Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Omen

A lot of attention was been showered on the success of Issue 2 in Ohio which was a repudiation of the efforts of the Republican governor, John Kasich, to limit the power public employee unions wielded over the state's taxpayers. The failure of the Ohio GOP to turn back the unions on this ballot initiative was seen as a massive setback for the GOP and a favorable augury for President Obama in this pivotal 2012 state.

Almost lost in the media excitement over this single hopeful reed to which the administration is clinging was the news out of Virginia which is a far more unfavorable augury than Ohio is hopeful. Despite extraordinarily heavy investments of time and resources in Virginia the Democrats were trounced.

Kim Strassel at the Wall Street Journal fills in the details:
Virginia Republicans added seven new seats to their majority in the House of Delegates, giving them two-thirds of that chamber's votes—the party's largest margin in history. The GOP also took over the Virginia Senate in results that were especially notable, given that Virginia Democrats this spring crafted an aggressive redistricting plan that had only one aim: providing a firewall against a Republican takeover of that chamber. Even that extreme gerrymander didn't work.

Every Republican incumbent — 52 in the House, 15 in the Senate — won. The state GOP is looking at unified control over government for only the second time since the Civil War. This is after winning all three top statewide offices — including the election of Gov. Bob McDonnell — in 2009, and picking off three U.S. House Democrats in last year's midterms.

Elected state Democrats — who form the backbone of grass-roots movements — couldn't distance themselves far enough from Mr. Obama in this race. Most refused to mention the president, to defend his policies, or to appear with him. The more Republicans sought to nationalize the Virginia campaign, the more Democrats stressed local issues.
According to Strassel many Democrat candidates even tried to identify themselves with the state's Republican governor in a desperate bid to separate themselves in the voters' minds from a president whose policies are growing increasingly unpopular in a state he won easily just three years ago.

Virginia may not be a bellwether for 2012, but it's certainly an omen and, viewed from the Oval Office, it's can't be a happy one.

One More Word

The Penn State scandal continues to receive attention from both the media and readers of Viewpoint. One theme that keeps popping up among those commenting on the discovery by Mike McQueary of coach Jerry Sandusky with a young boy in the locker room shower is that McQueary was morally obligated to do something to stop the assault on the boy, and that he failed this duty. I agree and have tried to offer over the last two days an explanation of why he didn't meet that obligation that doesn't call him a coward or impugn his moral character.

There is an obvious possibility, however, that has oddly been overlooked by many of the commentators, including me, that sounds very plausible and which anyone should consider who wants to give McQueary the benefit of the doubt rather than just revile him, like some of the people I've heard and read in the media seem wont to do.

In the narratives of this awful episode it's been assumed by McQueary's detractors that when he chanced upon Sandusky raping the boy in the shower that he quickly left without saying or doing anything to stop the crime, but how does anyone know that when Sandusky saw McQueary the whole thing didn't end right then? It might well have happened that when Sandusky realized that he'd been discovered he released the boy. Indeed, it's hard to imagine that the brutality continued after Sandusky, perhaps mortified that a former player and now a coaching colleague had witnessed him engaging in his disgraceful, disgusting and criminal behavior, realized that he'd been found out.

If Sandusky did stop when he and McQueary saw each other what more do McQueary's critics think he should have done other than taking the boy with him, an action which again presupposes that McQueary was able to think calmly and clearly at a moment when his whole world had been turned upside down?

This is what disturbs me about the media hostility to McQueary. There are a number of possible, at least partially exculpatory, explanations for what happened that night that people don't seem to be willing to concede.They seem instead to want to fulminate against McQueary, heaping opprobrium upon him, calling him a moral idiot and coward who had to "run to daddy," when it could easily have been the case that, in the very act of discovering what was going on, he brought the crime to a halt.

Parenthetically, others have pointed out that calling McQueary a coward is another example of the extraordinary judgmentalism that has surrounded this particular aspect of the case. It has come to light that this "coward" once intervened to break up a dining hall knife fight between two football players. I wonder how many of his despisers, happy to call him a coward from the safety of their arm chairs, would have had the guts to do that.

I don't know what all the facts are, but until we do know more I think it's reprehensible to burn McQueary at the stake, as so many people in the media and elsewhere are eager to do. It's especially reprehensible in my view to commit McQueary to the flames for allegedly failing to do what, in fact, he may actually have done. It may turn out that he's a much better man than a lot of his most hurtful critics think and a much better man than they are themselves.