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Commentary: Law and life, secrecy and privacy, politics and wisdom

Dr. Ed Shadid, candidate for Oklahoma City Mayor with ex-wife Dina Hammam, and two of their children at the Oklahoma City Farmers Public Market, where Shadid launched his mayoral campaign. Photo by Mary E. Sine, courtesy of The City Sentinel
Dr. Ed Shadid, candidate for Oklahoma City Mayor with ex-wife Dina Hammam, and two of their children at the Oklahoma City Farmers Public Market, where Shadid launched his mayoral campaign. Photo by Mary E. Sine.

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Associate Publisher

The great Solomon prayed not for wealth or power or even the defeat of his enemies, but for wisdom. And it was granted unto him (1 Kings 3: 7-12, in all translations)

As I grow older, this seems the better part of valor.

As an important mayoral election nears, memory takes me back to a U.S. Supreme Court confirmation fight in 1987. I supported Judge Robert Bork, and organized activists who backed him. Lessons I drew from that were both political and practical – and not entirely ideological.

In a summer of infamy, Bork’s film rentals were made public. Foes hoped for something salacious, but the only thing of broad interest was his proclivity to view powerfully violent western films.

Under public pressure, laws were quickly enacted to afford new protections for film consumers.

After the Senate defeated his nomination, Bork often joked (including in a memorable speech here in Oklahoma City) that one good thing to come from his rejection was a range of new statutes respecting privacy, of the sort that most people had assumed were already in place.

I am a transparency advocate in matters of governance. Dr. Ed Shadid, the liberal or progressive challenger in our city’s 2014 race for mayor, is a believer in government transparency – more so, in fact, than some conservatives now in public office. I respect him for that and other things, but quarrel with some of his policy prescriptions.

On the flip side, I have few policy quarrels with incumbent Mayor Mick Cornett’s record, or his practices on government transparency.

No secret: I fall near (but not identical) to views Cornett has advocated throughout his time in public life.

Shadid is under pressure to release records from his divorce proceedings nearly a decade ago.

Shadid and his ex-wife Dina Hammam (friends again, they work cooperatively raising their three children) say there are matters in those files that ought, for the sake of their kids, to stay private. In this, they appeal to arenas (Bork called them “zones”) of privacy most Americans embrace.

Americans draw, inconsistently perhaps, distinctions between secrecy in public policy and privacy in personal matters.

No doubt of interest to many is Dr. Shadid’s admitted use of illegal drugs, and his invocation of the Fifth Amendment during depositions made in early stages of his divorce process. It is fair to note that events apparently referenced in that process took place in 2004 and before.

Shadid was then at the start of his road to sobriety (now approaching a decade with no drug use, something to laud and not disdain). Presumably Shadid invoked protection against self-incrimination to avoid legal exposure, a constitutional right for all Americans. He asks now for some things from the divorce to remain private (sealed as both he and Dina supported).

The upcoming election should be about different visions for our city’s future, but we may be about to learn a lot of things not central to governance ideas from either man.

Mayor Cornett is also divorced. That process took place largely between the divorcing parties and/or their attorneys. That is a distinction of legal importance, but is it a bright line of morality?

Cornett’s divorce is his business, as Shadid’s is his. Like other citizens, I am deeply interested in the vision each man holds for our future, but less interested in their familial relations.

Mayor Cornett has a public record of many years. From his tenure in office and time in broadcast journalism, he is a familiar figure. A vibrant local economy bolsters his case for reelection.

Dr. Shadid has a briefer record. His advocacy of broader representation in mayoral appointments is clear-cut, as is his critical eye concerning some economic development policies.

The election should be about these and other policies, but instead discussion in the next few months could evolve on matters which any one of us — even a Mother Teresa or a Robert Bork – want kept for pondering within our hearts, or in our families.

Before we go there, let’s all take a deep breath.

Prayers for the wisdom of Solomon might even be in order.

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