Unfair to Humphreys?


UPDATE 8/15/2005: Welcome, Buzzflash readers. This blog is mainly about local politics in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Particularly if you're from this neck of the woods, I invite you to visit the home page for the latest entries. To learn more about the author of this blog, read the profile published last month by our local alternative weekly paper, Urban Tulsa Weekly.

A friend who supported Kirk Humphreys expressed disappointment in a couple of things I wrote in my election night report. He felt I was suggesting that Kirk Humphreys's supporters (including him) were only backing him out of a desire not to miss the bandwagon, and he took great exception to my use of the phrase "purveyor of filth laid low" in my description of the reaction of supporters at Coburn's watch party to the surprisingly low numbers posted by Humphreys. He felt that the comment showed bad judgment and that it was beneath me to write so about a godly man who had a lot of supporters.

Regarding the bandwagon comment: Certainly there were many people who truly believed that Kirk Humphreys was the best man for the job. But there's no question that a bandwagon effect was in force, and although there was a long way to go until the primary, a lot of political folks seemed to feel a lot of pressure to get on board. When Coburn entered the race, I'm sure a lot of Humphreys' backers continued to believe Humphreys was the best man for the job, but others who had committed publicly to Humphreys felt regrets for their early commitment, but stuck with it nevertheless. I'm sure that a lot more Humphreys supporters felt regrets over the last week -- Ron Howell even said as much on KFAQ Monday morning.

As to the "purveyor of filth" comment, the ads from the Humphreys campaign over the last week were filth. They were a distortion of Tom Coburn's record by taking votes out of context -- the sort of dirty pool I expect from Democrats, as when they attack a Republican for voting against a bill falsely labeled with the term "civil rights". It's one thing to say, as Humphreys had been doing throughout the campaign, that Tom Coburn doesn't play the Washington game and doesn't bring home the bacon to Oklahoma. That's a fair criticism, although it didn't appear to resonate with the voters. It's another thing to say, as Humphreys' ads did, that "we can't trust Tom Coburn in time of war." And as we were reminded at the beginning or end of each commercial, Kirk Humphreys approved each one of those ads.

Then there's the push poll that attempted to paint Coburn as a hypocrite on the abortion issue, because he twice performed surgery to save the life of pregnant women, resulting unavoidably in the death of the unborn children. Suggesting that somehow that makes Coburn an abortionist is filth.

There were plenty of comments at the Coburn watch party expressing some pleasure that Humphreys' attacks backfired on him so strongly, although the sentiment was far outweighed by pride at the resounding vote of confidence in their man. And so I wrote what I did.

Through the campaign, I resisted any urge to trash Humphreys (or Anthony or Murphy, even). When I learned about kirkisajerk.com, I considered mentioning it in the blog, with appropriate disclaimers, simply because it was out there and, as a new phenomenon, of interest to people who follow Oklahoma politics, but in the end I decided I didn't want to be associated with the site in any way. I did write about my disagreement with Humphreys on the Bass Pro Shops subsidy, but that was as negative as I got, until last weekend, when I had had my fill of Humphreys' attack ads. Until last week, I felt I could support Humphreys wholeheartedly if he won the nomination, and I said so.

Like you I had the impression that Kirk Humphreys is a godly man, and I was impressed with his personal involvement in missions and his support of the Billy Graham crusade. I don't know the man's heart; I can only gauge his character by his actions. None of us will achieve perfection in this life, and we progress in sanctification at different rates and in different phases. Whatever part of his character told him it was OK to launch last week's attacks in order to prevent an outright Coburn win is a part that obviously needs further refining. An apology for those ads would be a good start (and it might blunt any effort by Carson to use the same attacks). I can't accept the notion that he is not ultimately responsible for the ads. If he caved in to pressure from his advisers to run the ads, it doesn't speak well for the strength of his backbone.

Two years ago, I watched the same team of consultants, in support of former Humphreys aide Jeff Cloud's candidacy for Corporation Commissioner, trash the reputation of Dana Murphy, in order to stop her from winning the primary outright, and then to defeat her in the runoff. Dana is one of the most Christ-like people I have ever encountered in politics, not to mention the most qualified candidate for the job, and they savaged her for the sake of winning, for the sake of ensuring that every statewide elected Republican official was one of "their people". Humphreys was close enough to that race -- he endorsed Cloud -- and engaged enough in Oklahoma politics that he should have anticipated pressure to slam Coburn unfairly and should have been ready to resist it.

Politics does indeed happen, and it can get nasty. As a card-carrying Calvinist I believe in the reality and persistence of the sin nature. Politics were bound to get nasty in the Republican party, notwithstanding the strong Christian element present, because we're all human and subject to pride, envy, sloth, lechery, gluttony, and the other two deadly sins I can't remember right now. Still, I had hoped we wouldn't have the depth of nastiness we saw from the Humphreys campaign these last two weeks, from Wortman's campaign, and two years ago in many of the statewide primaries. It is a shame, a blight on the party.

To all the disappointed Humphreys supporters: You have my sympathy. I know how bad it hurts to lose, and it's bound to hurt worse with your candidate finishing the way he did. I appreciate Kirk Humphreys making an endorsement first thing this morning, and I hope you will follow his lead and help Tom Coburn defeat Brad "Son of Synar" Carson in November.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 29, 2004 12:36 AM.

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