by Max Brantley
Mike Huckabee is a solid contender if not the favorite for the Republican presidential nomination. Even if he isn't declared, reporters are back at work plowing the fertile ground of the Huckabee era in Arkansas.
Latest: "Huckabee Hearts Secrecy" in Mother Jones, by Siddhartha Mahanta.
There's a Mike Huckabee mystery that won't go away.
Send a public records request seeking documents from his 12-year stint as Arkansas governor, as Mother Jones did recently, and an eyebrow-raising reply will come back: The records are unavailable, and the computer hard drives that once contained them were erased and physically destroyed by the Huckabee administration as the governor prepared to leave office and launch a presidential bid.
In 2007, during Huckabee's campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, the issue of the eradicated hard drives surfaced briefly, but it was never fully examined, and key questions remain. Why had Huckabee gone to such great lengths to wipe out his own records? What ever happened to a backup collection that was provided to a Huckabee aide?
Huckabee is now considering another presidential run, and if he does enter the race, he would do so as a frontrunner. Which would make the case of the missing records all the more significant. These records would shed light on Huckabee's governorship—and could provide insight into how a President Huckabee might run the country. Meanwhile, observers of Arkansas' political scene—including one of Huckabee's former GOP allies—say the episode is characteristic of a politician who was distrustful and secretive by nature.
As I told Mahanta, however, the problem is not only Huckabee, but Arkansas. As currently construed, we have the most permissive law for governors I've ever heard of. Their records cannot be inspected for any reason and they can take them all with them. At least, that's how the law stands until somebody gets the money and time together to file a lawsuit that seeks a narrower definition of "working papers" than what currently exists. Better still would be a law change on gubernatorial papers. Some papers should be opened immediately and a provision should be made to save them for history. Too late for Huckabee, Clinton and all the rest, unfortunately. We can hope their archives will ultimately disclose all, but hope is all we have to go on.