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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Just show us the baby

by John Brummett | September 29, 2022 at 3:03 a.m.

There's an old saying about not talking about the process but displaying the final product.

It's actually about labor pains and the baby. But this is a different day and I dare not risk seeming to trivialize childbirth.

A crusty old editor said it to me the old-fashioned way decades ago. As a cub reporter, I came into the newsroom explaining to him the ordeal of having tried to get on time to the news event he'd assigned me.

"Don't tell me about the labor pains; just show me the baby" meant to quit wasting his time with excuses and instead sit down over there and write what you've got if anything.

I couldn't help thinking about the metaphor Tuesday as I watched the state Senate make an absolute mockery of an ethics hearing on Sen. Alan Clark's behavior, then vote 26-to-4 to do the right thing.

It adopted its Ethics Committee report recommending that Clark be cited for bringing a frivolous ethics complaint against Sen. Stephanie Flowers, as if in retaliation for having gotten found out himself trying to get signed into a meeting for expense reimbursement without going to the meeting.

The Senate sanctioned him with suspension from the current Senate and stripped him of seniority for the rest of this year, as well as, if the new Senate agrees in January, the next biennium.

It's a real scolding. They will take his office key and make him get his stuff out.

They couldn't do that Tuesday because Clark was on vacation, and, I think, savoring the idea of couching the action likely to be taken against him as a violation of his due-process rights. He could be the victim.

The hearing was indeed a shambles. Senate President Pro Tem Jimmy Hickey has certain skills, but presiding in a quasi-judicial proceeding is not among them. He was all on edge.

Lame-duck right-wingers Bob Ballinger and Trent Garner got him a little flustered procedurally as they, both lawyers, nitpicked the charge against their friend Clark. It was as if they had decided their parting shots as senators would be to mess with those getting to stay by amusing themselves playing a game called "Courtroom Litigator."

Sen. David Wallace said he loved the American legal system but that what was going on with Garner and Ballinger amounted to "tripping over mouse t--ds." That caused persons sitting in the gallery to laugh, which caused the on-edge Hickey to scold ... the people in the gallery.

He essentially was calling for public decorum while a senator invoked the slapstick scatology of large men tripping over tiny mouse leavings.

Sen. Missy Irvin gave a positively impassioned speech about how nobly she'd come through as a member of the Ethics Committee.

Sen. Blake Johnson deplored that he'd had to get down off a combine twice for this Clark business, and that Clark hadn't even shown up for his own hearing. And he deplored that Garner and Ballinger got all lawyerly as Clark's surrogates in what wasn't a trial, but a business meeting for the Senate to deal with its own as it saw fit under its rules.

Johnson said, perhaps without thinking the words through: "I don't want to hear another word about due process or constitutional rights."

He didn't mean that. He meant he didn't want to hear it anymore that day from those two clowns over there about that absent clown.

And those are my name-callings, not the combine-descender's.

In the final analysis, there were good moments.

Sen. Kim Hammer, a Missionary Baptist preacher and hospice chaplain at Saline Memorial Hospital, is a sanctimonious conservative Republican. He stood beside Sen. Clarke Tucker, a fortunate son of Little Rock's Heights section and Harvard-educated lawyer and left-of-center Democrat.

Hammer is chairman of the Ethics Committee. Tucker is on the committee. Hammer presented the report and argued for the recommendations. Ballinger and Garner started pestering him with legalisms and Hammer brought up Tucker to handle those.

You had good guys from two sides of the spectrum and two vastly different if nearby places. One came with pulpit style and training and the other elite law-school style and training. They argued in tandem in defense of the right thing that they developed with colleagues of both parties serving the Ethics Committee in long and arduous executive sessions.

And the vote was 26-to-4, and the four were Garner, Ballinger, a right-wing one-termer who got beat in the primary, and Sen. Mark Johnson, who was cited weeks ago for being the one signing in Clark for the meeting Clark wasn't attending.

I'll risk summarizing this way: That's a pretty baby.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.



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