Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler (D) is in hot water today after the Baltimore Sun released a photograph showing the gubernatorial candidate in the middle of a raging underage-drinking party at a vacation home in Delaware. Gansler insisted he was merely there to check in on his 18-year-old son, who was attending the rager, and that breaking up the party was none of his business.
While Gansler's response to the controversy has to pick up a shovel and keep digging, Slate senior editor and New York Times contributor Dan Kois doesn't see what the big deal is, insisting that Maryland's top prosecutor should be hailed as a "sensible" and "smart" parent:
The party, held last spring at a rental house at Delaware’s Bethany Beach, was a truly epic rager. “It was one of the best parties I’ve been to, hands down,” one teen told the Baltimore Sun, though he admits he doesn’t “remember much.” This spectacular beer bash—so intense as to be called the “eviction party” by those present—would have gone tragically unreported if not for the momentary presence of Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, whose photo was taken as he navigated through the crowd of shirtless, sweaty high schoolers.
Now Gansler, who is running for governor, is taking predictable heat for his appearance at the party, which the National Journal suggests will hurt his chances in the election. It’s an easy narrative to understand: sweaty teens drinking beer! Gansler the party crasher! A hypocritical politician—the leading lawman in his state—who won’t even step in to stop an illegal gathering of sinful teens!
But that’s a shame. If his explanation is accurate, the plain fact is that Gansler and the other parents who helped organize their kids’ trip to the Eastern Shore were being entirely sensible. A group of parents rented a house for their sons the week after high school graduation—Beach Week, in Maryland schools parlance—and laid out an extremely well-thought-out set of rules for the boys, according to the Sun:
The parents arranged for two fathers to serve as chaperones each night, paid for food and negotiated rules that forbade the boys from driving, having girls behind closed bedroom doors or drinking "hard alcohol," according a copy of the rules and planning documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun.
Now that is smart parenting!
There is of course a 100 percent chance that teenagers at Beach Week are going to drink and be idiots. As a parent, there are three ways to handle this situation: You can, understandably, forbid your children from attending at all. On the other side of the scale, you can just send your children off to Ocean City and hope their common sense will keep them out of trouble. Or you can make the tactical decision to oversee the festivities and keep things from getting out of hand: keep kids off the road, keep them out of each other’s pants, and keep them from doing shots. Would that all parents of teens were so “permissive”!
Yes, it's smart parenting to turn a blind eye to 17 and 18-year-olds having a raging kegger that could lead to instances of regrettable drunken sex or worse, cases of date rape. In fact, to a committed social liberal, it's perfectly sensible, particularly if the parents all chipped in to stock up the medicine cabinet with the Plan B morning-after pill. I mean, they did stock up on Plan B, right?!
Speaking of Plan B, Mr. Gansler might need one when it comes to his next career choice. I'm not too sure the underage-drinker demographic is strong enough to secure the Democratic nomination for governor.