Columns » Max Brantley

Giving thanks

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I generally avoid Thanksgiving-themed columns, but because of a coincidence of timing, it’s in order this week.

First is a warm thanks to Bob McCord, who this week writes the last of almost 15 years of weekly columns for the Arkansas Times.

When the Times’ adventure as a weekly newspaper began, Bob was an obvious pick for the roster of columnists we assembled to fill some of the void created by the closure of the Arkansas Gazette. Bob was chosen not only on merit and because of his long friendship with people here, but also to be a more conservative voice in a decidedly liberal group.

So much for labels. Yes, Bob is a businessman. He believes in accountable, efficient government. We’ve certainly had a philosophical difference or two over management-labor issues. But Bob has generally proven no conservative, at least judging by the short-list of social issues by which conservatism tends to be defined (to its detriment) these days. You certainly can’t find a better exemplar of family values than this kind, gentle, church-going, doting grandfather.

Bob’s enduring strength is as a human being, in addition to his journalistic achievements as father of the state’s Freedom of Information Act and former head of the national Society of Professional Journalists.. He’s been a friend and mentor of countless newspaper people, including the publisher of this paper, beginning when the publisher was putting out an underground newspaper at UALR more than 30 years ago. Bob has been my friend since he moved from the Arkansas Democrat to establish an op-ed page at the Gazette years ago. He’s tireless. He never resorts to the what-I’m-thinking fallback of lazy columnists like me. He reports — from early morning sessions of the Political Animals Club, from regular attendance at the history lecture series at the library, from independent legwork to dig up fresh perspectives. He promises to continue contributing business advice, story ideas, clips from stories encountered in his travels, news tips and occasional columns.

Thanks for everything, Bob.

I’d be remiss, too, if I didn’t include words of thanks for Gov. Mike Huckabee. His 10-year reign nears an end and we’re thankful that he’s pitched in on some notable progressive efforts — more health care for kids, tougher school standards, limits on smoking in public places. But we also must thank him for so much material on public ethical conduct. An example is our recent reporting on his family’s gift gathering — housewarming gift registries and $7,500 worth of china and crystal from a charity established to improve the Governor’s Mansion.

The governor has been critical of the Arkansas Times and its writers for most of his tenure. But last week’s outburst over the gift stories took his vituperation to a whole new level, as the coaches like to say. Could we have asked for a higher-profile, louder testimonial that our work is noticed by people who matter?

Thanks for everything, governor.

On another subject: Voters in western Little Rock have a runoff for justice of the peace, District 3, to decide. Early voting is underway and election day is Tuesday. Incumbent JP Kathy Lewison, who took the politically risky position of backing a county sales tax to provide money to keep criminals locked up in the county jail, faces an opponent who demagogued the tax increase and who has yet to offer a meaningful way to lock up more of the county’s abundant criminals. Easy choice: Kathy Lewison.

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