- - Thursday, November 2, 2017


Desperation can make men who say they want to be good do bad things. Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, had been leading Ed Gillespie, the Republican, for months. His election was a lock. Everybody told him so.

But that was then, and now he may not be leading at all. Some of the polls say the race is close, maybe dead even. The momentum has clearly swung in Mr. Gillespie’s favor. Momentum is hard to turn this late, and Virginia votes next Tuesday.

Desperation among the Democrats has produced a remarkably wicked television commercial, which depicts a group of black, Hispanic and Muslim children being pursued by a white man in a pick-up truck, obviously determined to run over them. The truck is decorated with the Confederate battle flag, a Gillespie bumper sticker and the Tea Party license plate with the familiar words “Don’t Tread on Me.” Finally one of the children wakes up; it was all a nightmare. The narrator asks in doleful voice, “Is this what Donald Trump and Ed Gillespie mean by the American Dream?” The words “Reject Hate” flash across the screen, and the screen goes black.

The wicked commercial, invoking all the cliches, was sponsored by something called the Latino Victory Project, and Mr. Northam, while not exactly repudiating it, blames Mr. Gillespie for it. The Latino Victory Project, whether in shame or merely embarrassment, pulled the commercial, and Mr. Northam said Ed Gillespie was the candidate who “provoked this hate and fear-mongering.”

The timing of the commercial could not have been more dramatic, airing, as it did, just as a radical Muslim with a truck mowed down more than a dozen bicyclists on a bicycle path in New York City, killing 8 and wounding 11 others.

Mr. Northam was stung earlier by a Gillespie commercial calling attention to the vote he cast, as lieutenant governor, to break a tie in the state Senate that defeated a bill that as law would have prohibited any city or county in Virginia from declaring itself a sanctuary for illegal immigrants.

Mr. Northam is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and says he “lives by the VMI honor code.” That’s a good code to live by, but living honorably surely includes forcefully repudiating a television commercial suggesting that his opponent is a man so vile as to murder children.

The parallel between the New York terror attack and the commercial was so obvious that the Latino Victory Project had to pull it. Pushed by reporters for comment, Mr. Northam said “the commercial did not come from our campaign, and it’s certainly not a commercial that I would have wanted to run.” At that very time, his campaign listed on official documents that it had accepted the commercial as a campaign contribution, describing it as a “coordinated communication” valued at more than $60,000.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep inconvenient stories straight.

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