Poor decisions made on the golf course

Published 12:19 am Saturday, October 23, 2010

What was supposed to be a simple golf outing this past summer has turned into a national television sensation.

Rep. A.J. McCampbell is on the defensive after he was captured on video threatening a news photographer with a golf club. That video aired nationally Wednesday on ABC.

McCampbell said he told a journalist “no comment” several times when approached at a golf course during a legislative conference in Kentucky in July. McCampbell says the photographer should have left him alone.

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ABC News showed video Wednesday of McCampbell pulling a club from his bag after being asked why he and other legislators were playing golf during the conference.

The tape shows McCampbell telling the crew to leave “if you don’t want me to take this to you.”

Don’t get me wrong. What Rep. McCampbell did was foolish. You don’t threaten people, especially someone holding a video camera. But, does anyone believe that Rep. McCampbell would have actually beaten the cameraman with that club had he continued to persist? I certainly don’t.

I doubt the young man behind the camera did either.

I don’t know Rep. McCampbell to be that kind of person, but I’ve never played golf with him.

Much of the issue surrounding the firestorm is that McCampbell was playing golf while attending a lawmaker’s conference.

Two other legislators, who were with McCampbell, say golf was part of the program for lawmakers.

Most conferences that I have attended have a golf outing, or something similar, built into them. It’s an opportunity to network with constituents. It’s an opportunity to share ideas and, often most importantly, it’s an opportunity to share problems.

As long as the golf trip was not funded with taxpayer money, and there is no indication that it was, the trip itself is not much of the issue here.

What is an issue is Rep. McCampbell’s handling of the situation and that, per the agenda, he and his group skipped a seminar on legislative ethics to hit the links.

Public trust of elected officials is near an all-time low nationwide. Political tensions are extraordinarily high in Alabama, where bingo probes and wrangling have tainted much of 2010.

Considering the amount of ethical reform needed in this state, Rep. McCampbell would have been wise to sit in on the session, if only to show his support for the need in Montgomery.

Rep. McCampbell’s ethics are not in question, nor have they been. However, his judgment is now in question in front of millions of television viewers.

Rep. McCampbell likely learned a valuable lesson this week; that he is an elected official and can have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Regardless of how intrusive someone may be, the threat of bodily harm, no matter how inane the threat may be, is never appropriate. He is a legislator, not the bouncer at the Double Deuce. We expect more from him and we expect better from him.

In the future, I think we will see better from him.

Jason Cannon is the editor and publisher of The Demopolis Times.