The Big Mad: Al's Foul Mouth, Emailing China and Roy Blunt's Missing Backbone

Attorney Albert Watkins was wrong, even for Al Watkins. - Tom Carlson
Tom Carlson
Attorney Albert Watkins was wrong, even for Al Watkins.

Welcome back to the Big Mad, the RFT’s weekly roundup of righteous rage! Because we know your time is short and your anger is white-hot:

Al Language: In a world of canned quotes and prepared statements workshopped into a bland paste, Al Watkins has thrived as an attorney willing to say absolutely wild stuff out loud. And, truly, there is a certain pleasure in seeing the baffled response of a national reporter encountering Watkins for the first time. He has managed to get away with enough “inappropriate” comments to fill an encyclopedia-sized H.R. folder, probably because we’re all bored to death. But you know what? What he said in an interview about his client in one of the Jan. 6 insurrection cases is fucked up, even for Watkins. “A lot of these defendants — and I’m going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully — but they’re all fucking short-bus people,” Watkins said in an interview with Talking Points Memo. “These are people with brain damage. They’re fucking retarded. They’re on the spectrum.”

Watkins later told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he intentionally used language that would “literally make people’s jaws drop in disgust” because that was the only way to get attention for his client’s mental health problems. And, well, bullshit. Watkins glommed onto the most-recognizable defendant, the facepaint-wearing “Q Shaman,” not to raise awareness of the man’s mental health, but to raise awareness of Al Watkins.

Roy Vague: Sen. Roy Blunt went on “Fox News Sunday” over the weekend to talk about the proposal to create a Jan. 6 commission to investigate the Capitol insurrection. So far, Blunt has sided with members of his party who are opposed but can’t quite get their stories straight as to why — a moral low ground for the party of personal responsibility. But Blunt is more adept at his game than most. He’s going with the idea that it’s “too early” for a commission. But Fox News' Chris Wallace wasn’t quite ready to let that go. He asked Blunt, “Can you honestly say in opposing this commission ... you’re putting country above party?” Missouri’s senior senator had a lot of things to say about past commissions and other steps the Senate might take, but what he didn’t say was “yes.” You might have thought Blunt would find a little long-lost backbone as he prepares to retire from public office, but it appears he’s content to sidestep right out the door. He’s the opposite of Al Watkins (see above) when it comes to speaking his mind. But the motives to benefit himself are the same. The biggest difference is no one has to listen to Watkins; Blunt is supposed to speak for us.

Lost Time: People who are locked up are often overlooked. It’s part of the design of pushing our problems out of sight and out of mind. But in a rare turn toward justice and humanity, Missouri legislators were all set to make a change that would undo some of the damage done by a merciless “three strikes” law. Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch’s amendment to a public safety bill would have allowed people serving ridiculously outsized sentences as “prior persistent” drug offenders to finally have their cases reviewed by a parole board. However, lawmakers apparently didn’t check the wording of the final bill before they voted on it. Toalson-Reisch’s amendment had been deleted, apparently by mistake, and with it an opportunity for dozens of people to be treated fairly. They’ll have to wait at least another year for another shot — paying the price for lawmakers' mistakes.

Emailing China: Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent out one of his press releases (sometimes called brag sheets in the news business), announcing “Missouri Attorney General Serves Chinese Communist Party, Wuhan Institute of Virology in COVID-19 Lawsuit.” Pretty grand, huh? A mere thirteen months after suing China over COVID-19, he wanted the world to know that Missouri had managed to email three of nine defendants. The attorney general is still working on serving the other six, including the People’s Republic of China. The federal district court says Missouri will have to go through diplomatic channels for those defendants, the A.G. notes. The State Department charges $2,275 a defendant for that, but Schmitt assures Missouri taxpayers he’s seeking a waiver. This is on top of the hours state staffers have devoted to this mission and untold dollars paid to a private vendor for translating documents and tracking down addresses during a previous attempt to serve targets of the suit last year. It’s a complicated process, Schmitt concedes, but he is dedicated to the mission. But here’s a thought: Maybe he didn’t have to look to the other side of the world in search of parties who dropped the ball on COVID-19. Maybe, just maybe, he could look at a former president who sat on information about the severity of the virus as it swept across the country last spring. Or maybe, even closer to home, he could consider the role of a governor who ignored the pleadings of medical experts and health-care workers for mask mandates or any kind of leadership. Missouri taxpayers wouldn’t even have to pay translators for that investigation.
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