Columns » Max Brantley

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The Democrats have been trying to counter Republican attacks on stimulus spending with a “hypocrisy” charge.
Where, for example, does U.S. Rep. John Boozman get off griping about stimulus money (and voting against the legislation) while his district rakes in money for the likes of work on the long-sought Bella Vista bypass?

It would, of course, be silly to fight legal appropriations for your district as a matter of principle. (Striking though it might be.) It would punish your constituents relative to other U.S. citizens.

I do think, however, that good manners should dictate that it's bad form to continue to complain about a host's Karo nut pie while cramming it down your pie hole.


Has the voter-mandated “fiscal” session of the legislature accomplished anything? More per diem and staff expenses, I guess. Is that fiscally responsible? More lobbyist expenditures on fine dining. That's good for the economy, I guess.


Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who barely registered in the recent Conservative PAC's straw presidential poll during a Washington convention, ripped CPAC later as a group of libertarians and scoffed at the significance of the vote. (He's right, by the way.) He interviewed First Lady Michelle Obama last weekend and later defended her as a pleasant sort in an interview with Fox News colleague Sean Hannity. Hannity is still intent on painting her as a bitter anti-American radical

You'd have to conclude Huckabee is a man currently more interested in his prosperous and growing media career than in strictly partisan politics. In the political arena, Republicans are not allowed to speak mildly about an Obama or ill of each other.


Gov. Mike Beebe helpfully told reporters during a meeting of the National Governors Association last weekend that he thought U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln would beat Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in a Democratic primary, should he challenge her. Asked about rumors of cool relations with the lieutenant governor, Beebe responded that they were “cordial.” Just like Kenneth Starr was always cordial with Bill Clinton.

What explains this coolness? I still wonder. Halter is brainy, ambitious and cocksure. It's not always a popular combination in good-ol'-boy Arkansas. But he's no threat to Beebe. And he wasn't much of one even in 2006 when he came home from a Washington stint with the idea of running for governor. He rapidly recognized Beebe's advantage and lowered his aim.


Filing hasn't begun, but Republicans make a plausible case for measurable gains in both the state House and Senate in this year's elections. Term limits have shrunk the pool of available candidates in many places, for one thing. And the GOP has rounded up some candidates who clean up pretty good. They're mostly just as bad on virtually every issue as nuts like Jim Holt, but they appear more thoughtful and focus publicly mostly on financial issues. They save red meat stuff like gay-bashing for their private cell meetings. The shred of good news is that Republicans will be lucky to have one seat on the three-member Board of Apportionment (governor, attorney general, secretary of state) that will draw up new legislative districts in 2011. Most likely none.

A Tea Party activist from Northwest Arkansas this week plugged a candidate for state Supreme Court. I don't have the explanation yet for this affinity so I don't want to say more, but it can't possibly be a good development.

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