Columns » Bob McCord

Democrats will win

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Four people whose jobs are to keep up with politics told the members of the Political Animals Club last week that the Democrats are going to win in Arkansas Nov. 7. They were Ann Clemmer, who teaches government at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, and three newspapermen — Bill Simmons of the Democrat-Gazette, David Sanders of the Stephens papers and Warwick Sabin of the Arkansas Times.

Clemmer is a Republican, Sanders sort of leans that way, Sabin likes liberal politicians and Simmons has been reporting politics so long he really doesn’t care who wins. Most Arkansans usually support Democrats and surely will next week because of the status of the unpopular Iraq war.

Sabin said there was a possibility that Republican Jim Holt might defeat Democrat Bill Halter for lieutenant governor. Sabin said the reason was because some people simply didn’t like Halter. That really got my attention.

Holt may have made some haters of Halter with his constant complaint that Halter hasn’t spent all of his life in Arkansas. Well, Halter was born in Little Rock, went to schools in North Little Rock and Little Rock. He was working in a Kroger store in North Little Rock when he got a National Merit Scholarship to go to Stanford University.

He got a straight-A record that got him a Harry S. Truman Scholarship and a Rhodes Scholarship, which allowed him to go to Oxford in England, one of the world’s finest colleges. He had three years at Oxford, toured Europe and came back to the United States to start working.

With his knowledge, he managed to get good jobs with the government in Washington. “I remember Bill as a fountain of information,” said former Sen. David Pryor. When his mother became very sick, Halter came back to North Little Rock to help her until she died. He worked in Arkansas helping Clinton’s bid for president, and when Clinton won he offered Halter a job in the Office of Management and Budget, where he stayed for six years, advising the president on economic conditions and helping the Clinton administration change the country from a $290 billion deficit to more than a $100 billion surplus.

Later he moved into Social Security when the Senate unanimously voted him to the office of deputy commissioner, a job he held during the beginning of President Bush’s administration. Halter now is on the boards of several corporations and is a trustee emeritus of Stanford. He’s now married, back in Arkansas, wanting one day to be its governor. He decided that Mike Beebe was sure to win this year, so, at age 45, he decided to try for governor in the future.

It startles many to think that Holt might beat Halter. Holt, 41, lives in Springdale, and has no other job except being in the state Senate. He and his wife have nine children. Holt went to college awhile and then served in the Army, where he learned to speak Russian. He is an elder at the Bible Grace Fellowship Church in Springdale and was ordained a Southern Baptist minister 10 years ago. Promoting him are the National Rifle Association, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and Arkansas Right to Life.

Even some Republicans don’t like Holt because he often betrays the party, such as casting the only no vote in the Senate against raising the state’s minimum wage.

In the governor’s race, the other person I want to win next Tuesday is Mike Beebe. A lawyer, he had been in the state Senate for nine years, and in 2002 was elected attorney general. He’s been a good one, and when he was in the legislature he was the father of better schools, the state’s greatest need. Beebe has never had any one run against him.

But now he has an opponent — Asa Hutchinson, who, after attending Bob Jones University, becoming a lawyer and owning a religious radio station, started running for offices, losing some but winning a seat in Congress. Later President Bush appointed him to head the Drug Enforcement Administration and later he became undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Hutchinson is a friendly man and was thought to be a good Arkansan. But it was strange that he volunteered to lead the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the first president from Arkansas. Of course Hutchinson failed to present a case sufficient for conviction. If he hadn’t, Arkansas would have been only the second state in America that had a president thrown out of the White House.

But a real Arkansan, former Sen. Dale Bumpers, came forward and convinced the U.S. Senate not to convict Clinton, because he had not harmed the nation by his sexual contact with a young woman working in the White House. Seventy percent of Americans didn’t want Clinton to be removed from office, Bumpers told the senators: “Sure, you say, he should have thought it all out beforehand, and indeed he should, just as Adam and Eve should have. Just as you and you and you and millions of other people who have been caught in similar circumstances should have thought of it before. As I say, none of us are perfect.”

I wonder what Asa Hutchinson thought when he saw a Wall Street Journal poll of 3,680 Americans who said they thought Clinton was the fifth president they most admired after Lincoln, Reagan, Washington and Roosevelt?


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