Some weeks ago, a Republican operative predicted
an "October Surprise"
that would wreck Mark Pryor's Senate campaign. Somehow I anticipated something
more aggressive than bringing Tim Hutchinson's second wife out of hiding. Unfortunately
for Tim, however, the biggest news his campaign mustered last week was an appearance
by Randi Fredholm Hutchinson before a Republican women's group in Fayetteville.
Contrary to what you may have anticipated, Randi was not exhibited in stocks
compelled to wear a scarlet letter "A" on her bosom. Mixing her Biblical metaphors a bit,
Renee Oelschlager, president of the host group, commented "I think she should be
commended for coming into the lion's den in Northwest Arkansas."
Lions, of course, were a Roman innovation for killing martyrs. I think
it's stoning Oelschlager may have meant. Although none of the Republican
ladies was impolite enough to ask Randi about her alleged career as a
homewrecker, the topic was nevertheless on everybody's mind. "To voters,"
she somewhat defensively told reporters "somebody else's personal life does
not matter as much as whether someone has done a competent job."
No argument here. Other people's marriages are a foreign country where
you don't know the language. Having grown up in a world where divorce was
forbidden and all but unknown, it's my strong belief that while broken marriages
are always sad, living together in perpetual anger is worse. To vote against Hutchinson
because of his divorce is simply childish. Unfortunately for him, Bible-beating
middle-aged pre-adolescents are his main constituency.
If nothing else, marrying a U.S. Senator was a terrific career move
for Randi Hutchinson. A former staffer, she's now an attorney at the huge
Washington law firm of Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin and Oshinsky. Representing
mostly Fortune 500 corporations-pharmaceuticals, HMOs, banking, insurance,
energy, chemicals, tobacco, etc.-the firm surely recognizes the advantages
of having a Senator's wife on staff.
Having no doubt costumed herself as dowdily as possible for her Arkansas
appearances (no sex please, we're Christians), it's unlikely Randi feels grateful to
the Slate reporter who described her as too homely to be a bimbo. "She's pale
and bulky with a weak chin," Will Saletan writes. "She's wearing almost as much
makeup as the Fox News correspondent. She looks older than her age.
'How old was his first wife?' one reporter asks. 'Older,' says another."
Roughly twenty years, I believe. Anyway, Saletan ungallantly implies
that voters are more apt to forgive Hutchinson for "this enthrallingly sordid
episode" because Randi's not a hottie. (Since local newspapers have run more
photos of Monica Lewinsky's mother than our Republican Senator's new wife,
I have no opinion.) Anyway, granting that Sen. Tim would be ill advised to
exhibit an Anna Nicole Smith-type on the campaign trail, it'd be interesting
to know Saletan's scriptural authority for this intriguing bit of casuistry.
I doubt they teach it that way at Hutchinson's alma mater, Bob Jones University.
Elsewhere, Saletan exhibits his own superiority to the rustic peasantry
Northwest Arkansas. His flight into "the political wilderness," carried him "over
miles of blackness uninterrupted by electric light." (The Ozark National Forest,
I presume.) On the ground in Van Buren, "a suburb of Fort Smith, if you can
believe it," Saletan finds the natives fat, slovenly, toothless and ignorant. He thinks
Jimmie Lou Fisher's name risible and accuses Mark Pryor of trying to fool voters
into thinking he's David Pryor by using campaign posters with only his last name.
Evidently, he's seen none of the TV ads where father and son appear together.
Meanwhile, Hutchinson may wish voters had him confused with his boyish
younger brother Asa. Without confessing adultery, Tim's been running all over
Arkansas saying God's forgiven him just in time for the election. It's very considerate
of the deity, you've got to admit, especially as He's widely known in evangelical
circles to be permanently ticked off at the antichrist, Bill Clinton.
Which brings us to the nub of the matter. It wasn't Hutchinson's foes
who made his personal life a political issue, it was his own words and actions.
A former Baptist preacher who ran as a "family values" conservative in 1996,
he never said boo as Republicans unable to outflank President Clinton on
legitimate public issues, turned his sexual sins into a theatrical spectacle.
Who in Washington, some of us asked then, could withstand a federal
investigation of his intimate life? Not Tim Hutchinson, it's clear. Did Randi get
promotions others deserved? Pay raises she didn't earn? Was public money
spent wooing her? Was she taken on junkets? Treated to expensive dinners?
Who cares? Republicans are always eager to talk about "character" when
they mean sex. A spineless hypocrite, Hutchinson cast the first stone, then
ran away. Think he'll take a tough stand for you? No chance. May he and
Randi live happily together somewhere far from Arkansas.
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