Columns » John Brummett

Great videotape scandal of 2006

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Not a week into the race, Bill Halter’s campaign accuses Mike Beebe’s campaign of dirty politics. Even worse, Halter’s campaign accuses Mike Beebe’s campaign of being “Karl Rovian.”

This is the Democratic gubernatorial primary, remember. Coupling your opponent with George W.’s brain is about as serious as a charge can come.

So, what in the wide world did Attorney General Beebe’s campaign do, for heaven’s sake?

Well, there was this Young Democrats’ forum over at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Halter was the speaker. This was the day before he formally announced his candidacy at the Capitol, which was two days after he announced that candidacy on his Web site.

An old boy at the UALR forum identified himself as a veteran and asked Halter if he owned property in the state and if he paid taxes here and whether he was registered to vote here. Halter, a bona fide North Little Rockian, has spent much of his adolescent and adult life matriculating and venturing in elite circles elsewhere. Halter escaped this hostile questioning by managing to reply rightly that he’s registered to vote here and has a farm here.

The Halter campaign charges that this old boy who asked these questions was a friend of a fellow who works in the Beebe campaign, as evidenced by an e-mail sent to the wrong recipient the next day, and must have been a Beebe plant.

That’s not all.

Some people were running tiny video cameras at the UALR event, and some people were running them again at Halter’s campaign announcement at the Capitol. These videotapers were from Beebe’s campaign, the Halter campaign alleges.

Beebe’s campaign denies planting the old boy with the questions, though it admits an acquaintance between that fellow and a campaign employee. It doesn’t deny dispatching people to videotape these Halter events.

So, let us assemble our scandal: Somebody who is friends with somebody who works in the Beebe campaign asked public questions of Halter at a public political forum — “pointed” questions, such as where he lived. And people apparently with the Beebe campaign ran video cameras during that public forum and again the next day at Halter’s public announcement of his candidacy.

Hmmmm.

You’re asking what’s wrong with inquiring at a public forum about Halter’s residence. You’re wondering where the dirt is, exactly, since the question is basic and Halter had a ready and comfortable answer.

You’re wondering what the big deal would be even if this fellow had indeed been “planted” to ask this question. You’re thinking that a fellow running for governor had best get accustomed to tough questions, such as where he lives, and had best be prepared to receive such questions from persons not always having his best interests at heart.

Yeah. That’s pretty much what I’m thinking, too.

You’re wondering what’s wrong with taking pictures at a public event. You’re wondering why they don’t arrest the TV and newspaper people.

You’re thinking public events are, well, public. You’re thinking a fellow running for governor had best get accustomed to having his picture taken.

You’re speculating that the Beebe campaign wanted its own visual record of the opponent’s activity. You’re thinking the only dirty thing might be if the Beebe campaign doctored the videotape to make Halter look a transgenderist, or something, which, so far as I know, has not been done.

Yeah. That’s pretty much what I’m thinking, too.

But to be fair: I think Halter should send someone to Beebe’s next speech to videotape him and ask him where he lives.


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