Outbursts of the past hurt the politicians of today while the accusations resurface

Elizabeth Warren apologizes for registering as an American Indian on a Texas State Bar form. It happened in 1986.

Virginia's Attorney General Mark Herring admitted that he was dressed in black during a university party. It was 1980.

Herring called for the resignation of the governor, Ralph Northam, who apologized for a blackface photo on his yearbook page and for making an imitation of Michael Jackson's Blackface. It was 1984.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor of the State, Justin Fairfax, is denying he once assaulted a woman in a meeting that began with consensual kisses. It was 2004.

That controversy brings echoes of the fierce debate about Brett Kavanaugh, who denied accusations of sexual misconduct by Christine Blasey Ford. It was said to have happened in 1982. (And in a twist, Fairfax and his accuser, Vanessa Tyson, hired the same law firms used by Kavanaugh and Ford).

Why have we reached the point where American politics are consumed by accusations and admissions of decades ago?

There is no statute of limitations, politically speaking, for errors committed by employees, or who are accused of doing, when they were in high school, at the university or at the graduate school?

Do we apologize for the stupidity or youth insensitivity that must be discarded in today's fierce political environment?

And how does anyone justify the selective outrage in which most Democrats and most Republicans launch each other when ancient accusations emerge, but become reticent or silent when similar charges are made against one of their own?


Donald Trump has passed a version of this in the campaign. The "Access Hollywood" tape about which she talked about grabbing women was recorded in 2005. The accusation of Stormy Daniels involved a brief report in 2006. (Of course, Trump's involvement in a secret cash payment to Daniels , and presumably to Karen McDougal, took place during the 2016 campaign).

None of this is to minimize the importance of the allegations, especially the serious ones such as sexual assault. Naturally, candidates and elected officials must be held accountable for their past.

In Kavanaugh's case, part of the national debate, beyond the fact that he or Ford was telling the truth, had to do with the honesty of digging up something that might have happened when he was a high school student at Georgetown Prep . The same applies to accusations of drinking too much beer. Would this have exceeded the 35-year legal and judicial career he had built since then?

The Fairfax case is slightly different because it recognizes the sexual encounter with Tyson when he was 25, but insists it is consensual, even though it describes a traumatic and humiliating experience of forced oral sex. And Tyson, unlike Ford, identified two people who told about the complaint a year ago.

And it is certainly fair to note that most Democrats, who were demanding that women like Ford should be believed, are not embracing Tyson en masse.

For a white person dressing in black, even in the early 1980s, he is "despicable", as Northam says, although he denies (after initially admitted) that he posed for a picture of med school yearbook in black clothes or KKK.

But again, does this exceed her long career in Virginia politics, which does not include racism charges? With the Washington Post and the Richmond Times-Dispatch asking for his resignation, would Northam have been better off asking for forgiveness for his offensive behavior at the age of 25? (Herring, the attorney general, was 19 when he used the black face to imitate a rapper).

By the way, a report yesterday said that Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment oversaw a Virginia Military Institute yearbook full of racist and blackface insults in 1968.

Warren should never have listed herself as a Native American for college questions or legal forms, since it was based on fabulous family stories. But does this invalidate his subsequent career as a lawyer and consumer senator?

Inevitably, these polemics lead us to current behavior.

Warren blew it with his DNA test, designed to show that he had a small fraction of Indian blood, for which he apologized ever since.

Fairfax intervened quickly condemning Tyson's accusations as a stain, issuing only a statement that said he should be treated with respect after what he called his "painful" statement about crying and gagging.


Northam held a wreck press conference and changed his story, while Herring denounced the governor for something he had done himself.

For better or for worse, we now live in an age of zero tolerance for any past error or indiscretion, regardless of how many decades ago. And people who weigh a run for a public office or a high-level appointment must consider that their careers could end up in flames.