Atlantic Umpire: Defending Giuliani and Romney

Sometimes, our inner McMurrow-the-crime-fighting-journalist just has to intervene in the debates of the day and call balls and strikes.

1. To be clear: Rudy Giuliani is within his rights to say that murders increased in Massachusetts during the ty that "Violent Crime" -- a broad category encompassing four crimes, including murder, declined during Romney's tenure. So the difference is one of capital letters. Violent crime rose in Massachusetts, but "Violence Crime," as defined by the FBI, did not. The rise in murders was offset by the decline in other violence.

2. And to say that Mitt Romney bears any direct responsibility for the is like saying Ernie Acorsi, the former general manager of the New York Giants, should shoulder the blame for each of Eli Manning's four interceptions last Sunday. And it's a big stretch to compare Romney's situation to Gov. Michael Dukakis's furlough program, which turned Willie Horton loose.

Romney appointed a judge, Kathe Tuttman, who seemed very well qualified. The judge performed ably. Then she decided to free without bail a bad man, Daniel Tavares Jr., obviously not knowing how bad the man really was and perhaps not hearing all the available evidence that he was very bad. Tavares then committed murder, again.

Does Romney bear any moral responsibility for the murder? No. Does he bear political responsibility? Maybe -- but the cake of responsibility has, by the time it gets back to Romney, atrophied to a single wedge.

Obvious, Tavares is responsible, legally and morally, for the homicides. Our moral reckoning ends there. But realistically, we live in a world that is wedded to the illusion of cause and effect, so let's assign, like, 95% of the political blame to Tavares. Tuttman shoulders the burden of living with the decision. Maybe she's 4% responsible. So by the time one gets back to Romney, who appointed numerous judges who haven't freed any killers, we're left with so little blame as to render it meaningless.

Saying Romney Is responsible for every Tuttman decision is like saying George H.W. Bush responsible for every David Souter ruling? OK, bad comparison: for many conservatives, the comparison might hold.

For this murder, though, the chain of guilt simply breaks down, especially for law-and-order conservatives, who tend not to allow people who do bad things to blame entities and institutions for their nature.

On Willie Horton comparisons: The differenure of Mitt Romney. That's what the FBI Uniform Crime Reports say. Those reports also saence there is that Dukakis pushed for the furlough program that freed Horton. And in doing so, he ratified the political stereotype that he was "weak" on crime. Romney has never been accused of being weak on crime, has no record of it, and certainly did not push Judge Tuttman to furlough anyone.