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Ex-Rep. Jim Moran On Why Va. Gov. Northam Should Not Resign


It is common to say the Democrats have been almost unanimous in calling on Governor Northam to resign. So let's dwell on that word, almost, because former Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran is calling on Northam to stay in Office. Moran represented the 8th District for more than two decades and worked with Northam over the years. And he's on the line from Northern Virginia. Mr. Moran, welcome to the program.

JIM MORAN: Thank you. Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Why should Northern stay after all that's happened?

MORAN: Well, you know, it's a tough case to make, I - I admit that. I've listen to dozens of commentators over the last several days, all of whom are in unanimous agreement because they all tend to be young, attractive, bright and very sure of themselves. I'm none of those things Steve, but I know, at this point my life, enough to know what I don't know. And I don't know whether Ralph Northam is pictured in that horrifically racist photo.

You know, he's a man that's known for being almost too honest for his own good. He says he's not in that photo. We can ascertain whether he is or not. I'm not sure why we need to rush to judgment on that case. But, more importantly, I don't know if the - if enabling Ralph Northam to have a second chance to prove himself, to prove that he's not a racist, by pushing forward racial justice reconciliation, reparation in a state that, exactly 400 years ago, began that horrible legacy of slavery. That - the first African-American slaves were introduced to these shores in bondage in Virginia in 1619...


MORAN: ...And Ralph knows that. And I think he is committed to being a very progressive governor that undoes much of that legacy.

INSKEEP: So you've made several points there, Mr. Moran, one of them just being that we ought to be humble about how much we know. And you're not sure yet if it's really him in the photo. But of course we have followed Governor Northam as he has, arguably, made things continuously worse over the last several days. We had a Virginia Democratic member of the House of Delegates, Jeff Bourne, on the program yesterday. And he says he no longer needs to know about that photo because of everything else that Northam said at that press conference on Saturday. Let's listen to a little bit of that.


JEFF BOURNE: When he's talking about his shoe polish on its face, he said it was hard to get off. Well, I think Congressman McEachin said over the weekend, how did he know it was going to be hard to get off if he hadn't done it before? I think all the things that continue to be said from Governor Northam - the insensitivity by attempting - or looking like he was going to attempt to moonwalk, and having had the first lady tell him, no, that's not appropriate right now or at all.


BOURNE: You know, it just continues to build, and folks have lost confidence in it.

INSKEEP: And of course, before he said he wasn't in the photo, as you know, Mr. Moran, he said, on video, that he was in the photo and apologized for it. Is this just not really a salvageable situation?

MORAN: It doesn't appear to be, but sometimes the facts are not as they at first appear to be. By his own admission, that was an abysmally stupid thing for Ralph to do. I can understand, though, what happens when you're blindsided by a shocking allegation. Your staff is screaming at you, apologize, apologize. Don't try to explain yourself, just - just tell people that you're terribly sorry. And then you - when you have a chance to finally reflect and you think, oh, you know, those - those are not my words. I didn't say that. Or that's not me in the photo. Well, it happens but - I know it happens.

INSKEEP: But it's strange - it is strange, isn't it? - that he looked at the photo and said, yeah, OK, I guess that's me. Like, it didn't seem wildly improbable to him that he would have been in blackface or in a Klan uniform.

MORAN: You know, it seems that way, but we don't know what actually went on. We don't- you know, we don't know how he saw the photo, we don't know his state of mind. I - I can't argue with you what appears to be the case, but, you know, there's a play Reginald Rose wrote, it's called "Twelve Angry Men." And you go through that play and you realize, you know, that - that justice is very seldom served by a rush to judgment. I don't know why we can't find these things out for sure.

And, you know, these - this public shaming, I'm not sure how much it accomplishes versus looking at the longer picture. If the longer picture is, and I think should be, racial justice and conciliation and reparation, then I wonder if giving people a second chance, as well - whatever they did - might serve, in the long term, the greater interest.

INSKEEP: OK, second chance, I understand that point as well. Let me ask about the politics of this before we run out of time, Mr. Moran. Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee chairman, was on All Things Considered yesterday and said that Democrats have not hesitated to hold accountable - these are Perez's words - Democrats have not hesitated to hold accountable people who violate our values, whether they're Republicans or Democrats.

And then he says, that's a big difference between us and the Republican Party. He clearly wants Democrats to draw a contrast there between Republicans, who have forgiven virtually everything by President Trump. If you - if you forgive Ralph Northam, do you also have to forgive President Trump a lot of racist remarks?

MORAN: You know, I'm not going to get into that. I think that there are some more important values that should transcend politics. And frankly, if you want to talk about the politics, I want Justin Fairfax to be a successful governor. And if he...

INSKEEP: Oh, the lieutenant governor who would succeed...

MORAN: The lieutenant governor. If he succeeds now, the conservative legislature, knowing that he can be re-elected, is - may very well do everything they can do to undermine his effectiveness. I think we have to look at the long picture here. And - and I think some of these issues should transcend politics. The Democrats are not pure. You look at Lyndon Johnson, all he accomplished...

INSKEEP: Three seconds.

MORAN: ...And we should be very proud of that - but, you know, when you read an objective biography, it'll make you squirm. So...


MORAN: ...Progress is what matters, not necessarily as much the individuals and all the human failing.

INSKEEP: Jim Moran, former Democratic congressman from Virginia, thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.