Mitt Romney, “boys-will-be-boys,” and juvenile justice

What Romney’s actions and words say about his character, and what reactions to them say about the character of the contemporary American right wing. If Romney can’t be judged today by his actions at age 18, what’s the justification for sentening 14-year-olds to Life without Parole?

Joe Klein on Mitt Romney, with specific reference to his “failure to remember” the mob attack he led in high school:

Romney has a near perfect record of cowardice, obfuscation and downright lies. It shows enormous disrespect for the intelligence of the public.

(Note that Klein didn’t say “unjustified disrespect;” Romney could still Etch-a-Sketch his way to the White House.)

Now the right wing has to figure out how to deal with this. Of course, they have practice believing six impossible things before breakfast – global warming isn’t happening, waterboarding isn’t torture, public-sector jobs aren’t jobs – but this one is hard. And of course they know there’s more like this coming: e.g., Romney’s immediate retreat from his statement that gay couples have a “right” to adopt, accompanied by a transparently false denial that he’d said what he in fact said.

As far as I can tell, the pro-Romney blogosphere has three basic reactions to the event:

1. Denial. Lots of meta stuff about the timing of the story and questions about whether it happened, despite the testimony of five participant-witnesses, four willing to be named. And no one on the Right seems to find it hard to believe that if Romney had not led the attack he would have difficulty remembering that he hadn’t.

2. Obama is worse. This is, of course, a mere reflex. It comes in a couple of versions: likening an admitted history of illicit drug use to leading vicious, violent mob attack; equating Obama’s story of having been mean to a fifth-grade classmate to the assault Romney committed when he was eighteen; and transparently vacuous Ayers-Wright-college transcripts chatter. (Rush Limbaugh broadens this out to other Democrats, and Ann Althouse – who surely can’t be as stupid in real life as the character she plays on her blog – pretends to be a ditto-head.)

3. Minimization and “boys-will-be-boys.” Key word here is Romney’s own use of “prank.” The semi-official talking point is “I’d hate to be judged by the stuff I did in high school.” Fair enough.

But it’s worth noting that, at the time Romney clipped the hair of the screaming, crying kid his friends were holding down, he was past his eighteenth birthday. He could have been charged and sentenced as an adult: at minimum, with assault and battery and conspiracy to commit assault and battery. Those are misdemeanors in most states, though in some states conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor is chargeable as a felony. I haven’t found the relevant Michigan law, but my California-prosecutor friend tells me that under CA law holding someone down by force is chargeable as “false imprisonment,” a felony. An unduly aggressive prosecutor might even try to charge felony aggravated assault on the theory that scissors are a deadly weapon, even if in this case they weren’t being used in a deadly fashion.

A criminal record has a lifetime impact. In some states – including most of the Confederate states that form Romney’s Electoral College base – a felony conviction carries with it a lifetime disqualification from voting, along with permanent disqualification from a wide range of occupations and professions, from lawyering to barbering. Many states allow people under the usual age of adult criminal responsibility to be charged in adult court for especially serious crimes committed as juveniles, and some of those children are sentenced to life in prison without parole under felony-murder rules, even though they, personally, didn’t physically harm anyone.

So which is it, my pseudo-conservative friends: Are you willing to ruin someone’s life based on his actions at age 18, or even younger, or are you not? Or does it depend on his skin color and how rich his parents are?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

54 thoughts on “Mitt Romney, “boys-will-be-boys,” and juvenile justice”

  1. I had similar thoughts. And Romney’s evasive sort-of-apology didn’t help matters. He could at least have manned up with some reflection, candor, and remorse 45 years later.

  2. How about a compromise: If we’re going to ruin a person’s life based on what they did at 18, we should do it when they’re 18.

    Seriously, in theory those actions could have been charged as a crime, possibly even a felony. In practice, they normally would not have been, at that time.

    Either this demonstrates shamefully selective prosecution, or the rampant over-reach of criminal law. Perhaps both.

    But either way, what we’re looking at in the present instance is the application of changed social rules to a time before they changed. A kind of ex post facto condemnation. I’m unimpressed by this.

    I don’t expect to like politicians. My experiences with them have been uniformly negative, even with the ones I agreed with. At the local level they’re petty tyrants, as you move up the food chain they shed the petty. Was Romney a bully when he was a youth? I’d easily believe that. If I vote for him, it certainly won’t be because I *like* him, and he’s got no chance of ever babysitting my child. The job he’s applying for is President, and, alas, he opponent is another politician, rather than somebody of conventional morals.

    Hell, Obama was, at about the same age, a drug addict. Felonies? He committed them by the score, and of the sort which it was conventional to prosecute at the time he committed them. Do you look for interviews with his dealer in the Washington Post? Open to the suggestion that he might STILL be using cocaine?

    No, I thought not.

    You don’t care about the past misdeeds of politicians, or what they imply about their present inclinations. You just need an excuse to attack Romney.

    1. “Drug addict” is flat-out false. Unless you can document it, please retract it.

      And again, I’m not judging Romney today for what he did at age eighteen. I’m judging him today for his lying about it today. And I’m suggesting that people willing to vote for him for President might consider being a little bit less merciless toward today’s juvenile and young-adult offenders.

      1. yesterday

        Brett Bellmore says:
        May 11, 2012 at 4:39 am
        I think I’d be more impressed by this, if the stories were not falling apart/being retracted. But I will admit it’s a viable political technique: Put out dirt on your opponent, and count on the revelations about the dirt not technically being true never catching up.

        Guess there weren’t any divorce records to unseal, so they had to resort to this. I’d call it a desperation move, but I suspect it was actually the first thing that came to mind, not the last.

        today

        Brett Bellmore says:
        May 12, 2012 at 12:23 pm
        How about a compromise: If we’re going to ruin a person’s life based on what they did at 18, we should do it when they’re 18.

        Seriously, in theory those actions could have been charged as a crime, possibly even a felony. In practice, they normally would not have been, at that time.

        Either this demonstrates shamefully selective prosecution, or the rampant over-reach of criminal law. Perhaps both.

        But either way, what we’re looking at in the present instance is the application of changed social rules to a time before they changed. A kind of ex post facto condemnation. I’m unimpressed by this.

        I don’t expect to like politicians. My experiences with them have been uniformly negative, even with the ones I agreed with. At the local level they’re petty tyrants, as you move up the food chain they shed the petty. Was Romney a bully when he was a youth? I’d easily believe that. If I vote for him, it certainly won’t be because I *like* him, and he’s got no chance of ever babysitting my child. The job he’s applying for is President, and, alas, he opponent is another politician, rather than somebody of conventional morals.

        Hell, Obama was, at about the same age, a drug addict. Felonies? He committed them by the score, and of the sort which it was conventional to prosecute at the time he committed them. Do you look for interviews with his dealer in the Washington Post? Open to the suggestion that he might STILL be using cocaine?

        No, I thought not.

        You don’t care about the past misdeeds of politicians, or what they imply about their present inclinations. You just need an excuse to attack Romney.

        seriously mark, and i don’t say this rashly, why do you allow brett to continue to comment on this site? did he once contribute thoughtful comment at some time in the distant past and you’re willing to give him a pass now for his continued trolling? i really hate the idea of shutting off someone from speaking their mind here but how many times does one get to argue that red is green before you do something about it? just look at his response below and you’ll see his non-retraction retraction which starts with a sarcastic comparison of a 4 year old to an 18 year old leading an attack on someone in his first paragraph, continues with an attempt at an ad hominem attack on you in his second, and gets to the heart of his non-retraction in his third paragraph by laying everything in the lap of politics.

        forgive me for this but what a bastard. that’s in the figurative sense, not the social/quasi-legal sense, btw.

        1. I will say this about Brett: He’s so persistent that it’s a great way to hone one’s debating skills. Once you figure out his rhetorical strategies, though,it’s sort of easy to box him in and show the internal flaws in his arguments.

          1. you can tell when he’s finally boxed in too because from that point he comments no more on the post. i think i’ve even put up the comment *crickets chirp* after a month long lacuna on a couple of occasions.

          2. Nav, this might have been a reasonable inference back when I was single. Now I’m married with a three year old, and there are frequently periods where I simply can’t respond to comments, and they may last for hours or even on occasion days. In this instance I had to go to a birthday party, and got home late with a cranky son. Today don’t expect much in the way of comments, I’ve got a wife and a mother, and it’s mother’s day. You wouldn’t be getting this response if I weren’t a morning person, and my wife decidedly not.

            “it’s a great way to hone one’s debating skills.”

            This is not at all incidental. Lefty blogs are frequently echo chambers where dissenting opinion is excluded. (See the frequent claims that I’m a troll, and should be banned.) Not an accident, censorship is a frequent resort on the left, as you can see from the campaign ‘reform’ fights, and the way ‘agnotolgy’ has been seized upon as an excuse why free debate won’t reach the truth. (Granted, the right has a history of censorship, too. The difference is that the right censors based on disgust, the left based on ideology.) I might also point out what’s going on in countries where the left is more dominant, like the trials of Lars Hedegaard, or publications, like the way Naomi Schaefer Riley was fired. Or the way the ACLU got rid of it’s forum when it got tired of people pointing out it’s hypocrisy, and the burden of deleting comments got too heavy. Censorship is endemic on the left.

            This results in a deterioration of lefty debating skills, and a frequent inability to spot holes in your own reasoning.

            Now, why am I here, rather than frequenting some more congenial blog like Nextbigfuture or The Firing Line, where people agree with me?

            Because I like arguing. But, unlike the classic troll, I have no interest in arguing insincerely. This means I need to hang out with people I disagree with. That this will result in you becoming better debaters is not incidental, poor reasoning dismays me, and if I can not change somebody’s mind, that they at least reason more clearly is a result I’ll be satisfied with.

            Now, is my reasoning often poor, too? Yes, I’ll admit this. The married/3 year old thing often leaves my comments hurried, and let’s be frank, I’m still suffering from a bit of chemo brain, and probably will be for several years yet. Arguing here will, hopefully, sharpen my reasoning, too.

          3. you say you aren’t arguing insincerely yet i’ve seen you in the discussions over this matter and in other discussions take multiple positions, some of them contradictory, depending on the direction the discussion has gone. i realize that a foolish consistency might be the hobgoblin of little minds but inconsistency for the sake of continuing the discussion is not a sign of wisdom.

          4. Brett, I respect your willingness to admit your faults. But, again, I think you’re off base in somehow feeling like you’ve “exposed” liberal fascism in the reader forums of lefty websites, just like Jonah Goldberg. I’ve been banned from a few well known conservative forums in record-short time just for expressing a reasonably framed but alternative opinion. Whereas the conservative comments that flourish in the reader’s forums of many lefty websites can sometimes make one’s skin crawl for their lack of empathy and poor reasoning–and yet the forums remain relatively open.

            In the case of Naomi Schaefer Riley, she was fired not because she offered a well-reasoned, legitimate view from the right, but because she was sloppy and dumb. She based a takedown of an entire discipline on her reading of three dissertation titles from a single institution (not the dissertations themselves, mind you–their titles.) And her writing was bad. And, did I mention, she was dumb.

          5. Brett,
            My congratulations on the three year old, and on the staving off of cancer, and my sympathies on the trials from same.
            Still, there are reasons people accuse you of trollishness. Your infamous defense of your Birtherism, for example. I’m not kidding when I say that you sincerely used the impossibility of proving the existence in the universe of anything other than your own consciousness as a defense of Birtherism. I’d say that was a fairly trollish move. And look at this topic of Romney’s bullying in his youth: you said that the accusations against Romney are falling apart, when they simply weren’t, and when the only way any reasonable person could think they were was by uncritically reading the headlines at sites such as Hot Air and not clicking through to discover how unjustified those headlines were. You make wild accusations about Obama’s youth, again without foundation. You persistently ignore the argument that the key issue is not the quality of Romney’s youthful behavior but his self-professed inability to learn from it. And even when specifically responding to an admittedly unkind and unfair prediction that you will be cowed into silence by this cavalcade of counterarguments, you make a personal plea for understanding that notably fails to respond to any of these counterarguments.
            And then you make complaints about an intolerance of opposing viewpoints on the Left. Now, I’m perfectly willing to concede that such intolerance frequently exists. But your examples are signally poor: (1) a Danish sportsman whose history is sufficiently obscure that it’s not even mentioned on his English-language Wikipedia page; (2) the “controversial” firing of a blogger, a firing that, as Matt points out, you have clearly not made the slightest attempt to consider the merits of, as the Chronicle Of Higher Education could hardly defend a blogger that would condemn an entire discipline based on a complete failure to inspect the contents even of the small, arbitrary, and inadequate sample they chose to criticize; and (3) some complaint about messageboards at the ACLU, an organization so committed to intolerantly partisan liberalism that it stands up for the free-speech rights of Nazis and of Fred Phelps.
            I’ve not called for you to be banned from this site, to the best of my recollection. I don’t think I’ve ever called for anyone to be banned anyplace except for instances of frequent crudely abusive behavior. But I can understand why you get accused of being a troll.

          6. warren,

            perhaps i’m being overly sensitive but if it was my comment– “you can tell when he’s finally boxed in too because from that point he comments no more on the post. i think i’ve even put up the comment *crickets chirp* after a month long lacuna on a couple of occasions.” –to which you were referring when you described a comment as an “. . . unkind and unfair prediction that you will be cowed into silence by this cavalcade of counterarguments . . .” i wish to assure you that my intention was not to predict but merely to describe previously noted behaviors on the site. i’ve rarely known brett to be cowed into silence by any string of arguments regardless of their cogency. there was that post on the trayvon martin case in which it took the concerted efforts of as many as a dozen commenters to get brett to admit that martin’s death might possibly have been somewhat tragic. if your comment wasn’t referring to mine then i can only be embarrassed at my unnecessary sensitivity.

            it’s not that brett’s opinions are contrary to mine that i suggested that he be banned, it’s that brett’s comments are often contrary to his own logic. if one strand of thought doesn’t work out for him he is perfectly willing to go off in another direction without ever explaining why the previous strand was deficient or defective. even the 6th graders i teach can recognize when the logic of their arguments collapse and can admit it. it is brett’s patent inability to admit that he might have gotten it wrong, that he might be mistaken, or that he might not have gotten enough of the facts before he started commenting that make me feel that he is trolling. even when he has reached the point where all of his arguments have either been refuted or answered he will not admit it but will instead just stop commenting.

            i talk to people every day whose opinions differ from my own but we generally find points of agreement and sometimes convince one or the other of the value or correctness of a point of view. i’ve never seen that kind of behavior on the part of brett and it offends me on a logical and epistemological basis. if that makes me overly sensitive then i’m overly sensitive. if this makes me guilty of “feeding the troll” in a grand manner i sincerely apologize for that.

          7. To be honest, Brett, your presence here is a feature, not a defect. I enjoy your input a lot, though I fundamentally disagree with virtually all of it. It would be a deep shame if you were banned. And, though you frequently make trollish arguments, they’re not in the spirit of trolling or playing with people, but seem to come from your honest need to “win” the argument (that most of these arguments can’t really be won is perhaps beside the point.)

          8. = = =
            navarro says:
            May 13, 2012 at 9:03 am

            warren,

            perhaps i’m being overly sensitive but if it was my comment– “you can tell when he’s finally boxed in too because from that point he comments no more on the post. i think i’ve even put up the comment *crickets chirp* after a month long lacuna on a couple of occasions.” –to which you were referring when you described a comment as an “. . . unkind and unfair prediction that you will be cowed into silence by this cavalcade of counterarguments . . .” i wish to assure you that my intention was not to predict but merely to describe previously noted behaviors on the site. i’ve rarely known brett to be cowed into silence by any string of arguments regardless of their cogency.
            = = =

            And yet, in the comments to this very blog post Mr. Bellmore advanced an argument (that any use of any amount of any illegal recreational drug constitutes “addiction”) that was immediately and cogently refuted, and the crickets are indeed chirping down there. Usually he uses the comments of two or more different posts to accomplish the disappearing two-step, but in this case he did it all in one.

            Cranky

          9. Cranky: Mother’s day, remember? Got my wife some crickets for the occasion. (Yes, that was a metaphor!)

            I think the way I’m being accused of being a “birther” demonstrates either a cognative flaw, or a failed rhetorical tactic, I’m not sure which.

            In the sense of thinking Obama was born someplace other than the US, I was never a “birther”, and I was fairly clear about this. And, in my opinion, that is the correct definition of “bither”.

            In the sense of thinking the real “birthers” were entitled to the proof they were wrong? Guilty as hell, and proud of it. The Constitution says Presidents have to be “natural born citizens”, and I am not sympathetic to the notion that there are constitutional clauses that can’t be enforced, or to the use of ‘standing’ as a way of keeping anybody who cares to enforce them from getting the opportunity. We are entitled to constitutional government, and that’s all the standing anybody properly needs to go to court to demand the Constitution be complied with. Wrong one person, and they have legal remedies, wrong everyone, and the remedies go away? That’s madness, or evil, and I think the latter.

            But the demand that I accord Obama’s birthplace quasi-religious faith, rather than regarding it as a matter subject to verification? Duly noted and rejected.

            Did Romney take part in a gang attack on some guy way, way back when? Probably, though I will retain some doubt in cases where the motive is clearly present for fabrication. Did he forget doing so? I could easily believe that. Does it reflect well on him?

            That’s more complex. On an absolute scale, no, of course not. Any more than Obama’s admitted felonies do, and why don’t you care about those?

            But we, quite obviously, don’t use absolute scales in politics. We routinely accept politicans being wretched examples of humanity. The kind of people who’d, let us say, leave a woman to slowly drown while they go home and get a hot shower and a good night’s sleep. That’s the sort of person we, (And by “we”, I mean “you”.) find acceptable as our leaders. Tax cheats, insider trading, cheating on their wifes while they’re in the hospital, doing drugs, siccing the IRS on political enemies… These are all the sorts of minor flaws found acceptable in politicians on a fairly routine basis.

            And on THAT scale, the only scale Obama has a prayer of not flunking himself, Romney comes off fairly good. An indictment of that scale, sure, but we either use it for both candidates, or neither.

            It is, in fact, something of a tribute to the guy that you had to go that far back to find something to pin on him. As I said, no divorce records to unseal just before the election when it comes to THIS guy. As babysitters go he might be human detrius, but as politicans go he’s squeaky clean.

          10. = = =
            Brett Bellmore says:
            May 14, 2012 at 4:09 am

            Cranky: Mother’s day, remember? Got my wife some crickets for the occasion. (Yes, that was a metaphor!)
            = = =

            It was Saturday the 12th when you made the statement that any person who uses any amount of any illegal drug for any amount of time in their life is defined as an “addict”. And I can’t help but noticing that you still haven’t replied to those who pointed out your significant error.

            As for being a birther, all 50 states now use standardized, computer-generated short form birth documents as the legal method of providing birth certification. Barack Obama posted an image of that document, obtained from the birth registrar of the State of Hawaii, during the first month of his campaign (and was the only candidate do so or be asked to do so). After that there was no question as to his eligibility to run for President, nada, zero, zip, none, and continuing the hue and cry was what marked one as a birther. Including you. Given some of the extraordinarily silly things you posted on the topic on this very site you might want to let this one drop; the vein is too rich and too easily mined.

            Cranky

          11. “It was Saturday the 12th when you made the statement that any person who uses any amount of any illegal drug for any amount of time in their life is defined as an “addict”. ”

            Actually, my statement was that, were Romney to be found to have used illegal drugs as a young man, there’s essentially no chance Democrats wouldn’t call him an “addict”; There’s technical language, and colloquial, and I was using the latter.

            And you’re entitled, I suppose, to your peculiar definition of “birther” as somebody who thought Obama was born in the US and should have to prove it. Don’t expect me to accept it myself, though.

          12. 1. actually your statement started off with the following sentence– “As for Obama not being an addict, isn’t it conventional to refer to people who illegally use illegal drug as “addicts”?” and cranky is right that you haven’t walked back from that point at all.

            2. with respect to your later point in that statement i reiterate my comment the same day– how many times did national politicians, editorialists for major papers, reporters for the mainstream media, or anyone of note refer to george w bush as a drug addict during the course of the primaries leading up to his nomination, during the election campaign leading up to his presidency, or during the eight years of his presidency?

            3. given the logical contortions you’ve gone through in the past to avoid admitting that obama has proved he was born in hawaii in 1961, and the fact that even now you imply that you refuse to accept it as proven, don’t be surprised if observers of your statements call you a birther.

          13. “given the logical contortions you’ve gone through in the past to avoid admitting that obama has proved he was born in hawaii in 1961, and the fact that even now you imply that you refuse to accept it as proven, don’t be surprised if observers of your statements call you a birther.”

            Again, you may regard this as a matter of faith, I am not a member of your church.

            I think the location of Obama’s birth is now about as well proven as one might expect, and to a degree sufficient to constitute legal proof. This doesn’t mean Obama was entitled to decide how much proof was appropriate, if better proof than he was in a mood to produce was easily available.

            As, let’s not forget, it proved to be, despite all the thousands of words expended explaining why it was impossible for him to produce the long form birth certificate. The impossible to produce birth certificate was produced as soon as Obama found it convenient.

            We might speculate why Obama felt it useful to keep the controversy going, when he could end it at any time.

          14. Now that you’ve got the kids to bed (admittedly a difficult and exhausting process), could you take a minute to address this quote:

            = = =
            Brett Bellmore says:
            May 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm
            […]
            As for Obama not being an addict, isn’t it conventional to refer to people who illegally use illegal drug as “addicts”?
            = = =

            Thanks.

            Cranky

            PS When you ordered a birth certificate copy for your newborn three years ago, what did it look like? Care to post a picture?

          15. brett, i must thank you for demonstrating exactly why you are frequently accused of birtherism in your remarkably long-winded non-response to item 3 on my list of points i’d like you to address. i await your non-responses to items 1 and 2 with baited breath. i could quote warren terra at length on the contortions you’ve gone through but i don’t know what the point would be since his comments under this post more than adequately cover the matter.

            i would add that, far from me being the one relying on faith regarding obama’s birth certificate, it is you who are cluttering the discussion with your superstitious imaginings that obama was in control of what the state of hawaii could or would do regarding the issuance of a particular form of birth certificate. that’s you, you, you.

            even as i type these words i realize that i am never going to find a satisfactory resolution to this discussion because i have come to believe you are constitutionally incapable of admitting you might have been wrong about something and are more concerned with evading a direct question than with responding to it. i once entertained the possibility that you were a sarcastic wit of the dead pan variety but over the last year or so you have convinced me that you are more likely to be an irredeemable troll seeking only to argue solely for the sake of arguing.

            you have my heartfelt sympathies for your struggles against cancer, my father died of cancer on 2009, and i’ve walked in the local relay for life every year since. as a cancer survivor i take my hat off to you but as a contributor to the conversations on this site i put a dozen hats back on.

        2. Interesting…

          Yesterday Brent choose Kleiman Door #1.
          Today Brent went for Door #2.
          All that’s left is Kleiman Door #3…

          So you see Navarro?
          Brent is at times insightful, but he is always useful

        3. Navarro:

          I hold your comments in high regard and respect your opinion, but this time, even though you’ve made a solid case, I strongly disagree. I don’t see any good reason to ban Brett from this blog (maybe it’s just me, but I still miss Malcolmtent even though he was often quite trollish — that guy cracked me up!). I’ll concede that Brett does on fairly regular occasion have an ugly tendency to paint liberals with a broad brush of negative behaviors that, in reality though he often refuses to acknowledge it, applies equally to conservatives (and to human nature in general), and that he does at times unfairly project dark motives onto those holding opinions he disagrees with. His inferred claim that right-leaning blogs are naturally much more tolerant of dissenting opinion then left-leaning blogs sounds absurd to me, but I suspect my perspective, having been booted from right-wing blogs myself for polite dissent, is similarly illusory. But who among us can honestly say that we’ve never poorly argued a point, or couldn’t benefit from improvements in our rhetorical style, and I’ve perceived such improvements in Brett’s style, though spotty at times (old habits are hard to break), just as he says he’s perceived his positive impact on some of us.

          As Brett has said, he comes here not for the (seldom-existent) echo chamber of agreement with his opinions, but to have them challenged. Nobody’s going to challenge him much on the tea party blogs, are they? And though my political leanings are decidedly to the left of his, that’s what I come here for too. There are some great minds here, like yours and Brett’s, who are willing to engage each other on the topics that come up, and I usually get a lot more out of the comments, Brett’s included, than the main article, especially when we disagree. We all benefit from the breadth of diversity found here, whether from gaining a perspective that is new to us and broadens our viewpoint, or from doing the work to defend an opinion, thereby sharpening our rhetoric on the point.

          If Brett makes what a lot of the rest of us consider absurd arguments, or forgets to mind his manners (as long as he stays reasonably within the rules), there’s no need to call for a ban — we call him out on it ourselves! In fact, it’s my observation that Brett often takes at least as much flak as he dishes out, as in this thread.

          1. i don’t even necessarily want him to be banned, i just want him to show some logical discipline. it is at those times when his approach to rational argument make him resemble a piece of software failing the turing test that i want someone with authority on this site to exercise some discipline over him. i can accept a lot of things in the pursuit of discussion but offenses against logic and reason do offend me.

          2. You’ll note that Mr. Bellmore is now over in a current thread and has suddenly run out of “stimulating arguments” in this one.

            Cranky

    2. Admittedly this is a step forward from Mr. Bellmore’s claim of yesterday that the reports of young Romney’s behavior were false; he is now admitting that the incidents occurred without having been in the delivery room, oops, I mean the school hallway himself.

      Cranky

    3. Brett is funny. What he intentionally overlooks is that it was the Romney campaign that opened the door to going back to his youth. They thought having his schoolmates talk about what a swell guy he is would humanize him and drive up his popularity. Brilliant move, that.

    4. A little sensitive, Brett? When I saw the first few points, I thought that Mark was aiming square at you.

      As for “How about a compromise: If we’re going to ruin a person’s life based on what they did at 18, we should do it when they’re 18.” it’s a little late for a Republican to claim that. OTHO, right-wingers always scream loudest when they feel that liberals are ‘stealing’ the right’s standard methods.

  3. How do you know he’s lying about it? We don’t all have photographic memories back to age 4.

    And I’d gladly be more merciful towards today’s juvenile and young adult offenders: There are whole classes of laws I’d repeal outright, unlike you.

    As for Obama not being an addict, isn’t it conventional to refer to people who illegally use illegal drug as “addicts”? Sure, I know that’s not accurate terminology. But we’re talking politics here, and if Romney were found to have used an illegal substance at that age, you’d need exponential notation to relate how unlikely Democrats would be to not call him an “addict”.

    1. = = = As for [George W. Bush] not being an addict, isn’t it conventional to refer to people who illegally use illegal drug as “addicts”? = = =

      Well, no, it isn’t; otherwise the 95% or so of all high school kids who have had a beer under the (ridiculous) legal drinking age of 21 would be defined as “addicts”. Per dictionary.com an addict is one who is addicted; viz “devoted or given up to a practice or habit or to something psychologically or physically habit-forming (usually followed by to ): to be addicted to drugs.”. You’ll need to provide some evidence that a majority of US citizens believe that people who use moderate quantities of psychoactive substances over a period of time and then stop are “devoted or [psychologically or physically] given up”. I can’t say that’s a very common belief among people I know.

      Cranky

    2. Brett, was George W. Bush a drug addict for using cocaine?

      We know he is lying about it because the incident was corroborated by four named witnesses. And, I might add, this is far from the first time Mitt Romney has lied. He is proving himself to be quite a frequent liar, in both his own history and on big policy issues. Have you heard of the Cretan paradox?

      1. Wait, where can I find the corroboration on the GWB cocaine usage? I’m serious here.

        I know that he had a family friend named Doug Wead who has him on tape (maybe just about using cannabis?) but I don’t know about any other witnesses.

        Let me confess my interest here. I am one of those “End the Drug War” types that Prof. Kleiman finds so shrill and overzealous and simplistic but I would really like to know about hypocritical pro-drug-war politicians.

    3. how many times, you magnificent troll, did national politicians, editorialists for major papers, reporters for the mainstream media, or anyone of note refer to george w bush as a drug addict during the course of the primaries leading up to his nomination, during the election campaign leading up to his appointment to the presidency, or during the eight years of his presidency?

    4. “How do you know he’s lying about it?”

      Brett has a point. Romney may have, in fact, committed dozens or even hundreds of acts of violence and cruelty. In that case it might be hard to remember the specifics of any particular such act.

    5. The other participants – the ones who assisted the young adult Mitt Romney as he took the lead role and wielded the scissors – say they have for decades by haunted by how thy could be such reprehensible louts as to participate in such an assault, and have tried to become better people. Mitt Romney says he has no recollection whatsoever.

      Here are your options:
      1) Several people are lying about the incident happening, for no perceptible reason. Mitt is therefore telling the truth when saying he can’t recall it, because it never happened.
      2) Mitt indeed can’t recall this horrific assault that has so haunted the other participants, because he’s a sociopath.
      3) Mitt indeed can’t recall this horrific assault that has so haunted the other participants, because he committed so darn many.
      4) Mitt is lying, and can recall this horrific assault. Hopefully he has been driven by the recollection to become a better person and to raise his sons to be better people, but he felt unable to admit and discuss this.

      Pick one of the four, or propose another. Honestly, I hope it’s option 4: option 1 is very implausible, and options 2 and 3 are very scary. And we already know Mitt lies frequently and without much thought as to whether he’ll get caught out. But even option 4 is hardly flattering to Mitt, especially because he has maintained his professions of ignorance with an extremely mealymouthed fake apology.

      1. Options 2 and 3 have more than a little overlap: I’m not even sure they are distinguishable.

      2. Warren, it’s stuff like this that is the reason that you’re my favorite commenter. But I’m afraid you’re wasting your time: no one on Team Red will listen to you. (And I say this as a devoted member of Team Yellow–the Libertarians.)

      3. I propose another:

        5) Mitt indeed can’t recall this horrific assault that has so haunted the other participants, because he repressed his memory of it in order not to feel bad about himself.

        Unfortunately, people do that all the time. In order to continue to believe in themselves as good people, they repress (or mentally re-frame) their bad actions. It’s probably what Mitt did, if indeed he doesn’t remember.

        That makes his continued denial in the face of clear evidence that the assault occurred both a deep character and political flaw, since he’s missing the opportunity to learn and grow from his mistake (as a person,) or to express remorse for the long-past action, and spin it to congratulate himself on his growth and change (as a politician.) Republicans are notorious for refusing to act humble, even when they should: remember Bush’s silence in the debate when he was asked what mistakes he had made? Nixon’s “I am not a crook!” plea is common for most politicians, (except possibly Jimmy Carter.)

        Also, 6) Mitt indeed can’t recall this horrific assault that has so haunted the other participants, because he lacks the empathy to understand its cruelty–he believed he did no actual harm to his victim. That’s bad, but doesn’t rise to the level of an indication of sociopathy.

    6. No, Brett, it is not conventional to refer to people who use drugs illegally as addicts, unless the user exhibits the other indicia of addiction.

      You can keep glossing the matter and repeat “but the Kenyan is worse”, but the fact is that past behavior is a fairly good predictor of future behavior. Mr. Romney has shown no sign of remorse over his part of the incident. He denies recalling the incident at all. He has said he’d hate to be judged on the basis of what he did in high school: so would we all. Everyone I know did some mind-bogglingly stupid things as an adolescent.

      The difference, Brett, is that most of us learned from the experience. The thing Romney has made very clear is that he hasn’t learned from those experiences.

      Let’s compare that with President Obama. Obama has admitted to having done some unsavory things as an adolescent. Obama says (and the objective evidence seems to support) that he regrets those things and he has learned from them.

      And that is what concerns people who are worried about it. Romney doesn’t care about people who aren’t in his inner circle. He’s demonstrated it time and again.

      1. There are things that I did thirty years ago that haunt me and that I still feel guilty about that, when I tried to apologize for them, the injured party is the one that claims not to remember the incident.

    7. = = =
      Brett Bellmore says:
      May 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      How do you know he’s lying about it? We don’t all have photographic memories back to age 4.

      And I’d gladly be more merciful towards today’s juvenile and young adult offenders: There are whole classes of laws I’d repeal outright, unlike you.

      As for Obama not being an addict, isn’t it conventional to refer to people who illegally use illegal drug as “addicts”
      = = =

      Just for the record 😉

      Cranky

  4. There are types of bad behavior that chiefly hurt yourself (drinking, drug use) and types that chiefly hurt someone else (bullying). Obama did things that hurt himself. Romney did something that hurt someone else and promptly forgot about it because if it didn’t hurt him how bad could it have been?

  5. Many of us–most of us–did some routine cajoling in middle school and even early high school. Maybe called someone a few names. I remember a few incidents like that in my own life. But that ended by the time I was fifteen or sixteen. You knew who the true bullies were because they went beyond name calling to doing real physical or psychological harm. And they did it even as seventeen or eighteen year olds.

    I think Americans are getting a much clearer picture of who Mitt Romney is. He’s the person in high school who you didn’t much like because he was truly mean. He seems like the archetypal bully of so many teen movies. A Winkelvoss, a Biff from Back to the Future.

  6. I made the transparent mistake of clicking over to Althouse’s blog (one could insert a Full Stop here) to see how Obama could be worse. The answer is, when he gave some girl a shove, he did it through caving to peer pressure, whereas at least Romney showed Presidential leadership potential in his attack.

    Even worse, I read some of the comments. I didn’t find any that brought up the difference between Obama’s unforced confession of his mistake and Romney’s claiming to have no memory of the incident.

    1. By the way, RE the shoving incident Obama wrote about (about which it should of course be obvious that only a knave or a fool would read the wingers’ retelling rather than consulting their source material), the victim has been interviewed. Suffice it to say she thinks rather more highly of Obama than Mr. Lauber likely thought of Romney.

    2. Wow, so sing the ringleader of bullying (and therefore the *source* of the peer pressure) is leadership.

      One thing the blog entry you mention is very god for: it shows how authoritarian the mindset of these conservatives. They really do admire power, cruelty, dominance. They don’t mind at all being submissive to a bully, as long as he’s the biggest bully in the schoolyard (in the nation). They don’t mind being victimized themselves, as long as they can say they’re screwed by the very top dog.

      Their top more is dominance and submission.

  7. @brettbellmore

    “If we’re going to ruin a person’s life based on what they did at 18…”

    Who, precisely, is proposing to ruin Mitt Romney’s life? If failure to win the presidency is the definition of a ruined life, well, it seems that the overwhelming majority of the human race are destined for futile misery.

    @mark kleiman

    “Ann Althouse – who surely can’t be as stupid in real life as the character she plays on her blog…”

    She’s certainly labored mightily to maintain the impression of small-minded, hateful ignorance for years – if she isn’t, in fact, precisely what she seems. I suppose that she (and McArdle and DeRugy and the Palins (mère et fille etc etc)) may not be mentally lazy and morally deficient drones bent on wrecking the public sphere as rapidly and hard as possible, but it’s hard to see much evidence to support that proposition.

    1. Okay, this post is just misogynistic. If not, please tell me what Megan McArdle and Veronique de Rugy could possibly have in common with the Palins. Seriously, you should just take it back and stop embarrassing yourself.

      1. Why, Prof, I think you’ll find that they are all pseudo-conservatives who advance a profoundly flawed ideology with no regard for facts or truth. Given the negative effect the policies they favor have on American women (they are, after all, zealous advocates of the GOP War on Women) any misogyny on display is clearly theirs. I should have added Phyllis Schlafly and Jan Brewer to the list – and I do thank you for calling this omission to my attention in your artless way.

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