What's interesting about Blair Hull's divorce file is what's not in it.
In a seven-page affidavit from 1998 that the Democratic U.S. Senate primary candidate attempted to keep from view until public pressure prompted him to release it Friday, Hull's ex-wife painted an unpretty picture of a man who was often consumed by rage at her.
She alleged that during their disputes he called her extremely ugly names, threatened to kill her and menaced her with fake punches "in an attempt to make me flinch."
She called him "a violent man with an ungovernable temper" and said he made her "fearful not only for my physical, mental and emotional well-being, but for that of my [then 11-year-old] child as well."
We do not have his side of the story, but her side made him sound like a rash, profane, manipulative and physically intimidating jerk.
But it did not make him sound like a serial domestic batterer or a man with a chronic history of striking women.
Brenda Sexton listed seven "incidences of violence and anger" in her affidavit.
In only one incident--the Feb. 9, 1998, altercation that resulted in Sexton calling the police--did she allege that he made physical contact with her: He "punched me extremely hard in the left shin," she wrote, then later, "he dug his nails into my right foot in an attempt to further hurt me."
It was during that same altercation that Sexton alleged Hull swung his fists close to her face "in an attempt to make me flinch," she wrote.
Sexton's other allegations had Hull throwing a remote control, slamming doors, refusing to leave her residence when asked and once threatening to kill her.
There are some voters who would never support a candidate who had ever behaved the way Hull allegedly behaved in a deteriorating marriage--it's indicative of a certain inability to handle pressure, and for a stronger person to use violence and threats of violence in disputes with a weaker person is generally contemptible.
Hull's mistake was not to write off such voters from day one--accept that some people will never forgive or look past such behavior--and make a full and apologetic disclosure back last summer when few people were paying attention to the 2004 Senate race.
Instead he chose to hope his vague admissions that the divorce had been contentious, along with strong assertions of his family's right to privacy, would deflect the attention of the media and his opponents from the suggestive fact that his ex-wife's petition for an order of protection was under seal in the courts.
Particularly when a candidate is as unknown a quantity as Hull, a super-rich entrepreneur making his first foray into public life, the demands for such information were bound to become distracting at some point, if not deafening.
Three weeks before the March 16 primary, the days that were filled with questions along the lines of "What did Blair Hull do to his ex-wife during their divorce that was so awful that he's trying to hide it?" were days that Hull could have been making his case instead of making excuses.
What we now do not find in his divorce files magnifies that miscalculation.
The award for most egregious self-inflicted political wound by a millionaire businessman seeking to begin public life in the U.S. Senate does not, however, go this week to Blair Hull.
Republican dairy owner James Oberweis had been persistently and somewhat successfully advancing his hard line on illegal immigration as the issue that set him apart from the large GOP primary field.
Though he's been running a distant second to Jack Ryan in most polls, there was talk that he was quietly galvanizing the conservative base.
Then his TV ads began running, touting the inflated guesstimate that "from dawn till dusk, 10,000 more illegal aliens will come to America." They make him sound like a zealot, not a thoughtful analyst of this delicate issue.
"The tone of his message is ugly and divisive," scolded a Tribune editorial.
Immigrants rights groups managed to sound indignant about Oberweis' commercials, but secretly they must have been elated at the rhetorical pratfall of the one candidate who seemed likely to make a crackdown on illegal immigration an issue in the fall campaign.
"A thoughtful debate on immigration reform is proper and belongs near the top of any debate list for candidates," said our editorial. "Let the debate begin."
It's already under way at ericzorn.com/rhubarb. Check it out.