Today’s column (“No more Mr. Nice Guy: Tim Kaine shows his dark side”) by the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s veteran Virginia political reporter Jeff Schapiro is a real head-scratcher. I don’t subscribe to the paywall-protected “Republican Times-Disgrace,” but someone graciously sent me Schapiro’s weird screed – a combo of rambling, incoherent, internally inconsistent and vitriolic – against Sen. Kaine. Here are a few passages from the piece, followed by my comments in green.
- “Modesty, patience, studiousness, and conciliation seemed [Kaine’s] watchwords — until that humiliating debate at Longwood University with Mike Pence in which Kaine came across as his long lost evil twin. The evil twin is back. Just ask Ralph Northam.” Wait, what? “Evil twin?” Because Kaine joined just about every other elected Virginia Democrat – and lots of national Dems – in calling for Ralph Northam to resign as governor, after the blackface/KKK costume yearbook photos story broke (and after Northam’s disastrous press conference the next day)? So if Kaine’s “evil” for doing that, then I presume Schapiro thinks every other elected Virginia Democrat – Mark Warner, Don Beyer, Donald McEachin, Bobby Scott, Abigail Spanberger, Jennifer Wexton, Elaine Luria, the Virginia Senate Democrats, Virginia House Democrats, Democratic Party of Virginia, etc, etc. – is “evil” as well? Baffling.
- “Kaine is usually alone among elective Democrats in giving adversaries and allies time and space to get comfortable with discomfiting ideas and individuals; to find common ground on divisive issues and to see the error of their ways. Kaine’s Jesuit education apparently instilled in him one of the tenets of the order’s founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola: adaptability.” I’m not sure I understand what this is getting at, exactly. I mean, I (sort of) understand the argument that because of Kaine’s Jesuit education, he might tend to be more tolerant/forgiving of human foibles than others. But I don’t at all buy the argument that Kaine is “usually alone among elective Democratic in giving adversaries and allies time and space to get comfortable with discomfiting ideas and individuals…” And I’m not sure what Schapiro even means by “adaptability,” which is a very different quality than tolerance, forgiveness, magnanimity, etc. More to the point, I’m simply not following what Schapiro’s argument is…that because Kaine’s supposed to be on a higher plane of existence than any other Democrat (or human?), he’s suddenly “evil” when he doesn’t measure up to those lofty standards? Bizarre.
- “Kaine is keeping the pressure on [Ralph Northam to step down as governor] — softly, strategically. This past Sunday, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Northam’s hometown newspaper, carried a Kaine treatise on racial reconciliation. Kaine did not renew his call for Northam’s resignation, at least not directly. But Kaine’s message — aimed at the governor’s political base in Hampton Roads — was loud and clear: Northam is part of the problem and just doesn’t get it…An effort at motivation by humiliation? Sounds like it.” This is probably the weirdest paragraph in this entire piece. I mean, Kaine clearly wrote that oped because he is a civil rights lawyer and top Virginia political leader who feels strongly that it’s crucial to speak truth about the racism that is still pervasive in our state and our society more broadly. Note that the op-ed didn’t even mention Northam by name, let alone “humiliate” him in any way/shape/form. To the contrary, it starts off by specifically noting that this is NOT “just about the two individuals” (the governor and AG). Instead, the main point of the op-ed is a call to “acknowledge that over the past 400 years, racism has evolved but it is still pervasive in 2019”; to not “neglect addressing today’s injustices”; to “turn the pain of the past few weeks into action”; and by “work[ing] toward equal access to affordable housing and education funding; close the wealth gap; and address inequities and biases in our criminal justice institutions, just as a starting point.” How is any of that attempting to “humiliate” Ralph Northam? And how is it “softly, strategically” trying to pressure Northam to step down? That’s not just a reach, I’d argue, but also deeply cynical and also insulting to all the Virginians who are in real pain because of racism, and specifically about the “blackface”/KKK photos controversy.
- The column continues on from this fatally flawed premise, rambling about how Kaine supposedly is “doubling down on Northam” (???) and “seemingly ignoring empirical and statistical evidence that a plurality of Democrats — all colors — does not want Northam to resign” (again, where does Schapiro get THAT from???).
- “The point is that Kaine and Northam have a shared experience that might be described as hating the sin but loving the sinner. Contrast that with the views of young people for whom the racial friction of previous generations is misty history, seemingly remedied by the diversity that many of them take for granted. Thus, when poisonous barbs fly — as they regularly do in the Trump era — the reaction of the young is to shun the offender. This feeds the zero-tolerance stance of Democrats on race and gender. So, when it comes to courting the young, who soon will be Virginia’s majority voting bloc, it’s easier dealing in absolutes than delving into nuance. But that would require America’s Dad to be a helicopter parent.” OK, can anyone makes heads or tails out of this conclusion? There’s a lot in here, including theorizing on how young people think, and how this feeds into what Schapiro identifies – apparently scornfully – the “zero-tolerance stance of Democrats on race and gender.” What does that even mean? And how does “courting the young” have anything whatsoever to do with “dealing in absolutes” as opposed to “delving into nuance?” And what does that last line mean? And…ok, seriously, I give up; it’s not even worth expending precious brain cells trying to figure out what Schapiro’s getting at here. And it’s certainly not worth wasting any more precious brain cells trying to figure out why Schapiro got a bee in his bonnet all of a sudden about Kaine, let alone while ignoring the gazillion other elected Democrats who have likewise shown “zero tolerance” – and rightfully so! – for thinking that KKK costumes and “blackface” are some sort of laughing matter, and that calling people out for engaging in such behavior is “evil” or whatever.