Hispanics account for a combined 15% of Virginia’s population, yet somehow tha’ts supposed to translate into “huge numbers on the voter roles?” I mean, is 15% a “huge number?” Maybe, maybe not. But you can’t argue on the one hand that Mark Herring is pandering politically to Asians and Latinos, while simultaneously claiming that they don’t make up “huge numbers on the voter roles.” It’s simply illogical. Meanwhile, as this article explains, “Virginia is the final state currently shifting Democratic-a change that is being propelled in part by the state’s growing Latino community.” Also: “By 2016 we can expect the Virginia electorate to see more than 127,700 new eligible Latino voters.” Now, Jeff Schapiro might not believe those numbers are “huge,” but given that President Obama won Virginia in 2012 by about 150,000 votes, it seems to me that 127,700 votes is kind of crucial…

Then there’s Schapiro’s mention of marriage equality, which is on rock-solid constitutional footing, as the U.S. Supreme Court will almost certainly conclude in coming months. As for Mark Herring not defending Virginia’s anti-LGBT marriage amendment in court, that was 100% in line with Herring’s oath of office, which “includes a solemn vows first to ‘support the constitution of the United States’ and second to support ‘the constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia.'” Furthermore, “Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution makes clear that the federal constitution takes precedence over state constitutions – so when the two are in conflict, it is absolutely up to the Attorney General to make that decision.” How any of that is a “punch in the nose” is beyond me.

Finally, and most egregiously, is Schapiro’s wildly false equivalence in comparing Ken Cuccinelli’s “politicizing the law on health care, climate change and abortion restrictions” (not to mention his witchhunts against Professor Michael Mann, the EPA, etc.) with Mark Herring upholding the constitution and the law to the best of his knowledge and ability. That’s not just flat-out false, it’s completely uncalled for, bordering on outrageous — a “punch in the nose” if you will, and certainly not up to Jeff Schapiro’s usual standards, let alone subtlety.

  • kindler

    When he starts commenting on Herring, Shapiro says “At least that’s what Republicans argue.”

    Sounds like some GOP source bent his ear with a long case against Herring and Shapiro bought it.  Agree that he’s usually better than this.

    To be sure, Herring has replaced the reactionary legal perspective of some of his predecessors with a progressive perspective. I would emphasize the difference between how Cuccinelli wasted taxpayer money on so many quixotic legal cases — most of which he lost, badly — with Herring taking the more traditional AG role of filing briefs and offering legal opinions.  

    And he certainly hasn’t targeted any innocent scapegoats as Cuccinelli did with Prof. Mann.  The comparison between the two is simply unfair.