McGraw Lapse Not Acceptable

Political campaigning today is nothing like it was just a few years ago. Successful candidates have to be able to use technology to their advantage – and cope with opponents attempting to do the same thing.

Apparently West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw hasn’t quite adapted to the change, to judge by his alleged conduct during a weekend event.

Among the new realities of politics is that many candidates can expect their campaign appearances to be videotaped by people working for their opponents. Sometimes that involves cellular telephones, but full-scale video cameras often are employed, too.

Patrick Morrisey, who is running for attorney general against McGraw, sent a campaign worker to videotape an event in Milton, W.Va., on Saturday. The staffer, Justin Lafferty, later posted his work on the Internet. It shows McGraw talking with someone, then approaching Lafferty. The attorney general talks for a moment, then the video shows McGraw’s hand reaching for the camera. At that point, the video ends.

Lafferty has said McGraw grabbed the camera and tore a strap attaching it to Lafferty’s hand. The Morrisey staffer has asked for an apology from McGraw. No police report was filed on the incident.

McGraw and his campaign “did not respond to requests for comment,” the Associated Press reported.

That is not surprising. If McGraw indeed did what it appears, there isn’t much he can say in his own defense. The video appears to show a public official who lost control of himself and, in his anger, reacted physically and inappropriately.

It is entirely understandable that McGraw might be more sensitive than some other candidates to being videotaped. The practice helped cost his brother, former state Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw, an election.

In 2004, Warren McGraw’s speech at a rally in Racine, W.Va., was videotaped and distributed widely by his opponent. In that appearance – which came to be known by titles including “the Racine rant” and the “scream at Racine” – Warren McGraw’s behavior was, in some ways, nothing less than bizarre.

If anything, his brother’s experience should have taught Darrell McGraw to be on his best behavior when being videotaped. If he indeed was guilty of the unacceptable conduct the Milton tape seems to show, he owes an apology not just to Lafferty, but to the voters of West Virginia.