All over the country, Republican office seekers are reading the polls and fleeing the clammy embrace of their party’s leaders, Dick Cheney and George Bush (in order of influence). It’s widely believed that an endorsement from Cheney and/or Bush could sink an otherwise promising candidacy.
Asa Hutchinson’s candidacy was not promising to begin with — hatred of Bill Clinton was never a majority position, and less so now — but even had it been, give Hutchinson credit: He wouldn’t turn his back on a fellow far-right Republican just to pick up votes. This is a man who attended Bob Jones University, preferring it to the colleges and universities of his home state. BJU is the Ku Klux Klan of higher education; its graduates do not lapse into moderation.
So Hutchinson welcomed Cheney and Bush to Arkansas, where both spoke at fund-raisers for Hutchinson’s gubernatorial campaign. Though the average voter holds the pair in low esteem, rich yellow-dog Republicans will still pay to hang out with them. Considering how detested they are elsewhere, maybe Cheney and Bush should pay for the opportunity to attend gatherings where people don’t throw things.
And where nobody records what you say. Describing Bush’s speech afterward, Hutchinson told supporters, “The best thing about it was that the press was excluded and he could talk from his heart.” Lie in public and you’re apt to get caught.
Cheney and Bush’s hugs might make Hutchinson even more popular with the Wahabi wing of the Republican Party, but he needs middle-of-the-road, Mr.-and-Mrs. John Q. Public support. Cheney and Bush can’t help him there.
Speaking of keeping the public uninformed, both Hutchinson and his opponent, Democrat Mike Beebe, seem prepared to do just that. As of this writing, neither has consented to a statewide televised debate of the sort that AETN, the public television network, has sponsored for years. Both say they’re not afraid, but both have signed on to proposed rules that would turn a debate into a forum for the candidates to give their standard canned speeches: opening statements 10 to 15 minutes long each, no format in which one candidate could rebut the other’s answer to a question from the audience, no provision for “follow-up” questions that would clarify a candidate’s position. In other words, what the candidates propose is that they be given free air time to say what they usually say in paid advertisements. AETN has rightly declined to participate in such a hoax.
Absentee voting is underway. The Times recommends a vote FOR the quarter-cent county sales tax for the jail and for CAROL RODDY, a candidate for the Zone 3 seat on the Little Rock School Board.