The John Wiley Price Affair: Suddenly, a Few People Are Looking a Whole Lot Smarter

Last week I was talking to a very well-known Dallas television investigative reporter about the Dallas County federal corruption probe. I won't name him here, because it was a personal call to discuss something else. But he made a point that kept coming back to me all through the long holiday weekend.

Forget who's wrong for a minute. What about the people who may have been right?

Ever since an FBI probe went public one week ago today with a raid on the office and home of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, people have been speculating about who will be found with dirty hands. But what about the people vindicated by the probe, at least in terms of their having insisted there were things here worth investigating?

The TV reporter spoke about former Dallas County Judge Jim Foster, who insisted for two years that somebody needed to take a look at Price, the Inland Port, constables and bail bonds -- all the things the FBI is now looking at.

The FBI looking at it doesn't make anybody guilty of anything. No one has even been indicted yet. But the FBI looking at it means Foster wasn't crazy to say somebody should look at it.

I think of other people. Dallas County Commissioner Maureen Dickey has gotten nothing but criticism for the last week because she was exuberantly pleased when she got the news that Price's offices had been raided.

Well, yeah. She's been praying for a raid for two years. She thinks the guy is a crook, a bully and a dictator. Why is she the bad guy? Why is everybody worried about whether she's treating the accused with sufficient gravitas and respect? What are we, French?

I also think of Larry Duncan, who ran against Clay Jenkins for the Democratic nomination for county judge last April. Duncan's basic platform reads like a rough draft of the FBI search warrants: He said Jenkins was the hand-picked hey-boy of a cabal of insiders headed by Price who betrayed southern Dallas on the Inland Port deal and were fisting various cookie jars all over the county.

Drooling for money from the trial lawyers, the Dallas County Democratic Party trashed Foster, their own incumbent, and slammed the door on Duncan, a seasoned former office-holder who should have had top credentials in the party.

Maybe you give the Democrats a pass for savaging Dickey: She's from enemy territory and brings her own knife to the fight. But Foster and Duncan were their own.

Foster looks more and more like an honest guy who was smarter than we gave him credit for, didn't like what he saw and thought something should be done. Duncan fits the same profile.

Part of what looks bad in this is who looks good. The clean hands are almost as interesting as the dirty ones. Notice I said "almost."