Dirt on Bill Graves?
Political junkie hits bottom H i, my name is George, and I'm a political junkie. My earliest memory is Election Night, 1960. People on TV talked about Nixon being ahead, and then Kennedy. I remember having the impression that there was a foot race going on somewhere, and I couldn't understand why they didn't just show it to us instead of only telling us about it. But maybe I really understood what was happening better than that. My mother recalls that, earlier in the day, accompanying her to the polls at North Ward Elementary School in McCook, Neb., I had instructed her not to vote for Richard Nixon because he had "a fierce face." From the mouths of babes. By the time I was in high school, I was into the hard stuff. Political debates. Watergate hearings. Impeachment hearings. Wallowing in Watergate. When discussing what to have for dinner, I would ask "unanimous consent" that we go to McDonald's. If there had been U.S. Senate trading cards when I was in high school, I'd have collected them all. I would gladly have given you five Joseph Montoyas for one Sam Ervin, and I would have known all the stats on the back the same way many other kids could have told you the battering average of the entire Kansas City Royals starting line-up. In college it was all I talked about. It certainly had a lot to do with my choice of profession. It was the way I had fun and, sometimes, it made me popular at parties. But I think it may be time to swear off. Last week, I hit bottom. There was a rumor going around that there was some dirt on Bill Graves, the Republican candidate for governor, and that it was buried a few blocks away in the records of the Saline County District Court. The Wichita Eagle was digging. So was the Kansas City Star. I couldn't be scooped in my own town, so I convinced our reporter who has been covering Graves to go unearth the treasure. The rumor — spread, obviously, by Democrats — was that Graves had been divorced. Because he never mentioned it in his campaign literature, the rumor went, there must be some dirt there. There isn't. Even the official deputy campaign flack for Democratic candidate Jim Slattery says there isn't. There BY GEORGE George B. Pyle JOURNAL EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR is no way I can tie the spreading of the rumor to Slattery's people, thought it does smack of the act of a campaign that is down in the polls, as Slattery's is. All it is — and I've got the paperwork to prove it — is that Bill and Juanita Graves were married on Jan. 5, 1975, and divorced on Sept. 9, 1977. Just a young couple who, in the words of one of the lawyers on the case, "got married young and, after a couple of years, just decided to split the sheets." He kept his car, she kept hers. He kept his stock in Graves Truck Lines, she got 16 months of alimony plus enough cash to pay off her college loans. No domestic violence. No abandoned children. Nothing different than the hundreds of other divorces that share that file cabinet. The only embarrassing details on this record are that, in 1977, the man who may be the next governor of Kansas drove a 1975 Pontiac Grand Prix and was referred to in legal documents as "Billy." And now I feel dirty that I even know all that. This is what politics in America has come to. I'm not digging into an analysis of which candidate's school finance plan really adds up. I'm not trying to figure out whether experience as the state's file clerk or as a member of, you should excuse the expression, Congress is more relevant to being governor. I'm looking up a guy's divorce records. As someone who is recently split himself, I resent the idea that a candidate for public office would be embarrassed to have it known he had a divorce in his past. The candidates are at least as much to blame for this as the press, maybe more so. We'd be serious and positive if they would. But now I feel like the guy who learned to drink the finest champagne (OK, so maybe Watergate was more like Wild Turkey) and is now so desperate for a buzz that he will suck the bar rag at the Dew Drop Inn. I may barf.