In my column last week, I offered Attorney General Dustin McDaniel my two cents as to how to deal with the mess in which he finds himself. I wrote…
So far, McDaniel has avoided addressing these problems himself but instead has offered only limited explanations through the buffer of his spokespersons. It seems that he has buried his head in the sand, hoping his problems will go away and time will cause people to forget and move on.
If that is the case, he has grossly underestimated the gravity of this situation. His gubernatorial bid is in peril. His only chance to survive this is to come completely clean.
Without a more thorough explanation, including anything else that might be looming, people will assume the worse about the unknown.
Today, it seems McDaniel has followed this advice as he met with the press for around a half hour and took a multitude of questions.
“I want to use this morning to be clear about what I have done wrong, and equally clear about what I have not done wrong. I continue to hear that rumors are swirling about whether some other shoe will drop. There is no other shoe to drop. There are no other women. No litigation was ever compromised. No rules of professional conduct were violated. No state resources, dollars or personnel were used for personal purposes. I made a personal mistake, for which I have taken and continue to take responsibility, but it had no impact on my job or the work done by the very competent and capable staff of the Attorney General’s Office,” said McDaniel in his prepared remarks.
This denial set the tone for the rest of the press conference. McDaniel continued to insist throughout it that there is nothing more when pressed during questioning.
When I asked him if he can tell us definitively that he has never been unfaithful to his wife other than with Ms. Davis he said, “I think I have been clear. And as I said I know there are a lot of rumors and I can appreciate that. But there are no other shoes to fall and no… I love my wife very much.”
In addition to no other women, McDaniel also insisted that he has not compromised any of the AG cases, has no knowledge of the ongoing murder investigation at Davis’ home, and has had no contact – either directly or through a third party – with Ms. Davis since the story broke.
The press conference was obviously something McDaniel had to do. He got caught doing something he should not have been doing. He insists that there is nothing more, but this creates for him a very high standard. With a primary over 16 months away and a general election over 22 months away, his campaign cannot afford another bit of damaging information. He has set for himself a standard of perfection that he has to live up to in order to survive.
But even if nothing else comes out, it is still not clear if he can survive.
I am reminded of a scene from the movie “Quiz Show,” which I saw the other day. In the movie – which is based on a true story – Columbia University professor Charles Van Doren appears as a contestant on a game show and it later comes out that some of the contestants were given answers in advance. Van Doren appears before a Congressional Oversight Committee – chaired by Arkansas Congressman Oren Harris – investigating the show. In Van Doren’s testimony, he finally admits that he cheated.
After being praised by some of the House members for his confession, Congressman Steve Derounian from New York disagrees saying, “I’m happy that you’ve made the statement. But I cannot agree with most of my colleagues. See, I don’t think an adult of your intelligence should be commended for simply, at long last, telling the truth.”
Knowing he was caught, McDaniel has owned up and told us the truth, but insists there is nothing more. His campaign hinges on whether voters believe him.