by Ron Gregory
Fortunate tragedies have a role in many political outcomes. Old timers will recall the story that Arch A. Moore, Jr. would have “never” been elected Governor of West Virginia if he had not been involved in a plane crash days before the 1968 election. Many attributed Moore’s near-fatal brush with destiny to giving him a sympathy and heroic vote that led to victory.
The Republican was injured seriously enough that he had to be hospitalized but he also stood before the crowd assembled at Hamlin Lions Club Field and gave his prepared speech. Moore would later tell close friends that his most serious challenge during the oration was to be sure to keep himself in a position where listeners could not see his back. “I ripped the seat out of my pants in that crash,” he would knowingly point out.
I am not certain that the crash played a decisive role in Moore’s election and nobody could know for sure. But even Moore liked to play around with the idea. There is no doubt the state gasped and took a long breath with they looked at the wreckage he survived. He spoke from his hospital bed and Mountain Staters hung on his every word. He told them “the man upstairs voted for me today.”
Fast forward to the past weekend and realize that the outrageous beating of State Senate candidate Richard Ojeda did nothing but evoke sympathy for the Democrat challenger. Who would not feel compassion for a man beaten senseless by another man with brass knuckles? That the perpetrator eventually tried to run over Ojeda with his truck shows the true seriousness of the crime.
On the other hand, Ojeda and his supporters can be said to have clearly milked the political situation for all it was worth. Ojeda’s measured statements that the man “had to be told” by someone else to beat him up were calculated to point blame toward Ojeda’s opponent. Saying “I’m not saying my opponent caused this” raised the very specter that he did, in fact, believe just that.
For what it’s worth, State Senator Art Kirkendoll is a caring, decent man. Even if orchestrating the beating of Ojeda made some kind of political sense (which it doesn’t), Kirkendoll would never have been involved in such a matter. And Kirkendoll is a smart enough politician to know beating Ojeda could do NOTHING but increase Ojeda’s chance of upsetting him.
Therefore, there is no logic whatsoever to Ojeda’s subtle attempts to link Kirkendoll to the crime.
By Thursday, having won the primary by 2,000 votes, Ojeda, the ultimate conspiracy theorist, was calling on the FBI to investigate the incident. It was not, he gravely intoned to The Gazette-Mail, that he mistrusted the State Police in Logan or the Sheriff’s Department. No, he is afraid the “political regime” at the Logan courthouse will intervene and protect the powerful politicians and others who were responsible for the beating.
Okay, then he does NOT trust the State Police or Sheriff’s deputies. That’s simple enough. If these law enforcement officers will allow the “political regime” to control their investigation, why would anyone trust them? And that’s what Ojeda is saying.
I’m confident it makes no difference to Kirkendoll if the KGB is called in to investigate because he had nothing to do with this crime. Ojeda’s grandstanding in obvious and should be taken for just what it is: grandstanding.
Again, I cannot emphasize enough that neither I nor any decent human being would fail to be appalled at what happened to Ojeda. It is a disgrace; it was uncalled for; it is barbaric. It is not, though, what Ojeda wants to make it: a political maneuver. If it was, suffice it to say the returns confirm that it did not work. Ojeda would not have beaten Kirkendoll without this beating. Any reasonable analyst can come to that conclusion.
Ojeda also warns, “this was an attack not only on myself, but on others to keep quiet.” Really? Well, again, it sure doesn’t seem to be having that effect. Ojeda and his minions have spouted a steady stream of conspiracy theories since it happened. So, if that was the purpose of the attack, it failed on that level too.
Ojeda, who tours his war record as though he is singlehandedly responsible for American freedom, says he has “faced the Taliban and al-Quida.” He is not afraid, apparently, of the Logan County terrorists responsible for the beating. Good. Let’s move on then.
Using a tragedy to promote political goals is ageless. This is not the first — nor will it be the last — time this has happened. The beating itself is shameful; the perpetrator should be punished to the full extent of the law; but using the incident for political purposes is an insult to the voters of the county and district.
Hopefully, Ojeda will recover fully. Hopefully, his conspiracy theories will evaporate with the wind. The “voices” hiding in the weeds plotting his demise were not put there by Art Kirkendoll.