Columns » Max Brantley

Outrage roundup

So many provocations, so little space.

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So many provocations, so little space. Among them:

• Smarmy Kenneth Starr. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette gave lavish attention to the former Whitewater persecutor's new book on his Javert-like pursuit of Bill and Hillary Clinton. He trashes the Clintons and takes gratuitous swipes at Henry Woods, Jim Guy Tucker, Susan McDougal and Webb Hubbell. Missing from reporter Frank Lockwood's account: Starr's vile pursuit of the Vince Foster murder conspiracy; his harassment of innocent people; his failure to turn up anything against Bill and Hillary Clinton until Monica Lewinsky walked in. No mention at all of Starr's shameful handling of rape in the athletic department at Baylor when he was president. No mention of the pervy writing of his trusted aide, Brett Kavanaugh, now enmeshed in a sex scandal of his own.

• Smarmy French Hill. The millionaire banker and Republican congressman tried to block Democrats from a "rally" at which Vice President Mike Pence was the headliner. Some rally. Maybe 200 or so turned out. The puny turnout somehow wasn't mentioned in Arkansas Democrat-Gazette coverage. Contrast Pence's magnetism with the big and enthusiastic crowd for U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), when he came to help Hill's Democratic opponent, Clarke Tucker.

Hill's weak spine also showed in refusing to provide press services to the Arkansas Times or admission to his campaign events. He also refused to appear jointly with Tucker before a business group last week unless he was allowed to speak last.

• Smarmy Arkansas legislators. Suddenly the Republican legislative cause of the day is not thousands losing Medicaid because of an inept state government. No, it is changing out the Arkansas statuary in the U.S. Capitol — two people whom 1 in 1,000 Arkansans couldn't name. The sudden urgency is motivated by an attempt to score political points against Clarke Tucker, great-great-great-grandson of James Clarke, a former senator and governor who was very bad on the race question.

When Sens. Jim Hendren (R-Sulphur Springs) and Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) say this is only about removing a white supremacist, it is questionable based on timing alone. But then consider they are also supporters of school choice laws that are spurring the resegregation of Arkansas schools and of voter ID laws specially intended to suppress the turnout of black voters, not to mention social and legal policies with a disproportionate impact on black people. Sure. Boot James Clarke. If these legislators are really serious about making a statement against racial inequality, put a statue of John Walker in his place.

And speaking of statues: If cleaning up the state's image by removing offensive statutes is really the Republicans' aim, they could begin closer to home by removing monuments to the defense of slavery from the state Capitol lawn. Slavery is a fraught topic for Hendren, facing a lawsuit for using men sentenced in the name of "rehabilitation" to work for his plastics business without pay.

P.S. on last week's column expressing skepticism about savings from Governor Hutchinson's coming plan to reduce the number of state agencies: A state employee writes anonymously that there's another angle at work. It's to capture millions in surpluses held by cash fund agencies that aren't supported by legislative line-item appropriations. They are primarily regulatory agencies — everything from tow trucks to insurance — that operate on fees from those they regulate. Tapping that money would help achieve the governor's goal of a fat tax cut for the wealthy.

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