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President Trump Comes to Jamestown: Political Analysis for Friday, August 2, 2019

Craig carper and Jeff Schapiro

Jeff Schapiro from the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins VPM News Director Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. This week we discuss President Trump's appearance at Jamestown to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first meeting of the House of Burgesses.

CC:  From WCVE News in Richmond, I'm Craig Carper.  Joining me now from the Richmond Times-Dispatch is political columnist and WCVE’s political analyst, Jeff Shapiro.   Good morning, Jeff. 

JS:  Hi there, Craig.

CC:  This was supposed to be a celebratory moment, one in which partisanship would be set aside to celebrate something bigger, but it didn't quite turn out that way.

JS:  Not at all.  The president, of course, was at center stage.  This could have been an episode of Celebrity Apprentice the way events unfolded.  Of course there was a Democratic boycott of the president's appearance at Jamestown, and 20 or so Democrats, if you will, kind of staged a counter-observance in Richmond, focusing on another 400th anniversary, one more troubling than the birth of American representative government.  That of course is the introduction of slavery to the New World.  The governor, of course who's had his own difficulties with history and race, and the president did not appear together.  That was probably wise.  The governor gave a speech at Jamestown Island early in the, the morning, and it was a surprisingly strong speech for Northam.  He argued for this kind of full, unvarnished account of Virginia's history, which of course includes this simultaneous embrace of democracy and slavery.  This is a long way from what Northam was saying when the blackface calamity erupted in February, that the first African Americans, of course now recognized as slaves, were indentured servants.   Now, the president steered clear of all that incendiary stuff, as well as his own.  And this could have been a talk to a Rotary lunch, you know, dwelling on Virginia history.  It was not without its bumps, though it did include a bow to the contribution of African Americans to the colony and to the state.  The president misspelled the name of George Wythe, one of the Virginians who signed the Declaration of Independence.  Instead of coming out W. Y. T. H. E, the correct spelling, it came out W. I. T. H.  And the president added, “A great name.”  There were no references to Pocahontas, surprise, surprise.  Of course this Native American princess, instrumental in keeping the peace between the eastern tribes of Virginia and the English settlers, one of whom she married.  And of course, Pocahontas is Trump's racially charged nickname for Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.  And it's his way of making fun of her claim of Cherokee ancestry.  And how could we forget, (laughing) how could we forget this noisy interruption by Delegate Ibraheem Samirah, a Palestinian American, and among the 20 or so Democrats who attended the Jamestown ceremony.  Of course towards the end of the president's remarks Samirah jumped to his feet and began shouting.  He unfurled a poster.  It said, among other things, “Deport Hate”.  And he was escorted from the room by the General Assembly's police, the Capitol Police.  Democrats and Republicans are of mixed mind over what happened.   And I seem to recall that you had a telling exchange with Senator Norment, Tommy Norment, the majority leader of the state senate.

CC:  That's right, while praising the president's speech Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment took a swipe at Samirah, saying “I was very proud of him, the president, that he did stay on message when that ill-advised little bastard decided to make a scene of it.”

JS:  Well, they do have one thing in common, the delegate and the senator, both are little men, somewhat Napoleonic in their countenance.

CC:  No comment.   The state is closing in fast on providing health coverage for 400,000 uninsured Virginians.

JS:  Ah, yes.  The governor was in northern Virginia this week reporting that now 300,000 people who are eligible for health insurance under Medicaid expansion have signed up for coverage.  Of course, this was approved by the Republican legislature in 2018, early in the governor's term.   This was a reaction to the Democratic blowout in 2017.  Republicans got religion on that.  And of course, nearly 20 House Republicans, among them the Speaker of the House Kirk Cox and the Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones, supported expansion as did four Republicans in the Virginia Senate - big victory for Northam.  And of course, Medicaid expansion depending on one's perspective is either a rallying cry or something to get riled up about.  Democrats are talking about it in this legislative campaign season as a big win.  Republicans, of course, holding it against those who have, shall we say, cut and run as did Chris Peace up in Hanover County.  He was denied renomination to the House of Delegates because of his apostasy on Medicaid expansion.

CC:  Thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Jeff, we will catch up again next week.

JS:  Good weekend to you.


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