Mitt Romney and Bishop Jean Vilnet.
Which one of these two men in fact caused the accident that killed Mrs. Leola Anderson?
The impact event occurred head-on with Mr. Romney driving north on N524. This was not a high speed collision, but unfortunately Mrs. Anderson did not have a seat belt. She struck the front windshield with fatal effect.
Investigation finds an astonishing cover up story. NY Times, Wash Post, Guardian, Boston Globe -- all present closely fit versions of this tale in their archives. Photographs there are mislabeled. Names are incorrect. The initial description of the roadway and the impact are inaccurate. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney asserted in 2007 that the other driver, whom we now know was Bishop Vilnet, was prosecuted.
None of it holds up.
With Chappaquiddick in 1969, a year after this car wreck in France, the basic responsibility for the accident came out the next morning. This Beaulac cover up is astonishing, nothing like the quibbling over bits and pieces that has followed Chappaquiddick. The Beaulac cover up reverses the basics. It was put together by kids, mainly a guy at age 21.
Most people do not have skeletons in their closets. Most people are tempted to lie from time to time, of course. But the most of us understand the risks of this approach and we do not have the means to put together a support team for a major deception.
This Beaulac cover up fails in the details. (Pronounced "beau lah.")
Details from Mr. Romney and his supporters are not consistent with photographic evidence and follow up interviews. A view of the impact site tells us the rest of the story:
-- The cover story has the driver of the other car presented as a "drunk priest" identified by the various missionary sources with the name "Albert Marie, age 46" in 1968 and in 2007 said to be dead.
This photo is the priest. Contrary to the cover up tale he is Bishop Jean Vilnet. Full name: Bishop Jean-Félix-Albert-Marie Vilnet. Born in 1922. By American count that did make him 46.
It was taken as he recovered from his injuries in the hospital at Bazas, up the road from Beaulac. He was driving the Mercedes Benz 180 in this accident. He is not dead, not yet anyway. He was not blamed by anyone in a responsible position for the accident. That blame was invented (as "woven from whole cloth" in legal parlance) by the missionary team.
-- The cover story asserts further that this "drunk priest" was speeding at "120 kph" and swerved out of lane to hit the blameless Mr. Romney. This is the story that was told to the children of Mrs. Anderson all the way back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Here are the two cars after the accident:
This Citroen DS -- driven by Mr. Romney -- had been forced to an abrupt halt. You can see the hole in the front windshield. However this was not a high speed highway collision as the cover story describes. There is not enough structural damage.
Go on the web and you can find photos and video of what happens to a Citroen DS when it is hit hard by another car. The result resembles an airplane crash as the DS disintegrates. At Beaulac the Mercedes was already slowing down in preparation for making the left turn into Rue de la Poste. Mr. Romney also had a second or two to slam on his brakes.
The photo is consistent with an accident in the range of a 60 kph to 80 kph total impact speed. The heavier Mercedes 180 absorbed much of the kinetic energy as it was designed for safety. The Citroen DS was simply flimsy.
-- Initially, Mr. Romney claimed that the accident had occurred on a "mountain road" as the Mercedes failed to negotiate a curve and swerved over to hit him. Local witnesses report it differently.
Beaulac is a tiny place. Mrs. Anderson's death was quite memorable. Note as well that the highway has been upgraded with additions of two full-scale traffic flow separators after this 1968 accident. Mr. Romney's mistake, driving north on N524 into the intersection, would not happen today. The new traffic separators eliminate mistaking the southbound Left Turn lane for a continuation of the single northbound lane.
Anyone can make a driving mistake. Add fatigue into the mix and this type of failure is all too common. However, this business of Team Lying and inventing a "drunk priest" to blame and slandering one of the important figures of French Catholicism over a period of decades must be unique. (Wiki for Bishop Jean Vilnet.)
When Mr. Romney is caught in a flat contradiction or saying something impossible, he says that he does not remember. The big lies of his tale are put in the mouths of imaginary witnesses.
Clearly, from the evidence, Mr. Romney arranged a frat-boy style Team Lying project. A half-dozen people contributed to the effort over the years. Today this cover up continues as the longest running project of Mr. Romney's adult life. He has been getting away with it, even with such an obvious flaw as misidentifying the priest and the impact site.
Nonetheless, facts are stubborn things, as John Adams said defending British soldiers in court after the Boston Massacre, and here the photographic and geographic evidence speaks for itself. One wonders what else could be out there.
Mr. Romney's political stump speech, given over and over, has similar problems with truthfulness. This speech is given in positive, supportive venues where Mr. Romney has no need to lie.
Chronicling mendacity on the Romney campaign trail:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal/2012_01/chronicling_mitts_mendacity034751.php
What if Mr. Romney believes that deceiving people makes him stronger? Lying, per se, becomes a tool to have his way with people -- not serving, not loving his neighbor, but dominating them. Mr. Romney has been running for president headlong since 2007 when he restated this "drunk priest" tale and enhanced it with the claims that the "drunk priest" had been prosecuted and was dead.
Amid the analysis of the Beaulac cover up, we are told by a practicing LDS Saint, Mr. Romney may well see himself as an Avenging Angel patterned on the Mormon legend of Orrin Porter Rockwell. A superhero. Blessed with a "007" license to lie out in the world, to deceive anyone in pursuit of his own ends.
None of this is good for American democracy. A robust democracy cannot automatically solve all of our problems. Of course not. We need a mix of communal and individual efforts. We do need honesty and reliable information from our leaders for democracy to thrive. From Mr. Romney, he could give the country a great favor: 'fess up.