No Shame

First, Buzz offers apologies to the people who took time to talk with us last week. See, we had another column lined up about perceived bias at The Dallas Morning News, then came Al Lipscomb, so that one will have to wait.

Not that we're happy about it.

Now, you might think that Buzz, who derives great pleasure from sordid, stupid politics, would welcome the return of Lipscomb, the former city councilman and convicted bribe-taker whose conviction was overturned on a technicality. (Lipscomb's defense: Yes, I secretly took envelopes of cash from a local taxi cab company owner and voted his way, but they weren't bribes, just gifts from a pal.)

Folks in the anti-strong-mayor effort have been spinning a theory that Lipscomb's return to politics is part of a conspiracy. Community activist Sharon Boyd and other strong-mayor opponents suggest that those in favor of the strong-mayor proposal are secretly behind Lipscomb's campaign and his work against the City Charter amendment. Having this black, Southern Dallas sleaze working against the initiative, the theory goes, will stir up white North Dallas voters, who are inclined to be in favor of a stronger mayor, and get them to the polls. Call it the With Friends Like That, Who Needs Enemies? Theory.

Frankly, we doubt their theory, simply because we subscribe to Occam's Razor, the notion that the simplest explanation is probably correct. Why would Lipscomb run for city council again? The simple answer: Why shouldn't he? He betrayed his office and took cash under the table, and the community rallied around him, defended him, supported him, called him a hero and champion of civil rights. (This last one has always puzzled us. Bragging about being a longtime civil rights leader in accommodationist Dallas, which largely ignored the civil rights movement, is like listing "president of Vichy France" on your political résumé.) He was released from home confinement after his conviction was overturned, and council member James Fantroy, who helped feed Lipscomb's family during his trial, appointed him to the Police Citizens Review Board. Now Lipscomb repays Fantroy by running against him, leading to this laugher of a quote from Fantroy in the Morning News: "Al looked me straight in the face, eye to eye, and told me he was not going to run. If you can't take a person's word, what can you trust about him?"

Yeah. Right. Al's always been so trustworthy. Here's a better question: Why is anyone surprised?

Look at it this way: Suppose you were charged with the heinous crime of eating babies. You admit you ate the babies but say you were hungry and didn't think it was wrong, and a whole community rallies to your side. Praises you. Pays for your legal defense. Feeds your family. Holds protest rallies on your behalf. Finally, you're sprung on a technicality, and your old friends not only welcome your release but give you a job at a nursery school.

Then one day you're feeling peckish...

In Lipscomb's case, he won beaucoup bucks and admiration as a seedy political fixer. Of course he's going to tuck in his napkin and eat the metaphorical toddler.

So, why isn't Buzz happy about all this? Apparently--and this surprises even us--there are limits to how much tawdriness we can stomach with a smile. Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze was at City Hall with the rest of the media horde when Lipscomb and his ragtag bag of followers arrived to file for Fantroy's seat, and Schutze told us he couldn't decide whether the scene played more as tragedy or farce.

It was neither. It was more akin to scat porn. (If you don't know what that is, do yourself a favor and don't ask. )

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams