District Attorney Craig Watkins' reelection campaign has been considerably more difficult than expected, owing to the accusations that he prosecuted Hunt family scion Al Hill III for mortgage fraud at the behest of a wealthy political benefactor. The embarrassing parade of hearings and contempt charges, followed by more hearings and, most likely, more contempt charges, is enough to sour the opinion of even reliable Democrats.
The process is out of Watkins' control, but, rather than stand idly by while the hearings inevitably exhaust themselves, he's taking the lemons he's been handed, squeezing out the juice, stirring in sugar, water, and ice and hawking lemonade.
That's trickier than it sounds. First, you have to find a properly juicy lemon. In this case it was comments made by Bob Hinton, the special prosecutor in Watkins' contempt case, who remarked that "the DA has a core interest here to try to get Craig Watkins' head out of a noose."
Watkins' attorneys squeezed a bit out of that one on Monday when they beckoned the press over so they could fully express their outrage. The sugar and water come today in the form of an email to supporters with the subject line, "Whose head is in a noose?"
"Some days this office is about having the courage to convict the guilty," Watkins says in a heroic pull quote at the top. "Some days this office is about having the courage to free the innocent, but every day this office is about making sure that no one in Dallas County has a noose around his or her head. We do not do that in Dallas anymore."
Of course, Hinton wasn't seriously suggesting hanging anyone. Every indication is that he uttered his comment without considering its racial overtones. But Watkins, who's worked up a full head of steam by now, isn't going to let that stop him.
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"That conjures up images of a time when there was no due process of law," he continues. "I have done my best to redefine what it is to be a prosecutor -- it's not about winning but about seeking the truth. The truth of the matter here is that I am experiencing a political lynching, but you can stop the bleeding."
The bandages in this case are dollar bills. Seeing that this is a lynching, he'll need a lot of them.
"The Dallas County District Attorney needs your voice. Speak today by making a contribution to the Craig Watkins campaign, which stands for progressive change," he urges. "I will always stand on principle and do what's right."
So much for that calm, nuanced discussion about race we were going to be having.