Yes, Ruth Marcus, you do sound “alarmingly crotchety.” Maybe you’ve heard of the Emma Sullivan incident, and maybe you haven’t. In itself, it wasn’t very interesting. An 18-year old high school student from Kansas sent out a Tweet while meeting with Governor Sam Brownhack on a field trip. She wrote that the governor sucks and used a profane hashtag to reinforce the point. The governor’s staffers were monitoring Twitter for mentions of their boss, and they took offense and asked the school to make her apologize. The principal obliged, calling Ms. Sullivan into his office and telling her to write a letter of apology. She refused. Her mother supported her. The governor looked like he sucked more than ever, and he soon felt compelled to be the one doing the apologizing.

Ruth Marcus is appalled by how this turned out. The first thing she did was go back and read Emma Sullivan’s previous tweets so that she could mock them.

Sullivan had previously opined on such weighty subjects as the “Twilight” series (“Dear edward and jacob, this is the best night of my life. I want u. Love, ur future wife”) and Justin Bieber.

Isn’t that nice? Why not mock a young girl’s crush in the Washington Post? To call that ad hominem would be too generous. The implication is what?

Next, Marcus makes clear that the mother is not raising her child very well.

…as I constantly remind my daughters, parents are not bound by constitutional constraints. The Constitution does not grant teenagers the fundamental right to have a cellphone or use foul language on it. The parental role is to inculcate values of respect for authority — even those you disagree with — and the importance of civil discourse. It’s not to stand up for your little darling no matter how much she mouths off.

Not the Sullivans. After the governor complained, her older sister alerted the media. “It’s the speech they use today. It’s more attention-grabbing,” her mother, Julie Sullivan, told the Associated Press. “I raised my kids to be independent, to be strong, to be free thinkers. If she wants to tweet her opinion about Governor Brownback, I say for her to go for it and I stand totally behind her.”

Now, the key here is that Ruth Marcus thinks “the parental role is to inculcate values of respect for authority.” I thinks that’s correct in a certain limited sense. You want your kids to obey their teachers. You want them to be respectful to the police. You don’t want your kids to be disruptive, and you do want them to grant a default level of respect to the adults in their lives, whether it be the Scout Master, the guitar instructor, or the baseball coach.

But, first of all, this is an 18-year old woman we are talking about, not a fourth-grader. Second, we’re talking about an elected official here, who will stand for reelection based on how he has performed in office. Deciding whether he sucks or not is what the public must do. It’s called an election and a campaign and political speech. I think Ruth Marcus has at least one thing entirely backwards. As Glenn Greenwald points out, not too long ago Ms. Marcus said that progressive critics of the president were deranged and needed to be drug-tested. She throws incivility at people who are merely expressing their opinions and then doesn’t want elected officials to be subjected to the same kind of incivility. But elected officials make decisions. All too often, they make horrible decisions that get people killed or that squander trillions of dollars. That’s been the norm in this country lately, and people are fed up with it.

If you want respect, you need to earn it. I get upset by some of the criticism I see of the president, but I don’t go after their mothers. I want my kids to be respectful of the Scout Master, but not when it turns out he’s raping children. I want my kids to respect their baseball coach, but not if that coach lies to them or mistreats them. You don’t just respect authority because it’s authority. That’s completely wrong. But it fits the ethos of the Washington Post perfectly.

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