Editorial - Bill Halter, you've got some splainin' to do

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dear Supporter,

As Election Day draws near, every day counts and we need help in continuing to build the momentum!

We are looking for Halter supporters across Arkansas to write letters to their local paper about why they support our campaign.

Would you be interested in writing a letter to your paper? You can pick a topic that you are most interested in -- bringing jobs to Arkansas, increasing access to higher education, protecting Social Security, etc. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just keep it short and write how you speak!

-- email from Bill Halter for U.S. Senate campaign

When you're in the newspaper business every mistake you make is colossal and public. Which is why reading each word, keeping track of each letter to the editor, and setting boundaries of ethics and decorum without losing a writer's point or personality is vital. Newspapers are the German Shepherds of the community. They watch, they listen, and they tangle with immorality to the point of discomfort.

Lieutenant Governor Halter, you were a National Merit scholar, a Phi Beta Kappa, a Rhodes scholar, and you have a Master of Philosophy degree in Economics.

So why in this wide world would a man with that background and obvious interest in exercising his brain think it proper to manipulate his home state newspapers? It's so Swiftboat.

Just think, some people might read that and think they have been given permission to send a letter that you basically wrote, but that they will sign. Kind of like co-signing a loan for you. You can't get the loan on your own, so you want us to bombard the bank with references?

This email (sent by your flight crew, yes, but you're the pilot) smacks of disregard for those who sweat, worry and wrap duct tape around their hearts because they want to provide a forum for readers to express themselves on public issues. We neither beg nor nudge letter writers. We provide space for them to get their views out to readers. Newspapers strive to offer the opinions and accomplishments of their populace. We are not making up news, as the only way a newspaper can be fair is to be accurate.

But what have you done? You've asked us to co-sign for you. You've asked newspaper readers to take advantage of a public service for your benefit. You've given newspaper editors across Arkansas a knuckle sandwich.

What your campaign has done is say it's cool to steal space from honest readers. Newspapers stay in business by trying. They stay in business perhaps by playing the bugle instead of leading the charge, but they are up front and susceptible to wounds.

When you're elected, despite outrage over this bad, bad, oh so bad, cheesy attempt to sneak into the concert without paying, will you have a senior staff member ask your supporters to bombard Bob Woodward of the Washington Post with the topic of their choice? Will you tell supporters in Washington that it doesn't really matter what they say, it's just important that they pilfer precious, expensive newsprint for your agenda? Or are you just comfortable asking those of us here in your fourth-generation home state?

But we digress.

Let's go back and look at your wording. We liked the "etc." a lot, because it's a fill-in-the-blank. Our letter could be about hating gays, hating the government or hating gun control. Pick your topic, just keep it short.

And it doesn't have to be fancy! Glory! Anyone could write a simple letter saying anything that occurs to them, and in closing say, "And that's why I'm voting for Bill Halter. Because he taught me that Arkansas newspapers are nothing more than ads and pictures of kids playing sloppy baseball on a level their coaches never achieved. Free pages for me to encourage my canasta club to write in and tell readers that Bill Halter is smart enough to hornswoggle newspaper editors. I can support him by hurting my local economy rather than sending him a check."

The only way for you to apologize is to buy an ad in every newspaper in the state that you sent this email to.

If you don't, you're not worth a hanging chad.

Mary Pat Boian