Favorite

Stop presses: Clintons ambitious 

Here are a couple of earthshaking developments: It turns out that Hillary Clinton is obsessed with privacy and that across the years former U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers detected ethical failings in other politicians, even friends like Bill and Hillary Clinton.

With the Clintons, matters that would be of only passing interest with another politician, like a petulant remark, using a personal email server instead of the government's or a friend's private criticism, become political convulsions that consume the news cycle for months and often years.

With any other public figure — say, Secretary of State Colin Powell or Jeb Bush — using one's personal email for private chats as well as for work would be a piffling matter, unwise for the political damage it might inflict in a future campaign, but no scandal. After all, emails are what until a few years ago were office and phone chats that never made it into the public records where political researchers and historians prowl. But it was exactly what you would expect of Hillary Clinton, whose monomania about protecting her privacy and much of her own work in private and public capacities, such as her investments as a young Arkansas mother and her legal billing records on Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan in the 1980s, nearly cost her husband the presidency.

Reporters and political denizens working for Republican opponents have for months been combing archives in Arkansas for some trifle that reporters overlooked in the Clinton tales of the '90s. A writer for Mother Jones, a leftist journal, who was trying to figure out how Hillary's two-decade sojourn in Arkansas shaped her development, poring over the files of Sen. Bumpers in the university archives, found folders of what purported to be an occasional diary, penned not by Bumpers but typed by an office worker, apparently from Bumpers' dictation or from random thoughts he uttered around the office. The woman who apparently typed them is, like Bumpers, in no condition to remember it.

The story was not cast as a scandal, but as a historical curiosity: The senator who made one of the great orations in Senate history in defense of President Clinton at his impeachment trial had, almost 20 years earlier, privately uttered doubts about the absolute purity of both Clintons' political strivings. In his own oral history 15 years ago, Bumpers assessed Clinton as one of the 20th century's great presidents and later predicted the same of Hillary Clinton if she could quell her hawkish instincts.

But in the summer of 1982, right after Clinton had won the Democratic nomination to regain the governor's office, a Bumpers "diary" entry said the Clintons had ambitions so manic that they would do about anything to get elected and that he knew of ethical breaches by the Clintons in the recent campaign.

Two attributes define Dale Bumpers' political career: an obsession with ethical behavior and a high-mindedness about campaigning that distinguished him from nearly every successful politician of his time. He refused all gifts, including one that arrived at the governor's mansion his first week in office, a Rolex watch that a South Arkansas jeweler had sent, the price tag still attached, in the hope Bumpers would reappoint him to the State Police Commission. The watch was returned and he didn't get the appointment, so the jeweler hired a bumbling hit man to kill the governor.

Bumpers obsessed so much about a potential ethical slipup by one of his 25,000 government employees that he confessed years later that his last day in the governor's office in 1974 was the happiest of his life because he no longer needed to worry that his three children might read that their daddy had run a corrupt government.

What set Bumpers apart from his colleagues was that he considered it dishonest or weak to take purely political stands. Like the great Irish statesman Edmund Burke, you were obliged to voters to be guided by your conscience, not what might be safe or popular. In an oral history after his retirement he expressed sorrow that he had once acceded to his friend Sen. Jim Sasser of Tennessee, who nearly dragged him down the aisle one day to change his vote against a pointless gun-control resolution that Republicans had introduced to set up liberal Democrats. Sasser told him if he didn't change his vote to aye he would be beaten in the next election, but Bumpers remained deeply chagrined about changing his vote.

But about those criticisms of the Clintons: It is true that in his 13 political campaigns Bumpers never publicly criticized an opponent. His father told him that anyone who ran for public office deserved respect. But in private he was always free with his judgments about fellow politicians, friends and opponents alike, whom he usually found to be too political, too crass, or ignorant. At lunch one day in 1985 he told Arkansas's most powerful businessman that he was "senile," which nearly got him a well-financed opponent. The diary pages carried criticisms of several of his close colleagues and of President Reagan, whom he always thought was in the early stages of dementia.

The remark that got so much attention and that will be repeated many times the next 18 months (the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorialized twice in the three days after it was reported that even the great Dale Bumpers said the Clintons had no character) was that he knew of ethical breaches by the Clintons in the 1982 campaign.

I think I know what he was talking about. Clinton had savaged his Democratic runoff opponent, honest Joe Purcell, for refusing to sign a petition for a massive Constitutional amendment to elect the state's utility regulators and to enshrine tough utility rate rules in the Constitution. Clinton said he had not decided how he would vote on the amendment but that he, but not Purcell, thought the people should be allowed to decide. It was not commonly known outside the Clinton circle that Bill and Hillary had helped write the amendment. Clinton endorsed it a couple of weeks before the election, but the Arkansas Supreme Court tossed it off the ballot.

Dale Bumpers was offended by the Clintons' petty guile that summer, but it is safe to say that not a few politicians have done worse.

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • China in charge

    Let's turn to foreign affairs to see how we might calm the flood of anxieties over the coming Donald Trump presidency.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • A little hope

    It may not be nearly as bad as you expect.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Religion as excuse upends Constitution

    Tirades over religious liberty since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide have awakened the ghost of James Madison, the author of the constitutional doctrine on the matter, and it isn't happy that his effort to protect religious inquiry in America is being corrupted.
    • Jul 9, 2015
  • Guns, God and gays

    Many more mass shootings like the one last week in Roseburg, Ore., will stain the future and no law will pass that might reduce the carnage. That is not a prediction but a fact of life that is immune even to Hillary Clinton.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • China in charge

    Let's turn to foreign affairs to see how we might calm the flood of anxieties over the coming Donald Trump presidency.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • A little hope

    It may not be nearly as bad as you expect.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Worth it

    • And loyal, to a fault.

    • on December 6, 2016
  • Re: Worth it

    • Alas, Gene's memory ain't what it used to be. He wrote a column some time…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: Forget identity politics

    • Hillarys 'Stronger Together' nonsense failed because she failed to make it a reality. As Gene…

    • on December 5, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation