Monday, September 13, 2010

The Attack On Martha Dean ll

Martha Dean, the Republican nominee for attorney general, made a fruitless plea to Courant reporter Mathew Kauffman at the end of his front page story, “Martha Dean Embroiled In Custody Battle: Experts In The Case Say It Has Taken A Toll On Martha Dean's Son,” a heartfelt cry into the belly of the beast:

"’You're straying into territory that involves a 12-year-old boy and somebody who has lied profusely,’ she said, repeating a frequent assertion she has made in court about her ex-husband. ‘This is serious stuff. Do not go there. This is not appropriate for journalism. It has nothing to do with running for attorney general. It's just the luck that I got stuck with, in having married somebody like this, and we're trying to do the best we can to get through this.’"

But go there Kauffman did. At the center of Kauffman’s story is a psychological evaluation of Dean plucked from Superior Court documents that trace a messy divorce.

Messy divorces, almost always involving minor children, are Darwinian struggles sometimes involving psychological evaluations. Blessed is the politician whose spouse goes gentle into that good night, perhaps clutching in his or her balled fist a sufficient monetary settlement. The much divorced former senator and governor Lowell Weicker, amicably departed from his many wives, was spared the indignity of psychological evaluation, as was soon to be former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd. Sen. Edward Kennedy of blessed memory had a somewhat rough divorce, his married life having been punctuated by the drowning death of a young lady left unattended in the ocean by a senator who may have been drunk at the time. Kennedy’s divorce was spared front page scrutiny, perhaps because his left of center politics was very much in conformity with those reporters writing about “the lion of the U.S. Senate.” The lion was spared the indignity of a psychological evaluation spread out for all the world to see in the pages of the Boston Globe.

It may be that times have changed since those days of yore when reporters declined to mention in their reports private details of the lives of politicians only incidentally related to the duties of their offices. Somewhere along the time-line leading from President John Kennedy, whose sexual exploits were exhausting but hidden from public view, to Dean, the journalistic goal posts were moved to allow the publication of tendentious psychological evaluations.

The psychological evaluation at the center of Kauffman’s story very likely should be taken with, to quote Mark Twain, a ton of salt. Apart from the glosses of the psychologist, snippets of the evaluation that appear in the Courant tell us very little about Dean that Dean herself has not already told us in exhaustive detail. Among all the politicians vying for office this year, she has been more transparent than most, invariably insisting that her political and social views do not necessarily bear on her prospective duties as a would-be attorney general.

Dean is a disciplinarian, unlike a good many of the exponents of the let-it-be school of modern parenting. She is not hostile to orthodox religious belief, a condition that modern psychologists of a certain temperament bite their nails over, preferring a libertinism decidedly more moderate than that espoused by the Marquis DeSade, who tended to carry things to extremes. Dean is a constitutionalist, which strikes Connecticut’s left of center media as a trifle rigid. The snippets quoted in the Courant from one psychological evaluation – apparently, there were several competing evaluations offered to the court -- give no indication of the psychologist’s view of constitutions or statutory laws, which tend to be rather more rigid than may suit the fancy of modern psychologists. As it happens, such bars to progressive politics as one finds in constitutions do not please left of center media adepts at all. The psychological evaluation used by the Courant to suggest that Dean may be more unyielding in her views than, say, current Attorney General Richard Blumenthal unfortunately gives us no indication of the psychologist’s general view of lawyers who, it must be admitted, are more argumentative and confrontational than most psychologists. Karl Kraus, Freud’s Viennese contemporary, once said of the science of psychology that it “was the disease it purported to cure.” Had Kraus, an acerbic critic of modern times, been a modern politician entrapped in a messy divorce, he no doubt would have been subject to an equally messy psychological evaluation in the course of which it would have been determined by his critics that he was not fit to be attorney general.

The Courant has been on a Dean hunt ever since the lady announced her candidacy. This is why: The Courant is a left of center paper, and Dean is right of center politician, the sort of intolerable nuisance that Courant editorialists gleefully strange in their cribs. For twenty years, during which the Courant continually winked at Dick (as we are now encouraged to call him) Blumenthal’s bullying tactics in exchange for hot copy, the paper has supported one or another left of center politician, including the much divorced and married Weicker, the once divorced, twice married Dodd and, in the very near future, Dan Malloy, whose family problems will not be mentioned here -- or in the Courant, at least not on the front page.

The animus directed at Dean by the paper’s editorial board, some of its reporters and nearly all its columnist has nothing to do with dubious psychological reports dug out of the waste baskets of a divorce case the Courant would spurn if the target had been a politician whose political philosophy aligned with the paper’s tiresome often iterated leftist ethos.

The Courant is also in the protection racket. Dean, among all the candidate who have run for attorney general, knows best how to reform the run-amok attorney general's office, a predatory vehicle that, under Blumenthal’s direction, has driven businesses from the state by peppering them with self serving suits poorly grounded in statutory or constitutional prescriptions.

Even the left has begun to notice Blumenthal's litigatory effronteries. In a critical column in printed in Connecticut Law Tribune, defense attorney Norm Pattis, by no means a man of the right, pours a vial of acerbic criticism over the placid attorney general’s pomaded do:

“When I hear Richard Blumenthal chest-thump about Craigslist and its advertising of adult services, two words come to mind: Eliot Spitzer. What is it about aneroxic moralists that chills the blood?”

In a media environment in which the First Amendment is defended stoutly from the left and the right, especially by Dean, whose affection for the Constitution -- all of it – has driven some Courant commentators batty, Pattis is the refreshing exception that proves the rule:

“Dick wants tough new federal laws to clamp down on Internet advertisements. ‘We are determined that Craigslist should be a model for good, not bad, in these practices dealing with prostitution ads,’ Blumenthal said. Oh, please Richard: would you just shut up? He sounds like he’s still running for attorney general and trading jibes with Martha Dean who, as candidate for that office, thinks our children should have firearms training in grade school. At what roadside vegetable stand are these candidates spawned?”

Pattis is simply wrong about Dean. Temperamentally, she opposes the death penalty, as he does, and she has been cuffed and hammered by “liberals” at the Courant for politely RAISING the issue of drug legalization, as he has. He is also wrong about firearms training in schools. But the worse that can be said about Pattis is that he has been insufficiently attentive to an essay written in the early 1900’s by William Graham Sumner, America’s first sociologist, called “The Absurd Effort To Make The World Over.” Part of Pattis’ mission, of course, IS to make the world over, even at the risk of landing in hot soup, as was the case with Dean. But it must be said about Pattis that he is principled; his spine does not wave in the wind at every zepher. He stand’s upright, as homo sapiens was meant to do, and in this he has more in common with Dean than her critics.

Colin McEnroe, who seemed to take little joy in Dean’s unnecessary humiliation, was sad, he said on his blog, that Dean, knowing her divorce could be troublesome, never-the-less had decided to run for office, thus exposing her 8 year old son to Kauffman’s embarrassing disclosures. One can be sure tears flowed at the Courant after the lights went out on Monday. Rick Green’s cheeks were moist with sympathy.

Really, no one wanted this. If only Dean had given way to the Courant’s endorsed Republican primary candidate. She may yet throw in the towel. There is reason to hope.

In fact, the entire Kauffman piece was an unnecessary display of surprisingly uninformative political agi-prop. Little is said in the story about the several psychological evaluations not cited by Kauffman.

The narrative is built around only one psychological evaluation because that evaluation strengthens the Courant’s view often iterated view that Dean is somewhat stern and forbidding; in one of his blogs, Green made reference to Dean’s inhuman cyborg, blue eyes. Kauffman’s narrative, which orbits around the telltale psychological evaluation, did not permit the author to flesh out his timeline. We know that Dean was married to her husband, Carlos Valinho, for 9 years, that they separated and got together again for 8 years, remaining unmarried, during which time her son was born. At some point during this period, her husband or partner, as the case may be, disclosed to a councilor that he had had a child by a woman in Brazil, a piece of intelligence not likely to warm the cockles of the cyborg’s heart. When this happened we do not know, though the information must have been available to Kauffman in the knee deep pile of court documents to which he makes reference in his story. He simply chooses not to emphasize it, possibly because the emotional impact it might have on a reader whose attention Kauffman seeks to focus on a disputed psychological evaluation damaging to Dean, the centerpiece of the Kauffman narrative, might swing a reader’s sympathies towards the cyborg. And that would never do.

After I read the story myself, I asked my wife to read it and give me her opinion. She knows a great deal less about Dean than McEnroe, Pattis, Green and Kauffman, not a law firm. AndrĂ©e is “meticulous and opinionated,” Kauffman’s description of Dean, though not a lawyer. Legally blind, she taught public school for many years under a glass ceiling considerably lower, on account of her disability, than that which hung over the heads of many business women her age.

Her response follows, and I notice it is not much unlike some of the responses that may be found in the commentary section of McEnroe’s blog.

Her first question was, “Who benefits by all this?” Certainly not Dean’s young boy. She thought Dean’s response in taking the boy to Vermont was reasonable because her disappointed former husband might easily have transported the boy to Brazil, at which point he could easily have avoided the reach of American law. If it were a question of preferring the Courant’s tolerance in the manner of bringing up boys or Dean’s Way, she would much prefer Dean’s Way. Two of her friends brought up boys without television sets in the house; all the boys are successful, and none are crippled with psychological problems. Kauffman’s story was stacked in favor of anyone with modern sensibilities who may run against Dean -- nearly all her opponents. What would a psychologist make of Blumenthal’s megalomania? The story did not merit front page treatment. As a woman, you don’t often see this sort of criticism leveled at men. Old school feminists, reading Kauffman’s description of Dean as "meticulous and opinionated," might have objected that his misogyny was showing. “A little too uppity for you, eh, Hoffman?” A liberal’s tolerance is a conservatives intolerance, and vice versa. The tone and thrust of the story was marred by unbudgeable prejudice and intolerance. The paper’s concern with out of wedlock births is rib tickling funny when one considers that the social indiscretions of people like Barney Frank, who allowed a tenant in his apartment to turn his Washington DC home into a gay and straight bordello, have not exited the interests of Courant commentators.

At this point Andree, I regret to say, launched into a salty diatribe against low journalism that cannot be printed here.

Generally, I agree with her sentiments. I expect others will as well.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Norm commented, but his comment, which belongs here, was misdirected to another blog.

Norm Pattis said...
D:

I am often wrong, I suppose, but always determined.

The Courant piece was a low blow. How about psyche profiles of editors? Or merely bar tabs?

Anonymous said...

This type of reporting(?) by the rag in Hartford confirms my decision to cancel and stop reading buying or subscribing after 50 years.

Publius said...

If you carefully read the psyche profile you get the impression that Dean herself came from an abusive household and is abusing her kid by having the kid be used as a ping pong ball in litigation.

Don Pesci said...

Pub,

A couple of things: First, it’s easy to imagine anything of people you don’t know. Familiarity breeds knowledge, and I very much doubt there was abuse in Dean’s family. Growing up Dean, from what I can tell, was a bracing experience. Second, psychologists, in divorce proceedings, are little more than pry bars to open wallets. Third, the author of this story knows little about Dean, less about politics, and still less of people who manage to manipulate journalists by providing them with carefully tailored information.

But you and I are grown-ups and are not subject to such manipulations, aren’t we.

Bruce Rubenstein said...

Hi Don..hope all is well..

Ms Dean, whom I have never met and only know thru the newspaper articles seems to have a rigid belief system, which certainly is no crime.

Looking at her known positions, I would place her as a very solid Libertarian and her pro-life and anti-dealth penalty positions are consistent with her Libertarianism.

What is inconsistent about her, is her heavy relience on government to adjudicate parental family issues rather then some agreed on "off Court" mediation to adjudicate the disputes.Perhaps I would feel better about her consistency and firmness of libertarian views if I and the public knew that she tried to privately mediate these disputes instead of running to the Governmental Courts for solace.


Best,Bruce

Don Pesci said...

Bruce,

Good to hear from you again. I think you may be right here. You certainly were right about Perez.