Naked City

Low Road at High Speed

With the Tony Sanchez campaign commercial featuring the Gov. Rick Perry speeding video and the Ben Bentzin campaign ad featuring the Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos DWI video, the mud-slinging season reaches its full efflorescence. By the standards of Sanchez and Perry -- e.g. drug money laundering vs. solicitation of bribery -- an argument over a speeding ticket is very small potatoes. But Bentzin's ad, introduced in the dellionaire GOP candidate's quest to unseat the state Senate Dist. 14 incumbent, has abruptly dropped the local limbo bar to swamp level.

A couple of weeks ago, Bentzin told Naked City that his campaign had not itself "requested" a copy of the video from authorities, but he obviously didn't slam the transom against it. Bentzin now says that Barrientos' star turn on the police video -- which the Bentzin campaign has liberally salted with sirens, melodramatic music, and a screaming baby -- is the "ultimate demonstration of my opponent's failure of leadership," adding that he chose to air it now because "voters are making their choices about who can provide better leadership at the Legislature."

Bentzin pointed particularly to the incumbent's resumption of driving only two months after his arrest, not the statutory 180 days for refusing a Breathalyzer test. A Barrientos spokesman responded that the senator pleaded no contest on the DWI (accepting probation, a fine, community service, and counseling) and then requested an "occupational license" to drive to and from work, a common dispensation in these cases.

Asked if he had ever received a speeding ticket or a moving violation, Bentzin said he had and paid a fine. "I'm not putting myself forth as holier than thou," he said, "but specifically focusing on the law." Did he think President Bush's previous run-ins with the law disqualified him from leadership? "I don't know the specifics, but I think that was 30 years ago," he answered, "and I believe he accepted the punishment." Did he believe his ad, complete with its melodramatic editing, contributed to the level of political discourse in Travis Co. and Texas? Bentzin answered, "I think the ad speaks for itself." Indeed.

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