A group of five U.S. attorneys ousted during the Bush administration shakeup of the Justice Department in 2006, including Bud Cummins of Little Rock, participated in a panel discussion this week at the UALR Law School.
They criticized the Bush White House, but stepped generally around the subject of Tim Griffin, the Karl Rove protege who was installed for a time as U.S. attorney in Little Rock after Cummins was shoved out.
Afterward, former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton of Arizona wasn't so reticent in a telephone interview with the Times. He said Griffin's character should be considered by voters choosing between Republican Griffin and Democrat Joyce Elliott in the race for 2nd District Congress.
"Character matters," Charlton said. "And I don't think people change over a short period of time. Most people can change their ways over a long period of time and a good bit of reflection, but I think Mr. Griffin is the same person today as he was when he sought the position of U.S. attorney. The true Griffin is the individual we saw reflected in e-mails he was sending to Karl Rove, for example, saying he would name his first child after Rove if it was a boy, or slandering Bud or crying at the Clinton Library in a talk about public service. Those are examples of the individual that now wants to represent Arkansas in congress."
" ... I've seen the video in which Mr. Griffin wept as he said he no longer felt that public service was worthwhile and it struck me as more than ironic that he was in that state of mind after he had essentially destroyed Bud Cummins' chance to stay in office as U.S. attorney even though Bud was doing a terrific job. He had slandered Bud while he was a U.S. attorney and used his position with Karl Rove to move Bud out of office. Bud handled it very much like a gentleman and with a great deal of grace and I don't think I could say the same of Mr. Griffin.
More Q & A:
So you think Griffin's character deserves more attention?
It deserves attention. It's all part of his record. I saw his quote where he said he wants to move forward and that's good as well, but I think it's a maxim that makes sense to me that the past is often prologue. It could be true for Mr. Griffin and I think it's worth voters being aware of that fact.
What about the people who are going to say, "This guy's just trying to smear Griffin," or "He's just a liberal with an agenda?"
I'm a registered Republican, have been since I was 18 years of age. I'll match my conservative credentials against anyone's. I'm not picking a dog in this congressional race. But I do think that if anybody's going to consider whether Tim Griffin is the right person to run for this seat, it's got to involve more than who hates Nancy Pelosi the most. It's got to be, 'Who's the person with the sufficient character.' And maybe at the end of the day that is Mr. Griffin, but it deserves discussion and examination.
You don't think this has been sufficiently reported?
I don't think it has been, at least in the articles that I've read and it seems to be batted down pretty quickly with remarks like, "I'm focusing on the future." That's a worthwhile response, but I think he ought to sit down and talk about what his role was and what he did and how he justifies that.
In your mind, what were some of Griffin's most egregious offenses?
I think one of the things that he did was spread the rumors around the White House that Bud Cummins was not a good U.S. attorney. When the inspector general's report came out and they asked people about the source of that rumor, it all pointed back to Mr. Griffin. He was the sole source of that information. He, for example, lied about the number of trials he had when he was in JAG [the reserve Judge Advocate General's Corps]. I'm a career prosecutor. I think how many prosecutions and felony jury trials you've had means something, especially for anyone who wants to take the job of U.S. attorney. If you misrepresent that, then you need to be held to account for that. I think the fact that he was at a mind at one point in time to emotionally claim that he would never be in public service again because it wasn't worth it, and to now be vigorously running for office, I think that's worth examination. I don't know if he was telling the truth then or telling the truth now. That's an inconsistency that I think ought to be explored.
But in your mind it all comes down to character?
It is absolutely an issue of character.
Editor's note: Cummins, a lifelong Republican and former congressional candidate, declined to say who he'd be supporting in this year's congressional contest.