@jaketapper: Is there a statute of limitations on academic papers from years ago?

Jake Tapper of ABC is a very active Twitter user and I enjoy watching what’s catching his interest. Like many members of the MSM (and yes, I believe he qualifies for membership even as I don’t perceive him to be among those for whom that title is a pejorative) Tapper commented on the story of Bob McDonnell’s 20-year-old academic research paper. While I’ll have more to say on the matter directly, I found the questions he posted tweets on to be interesting:

jaketapper: query: Is there a statute of limitations after which one can credibly distance oneself from an academic paper (accurately described)?

Followed shortly by:

jaketapper: the question is relevant for VA GOPer McConnell, Sotomayor, Zeke Emanuel, …i recall some asking about Michelle Obama’s Princeton thesis…

I would like to point out that the MSM has already been quite up front that such academic papers are to be considered completely irrelevant to today – so long as the author is leftish politically, a Democrat, or an ally or supporter of a Democrat. Bill Ayers’ continued lack of remorse over his efforts with the Weather Underground and the explicitly stated regret that he didn’t engage in more violent behavior got the bum’s rush in the media. John Holdren’s academic papers are of no consequence, we’re told, even as he’s being elevated to the top White House adviser on scientific matters. That, of course, applies especially to Michelle Obama’s work and Justice Sotomayor’s public speaking.

So I would suggest that it’s not we, the public, that Tapper should be asking, although it’s an interesting exercise. He should be directing that question to the editors and writers at the Washington Post who are trying to give the McDonnell story as much ink as they think they can get away with. Tapper should ask them why the 1 is so newsworthy as to rate as many as 6 stories in 3 days while the others get no mention at all until the pressure building from the online news sources forces them to cover it.

The crux of the matter is not what McDonnell wrote in an academic environment 20 years ago. It’s what he’s done in the service to Virginia’s citizens in the 14 years he was in office. To put down words on a paper informed by an environment most of us consider extremely insulated is one thing (witness the fact that we who work outside of the student’s world call this the “real world”), but to have to actually function here in… well, the real world is something else. McDonnell’s record shows he’s got a conservative viewpoint, which should be of no surprise at all to anyone who’s listened to him. But it also shows that he’s learned by his experiences and his support for working women is both strong and crystal clear. Comments made in the completely unaccountable atmosphere of college life do not necessarily hold true in the light of real, day-to-day living and governance. McDonnell’s positions are more accurately reflected in his voting record, fully available to the public, and in his service as our Attorney General. That’s to say nothing of the several position statements he’s made and put on his web site.

Which, frankly, is probably why the Deeds campaign is so desperate to keep pushing this and why the Washington Post is so happy to keep running it.

So is there a statute of limitations? Not really. It depends on what you’ve done since the paper was written. Have you said you don’t agree with those statements? Have you actually acted as if you don’t agree? Time alone can’t reverse a position statement but Bob McDonnell hasn’t relied on time. He’s actively worked on our behalf and kept both the faith and the law, besides. That’s a record his opponents would prefer Virginia’s citizens don’t study too closely and that should make you wonder why.

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