The Sunday line is open. I mention Leslie Rutledge again because the Black Legislative Caucus (its members are Democrats and Fred Smith) will hold a news conference Monday to call attention to Rutledge’s forwarding of e-mail written in black dialect while working in child protective services for the state Human Services Department. Rutledge is the Republican nominee for attorney general.
An announcement from Rep. Fred Love said it was “stunningly insensitive” for Rutledge to send along the message — written by a white friend — about an encounter by a mother seeking protective service for her child. The author has defended the use of broad black dialect as a literary technique, but it has struck many as offensive. Love’s announcement of the news conference quoted a statement written by Sen. Joyce Elliott that we shared yesterday.
To date, the story hasn’t gotten much media coverage. Republican apologists have followed the usual strategy of shooting the messenger, Blue Hog Report, which first reported the e-mail. He’s a liberal. Facts don’t matter.
It requires no reading of the heart and mind of Leslie Rutledge or her friend to question their judgment in passing around such an email — in the kindest light, easily misinterpreted. Remember that it was about a confidential social service matter of a family in need. My question for Rutledge, should a mainstream reporter be allowed to speak with her: What were you thinking? How does cartoonish dialect contribute to the telling of a family’s private difficulty?
Followups for Rutledge should any but Republican apologist bloggers be allowed to speak with her: Will you authorize release of DHS records pertaining to your employment, particularly memoranda written on your abrupt departure and a supervisor’s note for the file that you should not be rehired? Also: How do you explain casting an absentee ballot in Arkansas weeks after registering to vote in Washington?
Rutledge is probably happy to have the black legislative caucus issue public criticism of her. Surely she she can find a way to work President Obama into any response issued by her campaign or through her media mouthpieces.
Prediction: Legislators tomorrow might find a way to recall when Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former employer of Leslie Rutledge (another of her many jobs in a checkered career that ended rather abruptly), forced the resignation of a state agency head for forwarding a racist e-mail. Huckabee found it “inappropriate and insensitive”for Emergency Management Director Bud Harper to forward a facetious message about illegal aliens and welfare recipients. Now only liberals think such things are worthy of note.
Maybe for a double reverse a former black legislator, Tracy Steele, can weigh in with a defense of Rutledge. He’s nominally a Democrat and a Beebe administration official, but he’s widely expected to soon endorse Asa Hutchinson for governor. Why not go for a straight ticket.
Steele is the type of politician a certain high Democratic official once referred to as an “incumbentocrat.” Think Bill Walker, who’s cycled through several administrations of different parties as the times and employment opportunities required. Steele’s back story is that Democratic Party Chair Vince Insalaco was instrumental in the successful campaign of Joe Smith to be elected mayor of North Little Rock. Smith defeated, yes, Tracy Steele. 2 plus 2 equals Asa, the thinking goes.
Steele’s record of using his government position to raise money for a private foundation that paid him a handsome salary doesn’t make him a sterling endorsement. But if it happens it will receive attention because of the expectation that a racial voter gap will favor Democrat Mike Ross in the governor’s race. Steele’s defection could be seen as having some impact. Ross has been down this road before. After he defeated former Democratic legislator Judy Smith in a primary race for Congress, Smith and her son Sylvester became Huckabee converts and beneficiaries.