'Pearl Harbor Politics' - Who's behind the Bush DUI story?

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'Pearl Harbor Politics' Who's behind the Bush DUI story?

Friday, November 3, 2000 7:03 p.m. EST

"It's not dirty tricks to tell the truth," says Tom Connolly, the flamboyant Democratic lawyer who says he gave reporters the court file on George W. Bush's 1976 drunk-driving conviction in Maine. Fair enough, but it's also appropriate to look into the timing and motivation of Mr. Connolly's stink bomb.

In August, while he was in Los Angeles as a Gore delegate to the Democratic convention, Mr. Connolly told the Bangor Daily News that during the coming campaign he was looking forward to "adding a little pepper to the stew, to flavor it or leaven it to make it rise unexpectedly." That he has succeeded in doing.

The incident began yesterday at the Maine District Court in Portland. William Childs, a probate judge elected on the Democratic ticket, walked up to lawyer John DeGrinney in the court officer's room and struck up a conversation.

"Do you think Bill Clinton could have been elected president if he had had a drunk driving conviction?," Mr. DeGrinney, a Republican, recalls the judge asking him. When Mr. DeGrinney asked what he meant, the judge replied: "Well, George W. Bush has one, and I think it's important." He proceeded to expand the circle of conversation to include other lawyers and court employees in the room, including Mr. Connolly.

"There was a high-profile arson case being heard in the court building that day, and lots of reporters were present," says Mr. DeGrinney. "Anyone would have known that if you create a buzz it would soon reach the right ears." Apparently, that's what happened. A policewoman heard the conversation between Judge Childs and Mr. Connolly and mentioned the subject to Erin Fehlau, a reporter for Fox affiliate WPXT. When she approached Mr. Connolly, he informed her that "he did have some docket information, a docket sheet, which indicated that he had pled guilty to this." Ms. Ferlau says that Mr. Connolly went back to his law office, retrieved the paperwork, said he had received it from a "public figure" and handed it to her. The news hit the wires soon afterwards. (I tried unsuccessfully to reach Judge Childs for comment.)

full story: 'Pearl Harbor Politics' Who's behind the Bush DUI story?

-- FactFinder (David@bzn.com), November 03, 2000

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