CONWAY — I wrote a few weeks ago that people in the Tea Party movement are irrational extremists.
So the McClanahans of Conway — Lowell, a prominent Rotarian, and his wife, Marsha — invited me to the next meeting of the Faulkner County Tea Party to see that they aren't so crazed.
This gathering took place Thursday night. I am here to tell you that, indeed, they are not irrational at all. The McClanahans, I mean.
But some of the 135 people in the audience and the evening's guest speaker, a woman named Jeannie Burlsworth — well, let me be careful not to overstate with incendiary language: They trouble me in the way they let their imaginations run wild to fuel their distrust of anything having to do with government.
Lowell McClanahan explained that he became alarmed at what he, as a thorough conservative, viewed as a leftward lurch of the Obama administration. He said he helped found this local Tea Party organization only to advance constitutionally limited government and fiscal responsibility, principles we all ought to endorse.
McClanahan stressed that the Tea Party, at least in Faulkner County, practices open attendance and free expression. That's admirable. So, he said, I should not ascribe to all Tea Partiers everything that gets spouted either from the audience or by a guest speaker.
That brings me to Jeannie Burlsworth. She's the chairman of Secure Arkansas, which has never quite gotten its act together to get its ballot initiative before the voters to deny public benefits to anyone 14 or older not properly documented for citizenship.
She kept going off on tangents in her presentation — about health care reform, or Barack Obama, or cap-and-trade, or lost sovereignty, or Patrick Henry Hays — only to say she didn't have time to give everyone a full report on each.
Patrick Henry Hays?
I'll come back to that in a minute.
If there is a central theme in Burlsworth's scatter-shooting oratory, it would seem to be that American politicians at all levels and off all stripes, even Republicans in many cases, are conspiring to sell out our individual American liberties to sinister one-world control.
Here's an example from Burlsworth of how politicians allegedly work against the people: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's job includes assessing citizen proposals for ballot initiatives, such as those Burlsworth's group puts forward, for fair phrasing and technical correctness. This means his office sometimes tells Burlsworth's group to rewrite something before he'll give it an all-clear for signature-gathering.
So, in Burlsworth's view, this means that McDaniel was trained at the elitist Aspen Institute, to which he won a fellowship a few years ago, in how to keep the people down by resisting noble initiatives arising from their attempted exercise of liberty.
I know Dustin McDaniel. He went to the Aspen Institute because it made him feel like a hot-shot and was a resume enhancer.
Anyway, his office has been approving these initiatives by Secure Arkansas, after improving them to make them less vulnerable to legal challenge. The problem for Secure Arkansas has been that the group hasn't had the wherewithal to collect the signatures.
Now to Patrick Henry Hays. He's the veteran mayor of North Little Rock. But that, Burlsworth asserts, is the very least of it.
There's this thing called ICLEI, standing for International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives. It is a collection of municipal government officials from around the world who seek to advance ideas for sustainable economic growth deploying so-called green initiatives.
Because he wanted to feel important by joining such a thing, and because he's been around a long time, Hays has risen to the current board chairmanship.
Burlsworth sees this ICLEI as a vital cog in an international conspiracy to fabricate a global-warming scare, led by Patrick Henry Hays of North Little Rock, Arkansas.
She said Gov. Mike Beebe must report to Hays periodically on how much he has done to deliver Arkansas to this global control.
Somehow I can't picture Beebe reporting diddly to Hays.
But some of these people would think I'm naive, or in on the fix.