Voices (op-ed) column, 1st run Monday 13 April 1987 in the Arkansas Democrat
By Ben Pollock Jr.
Editor’s note: Ben Pollock Jr. is a copy editor for the Arkansas Democrat.
Copyright 1987 Ben S. Pollock
My favorite gadfly, “Biff” Mumsword, let slip last night a political bouquet sure to shake up Arkansas Democrats.
Hanging out in bars pays off. Particularly if you drop a few big names.
Here goes, and remember, you heard it here first.
Sen. David Pryor, D-Ark., fresh from leading a tour of the “clean plate” nutrition club to the Soviet Union, soon will form an exploratory committee to help him “decide” to run for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.
Of course, Pryor has already decided to run, or so I’m told. And here’s the other shoe to drop — straight from the best barkeep, amateur astronomer Dr. “Buster” Morgenstern, proprietor of Casa Nova, the Mexican-Cajun cantina where I wait for politicos to stop by.
Morgenstern says Mahlon Martin, director of the state Department of Finance and Administration and Arkansas’ leading economic indicator, will manage Pryor’s campaign.
Neither Pryor nor Martin, nor for that matter anyone connected with them, will confirm this, but that never stops me.
My contacts with the Clean Plate Club did talk over dinner and drinks, though we had to delay our conversation for Morgenstern to finish nailing another star to the wall.
By the way, the blackened bluefish is delightful.
The clubbers — who include boom-or-busters Jack and Witt Stephens, retail king William T. Dillard, discount king Sam Walton, chicken a la king Don Tyson and a modern major general — prefer I refer to the group by its official name, the Good-for-You Council, although the other newspaper calls it “Star Wars,” which the administration in Washington insists is the Strategic Defense Initiative.
Where was I? That’s mean cuisine. I wish I had a personal computer and a telephone hookup at my central Casa Nova table, where everybody knows my name. Then my columns could write themselves.
With Sen. Dale Bumpers red-shirted and the Legislature having stymied Gov. Bill Clinton, Pryor will be left holding the bag (of cliches), my sources assured me.
Mahlon Martin is a patient man and knows the numbers. He is willing to wait for higher office but in the meantime can build valuable contacts, not to mention experience, by running Pryor’s race.
It was Martin’s doing, after all, that kept Pryor’s name from being mentioned as a presidential contender too early. The public accountant certainly had me fooled.
You should keep an eye on Pryor, now that I’ve begun the rumors, but I would suggest also watching Martin. He perhaps could be the first Arkansas politicians to fool all of the people all of the time. I have that on good authority.
* * *
While Biff Mumsword was taking care of business at a pay phone, a political animal in red satin gym shorts came up to me and purred, “Bubba, can you spare a dime?”
I told her ethics came before anything and that a direct contribution would constitute a conflict of interest for my newspaper.
“I heard you all had deep pockets,” she cooed.
“That was inflation, honey,” I replied with some remorse.
By this time Morgenstern had switched off Casa Nova’s neon sign. The waitresses had begun putting the chairs on the tables.
It had been hours since members of the Clean Plate Club cleaned their plates and emptied their glasses and were chauffeured home to their wives. Biff, it turns out, had a dime.
After a long, hard night of reporting, I had a column for today’s editions.
If some other newspaper tries to claim an exclusive on Pryor and Martin, remember — you read it here, first.