CONWAY — In a 2nd District congressional debate Tuesday, Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin accused Democratic rival Herb Rule of being disrespectful to police during Rule’s arrest this summer on suspicion of drunken driving in Fayetteville.
Rule described as Griffin “a captive” of big corporations, big oil and the Republican machine.
“He does what they tell him to do, not what Arkansans tell him to do,” Rule said.
Griffin and Rule, along with Green Party candidate Barbara Ward and Libertarian Chris Hayes, took part in an hour-long debate hosted by the Arkansas Educational Television Network on the University of Central Arkansas campus.
The general election is Nov. 6.
Griffin, in response to a question from a panel of journalists, said Rule was disrespectful to Fayetteville police when he was pulled over Aug. 27 and arrested for suspicion of DWI.
In video taken from a camera in the police cruiser, Rule is heard asking the officer: “Is this the best thing you all have got to do tonight?”
“You don’t talk to law enforcement that way,” Griffin said. “Its inappropriate. It’s disrespectful. If you took that attitude to Washington you’re not going to get anything done.”
Rule said his court date in Fayettville is Nov. 28 and he maintained his innocence.
“I respect the law but I also respect the court as the place to work out and decide what happened at the time of that arrest and whether the arrest was with probable cause and reasonable cause,” said Rule, who is an attorney. “I wasn’t drunk and I was not guilty.”
During the debate, Rule criticized Griffin for crying during a speech in 2007 after he had resigned as U.S. attorney general of the Eastern District of Arkansas.
In 2006, then-U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins and eight other federal prosecutors were fired by then-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Griffin replaced Cummins.
The fired U.S. attorneys were replaced under a provision of the Patriot Act that allowed their replacements to bypass Senate confirmation. The Senate later repealed that provision and the inspector general for the Justice Department eventually concluded that the firings appeared to be political but that no crime had occurred.
White House emails showed that Karl Rove, with whom Griffin had served as an aide to President George W. Bush, had lobbied for Griffin to get the job. Griffin later resigned amid a Senate investigation of the firings.
On Tuesday, Rule criticized a tearful speech Griffin gave after he left office “saying that public service was not worth it.”
“Well too bad,” Rule said. “He shouldn’t have tried to kick his buddy out if he didn’t think he was going to be able to stand the heat for taking responsibility for it.”
Griffin described Rule’s comments as “nonsense.”
“I would just like to point out that I’m very proud that I served the president of the United States,” adding he would be proud for his children to someday serve a U.S. president, regardless of party.
He also said that his wife was expecting their first child in 2007 when he was U.S. attorney, and that there were “a lot of other considerations besides my career at that point, so I don’t need a lecture on what’s good for family.”
Also during the debate, Griffin said he opposed a measure on Arkansas’ ballot in November that would legalize medical marijuana.
Rule said he supports the idea of medical marijuana but was still studying the details of the ballot proposal. Ward and Hayes said they supported the measure.
Hayes said he supports ending the war in Afghanistan and closing most U.S. military bases on foreign soil. He said he would work to close the Transportation Security Administration and fight to reduce government regulations.
Ward said she was concerned about climate change and would support laws to reduce carbon emissions. She said she opposes the war in Afghanistan, supports a reduction in military spending, and would work for equality for women in the work place.