In June, 16-year old Ethan Couch, driving his father’s F-350 pickup truck while drunk on beer that he and friends had stolen from Walmart, plowed into four people on the side of the road in Burleson, Texas, killing them and grievously injuring two of his own teenage passengers.
Couch was driving 70 mph on a section of road where the limit was 40 mph. His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit (not that it’s legal for 16-year-old children to drink in any case.) His blood also showed traces of THC (marijuana) and valium.
The dead were a young woman whose car had blown a tire and three good Samaritans including a woman, her adult daughter, and a local youth pastor who had all come to help the stranded motorist. The injured include a teenager thrown from the pickup who suffered severe brain damage and will never again walk, speak, or have anything like an actual life.
Last week, a juvenile court judge sentenced Couch — who, when he was 15 years old had been found by police passed out in a car with a naked 14-year-old girl — to probation and therapy, without a single day in jail. Prosecutors had been asking for a 20-year sentence, although in the juvenile system that could have meant as little as two years in confinement. (Couch’s attorneys argue that avoiding jail “could have him under the thumb of the justice system for the next 10 years,” cold comfort to the grieving families of his victims.)
Why did Judge Jean Boyd give a sentence which would strike most Americans as an extraordinary travesty of justice?
Apparently because she bought the defense attorneys’ arguments that Ethan Couch suffered from “affluenza”: that his being raised in a wealthy family, receiving all the privileges and comforts that wealth can bring, by parents who allowed him to think that money solves everything, had left young Ethan without the ability to understand that his actions could have consequences and that he would be held responsible for those actions.
So instead of jail he will be going to a swanky Newport Beach, California rehab facility reported to cost $450,000 a year where residents can do yoga, ride horses, and live the life of luxury they are accustomed to — apparently no matter how many people they kill.
According to notes taken at the trial by Eric Boyles, whose wife and daughter were killed by Couch, the 16-year old told one of his friends after the accident, “I’m Ethan Couch. I’ll get you out of this.”
Separate from the obvious — that justice demands Ethan Couch be punished for his actions and that the judge’s action calls the fairness and impartiality of our entire criminal justice system into question — one wishes that there were a way to hold his parents responsible for loosing on society an uncontrolled egomaniac, a man-child desperate for adoration (rather than friendship) whose narcissism is rooted more in the accomplishments of others than in anything he’s ever done and who believes that mistakes of the largest order can be wiped away by the inherent specialness of his personhood.
Mr. and Mrs. Couch (whose divorce may factor into Ethan’s dysfunction) have as much to answer for as does their destructive prodigal son whom they infected — whether you think it has legal relevance or not — with an acute case of affluenza.
In a political sense, could there be a better explanation than affluenza for Barack Obama, perfectly described above, and the celebrity elite of Hollywood who have imposed upon America this president of approximately zero prior accomplishment whose actions are routinely ill-conceived, malignantly narcissistic and destructive, and whose serial errors are always somebody else’s fault and responsibility?
Clinically symptomatic, President Obama pronounced “I didn’t set a red line” (about Syrian chemical weapons) despite every press outlet outside of Pyongyang and Damascus having reported (correctly) that he did.
He learns about his own administration’s failures from television reports because he’s too important to get his hands dirty with the actual details of governing. And nobody wants to deliver bad news to a man with whose affluenza-affected reaction is likely to befit the love child of the Queen of Hearts and Alfred E. Neuman.
He repeatedly blames the failure of Obamacare, a law which was passed by his party, enacted by his Secretary of Health and Human Services, and even (colloquially) named for him, on Republicans being “invested in failure.”
That’s like Ethan Couch blaming Walmart for refusing to sell him beer.
If Barack is Ethan (and both have the additional similarities of having been given, or at least loaned, a mansion and hoping that “beer summit” ethanol will make people like them better), who are his irresponsible, enabling political parents? Sadly, in the Big Love that is the world of celebrity, he has many.
Let’s start with singer Katy Perry (whose song “Firework” is one of my eight-year-old daughter’s favorites; the video has over 400 million views on YouTube). In 2012, Perry performed at Obama re-election rallies alternately wearing a skin-tight Obama campaign logo dress and a dress depicting an election ballot marked for Obama.
During MTV’s Video Music Awards in August, Miss Perry retweeted one of the first of a now endless stream of Obama’s Twitter pleas for young people to sign up for health insurance. (Because if Obamacare fails and blaming Republicans doesn’t stick he can blame millennials.) President Obama responded by thanking Perry in a budding online romance that Michelle can’t interfere with by switching seats.
And recently, we learned that Katy refused to allow her Republican parents to attend her performance at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration. According to an interview in Marie Claire magazine, petulant Perry’s reaction when her proud pastor parents asked to see their daughter sing at such an historic event was “How dare you?”
Such is the infected ego of the celebrity left: Differences in political views trump filial affection, loyalty, common sense, and plain ol’ good manners. Is it any wonder that the president Perry supports suffers the same distasteful lack of self-awareness and good judgment that she does? But let’s just blame the disease, shall we? It’s so gauche to believe in personal responsibility anymore.
Then there’s Ben Affleck, an actor of modest talent but extremely immodest political opinion, who recently told Playboy, “When I watch a guy I know is a big Republican, part of me thinks, I probably wouldn’t like this person if I met him…”
Affleck reminds me of a raging anti-Semite I once met who, not knowing my religion, proudly told me he had never met a Jew.
Unlike Perry, Affleck isn’t rebelling against his parents whom he describes as “very left-wing Democrats.” But one has to wonder whether his working-class mother and father would have assumed a personal dislike for someone with whom they had a political disagreement. Taking political discord as personal insult is a defining trait of the affluenza-stricken liberal elite, just as young Ethan Couch seems to believe that any attempt to hold him responsible for his own misdeeds represents little more than disrespect for his authoritah.
So while Affleck didn’t grow up rich, he seems to have a variant of Ethan Couch’s disease: nouveau affluenza, in which earning one’s way up from the lower rungs of the economic ladder by parading a narrow mind on a wide screen makes one worthy to disdain people who hold honest but different views about what’s best for our nation’s future.
Perhaps, like in leper colonies of old, carriers and victims of affluenza should only be around others suffering the same affliction; they already seem happiest that way.
So Ben might hang out with Adam Levine, lead singer of pop band Maroon 5, who was recently dubbed “The Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine. (Notice how one magazine after another promotes liberal victims of affluenza; one wonders if there will soon be a telethon.)
Last year, Levine tweeted, “Dear America, if you don’t re-elect @BarackObama, I’m gonna lose my s**t.”
Now, as his beloved political progeny is in a leaky rowboat about to go over the Niagara Falls of failures, Levine, like any too-proud-to-see-the-truth parent is doubling down by working with the White House on a social media campaign to support Obamacare.
B-list celebs joining in the program include Fran Drescher, Kal Penn, George Lopez, and Lisa Leslie. Apparently Lady Gaga has had a change of heart when it comes to tying her public image (I dare not say “credibility”) to the fortunes of Obamacare. But with so many carriers of the sickness surrounding him, it’s no wonder that our president exhibits all of affluenza’s symptoms. His underlying message to us: I’m a community organizer and I’ll get you out of this.
Obama’s affluenza means never having to say he’s sorry: not sorry for destroying millions of Americans’ health insurance, not sorry for lying about scandal after scandal after scandal, not sorry for weakening the nation’s global influence by abandoning allies and aiding enemies, not sorry for cheapening the presidency by being a celebrity but not a leader.
Those who gave Obama this particular mental disease feel no more responsibility for their creation than he does; their wealth and fame are the very definition of correctness. They just want to help him avoid responsibility: I’m a star and I’ll get you out of this, they tell him.
But who can blame Perry, Affleck, and friends for believing that affluenza might save them from a richly deserved legacy of enabling the destruction an exceptional America by their pampered political son?
After all, it worked for Ethan Couch.