Columns » John Brummett

Huckabee embedded in disdainful behavior

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Could somebody please research the water supply in Hope from the late 1940s though the 1960s? I guarantee you there was some curious chemical agent in there infecting children’s brain waves with Jekyll-Hyde elements.

Favorite son Mike Huckabee rivals even favorite son Bill Clinton — beats him, actually — as a mixed bag of good and bad.

Lately, Huckabee has been bad.

You see, it behooved his presidential aspiration to come to the aid of his party and try to help Asa Hutchinson’s languishing and mostly dreadful and ludicrous gubernatorial campaign. But Huckabee couldn’t do so in any understated or modulated way. Oh, no. His pulpit training demanded moralizing hyperbole, and, as we know, Huckabee got an A-plus in that at preacher vo-tech school.

Apparently unable to locate in Hutchinson an evident virtue to overstate, he turned instead to a supposed vice in Mike Beebe for purposes of overstatement, even demonizing, even Nick Wilsonization.

Huckabee has made a television commercial and otherwise pontificated to say that Beebe bears complicity in Wilson’s criminal theft of taxpayer money in 1997. That’s because, or so Huckabee alleges, everybody knew that Wilson was up to thievery and that Beebe was the leader of the Legislature, but Beebe was more a clique guy than a noble guy and, therefore, didn’t stop Wilson.

OK. Here’s one thing: This was all about a $3 million appropriation to create a pilot program through the Arkansas Supreme Court’s administrative office to provide legal services for children in divorce custody cases. It left the particulars to the court’s administrative office. The bill was not criminal. That Wilson and a few pals leaned on an alarmingly weak administrative office of the Supreme Court to run off with the contracts was the crime.

Here’s another thing: Huckabee’s moralizing on the matter has been disputed by the Legislature’s leading Republican budget expert, Dave Bisbee of Rogers, co-chairman of the Joint Budget Committee. He says he remembers probably voting for the program and that no one had any way in the world of knowing the breath-taking scam that would take place later.

And here’s one more thing: Huckabee’s moralizing on the matter has been quietly disputed by his own director of Finance and Administration Department, Richard Weiss.

A veteran of several gubernatorial administrations of both parties, Weiss tells me this story:

Wilson dropped by his desk at a Joint Budget meeting midway through the 1997 legislative session to ask, “Hey, the Governor’s Mansion gets funded out of Central Services, doesn’t it?”
Weiss said yes.

Here’s the thing about Wilson: He did a few good things, many petty and mischievous things and several criminal things.

Weiss, experienced in all things legislative and Wilsonian, took Nick’s little question as an alarm bell. There was concurrent rumbling among Democratic legislators that Huckabee and his wife seemed more worried about funding for their official residence — which, it later came out, they were tapping for bulk Velveeta and other personal groceries — than state policy.

Then, when a bill came through appropriating $3 million from this very Central Services fund for a new children’s legal defense pilot program, Weiss advised Huckabee that he suspected legislators were trying to drain money that might otherwise go to Mansion operations. He advised Huckabee to veto the appropriation. Huckabee did so, and the Legislature overrode.

Weiss tells me he did not recommend the veto from knowledge or, or out of fear of, or even on suspicion of, criminality. He said he did so for fear of pettiness and mischief.

He tells me also that has great respect for Huckabee. He also tells me that, since I asked directly, he supports Beebe for governor.

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