Columns » John Brummett

Hangman's sleepless night

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Compared to a hangman and pornographer, Jim Holt looks less extreme by the minute.

Holt is the religious zealot of a Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. He doesn’t believe in obeying courts, letting science teachers teach science or extending health care to a sick child of an illegal immigrant without turning in the parent for deportation.
And suddenly he’s looking positively mainstream for the general election, considering the way Democratic runoff opponents for the office he seeks are talking about each other.

Or, to be fair, I’m referring to the way state Sen. Tim Wooldridge decided to talk about Bill Halter on Tuesday, when, as it happened, a television poll came out showing Wooldridge way behind.

All Halter did was respond, mainly just to remind everyone that in the 1990s Wooldridge introduced a bill as a state representative to reinstate public hanging. He hanged Wooldridge by his own words, you might say.

Here’s what Wooldridge did to earn the disdain of Halter’s press spokesman, who wondered how Wooldridge, a lay preacher in the Church of Christ professing family values, could sleep at night.

Wooldridge pointed out that Halter has boasted — most prominently, I’d add, in that silly television ad with the football coach — that he’d bring to the lieutenant governor’s office his experience “leading five high-tech companies.”

Wooldridge said it was appropriate, then, to consider how those companies were run. Some of them are losing money even as Halter recently bailed out of one, a start-up drug development firm that finds itself under Justice Department investigation.

So far, so good. Fair comment. Halter’s adequate response is that start-up ventures often lose money in the beginning.

But then Wooldridge said Halter’s business dealings extended to profiting from Internet pornography via a company through which he financed much of his campaign by selling several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of stock.

Not good. Very bad. Sleazy. Desperate. Unbecoming. An invitation for sleeplessness.

One of Halter’s investment ventures is an Internet company that, in 2001, had contracts with firms that availed themselves of the company’s services to purvey pornography and gambling. Halter’s firm had a stated policy against such use and ended the offending contracts at the first opportunity.

You need to understand that the Internet is called a web and that activities thereon are, by very definition, wholly inter-related. Google, for example, has a search function through which one can find pornographic Internet sites. That doesn’t mean every investor in Google is a pornographer.

To lack an internal regulator deterring him from going as far as he went suggests that Wooldridge falls short of the threshold of judgment qualifying him to sit a heartbeat from the governorship.
It puts him in the position of having to say Wednesday morning — after he loses, as I’m thinking he might — whether he’ll support as his party’s nominee against the frightful Holt a person he has publicly accused of profiting from Internet porn.

He has two choices of comments: Porn is fine or vote for Holt.
Halter had previously vowed not to go negative unless he was gone negative against. Wooldridge’s charge surely qualified.

All Halter had to do was cite Wooldridge’s bill to reinstate public hanging, as well as some old clippings to indicate that Wooldridge was more serious about the measure than he now contends.

For good measure, the angry Halter came in two days later with a shot against Wooldridge for voting against increased financial benefits for National Guardsmen on active duty. Then he questioned Wooldridge’s calling his campaign staffers contractors and not paying Social Security taxes for them.

Meantime, that’s Holt over there proceeding quietly down the bland middle ground.

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