Columns » John Brummett

An intelligently designed answer

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Mike Beebe has liberals mad at him for the way he answered that question from the Little Rock paper about “intelligent design,” which is a euphemism for a right-wing religious finesse to get church views on divine creation forced on the science teachers in the public schools.

He said he was for it — the teaching, that is — except that it might be unconstitutional and goodness knew he didn’t want to do anything unconstitutional.

It’s probably in his best political interest to have liberals mad at him, since they are few and the essential challenge of his Democratic gubernatorial candidacy is to appeal to white, church-going cultural conservatives in rural Arkansas.

Except for this: Beebe’s campaign dynamic is more complicated than, say, the one by which Mark Pryor right-winged himself to the U.S. Senate as a rural-connecting Democrat, beating Tim Hutchinson, the less-able brother of Beebe’s opponent, Asa.

We have a left-leaning alternative candidate for governor who has qualified as an independent. This personable 30-something fellow, Rod Bryan, is a former Ouachita Baptist tight end and current rock band bass player who rides an elongated bicycle and an old Mercedes fueled with used vegetable oil. He threatens to come across as an enlightened good ol’ boy and take a couple of percentage points that would normally go to the Democrat.

Then if Jim Lendall gets on the ballot for the Green Party, as he should — well, Beebe simply does not enjoy Pryor’s full luxury to take liberals wholly for granted.

Beebe could turn out to be Al Gore; Hutchinson George Bush; and Bryan/Lendall Ralph Nader. Phillips County could be Florida. Charlie Daniels could be Katherine Harris.

Some of us have been talking about how Beebe might have better answered that “intelligent design” question, especially considering that the query came on a questionnaire that what passes for his brain trust had time to word carefully.

Afflicted as I am by candor, I came up with this:

“I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to snooker me either into offending the church people or the Democratic base. You don’t give a hoot whether anybody teaches intelligent design in the schools.

“Let’s be serious: I don’t trust you. Yours is a Republican paper. I can’t tell the difference between your editorials and my opponent’s campaign blog. It’s no wonder. My opponent’s campaign manager used to be an editorial writer for your paper. It looks to me like he still is.

“Yes, I know that you’ll say the news side and the editorial side are separate. First, I have a strong suspicion that’s hooey. Second, it’s worse if true, because the guy who runs your news operation is a kookier right-winger even than your editorial writers. He keeps trying to rewrite history to make Orval Faubus the good guy from 1957. He won’t even let your reporters write whether seat belts were in use in traffic fatalities.

“Put that in your paper. Then put it in your pipe and smoke it.

“To your question: It’s a matter of curriculum, and curriculum must be left to professional educators, not politicians. I remember when Frank White, rest his soul, told the Governor’s School to reflect his own values. People were outraged, quite appropriately, and Frank later reflected that he wished he hadn’t done that.

“I believe in God. I believe in a supreme and benevolent power that created the universe. The particulars beyond that about the empirical scientific data suitable for school instruction — those I’ll leave to the educators.

“As governor I’ll have jobs to create and taxes to reform and ethics to emphasize. I can’t be writing the textbooks, too.

“If you want to talk about this further, join me in church Sunday in worshipping our creator. Or you can go dove-hunting with me in a few weeks. Don’t worry — I’m not as bad a shot as Cheney ”

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