In the annals of criminal history, this one doesn’t deserve a footnote to a footnote. It is interesting only because Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. It should have zero bearing on his qualifications to be president, just like the dog kennel on top of his car or Barack Obama’s one-time feast on dog meat.
Back in 1981, Romney took his family to Lake Cochituate in Wayland, Massachusetts. Romney prepared to launch his boat when a park officer approached him and told him not to put the boat into the water because it appeared that the license had been painted over. The officer told Romney there would be a $50 fine.
Romney looked over the situation, saw his kids wanting to take a ride on the boat, and decided to launch the boat and pay the fine.
After the boat hit the water, the park officer approached again in a less friendly demeanor. He handcuffed Romney in his wet bathing suit and took him to the police station where he was booked on disorderly conduct charges. Romney was released on bail.
A few days later, Romney appeared in court and threatened to sue the officer for false arrest. The charges were dropped.
“He did not have the right to arrest me because I was not a disorderly person. This was an obvious case of false arrest,” Romney said. “The officer obviously agreed because he agreed to dropping the case.”
Romney later said that he would not have launched the boat if he knew the officer was going to arrest him instead of giving him a ticket.
This is not a new issue. It arose during Romney’s 1994 campaign against Ted Kennedy. It was a bigger issue then than now because the story broke at a time that Romney was presenting an image as tough on crime.
This should not be any more significant than driving an unregistered vehicle. If a cop tells someone not to drive an unregistered vehicle on the road, and that person does anyway then the proper procedure is a ticket. Hauling the driver off to jail, as happened to Romney, is overreaching by the officer.
Was this a lapse of judgment by Romney? Yes, perhaps. But do we want a president so squeaky clean that his squeaks are irritating?
Romney’s “criminal” record can now be added to the wild times when he smoked a cigarette and tried some beer. As staid as Romney appears, it does look like he has a small wild side to him. A very small wild side at that.
This version includes a rewriting update to make it clearer.