Monday, February 20, 2012

In Defense Of Sheriff Paul Babeu

This weekend, Pinal County, AZ Sheriff Paul Babeu resigned his post as Mitt Romney's Arizona campaign manager amid revelations about his private life, and allegations of personal misconduct. These allegations may also endanger Babeu's prospects for a U.S. Congress seat.

The question of the hour, then, is this: Are the allegations true? Did he, a nationally-known figure in the battle over illegal immigration, have a sordid relationship with an illegal immigrant and then threaten him with deportation to keep the relationship secret?

I think it's important to tell the full story of Sheriff Paul Babeu.

Babeu was born in North Adams, Massachusetts on February 3, 1969. He is the 10th of 11 children of Raymond and Helen Babeu. His political career began while still in high school, when he rallied against a pay increase for the members of his city council. At age 18, he ran for city council and won, and at age 23- as a recent college graduate- he was elected County commissioner.

After a few failed attempts to run for higher office in Democrat-controlled Massachusetts, he became the headmaster and executive director of The DeSisto School in Stockbridge, Mass., a position he held from 1999 to 2001. At this point of the narrative, an uncomfortable corollary must be made: Babeu, who has publicly spoken about his extensive sexual abuse as a child by a Catholic priest, became the headmaster of a private school for troubled youths. The school was frequently the center of criticism and allegations of abuse of students by faculty, and was eventually closed in 2005. The school's founder, Michael DeSisto, was something of a megalomaniac who (quoting from the link) "envisioned a string of schools nationally and internationally based on Gestalt psychological principles, and his own therapeutic model". Mr. DeSisto had also falsified his teaching credentials and educational experience. One, naturally, wonders whether Babeu left due to wrongdoing or due to disgust at others' wrongdoing.

Following his tenure at DeSisto School, Babeu pulled up stakes and moved from Massachusetts to Arizona, and began a new career as a law enforcement officer. He started out as a patrolman in Chandler in 2002, where he was twice decorated for lifesaving and became head of the police union, and in 2008 became the first Republican ever elected sheriff of Pinal County.

Babeu also served 20 years in the National Guard, rising in rank from Private to Major. He served a tour in Iraq and served in Operation Jump Start.

All of this biographical information tells us something about the man: He is an overachiever with multiple, simultaneous careers, and who has a very finite, closely-guarded private life which takes a backseat to his career(s).

We learned something of that private life this weekend: He is gay. Moreover, his former partner is believed to be an illegal immigrant. We saw photos of Babeu in the nude, and the former partner claims Babeu threatened him with deportation if he revealed the relationship.

Let's analyze that claim for a moment: I think it goes without saying, but a man in Babeu's position wouldn't have to threaten deportation. It would, without question, be "the elephant in the room". And if I had a dollar for every criminal who has ever claimed police wrongdoing when apprehended, I could own Facebook.

Now we have an uncomfortable choice to make: Is Paul Babeu a sinister man, who seeks ever-increasing power and personal grandeur, and then uses that status to find and exploit vulnerable partners? Or is he a tragic man, whose perpetual quest for self-improvement and good works conceals guilt and shame he carries about his own abuse? As DJ Redman asked in this post, does Babeu's 'outing' constitute a vicious attempt to smear the man, or some very troubling signs of malfeasance?

We all know certain stereotypes of people who live a "dual role" lifestyle: The abused person who makes a series of bad choices about relationship partners; the overachieving, perpetually-single schoolteacher or caregiver who over-devotes themselves to their charges while concealing a sordid and secret private life; and so forth. These stereotypes exist for a reason: such people actually exist.

Therefore, lacking any substantive evidence to the contrary, I prefer to think of Paul Babeu as a "white hat"- a man who, in the finest tradition of our values, has overcome enormous personal grief and struggle; worked harder than most of us could imagine; fought, sacrificed, and become prosperous and popular; and has done tremendous good for, and earned the admiration and loyalty of, those around him. Some of us may not be comfortable with the details of his private life- details he worked diligently to conceal- and others may desire to know more, to ensure there is no sinister aspect to him. This is an understandable precaution, provided it doesn't slide down a slippery slope to become homophobic paranoia.

I've long held a belief that some famous gunfighters- often known for their 'colorful' personal lives- sought a noble death as atonement for (real or perceived) past transgressions. Death, then, became a blessed final redemption, rather than something to fear, and having no fear of death made them successful. This is how I perfer to think of Paul Babeu: A man who has sought, for reasons not fully understood by us, a noble life in order to slay his personal demons. Those who have benefitted from his quest- and who, hopefully, will continue to benefit- should respect his privacy and be thankful and supportive of him.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Live Together or Die Alone

Amid the myriad of CPAC 2012 posts currently filling the blogosphere, I would like to offer my own reflections on the event, and the powerful lesson of which I was reminded. It is rare for me to speak personally in my political writings. I am much more comfortable with the objective distance of facts and principles and analysis than I am with sharing feelings. However, this lesson is so profoundly important to me, and to the cause of freedom, that I am compelled to speak on the subject despite my reservations.

Last weekend was a whirlwind of improbable events. In a 61-hour period I spent nearly a full day on the road and slept less than four hours. It was a trial of endurance, and I hope I met that trial well (though I imagine I probably didn't!). Fortunately I didn't undertake it alone; I had a wonderful companion. While at CPAC, I received word that my sister's husband, whom I love like a brother, was badly injured, and then later found out that I received the message in error, and that he was perfectly fine. Events also tested the strength of the bond between myself and my closest and dearest friend. I am happy to report that bond is stronger than ever.

I also met some of my good friends and comrades-in-arms, many of them for the first time. It's strange that people can mean so much to us, before we've even seen them in person. It is my lingering regret that I didn't have sufficient time to spend with all of them, or to effectively communicate my admiration of them. I am profoundly lucky to stand in the company of giants, some of whom were present and some who were not and were missed.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention my family, without whom I would never have become the staunch advocate of individual liberty that I am. My principles are part of my pedigree. Their unwavering support has buffered me through difficult times.

I only saw one speech on Saturday- Daniel Hannan's speech (VIDEO). Among the many things I took away from it, was the profound isolation he and other British patriots experience. Conservative principles, patriotism, and love of country are frequently scorned by the liberal majority there. Mr. Hannan expressed his happiness that we are not so unfortunate in the United States.

He's right. We are much more fortunate- we have each other. Our greatest strength, and the thing which our opposition works so tirelessly to destroy, are our bonds of comradeship, friendship, and love. The greatest evil of our enemy is his desire to tear us apart and render us alone and helpless, leaving a selfish and all-powerful government as our only recourse.

Milton Friedman once told a young liberal college student that we aren't an individual society, we are a family society. He was correct. We libertarians champion individual rights and dignity, and the individual's freedom to associate and pursue prosperity and happiness. But these rights are little comfort if we have no one with whom to share them.

It's difficult for me to admit, but I have, at times in my life, felt alone and disconnected from my friends and family. I have felt hopelessly outnumbered and powerless. Fortunately, I had good people to remind me that I was neither alone nor unloved.

The bonds of loyalty and trust and love motivate us. They give our lives, and our cause, purpose. They define who we are and why we work so tirelessly. We have nothing but each other. That is the root of the 'small-government and big-citizen' cause: Together, we are vastly superior to any Leviathan; Divided, we are fragile and subservient. Either we can care for, provide for, and protect one another, or we can have nobody but government to do these things for us, and do them capriciously and badly.

Our relationships are our power and our conscience. Together we live, alone we die.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Clint Eastwood: Spokesman For The New Detroit

Much ado has been made about the Super Bowl Clint Eastwood/Chrysler commercial, expressing the theme that Detroit, and America at large, is making a comeback. In some conservative circles, "Dirty Harry" has been criticized as shilling for President Obama.

But after reading this article by Mara Gay of The Daily, I'm convinced that the tough-guy libertarian may be the ideal spokesman for Motor City. Facing huge cutbacks in the city police force, abysmally poor response times to calls for service, and a general lack of police effectiveness, the residents of Detroit- which purportedly has the nation's second-highest per capita murder rate- are arming themselves in record numbers- and self-defense shootings are up 79% year-over-year, and 2200% above the national average.

The article, while clearly left-biased (it describes armed citizens as "vigilantes"), illustrates a major shift in public thinking in Detroit: People are realizing they must provide for their own protection. The city police department, with its long history of mismanagement, is even more of a failure today than it ever has been. Even as the department faces multi-million-dollar budget shortfalls, the city paid over $6 million for a former casino building (VIDEO) to convert into a new police headquarters; and DPD is rolling out a "virtual precinct" program which directs calls for crimes reported after-the-fact during evening and overnight hours to an officer at headquarters to take a report. Translation: If you come home after work to find your house has been burglarized, DPD will take a report and get around to investigating it sometime. It's no wonder foreclosed houses are selling (or not) for as little as $50 in Detroit.

Those who can afford to move out of Detroit have already done so, and those who can't are at the end of their rope. Big-government, predominantly-Democrat Detroiters are now fully realizing that their city government can't even provide essential services, and so they are forced to become self-sufficient.

Stated another way: Residents of one of the most liberal cities in the nation are getting the harshest "wake-up call" one can receive on the failings of big-government liberalism as a theory of governance: The promise of greater safety, which is the most-effective and most-often used means of convincing the public to give up their money and their liberties, is now a broken promise in Detroit. The usual socialist responses to such a crisis are unavailable: Raising taxes isn't an option, because there's nothing left to tax; begging for money from the state government isn't an option, because the state is broke; harsher gun control laws would be opposed, because people across the political spectrum are buying and carrying guns; and more stringent enforcement isn't a possibility, because Wayne County Jail has no room to house convicts.

As Detroiters begin to cope with the "new normal" of self-reliance, they'll also ask questions about the condition of the city's police force. They'll want to know how it could get to be so bad. The answers to these questions- corrupt Democrat politicians, incompetent management, greedy and self-serving public sector unions, short-sighted liberal policies, overspending and overtaxing- can't be concealed behind socialist rhetoric any longer. The city government has run out of excuses and other people's money, and there's no room in the budget to hire Robocop.

Big changes in self-defense thinking are nothing new for Detroit: The Sweet Trials of 1925-1926, which took place in Detroit, were the first occasion in our nation's history in which an African-American successfully claimed self-defense in court.

Maybe the star of Gran Torino is a good spokesman for Detroit after all.