A reluctant ref

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

It is difficult to referee a dispute involving the Petit family, because they can quite legitimately claim to have suffered pain and heartbreak that the rest of us could not possibly imagine.  My sympathies, on that score, are very much with them, and I understand that, when they are driven to say and do things with which I do not agree, the right response is usually patience and understanding.

But to be horribly injured is not to be infallible. And the more the Petits inject themselves into the political process, the more the rest of us must struggle to put their comments into context.

As a matter of conscience, I object to their letter about Roraback.

First, I question whether it’s reasonable to say that a public figure and candidate for office, asked a question on a live radio show, cannot invoke the Petit name without first seeking their permission.  That would be a reasonable position  if, since the tragedy, they had been reclusive and reluctant to be dragged into public debate. They have been the opposite. They have been active at the State Capitol in a way that is, as far as I know, without precedent in the history of the death penalty debate. To suggest that one can publish, lobby and testify on an issue and that, subsequently, nobody can cite those views without permission seems like a rule made by the Red Queen.

Second, I listened again to Roraback’s remarks.  It seems to me that he did nothing more than state exactly the Petit position as way of explaining why he did exactly what the Petits wanted people to do. He voted against repeal because no one could guarantee that repeal would not be used as a way of sparing Hayes,  Komisarjevsky and the other death row inmates.  People who oppose the death penalty were disppointed, and rightly so, in Roraback’s switch. People who hold to the Petit view have no reason to complain about what he did or what he said. Unless…

…Unless the Petits have simply put themselves at the disposal of the Wilson-Foley campaign.  This letter is so saturated in the language of a political campaign that it’s hard not to wonder where the idea for it began.

Again, bear in mind that Roraback is being attacked in this letter for doing exactly what the Petits said they wanted lawmakers to do for exactly the reason the Petits said was the right reason. Which is odd.

I didn’t like the way Roraback let Wilson-Foley back him down on this issue, but here I’m going to pick up a striped shirt and a whistle and say he committed no foul in that interview. They whipped him into submission. Now they want to kick him for bowing to the very pressure they applied. Doesn’t really make sense except as a purely political act.

And, yes, I know I am on very thin ice.




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24 thoughts on “A reluctant ref

  1. Shawn M Lang

    I agree with you, Colin. I heard most of Andy’s interview and, while I disagree with his vote I understand his rationale for reversing his decision. To release a letter like this, when Andy’s vote was in the Petet’s favor, and on the eve of the convention certainly is purely political. Which makes me sad.

  2. kim

    Colin, the letter sounds like a fundraiser my dad the NRA member will be getting in the next week or two. He gets all the Republican fundraising letters, they assume because he’s in the NRA he’ll donate to their causes. You may be skating on thin ice, but I think you’re right.

  3. btw

    It is very possible that they object to the “change of opinion” as being nothing more than a political ploy, and not a deap-seated opinion.

  4. david edelstein

    Lucid, rock-solid, basically inarguable–but it maybe could have used a few more disclaimers/apologies.

  5. concerned voter

    I don’t often agree with Colin, but when I read the letter and listen to what Roraback said I sadly think “politics” and it’s not from Roraback’s camp but from Lisa’s!!! The unanswered questions relating to the disgraced Rowland only makes it worse. Talk about sleazy! I hope the GOP party pays attention. It is time for a common sense candidate not one that either tries to buy their way in or sleeps their way to the riches of their position.

  6. Jack

    I long listened to you on the radio and while I appreciated your sense of humor tremendously, didn’t agree with you on a number of things. But hey, Libertarian here, so you can guess we do have SOME common ground.

    Regarding the Petit issue: You aren’t on as thin ice as you may think. I’ve read the letter and one thing strikes me: Lisa Wilson-Foley’s tatics are despicable. Dr. Petit could have addressed this issue far more gracefully than what he allowed her campaign to ‘say’ for him. The language is a disservice to him and all he and his family gone through.

    Wilson-Foley has demonstrated a clear lack of judgement in allowing John Rowland to work for her campaign and the payment arraigment from her husband’s business doesn’t jibe at all with what he was really consulting on.

    Listen to her speak, great on talking points, really poor on actual substance. She’s Linda McMahon Jr. Got handlers who are more than happy to take her plentiful personal cash but she could never win a general election and they know it.

    I’ve supported Dr. Petit’s position on the Death Penalty, it’s the one social issue where I personally take a conservative position. But feel very sad that he was used like this.

  7. ChrisB.

    I’m with you on this one as well.

    The horror and the loss that the Petits have experienced is obviously beyond my grasp. And on an emotional level, very few of us can really empathize with them.

    But . . . once someone has injected themselves into the political process the emotional and the political become deeply intertwined and it’s difficult to see them separately. When you stand on the rooftops, street corners and the halls of government screaming, you can no longer object to someone either screaming back at you or . . . echoing your screams. You’ve joined the discussion. And you’ve made yourself a point of discussion. At that point it’s disingenous to say: “How dare you!”

    1. Jess Garden

      That this subject was addressed by Mr.McEnroe is a testament to the value of journalism and the first amendment. I have dared not express my point of view on this subject having tried and had my hand bitten off. Just knowing that others beyond my social circle can look at this situation in a way similar to mine is of enormous value to me. Thank-you.

  8. Richard

    I saw the death penalty repeal hearings derailed in the late 80s by the Michael B Ross victims’ families. The weeping, the pictures, it was all too much. And much too political for the Legislature.

    Opposing Dr Petit is right and just. Someone needs to save the man from himself. The Dr’s become a caricature of vendetta justice and the walking justification of a dispassionate legal system.

    My only disappointment is taking the Death Penalty Repeal off my bucket list of CT’s Democratic Party’s failures. It’s been on there so long I thought it was a permanent blemish. Failure to pass a minimum wage increase this year will have to do. That and failing to advance several bills on low cost health care for the working poor. I miss the Democrats anti-war marches too. I imagine they’ll return under Romney.

    1. ChrisB.

      I laughed aloud at this: “I miss the Democrats anti-war marches too. I imagine they’ll return under Romney.”

      And I totally agree with you – it’s why I unsubscribed from Moveon.org’s email list. There near-literally an overnight switch from regular anti-war vigils to health care vigils once Obama took office. I could discuss this and similar topics for hours on end.

  9. Bartleby

    If Ms. Wilson-Foley had accepted the invitation to appear on the program, perhaps she could have touted her consistency on the issue and accused Mr. Roraback of playing politics. But to let the victims do it for her—to hide behind sympathetic figures in hopes that there won’t be any opposition— is reprehensible. Every election cycle brings new and more sickening examples of how far people will go to win a campaign. And it’s only May.

    1. Richard

      I doubt Wilson-Foley’s campaign is hurt among the GOP types who will do the nominating. If the WNPR types are squawking it sounds like a symphony to the GOP delegates.

  10. John R. McCommas

    Well I am not a member of your fan Club like the other toadies here.

    I am from the 2nd district but I have been peaking in on the 5th District race now and then. I think I would probably vote for Roraback if I lived over there. I am tired of Wilson Foly. That said, I have no qualm with Dr. Petit slapping Roraback. He voted for repeal last year so he deserved it. Roraback is a big boy; he can take it. What do you care anyway? This is the Republican Primary.

    Frankly I don’t know why you people at the Commie Courant are making such a big deal over it. I don’t think it is newsworthy. Why was it printed?

    But my response to you is that I don’t really think you have sympathy for the members of the Petit family, living or dead. I think you are to tunnel-visioned for that. Certainly Richard doesn’t give a Damn about the girls Ross cut up and made no bones about it (“weeping families”.

    I think that the reason you wrote this is because you are mean wanted to rub his face in the dirt again. You won. Why can’t you just shut up about Dr. Petit? Your pet killers are safe from justice now.

    If he says something you find unreasonable, if you had any heart at all, you would give him a God damn pass. They killed his little girls you jerk.

    1. Matt

      Spoken like a genuine mind-reader.

      Dr. Petit (a former neighbor, by the way) deserves a pass in relation to his loss. He does not deserve to be used by twisted political toadies (great word! thank you for suggesting it) who stick their hands up his whosis like a puppet and use his deep tragedy to further their shallow goals.

      Let’s not even go into why a newspaper columnist should care about a Republican primary (or Democratic, or Libertarian, or any other public election process). Perhaps you should “peak” into a mirror and ask yourself, why such hatred for legitimate public discussion and discourse?

      1. Fuzzy Dunlop

        Matt, I think the problem was that Dr. Petit wasn’t engaging in “legitimate public discussion and discourse.” He wasn’t criticizing Roraback’s position on the death penalty, because they appear to be in agreement. He was simply criticizing Roraback for using his name, as apparently the Petit brand is the exclusive property of the Wilson-Foley campaign. This had nothing to do with “issues”… it was just plain old politics.

        What’s truly disturbing is that in this case, Dr. Petit got what he wanted; his story influenced Roraback to change his position. This now takes on the air of a witch hunt… as though the Petits are saying if you EVER were against the death penalty, we will NEVER let you for get it and will make you pay the price come hell or high water.

          1. Richard

            Ahh….no John. It’s not that way at all. Like the Travon Martin case I think the entire situation is tragic. Abolishing the death penalty is the only good thing to come out of the whole Petit incident.

        1. Matt

          Fuzzy, we’re in agreement. The “legitimate public discussion and discourse” I’m talking about is the present discussion, which Mr. McCommas is taking the “brave” position of attacking. If I understood his position correctly, Colin (along with every other commenter) is a mean-hearted, callous monster for writing about this at all. Anything Dr. Petit says, even if it’s “unreasonable,” even if it’s untrue, even if it’s words put in his mouth by a political campaign—anything at all—should be allowed to stand because of the loss he sustained, in Mr. McCommas’ view.

          So my objection is this: Mr. McCommas maintains that no one should object to anything that Dr. Petit or his family says, because no one has sustained the loss they have experienced. The Hartford Courant should not write about anything that a political party communicates, because it is the party’s private business. The legislature and the governor should not make decisions contrary to Dr. Petit’s wishes, because they only represent the entire state of Connecticut and cannot give Dr. Petit the “pass” he deserves.

          I think that I got that right, but of course Mr. McCommas will be right there to call me a name and correct me.

  11. John R. McCommas

    You and the members of Death Row got what you wanted Richard No Last Name.

    1. Richard

      John, CT’s leading mass murderer, Lorne Acquin, is in the CT jail system and isn’t on death row. He is sentenced for 99 years, 99 months and 999 days (gotta love the state for the 999 days part).

      He had one appeal and lives with the other max security, non-death row offenders.

      This is as it should be. Let the man work out his personal redemption, if any, and stand as a testimony to CT citizens and their compassion and justice.


      And then we have the case of 16 arson murders by Lesley Andino in Hartford (2003) where she was found incompetent to stand trial–to this day she’s never spent time in jail and likely never will.

      The attention given to the Petit defendants was driven by money and media fascination — not by justice or consistency.

  12. John R. McCommas

    Why stop at abolishing the Death Penalty? In a few years we will be talking about letting people who have been sentenced to 99 years out.

    They are “reformed” you will say. The whole 1970’s rehabilitation fad that caused the premature deaths of so many (Joseph Fournier for one) is happening all over again. We even have an ex-con running for State Senate as the endorsed Democrat nominee. He will win too. Your own Governor refused to disavow him. That says lots in my book about his character.

    We already have a Malloy program in place that gives “get out of jail free” cards to certain violent offenders.

    They will get out of jail early and kill or hurt more people. We seem to have to learn this lesson all over again because Malloy doesn’t remember the past.

    1. Richard

      I think you overstate the reform movement of the “Tens”. End the Death Penalty, keep the non-violent out of prison, use wage garnishment, community service and alt incarceration including education and rehab for the non-violent offenders.

  13. Todd Zaino

    Our Governor has plans…big plans I think, and I don’t think he’s thinking about staying in CT to reach his goals.

    If Malloy is going to give these “get out jail” free cards, he’d better grab a history book. John you are spot on about that in your above post. Our good governor would be wise to look up Governor Dukakis and Willie Horton. A liberal tool from the Bay State allowed the Boy Scout/altar boy Horton out for a furlough and he was having so much fun raping and stealing cars he decided to extend his weekend.

    Stanley Works is the tool capital of the world in New Britain, but the biggest tool in CT has to Malloy. If Malloy “The Liberal’s Liberal” wants to put these creeps back into the general population…perhaps weekend furloughs with the Malloys at the Governor’s Mansion would be a great launching spot. Come on Gov…put your money where mouth is!

    Leftists never disappoint.

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