Columns » John Brummett

It’s a bird, it’s a plane … it’s Bad Mike

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Bad Mike is back, unless he just flew out again on the State Police airplane.

Actually, one wonders if Bad Mike is ever actually dormant. Maybe sometimes he simply goes uncaught.

I’m referring to the Jekyll-Hyde theme woven in this space from time to time to assess our governor, Mike Huckabee.

Good Mike is progressive on race, immigration and health. Good Mike responded superbly to the challenge of Katrina. Good Mike stepped up bravely to the public school challenge.

Bad Mike has this powerful sense of royal entitlement and gets petulant and huffy when challenged. Bad Mike turns too many prisoners loose. Bad Mike takes suits and fishing boats and other gifts. Bad Mike puts personal expenses on the Governor’s Mansion account. Bad Mike gets people to underNow we can take a fresh look at Bad Mike.

Last week the liberal weekly tabloid in Little Rock that bedevils him, the Arkansas Times, reported that he had flown 30 times this year on the State Police aircraft, and that not all of the trips appeared to be official business, such as for National Governors Association activities.

For example, there was a trip on the State Police plane to run in a marathon in Washington.

Confronted with these revelations by the Times and asked nearly a dozen perfectly appropriate questions going to accountability, and which were more fact-finding than hostile, Huckabee directed his new press secretary, Alice Stewart, simply to decline to respond. She said it was on account of security.

Then the governor’s office punted to poor Bill Sadler, the State Police spokesman, who repeated that the governor’s travel was a matter of security and explained as sincerely as he seemed able that therefore he regrettably could not comment on any aspect.

Neither Stewart nor Sadler would address costs, thereby forgoing any shot at their strongest case: savings via the state plane.

One of the Times’ questions was why the governor would be flown back to Arkansas on the State Police plane from a presidential explora-tory dip into New Hampshire when he had gotten to New Hampshire by commercial craft. That, the Times was told, is a security secret.

All I can figure is that one of the New Hampshire Republicans whom Huckabee politicked was so unimpressed that he threatened the gover-nor’s well-being if he ever caught him on a commercial airliner.

By the way, surely we can assume the governor is not meaning to tell the rest of us that commercial air travel is not safe.

About a week after the Times’ inquiries, and well before the publication of any article, Huckabee issued a public statement boasting of some relatively small grant from the National Governor’s Association. He said that ought to show those who would question his out-of-state travels.

That’s a common tactic of this governor’s office — trying to pre-empt forthcoming unfavorable publicity and responding in a defensive, petulant and huffy way that leaves most in the media wondering what in the wide world he’s talking about.

I had some questions of my own.

One concerned the idea of a State Police plane in the first place. What was it for? Didn’t it have some crime-fighting role? If so, what hap-pened if a crime happened in Arkansas and it was parked at Andrews Air Force Base while Huckabee approached mile marker 12 in the Marine Marathon?

Stewart told me by phone that the plane had many uses, one of which was transporting the governor pursuant to the responsibilities of the governor’s State Police security detail. Otherwise, she said, she was precluded by security concerns from answering.

By what procedure did the governor notify the State Police of his travel plans and how and by whom was the decision made to use or not use the State Police plane?

Stewart said this was a security matter, and that she couldn’t answer.

Final question: Didn’t the governor feel he had a responsibility to be more accountable than that to taxpayers? I thought I heard Alice sigh. Then she cited security.

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