April 27, 2011

Prudence with Politician's Personal Lives

Marc Comtois

So the muckrakers over at RIF were all upset--even calling us hypocrites! (oh no, I'm stung)--because we didn't jump on the Watson DUI story. They cited one example, which, as Justin noted, was a brief mention used as a comparison point for the truly egregious aspects of said pol: his political agenda. It was not a lone-standing open forum on a Democrat politician getting nabbed. And RI Future never mentioned it either (go ahead, search for yourself). But they were ready to jump on Rep. Watson, weren't they? Hm. Hint: think "(" then "R" then ")".

Nonetheless, several RIFuturites attempted a threadjack, which some justified because they thought it grounds for discussion based on how it affected the political future of the minority leader and his agenda. By then, Andrew had up his post on Rep. Watson's legislative history regarding medical marijuana. The "need" had been met.

The point is that we simply don't make it a regular practice to get into the private life shenanigans of our politicians just for the sake of it. Really. Now, I won't claim universal abstinence on our--or my--part (methinks references to Patrick Kennedy may include some allusions, for instance), but generally we try to focus on issues and wonkdom. When the "incidents" may affect policy then, yes (as commenter JParis suggested) perhaps it is time to talk about it. So we did.

Just not in a speedy, "progressive" fashion.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Just for the record, I started the threadjack and I'm not a RIFUTUREite. I simply thought the head in the sand title was going to be about Rep. Watson.

Posted by: michael at April 27, 2011 9:04 AM

I agree that Watson's arrest shouldn't be treated as particularly imporant in itself, but it should get *some* passing mention just to keep the readers informed of current events. This would have the added bonus of short-circuiting all the cries of hypocrisy, even if they do ultimately lack merit. Even for bloggers with the utmost journalistic integrity, a little "defensive medicine" is warranted at times.

Watson has voted on marijuana legislation in the recent past, made highly publicized (although indirect) statements about marijuana to the media, and will likely be involved in marijuana legislation in the future. Evidence about his use of marijuana is therefore a relevant political topic and can be treated as such. It doesn't have to receive paparazzi-like coverage just for the sake of gawking at local celebrities, but I can be counted among those who expected at least some mention.

Posted by: Dan at April 27, 2011 9:16 AM

Dan, as far as I know, AR is not a public utility. It is a privately-owned blog. We have no "right" to "expect" coverage on any topic of our own choosing.

I have noticed a similar lack of posts over at RIF on any aspect of the entire Cicilline fiscal fraud scandal. Since that is a topic of public policy and the performance of an elected official in his job, should we should expect some coverage of it over there?

The answer to that question is "yes," and the Left's silence about their favorite son speaks volumes about their integrity.

Posted by: BobN at April 27, 2011 10:02 AM

What's most interesting to me (and for the record I didn't jump on Watson for his arrest) is Watson's contention that the police lied in the report about his mental state (e.g. that he was slurring words, unable to stand).

Given the results of the breathalyzer, I'm inclined to believe him. But when this kind of thing happens to kids in the inner-city or to people with long hair, punk clothes, etc. we just assume that got what they deserve.

So how about it AR readers, is there a double standard at work here?

Posted by: Russ at April 27, 2011 10:15 AM

Only the brainwashed brotherhood accept what the police write in their reports or testify to as the truth, wherever that may be.

Posted by: riborn at April 27, 2011 10:29 AM

Riborn - You have no idea. I used to handle a lot of MA DUI cases. The police reports from these cases might as well have been carbon copies of each other. I swear they have a master report somewhere on their local network drive that every officer simply copies keyword for keyword. Every single one reads as follows:

"I observed a ____ vehicle on highway ____ cross over the dotted line in the road and fail to signal. I pulled over the vehicle. I detected a strong odor of alcohol emanating from the vehicle. The driver slurred his words and appeared nervous. He fumbled with his registration. I observed that his eyes were glassy and bloodshot. I asked him to perform a field sobriety test. He failed to keep his balance and did not keep his hands at his side."

The police reports in these cases are worthless as far as I would be concerned. Any of the above could easily be the result of the operator's nervousness from being detained and interrogated, from illness of the operator, from mistaken perception, or from falsification. All I would ever trust in DUI cases is a professionally administered breathalyzer, or preferably blood test.

Who uses the term "glassy," anyway? I think some cop from the 50's used the term and every lazy patrolman has been copying the report ever since.

Posted by: Dan at April 27, 2011 10:57 AM

In all fairness -- how many people actually called AR hypocritical because of this incident over on RIFuture? I count two.

Anyway, I'd still like to see the discussion on drug policy I was hoping for in Andrew's thread, but we can't always get what we want I suppose.

Posted by: jparis at April 27, 2011 11:26 AM

Russ said:
"So how about it AR readers, is there a double standard at work here?"

Where Russ? As you libs would say, be specific. On this blog? On RIFuture? In society? Did anyone writing here jump on the Watson defense bandwagon besides you? The better question I guess is, what's your point?

Posted by: Max Diesel at April 27, 2011 11:56 AM

Russ can work the "poor oppressed inner city kid/hippie appearance/goth style"crap into just about any post imaginable.
The fact that a Mr.Establishment type like Watson was stopped and arrested should speak for itself.
The cops are out looking for drunks,period-not Black,Hispanic,one-legged,gay,White,or elderly drunks-just drunks.Is that so hard for a progressive to understand?

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 27, 2011 12:22 PM

What I find most interesting and relevant to this case is that Watson wasn't 'pulled over' for a traffic violation; this was a 'checkpoint'.

Does the idea of having police block a road to give every car a looksie seem odd and disturbing to you?

If he blew well under the legal limit and wasn't actively high, my guess is that his driving was fine and that he didn't constitute any danger at all. Heck, even if he WAS stoned, it usually doesn't affect driving in ways that threaten public safety. Stoned drivers tend to go slower and check their mirrors a whole lot, drunk drivers tend to ignore things and speed, and there are statistics to back that up.

The only time I've ever seen a checkpoint was while leaving Portland, Maine on a Saturday night. Police had the downtown area set up so you had to pass a checkpoint before getting onto the highway. I haven't been to Portland since (though I still go to Maine). Any vacation that includes mandatory interactions with law-enforcement gets demerits in my planning.

Posted by: mangeek at April 27, 2011 1:18 PM

"Does the idea of having police block a road to give every car a looksie seem odd and disturbing to you?"

Yes, indeed it does. I am all about preventing DUIs, but when it involves a basic presumption of guilt like checkpoints do, I have a huge problem with it.

I was stopped at a checkpoint only once in Connecticut once on my way home from a friend's birthday party many hours after having consumed very little alcohol. I admitted this when asked about my activities (perhaps stupidly) and the officer made me recite my abc's starting from a random letter. I hate to think what would have happened had I stuttered.

And Joe: What gave you the impression progressives as a whole think that all police racially profile, or at all times?

And I certainly don't want police officers thinking that checkpoints are the only way they can assure the populace they aren't racially profiling. I value their services, as long as they presume people are innocent until given a reason not to.

Posted by: jparis at April 27, 2011 5:16 PM

Dan the reason all DUI arrest reports appear similar is because...they are all similar. As I'm sure you learned in law school in any arrest report you must establish that a crime has been committed, you do that by laying out the elements of the crime. In a DUI you need (generally) the operation of a motor vehicle, some type of laned roadway violation that gave you PC to stop the car, followed by your observations when you made contact with the driver. Did you observe a ______vehicle operating? Did the ______vehicle (insert your moving violation here)? Did the drunk smell like booze? Did the drunk fumble around in his wallet for 10 minutes and then hand you his library card? Now if these things weren't in a report a lawyer like yourself would jump all over it claiming unlawful arrest! I don't get paid by the arrest and I find DUI's boring and time consuming. I'd rather be making quality arrests and if I do one I'm off the road for 2 hours at least. I don't know many cops who get off on DUI's so to say that we would take the time to falsify one is a bit much. Perhaps you are "making assumptions" about people you don't know much about?
By the way, road blocks were found to be unconstitutional by the RI Supreme Court decades ago. You won't see them used in RI. Where they are used they can't been random. A set number of cars have to be allowed to pass before you stop one, say every fifth car. They are run systematically and quite well documented before, during, and after. I guess that prevents us racist cops from stopping just minorities. And Dan, before you get all fired up this last paragraph wasn't directed at you or anyone else, its just a little information sharing.

Posted by: seirra1 at April 27, 2011 10:26 PM

I'm confused. Why would I get "fired up" about you stating common knowledge ?

Posted by: Dan at April 27, 2011 11:24 PM

"Where Russ? As you libs would say, be specific. On this blog? On RIFuture? In society?"

Yes, all of the above. Not trying to turn this into a left/right thing. And, Joe, I wasn't commenting on the cops, although if Watson isn't lying then the police report is a near total fabrication.

Just commenting that the most interesting aspect of this seems to me to be completely ignored. If he were some punk kid, this would be an entirely different story (or nonstory).

Posted by: Russ at April 28, 2011 10:35 AM

Russ-you make one VERY valid point.
My experience in law enforcement(25 years)convinced me beyound a reasonable doubt that peoples'prominence in society for better or worse has an enormous effect on how their actions andbehaviors are related to the public.
A Lindsay Lohan shoplifting beef eclipses any number of murders in the media world.
Shameful.Most of the people I dealt with lived at the bottom of the world and their path through life went unnoticed except by those who knew them or had to deal with them in some way.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 28, 2011 5:37 PM
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