Columns » Max Brantley

Sexy targets

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The Washington Post devoted more than 800 words and section-front space to an article analyzing the fact that U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton wore a blouse on the Senate floor that exposed a tiny bit of cleavage. The writer suggested that the senator had sent an ambivalent message by not showing more. I suppose I should be grateful the “serious press” — this writer has won a Pulitzer Prize — has found something besides John Edwards’ haircut to write about.

More substantive, but also sex-related, was the Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision to knock a hole in the state Freedom of Information Act. It said a judge should review a former Pulaski County comptroller’s county e-mail record piece by piece to see what is truly personal and perhaps not subject to release. In this case, the personal is unavoidably public. The comptroller had a sexual relationship with a vendor of software services and spent public money on that relationship. A review of ALL his e-mail is one way to help establish exactly how much may have been misappropriated – for example for travel that was not official business. The four-member court majority seems awfully concerned about protecting people who do private business on the public’s dime. Wonder who the justices have been e-mailing and texting?

U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana would be safe in Arkansas calling or texting prostitutes from a public phone, thanks to the Arkansas Supreme Court. But isn’t making a call to facilitate a criminal act a matter of public interest? The problem now is that a judge reviewing public phone records could not be expected to know such an interest might lie at the heart of an FOI request. Those seeking public records will have to reveal motives to reach seemingly personal information that might have a bearing on public performance.

This isn’t sexy, but it’s important. People who profess to be anxious to get the Little Rock School District out of court have now filed three legal actions requiring more court time and legal expenses. In the latest — and lamest — lawyer Jess Askew argued that his clients should be allowed to intervene in the School Board’s decision to attempt to mediate a settlement with lawyer John Walker over desegregation issues. One stated reason: because John Walker has too much influence on the School Board. This is a cause of legal action? If so, where was Askew’s intervention when Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman was working secret deals with school administrators and the Gang of Five that then controlled the School Board? Silly question. Hussman is one of Askew’s clients. It’s different when a man of such obvious good taste is the School Board puppeteer. Askew’s clients just don’t like democracy when they’re on the losing side. I don’t like some of the recent board decisions either. But I understand the rules. You don’t like a School Board’s decisions, you elect different board members. That’s how a Gang of Five white folks became a four-member black majority last year. I have to observe that black folks didn’t whine nearly so much when they were in the minority.

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