Columns » Bob McCord

The Bush effect

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Lots of political experts are now saying that many states like Arkansas that have Republican governors will be replaced by Democrats come November because of the recent blunders by the Bush administration. There were the unplanned and insufficient efforts to help the people in Louisiana and other Gulf states stricken by the hurricane, and now we learn we have contracts allowing an Arab business to manage six of the nation’s biggest shipping terminals.

Most Americans aren’t comfortable with Dubai Ports World Co. running American terminals because at one time it had business with persons who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001. That feeling won’t disappear when the columnists say that Americans just don’t like foreigners, or when it’s explained that Dubai Ports World employs many Americans and that after all it’s the U.S. Coast Guard that will guard the terminals while Dubai Ports will just run the business. What really puzzles me is that an important, special committee that is supposed to have examined and okayed the contracts never consulted the president until after the decision was made public.

Who can be satisfied with the Bush administration when we continue to see those daily stories and pictures of the horrors of New Orleans — the thousands of the dead and more thousands who have lost their homes and jobs because the Federal Emergency Management Agency didn’t respond in time and still isn’t doing much for the cities and the poor people who are homeless? Yet, the head of FEMA, Michael Chertoff, one of those Washingtonians who has an excuse for anything, has not been fired and FEMA has not been eliminated or put into another government agency.

Last week I was in a room full of people who listened intently to a speech by the Pulaski County coroner, Mark Malcolm, who spent 56 days finding and identifying the dead in the Katrina hurricane in New Orleans. It was Malcolm who was the coroner who attended to the bodies of the 34 old people who drowned inside a nursing home.

Malcolm said that he had never seen such confusion at a disaster before, and this came from a coroner who in 2004 had gone to Thailand to take care of some of the 2,000 bodies found after the tsunami hit the countries on the Indian Ocean.

“When I got to New Orleans I looked all around and couldn’t even find the FEMA man I had talked to on the phone when I volunteered to come there, “ Malcolm said. No one knew where he was or even the number of his cell phone. He finally found him in Baton Rouge.

“So starting at 9 a.m. the next day, the people in charge talked with us coroners about what should be done, but they couldn’t decide on a program so we did nothing.” But the next day, Malcolm said, a Marine general showed up wanting to know why nothing was being done about the bodies. “Shut up talking and go to work,” he said, and an hour after that, Malcolm said he and the other coroners were in the water finding bodies.

Now considering these Republican miscues, one would certainly think that Arkansans would elect a Democrat for governor this year. After all Arkansas has had more Democratic governors than any other state. Remember that only four Republicans have been elected governor in Arkansas since the state began — Elisha Baxter in 1872, Winthrop Rockefeller in 1966, Frank White in 1980 and Mike Huckabee in 1998.

The New York Times says that there are at least five states that will probably elect a Democrat — Arkansas, Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Colorado. Last week Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, head of the Republican Governors Association, said, “From a math standpoint, we’ve got a tough row to hoe this year.” It’s interesting that the first governor to complain about the foreigners taking over the Baltimore port was Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., who is a Republican running again this year. There are now 22 Republican governors and 14 Democrats who want to do likewise. Now 28 states have Republican governors and 22 states have Democrats.

Governor Huckabee, who is dreaming about running for president, told the New York Times that he thought Arkansas would keep a Republican governor by voting for Asa Hutchinson, the former Arkansas congressman who so far has no competitor in the Republican primary. “But it’s going to be a challenge,” Huckabee said. Right now the polls show that Hutchinson is running slightly behind Mike Beebe, the Democrat attorney general.

Huckabee couldn’t run for governor again because Arkansas law says that governors can only serve two four-year terms. Don’t you think he’s glad considering what’s going on in Washington?

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