Sunday, October 27, 2013

What Would YOU Do?

A story blew up in Maryland this week, that’s already put a charge in to next year’s race for Governor.  Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler was photographed at a large house-party in Delaware, where there was a copious amount of teenage drinking going on.  His son was there, and his original statement was that he came in to briefly speak with his son, didn't notice any under-aged drinking.  He told the Baltimore Sun that even if there was, he didn't feel it was his place to do anything about it.  The quote:

Assume for the purposes of discussion that there was widespread drinking at this party.  How is that relevant to me? … The question is, do I have any moral authority over other people’s children at beach week in another state?  I say no.”
Gansler is near the center, in a white shirt, holding out his cell phone.
Gansler also disputed charges that he was taking a cell phone picture.  He said he “was actually looking at a text message, because I’m 50 years old and can’t read, so I was holding it out.” 

To that, this 52-year old says, “Word,” although other partygoers say he was there for quite some time, and took a number of pictures and videos with his son.

What isn't disputed is that he was one of the organizers of this adult-chaperoned party (see the two dudes in the upper right corner of the picture), with ground rules.  (No hard liquor, no boys and girls behind closed doors.) 

Now, just to clarify, I really don’t know anything about his qualifications to be governor, nor do I know much about his opponent.  I figure I’ll cross those bridges when I come to them next year.  So as yet, I don’t have a dog in this fight.

I just wonder if this is something that should derail a bid for office.  I mean, there are two levels here… his role as a political leader, and his role as a father and responsible citizen.

First of all, I look at my upbringing.  I hosted a bunch of parties, just like that one.  (Only more “Barn,” and less “Beach House.”)  Well, my parents technically “hosted” the parties.  It was their house and their barn, and they often provided the beer and wine.  Sure, I was older; we didn't have our first Barn Party until I was out of high school, but my brother and sister weren't, and neither were their friends or our neighbors.

So I’m not really one of those “Never let a teenager drink” people.  I see the value in having a good time, but keeping some supervision so that things don’t get out of hand.  And always collecting keys at the door, so that there are no tragedies to wake up to.  At our parties, the only tragedies were spilled beer and spats between boyfriends and girlfriends.

I can state categorically, that if that were me, there’s no way I would have went in there and busted up the party or tried to curtail the drinking.  I agree that it wouldn't be my place to try to “parent” anyone but my own kid. 

I don’t know that I could have, even if I wanted to.  What am I going to do, run around and take the drink out of everyone’s hand?  That’s a good way to get your ass kicked by a group of teenage boys. 

The alternative would be to call the cops, to a party I had a hand in planning.  Again, I would not be “that guy.”  Teens will drink, and I believe laying down a total ban will make it that much more attractive later.  And I’m not going to risk getting a bunch of kids tangled up with The Law, over having a couple of beers and partying on.

All of this, I’m saying as a regular guy.  (And not even as a parent, obviously.)  So what about as a politician?  In technical terms, he’s right; he has no jurisdiction in another state.  But politically, it’s a major PR hit.  Common sense and politics rarely go hand in hand.  He’s the Attorney General, Maryland’s top law enforcement officer.  It just doesn't look good to be seen as anything but “Law and Order, Law and Order, Law and Order.”

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out next November.  But what I really want to know is what do YOU think?  What would you do if you were him, only as a regular civil non-servant?  Do you bust up the party and pull your kid out?  Do you call the cops?  Do you hang out and supervise?  Do you have a few beers yourself? 

And what if you did have political aspirations?  Does that change your actions?

Inquiring Bluzdudes want to know.


Deb K said...

There are so many facets to this situation that it is very challenging to tease them all out in a logical way but I will try. I start at the beginning where the guy loses me with his flat-out dishonesty. How could he have not noticed that there was drinking was occurring and my guess is that he knew that some of those kids were not of legal age for alcohol. Second, from the parental and not political perspective, I did not permit my kids who were not of legal age to have friends over and drink alcohol on my watch. I was so worried about the potential for injury and other bad things. My kids had parties while we were away and they were busted and penalized afterward. I'm not saying I did not allow them to drink alcohol under our roof when they were underage because we did. But we did not allow them to have their friends come over and drink. That was where our personal line was drawn. When you and I were kids things were different. The laws have gotten much stricter and parents are held legally responsible for consequences arising from under age drinking at the parents' home. Anyway, as a parent, I did not allow my kids to go places where I knew there would be underage drinking. We had some big big fights about this and I'm not saying that it didn't happen and in fact I know it did (in retrospect and sharing stories now they're a little older). But I didn't condone it. And I'm not a particularly hard ass parent in general. But I was scared about injury to themselves and others and was worried about getting busted etc. and other long term repercussions. As a parent if I walked into that party I would have warned everyone to knock it off and I was going to call the cops in a 1/2 hour and give them time to clean up their act. Yes, that is hard line but it's consistent with my philosophy and I would not have felt guilty about it because I would not have been involved with the party planning aspect at all. Part of my hard ass attitude on this subject is that my husband and I are both attorneys and we were concerned about how the headline would read if one of our kids got busted for underage drinking. Attorneys are supposed to obey the law, not break the law. That brings me to the next point. This guy was the freaking state AG of a neighboring state. I don't care if he technically had jurisdiction or not. His presence there condoned the behavior. It showed very poor judgment. Either he should have spoken to his son and exited or he should have taken steps to bust up the party. But one option that he did not have was to stay awhile and take photos. Even if he did not have aspirations at the time to run for governor, he should have realized that this is not a good idea as the Maryland AG to be in a house with a bunch of underage kids drinking. As a politician and chief law enforcement official of a state, he has a higher obligation than you, me, your parents, or just about anyone, to abide by the law and to model this behavior. He fell down on the job here and showed poor judgment. I'd have a lot more respect for him if he said, "oops, I screwed up. I'm a parent too and I did not think this through" rather than say he did not notice any one drinking at this party. Geez, there is even a red solo cup in the photo and I bet it's not filled with soda.

injaynesworld said...

I think if he's dumb enough to get himself photographed in such a situation, he may be dumb enough to do anything. But then, "Dumb enough to do anything" are pretty much the requirements for a politician these days, aren't they?

Mary Ann said...

If he fudges on trivia like not noticing obvious booze at a kids'party, what else will he fudge (or has he already)?
A public official, especially an AG, is supposed to Notice broken rules. Isn't that his job?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, he's really just flunking the stupid test here. And I have to call BS on his near-sighted text reading. He is photographing hotties that he can enjoy at a later time. OK, now he's stupid and creepy. And apparently he was so taken by the hotties, that he wasn't able to make out the amber liquid in the red solo cup at the lower left. That makes him stupid, creepy, and clueless. Seriously, doesn't he have "people" for this sort of thing? Steve Carell is totally going to play him in the movie version.

As a side note, my brother once had a party while I was in college and my folks were out of town. It got so out of hand that he had to call the cops to break up his own party. The cops were so impressed that he called them on himself that both they and my parents went pretty easy on him.

bluzdude said...

You know, that's a damned good idea. Your brother was ahead of his time. It was a gamble to bring in The Law, but it paid off. Plus, it got all the drunks out of your house.

bluzdude said...

“How could he not notice there was drinking…” That’s the first place he lost me… a politician’s response. Anyone with half a brain could see that this was a beer-fueled teen party.

The huge difference, which I failed to elaborate on in the post, is that it was a vastly different time, back when I was having parties. If MADD even existed, it was in its infancy, and SADD didn’t exist yet. If pictures were taken, they had to be brought to FotoMat for developing, and then the only people that saw them were those the photographer showed them to. So it was relatively simple to have a party that never raised anyone’s attention.

Those days are long gone, because kids record or document every single thing they do, and the consequence to parents who provide alcohol to minors is severe. Like you said, the hosts have everything to lose.

And once you stir fame or politics into it, it inevitably blows up into a “thing.”

The thing is, this guy was one of the “hosts” of the party. He knew exactly what was going on, and there was no way he was pulling his son out of a party that he had a hand in setting up. His only play was not to have done that, and to stay the hell out of the area.

Once that didn’t happen, he was screwed. There is no sound byte that gets his butt out of trouble. All he can do is hope that the American People’s notoriously short attention span and collective memory kicks in.

bluzdude said...

It constantly amazes me what politicians think they can get away with any more. (And that’s one more reason I’ll never go into politics… you don’t get to have any more fun… you have to appear “on the job” at all times.

bluzdude said...

He definitely should have had his Communications Officer go over his statement, because it strains credulity for him to think we'd believe he didn't notice any drinking going on.