by Max Brantley
The president is at the fund-raiser in WLR. He was greeted on arrival at Little Rock by the governor and the Republican nominee for same. We hope to provide a photo before the afternoon is out from the pool coverage. A$a was not wearing a bag over his head for the event, we should note. No word if the president was reading "Hamlet" on the plane or perhaps "Coriolanus."
SIDE NOTE: A correspondent says nearly 250 turned out to see Mike! in Fayetteville this morning, even without barbecue. Wesley Clark introduced Beebe. David Pryor was on hand.
PRESIDENTIAL COLOR: The Democrat-Gazette staff is providing local pool reports on the presidential visit. Political editor Bill Simmons passes along some local color:
After leaving Kleine's house, the president made a side trip to Cotham's in the City, accompanied by Karl Rove and Asa Hutchinson. Inside the restaurant, the president shook a few hands. Hutchinson advised him to get a chocolate fried pie. Bush had a bag which he said had one in it. Bush said Asa will make a good governor. The president was in Cotham's about five minutes, then he and his contingent headed for the airport. [Another report says the prez posed for photos with a baby. No word if baby grimaced.]
ALSO: The Democratic Party made a little sport of the presidential visit in behalf of a man he passed over for a cabinet post. News release on the jump.
DEMOCRATIC PARTY NEWS RELEASE
LITTLE ROCK -- President George Bush, who twice passed over Republican Asa Hutchinson for promotions in the current administration, is now raising money for Hutchinson’s campaign for governor in Arkansas despite the President’s previous skepticism of Hutchinson’s abilities.
“Why should Arkansans support Hutchinson when he’s only running for office as a consolation prize because he couldn’t cut the mustard for the Washington job he really wanted? It’s surprising President Bush is dropping in to visit Arkansas in support of Asa Hutchinson. Bush is the one who booted Hutchinson out of Washington D.C.,” Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Jason Willett said. “Not once but twice, Bush passed Hutchinson over for a promotion at the Department of Homeland Security. And as for the two gentlemen the President preferred over Mr. Hutchinson: Bernard Kerik who withdrew his name amidst numerous scandals and Michael Chertoff, now infamous for overseeing the highly-criticized federal response to Hurricane Katrina. It seems Bush doesn’t think too highly of Hutchinson’s work.”
HUTCHINSON AIMS FOR BUSH PROMOTION
CNN Correspondent: Despite “Problems with His Directorate…The Betting Is on Asa Hutchinson.” “Who will replace Ridge,” Jeanne Meserve, CNN’s homeland security correspondent asked. “If there is a department insider, the betting is on Asa Hutchinson, currently, under secretary for border and transportation security.” “Another name that has come up, Asa Hutchinson…Although there have been some problems with his directorate, which some observers think may make his selection less likely.”
HUTCHINSON DISAPPOINTED AT REJECTION BY BUSH
“Law enforcement authorities have said Mr. Hutchinson, a former congressman from Arkansas, was disappointed that he was not chosen the first time around.” [The Washington Times, 12/12/04]
Hutchinson “was clearly disappointed he did not replace his outgoing boss, Tom Ridge.” [Toronto Star, 12/20/04]
HUTCHINSON PROMOTION SHOT DOWN BY BUSH… AGAIN
In a surprise move, President Bush nominated Michael Chertoff, a federal appeals court judge and former high-ranking Justice Department official, to be Homeland Security secretary. Chertoff’s selection caught several lawmakers and homeland security experts off guard. Among those previously mentioned as likely candidates were Asa Hutchinson, the Homeland Security Department's undersecretary for border and transportation security, and Fran Townsend, the White House’s homeland security adviser. [The Sun Herald, 1/12/05]
HUTCHINSON SEES GOVERNOR’S RACE AS CONSOLATION PRIZE
Disappointed at being passed over for the top spot at the Department of Homeland Security, Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson said he would consider other options, including running for Arkansas governor. “I’m not going to limit my options. That political race would be part of that consideration,” Hutchinson said after President Bush picked former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik to replace outgoing Secretary Tom Ridge, fueling speculation that Hutchinson may leave. Hutchinson, a former Arkansas congressman and U.S. attorney, was considered a top candidate for the job. After Bush’s selection, Hutchinson said his first priority was making sure there are no gaps in the nation's security during the transition. [Associated Press, 12/3/04]
Hutchinson said he was disappointed that he wasn’t selected to be secretary but was excited about other options, including a possible run for Arkansas governor in 2006. In an interview, Hutchinson didn’t reveal any definite political plans. “We’ll wait and see,” Hutchinson said. “I’m ruling nothing out. I’m taking the decision-making process a step at a time.” “Asa Hutchinson has served his country and the department with great energy, integrity and distinction,” said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in a short statement. [Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, 1/25/05; Gannett News Service, 1/25/05]
“In December, the president bypassed Hutchinson, an undersecretary in charge of protecting the nation's borders and transportation system from terrorists, and nominated former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik to replace outgoing Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. A disappointed Hutchinson said he would consider his options, including coming home to Arkansas to run for governor.” [Associated Press, 12/22/04]