In the bag for Dewey Bartlett?

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I was listening to the Pat Campbell Show on 1170 KFAQ this morning. He spent about four minutes at the end of the 7 a.m. hour talking about people who think he's "in the bag" for Dewey Bartlett, Jr., the candidate for mayor who endorsed incumbent Democrat Kathy Taylor for election in 2006 and for re-election this year, before she dropped out of the race. Campbell poked fun at the notion that the number of ads purchased by the Bartlett campaign on the station would influence his choice for mayor. As he correctly pointed out, he doesn't have anything to do with any ads other than those that carry his endorsement. (Here's a direct link to Pat Campbell's 7 a.m. hour for August 20, 2009. The clip in question begins at 28:53 and runs to the end.)

I suspect that most people who are dissatisfied with Campbell's coverage of the city election understand that he has no control over the ads. In fact, as I understand it, broadcast stations have to offer their lowest rate to political candidates, displacing more lucrative ads for, say, a bank or a retail establishment. I doubt that political ads are highly coveted by broadcast stations.

The dissatisfaction I think has more to do with the relative scarcity of coverage of the city elections as compared to KFAQ's morning show in years past. Looking back over his online archives since the filing period, I see 12 hours with some reference to the Republican mayoral primary out of 71 hours online that involved Campbell, which means, on average, he talked about the race once every other day. Possibly skewing the stats: Campbell took a week off, some hours are missing from the archive, and it may be that mayoral politics came up in an hour, but it wasn't noted in the archive description.

Of those 12 hours, two involved Anna Falling's publicity event involving the proposed creation exhibit at the zoo. In two of the 12 hours, the mayoral discussion involved interviews with candidates with very little support. For two of the 12 hours, Campbell was schooled by his listeners on the significance of Bartlett's praise and TAIT board vote for the Great Plains Airlines giveaway after he downplayed its importance. Another hour was spent with Terry Simonson, who has endorsed Bartlett and who is the spokesman for the Tulsa County Commission.

There's some silly speculation that Campbell is taking it easy on Bartlett because he hopes to have him on as a guest if he wins the mayor's race. I give Pat more credit than that. Pat Campbell has been around long enough to understand that if someone won't come on your show when he's a candidate, when he has the strongest incentive to reach out to your listeners, he certainly won't bother once he's safely in office.

Bartlett hasn't been on KFAQ since June 29. Toward end of that interview (about 14:20 into the podcast of Pat Campbell's June 29, 2009, 8 a.m. hour), Bartlett's first and only appearance on the station as a candidate, Campbell complained about Kathy Taylor's ongoing refusal to come on his program and expressed hope that Bartlett would be back. Bartlett gave his word -- starting at 15:50 -- that he would give Campbell the accessibility that he seeks. And at the very end of the interview (about 20:00 in), Campbell said, "Let's get you back again soon. Maybe next time around we'll throw open the phones, take some calls as well." Bartlett's reply: "Pat, it's been a real treat to get to know you, get to know your listeners, and I guarantee I'll be back."

Bartlett hasn't been back, and it's surprising that Campbell hasn't called him out on breaking his promise. In years past, KFAQ listeners were accustomed to hearing the morning host challenge a politician who was avoiding the show and dodging tough questions. Campbell has often denounced the practices of his predecessors -- he did again during his interview with Bartlett -- but many Tulsa voters appreciated having someone in a position of influence using that platform to hold politicians to account for their words and deeds. It's why KFAQ's morning show surpassed the erstwhile king of the morning airwaves.

Courtesy and civility are much to be desired, but slavishly seeking them at the expense of truth and transparency can turn you into an enabler of evasive politicians, even if you don't intend that result.

A question for Mr. Campbell: You say that politicians avoided KFAQ because your predecessors were discourteous to them. You've been as nice as you can be to Dewey Bartlett, Jr., so why is he avoiding your program? Is it possible the pols who wouldn't come on the air with your predecessors were really just trying to avoid accountability? Is it possible that Dewey Bartlett, Jr., is doing the same thing?

There are a lot of tough questions that Bartlett seems to be avoiding.

Bartlett voted and spoke in support of Mayor Kathy Taylor's scheme to put Tulsa taxpayers on the hook for paying Bank of Oklahoma $7.1 million that the City of Tulsa did not owe. Back when Mayor Bill LaFortune tried the same thing, Chris Medlock was part of a coalition of city councilors that blocked his efforts, despite persistent wooing of the councilors by BOk officials.

Bartlett not only endorsed Democrat Kathy Taylor for election in 2006, he endorsed her for re-election this year, despite her heavy-handed, non-collaborative leadership style and her unilaterally putting the City of Tulsa on the record against gun rights and in support of climate junk science. Taylor joined New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's mayors' coalition that sought to eliminate the Tiahrt Amendment and to boost lawsuits against gun manufacturers. I'm sure that Pat Campbell, a fervent supporter of the Second Amendment, understands the chilling effect of those efforts. Taylor also pledged that Tulsa city government would implement the provisions of the Kyoto Treaty, an extreme economy-killing document that not even Bill Clinton tried to ratify.

Why would Bartlett, who claims to be a conservative Republican, endorse the re-election of a mayor that put Tulsa's name on the line in support of such left wing causes? Even if a radio talk show host isn't moved by local issues, these are national issues that speak to a candidate's ideology and character. If you don't like the mushy moderate RINOs in the U. S. Senate, wouldn't it bug you to death that the GOP standard-bearer for mayor of your city might be cut from the same cloth?

An exchange between Pat Campbell and a caller to the program last week may also have fueled the "in the bag" speculation. In the third hour of the August 13 show (starting at 22:57), Joe Conner raised the issue of family values, complaining that Bartlett is representing himself as a strong family man despite his divorce and remarriage: "Bartlett is pushing family values, but yet he's a divorced man." In response, Campbell loudly made light of the issue, saying that we have pastors in town who have divorced and remarried and suggesting that any concerns about a candidate's marital history belong to 1955, not 2009. ("Do you have a calendar, Joe?") After quickly cutting Conner off, Campbell asked his producer to "clue me in [about callers], say 'East of the Rockies, East of the Rockies,'" an allusion to Art Bell's "Coast to Coast AM," an overnight radio talk show devoted to X Files-type material. The implication was that Conner must be wearing a tinfoil hat to want to talk about Dewey Bartlett's divorce.

While it's true that divorce and remarriage have become very common in the Christian community, devoutly religious Oklahomans still take marriage vows seriously. The Roman Catholic Church, of which Pat Campbell and Joe Conner are both adherents and in which Dewey Bartlett, Jr., was raised, regards marriage as permanent and indissoluble, and those who divorce and remarry are forbidden to receive communion. (See this discussion on the website of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb. Protestants who take a less sacramental view of the Lord's Supper may not appreciate the eternal implications of excommunication for a Catholic.) Many evangelical churches will exclude divorced men from leadership. In the conservative Presbyterian Church in America, only adultery, abuse, and abandonment are considered valid scriptural grounds for divorce, and in the PCA congregation to which I belong, members who have abandoned their families for a new relationship have been excommunicated and leaders in that situation have been kicked out of office and excommunicated.

Even someone without a religious faith who has ethical standards will judge a divorced person's character based on the context of the divorce. Someone who dumps the mother of his children for a trophy wife will be judged far more harshly than someone who leaves a drug-addicted spouse who refuses to get help.

I have voted for, volunteered for, and endorsed divorced and remarried candidates, but the context and circumstances of the divorce matter to me and a lot of other voters. It says something positive about a candidate if his ex-wife endorses him enthusiastically. On the other hand, in the 2004 Illinois Senate race, voters abandoned Barack Obama's leading Democratic primary rival, Blair Hull, and the Republican nominee, Jack Ryan, because of their ex-wives' sworn testimony about their character and conduct. And I will never again support Newt Gingrich for public office because of his acknowledged pattern of sleeping with wife N+1 while still married to wife N.

Dismissing and ridiculing the divorce issue as loudly as he did undoubtedly gave some listeners the impression that Pat Campbell was trying to protect Bartlett from potential political damage.

Over the years, KFAQ listeners have come to expect in-depth, serious discussion of local issues, grounded in a clear moral sense of right and wrong, and pointing toward effective action -- "standing up for what's right." What they're hoping for, I believe, is a strong daily focus on Tulsa's city elections, particularly the race for mayor in our strong-mayor form of government, a thorough examination of the records of the leading candidates, and a chance to confront the leading candidates with tough questions.

About a year ago, during the Tulsa County Commission District 2 Republican primary race between incumbent Randi Miller and challenger Sally Bell, Pat Campbell rightfully chided me for predicting that Miller wouldn't show up to a debate with Bell. She did, and Campbell did a fine job of conducting a debate between the two. If he would arrange a head-to-head debate and challenge the two* leading Republican mayoral candidates to participate, it would give KFAQ listeners (current and former) the kind of substance they're seeking, it would demolish any suspicion that the station or the host is trying to protect Bartlett from scrutiny, and it would make for some lively and fascinating radio.

*NOTE: I will provide my rationale for this conclusion in a later post, but it's my sense that of the Republican primary contenders only Bartlett and Medlock have built a support base beyond immediate family and close friends.

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Sometime late Monday morning, a friend called to let me know about the first hour of Pat Campbell's show. I didn't hear it live -- I didn't turn on KFAQ until 7:45, in time to hear the interview with Chris Medlock -- but I listened later in the day. I... Read More

8 Comments

DaWizard said:

You've NAILED it Micheal, good-on-ya's!

Bob said:

As per his normal high standards, Michael has developed a thorough analysis of KFAQ Campbell's coverage of the Mayoral race.

I'm afraid I've already come away thinking that Campbell is "in the bag" for Dewey, Jr.

Being a relative newcomer to Tulsa, Campbell's really out of his depth when it comes to the local ruling moneyed elite, their new "reform" candidate Dewey, Jr., and their control of our city government for the past fifty years.

Campbell would do well by more mentoring by Michael Bates.........

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

You're not suggesting that treating someone with courtesy and civility promote the telling of falsehoods, are you?

W. said:

I don't know Pat, but I have a theory about why there may be some softballing going on here.

I think Pat is very wary of mortally wounding an obvious GOP front-runner such as Bartlett, thus handing the election to the Democratic primary winner.

I think what happened in the previous mayoral election should serve as a cautionary tale. KFAQ listeners and many conservatives spent so much time with their knives out against Bill LaFortune that they ruined his chances of re-election and lost the office for Republicans.

(As an aside, I think many conservatives made the same mistake in the presidential election with John McCain, but I digress ...)

Pat's an outsider, and I think he examined what happened four years ago with morbid fascination -- and vowed that he wouldn't make the same mistake. I think he's trying to be tempered in criticisms of Bartlett (or Medlock or whoever) so that their chances of winning the general election aren't totally wrecked.

Reggie Wooster said:

His (PCs) mocking scorn of Anna Falling has made me change the station on two occasions. His "old news" take on Bartlet's vote on the Great Planes payout to BOK shows that either doesn't know or doesn't care about change in how things are done in "our fair city."
Lately I have turned PC off several times, honestly I'm thinking that the man is a jerk, and the show is all about Pat.

Brooksider Author Profile Page said:

I agree Dewey Bartlett is probably not a good choice for mayor, but I fail to see how Chris Medlock is.

He lied about having a Master's degree, was horribly contentious on the City Council, has never run a large organization, and has shown no indication he would act any differently as mayor. How is this a good thing? What am I missing?

Jeff, there are people (and entire cultures) that are so devoted to avoiding confrontation that they won't ask any question, no matter how politely phrased, that might make the other person uncomfortable. Bad actors seeking to avoid accountability will take full advantage of that situation. (If you're being dishonest, questions aimed at getting at the truth will make you uncomfortable.) Here in Tulsa, city councilors have been labeled as contentious, uncivil, mean-spirited simply for asking pointed questions in civil and polite ways. (E.g., John R.'s comment.)

W., I'd be surprised if that's the case. And I'd say LaFortune ruined his own chances at re-election by straying from his electoral base over the course of his time in office.

John R., I can't think of anyone in this race who has run a large organization. And as for the MBA thing, Medlock's answer from three years ago makes sense to me.

Horace Rumpole said:

KFAQ is a commercial enterprise. Despite its "standing up for what's right" marketing program, KFAQ really stands up for whatever keeps it in business. Don't forget that the last host who saw the 1170 microphone as a public trust was abandoned by his management and thrown to the wolves.

PC tries very hard to be PC and admits that his program attempts to be the "People Magazine" of Tulsa morning radio. That is a very pedestrian goal. Depth, courage and civic virtue are not what you expect from People Magazine.

To say that PC is in the bag for Bartlett is probably an overstatement. PC is in the bag for himself, his career and his management in that order. But, to say that the whole station is in the bag for the old money commercial interests that are quietly supporting Bartlett might have more validity.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 20, 2009 10:35 PM.

Vacation 2009: Day 3 -- Columbus to Zanesville to Wheeling to Hustontown was the previous entry in this blog.

Oklahoma Channel interviews Tulsa mayor candidates is the next entry in this blog.

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