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Poor David Dunn

Updated: Apr 15

Rep. David Dunn

Poor David Dunn! Dunn, who chairs the Rules Committee in the Arkansas House of Representatives, yesterday had the unpleasant duty of shepherding the Dobbins Rule through his committee and through a vote on the House floor.

Fox 16 had a good roundup of yesterday’s events here, and I don’t say that just because they interviewed me. (I actually do not hold to Gore Vidal’s famous rule about, among other things, appearing on television.)

Here’s the video:

Rep. Sharon Dobbins, wife of former legislator Dwayne Dobbins, was the only person in the House to vote against the Dobbins rule; its passage means that, for all practical purposes, Dwayne Dobbins will never serve in the House again.

I guess Rep. Dunn felt he had to say “I assure you that this change in the House Rules is not to address any individual” out of politeness. So I had a momentary flash of embarrassment when I saw myself on the news immediately thereafter saying, “Of course it’s targeting one person. I mean, I think everybody knows that.”

Rep. Dunn’s duties make it difficult for him to say what’s going on, but there’s a reason that everyone in the House has been calling it “the Dobbins Rule.” I understand that he didn’t want to offend Mrs. Dobbins, but we’re obviously targeting a particular person who was charged with a felony sex crime and pled guilty to a misdemeanor to escape prosecution. The locutions that some elected officials use when speaking in public are alternately puzzling and amusing. I can only hope they are less puzzling and more amusing to others. (The most comprehensive treatise on this question, Allin and Fisher’s Southern Legislative Dictionary, is reviewed here.)

On the other hand, let me tell you my first reaction whenever anyone tells me that they just saw me on television. Invariably, I respond: “Goodness, I hope I didn’t say anything stupid.” Most of the time, people reassure me that I didn’t, and I like to think that more often than not they’re telling me the truth.

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