Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee, who will become the state's governor within a month when Gov. Jim Guy Tucker resigns, got a taste last week of the heightened scrutiny given words of a chief executive.
"I was amazed," said Huckabee, of a Wall Street Journal editorial page article by Micah Morrison. In the course of lauding Huckabee as the leader of a Republican reform movement in Arkansas, Morrison put some politically loaded suggestions in Huckabee's mouth, including an allegation of document shredding by the Tucker administration and a suggestion that the State Police director's job might be in peril.
"The article didn't turn out exactly like we thought it would," said one Huckabee aide.
Huckabee was so upset about the outcome he even returned a phone call from the Arkansas Times on the topic. Relations between the Times and Huckabee have been strained because of political differences, but he said he was anxious to set the record straight.
Morrison wrote last week that:
•"Mr. Huckabee acknowledged he was 'aware' of stories that state officials were shredding documents in anticipation of Gov. Tucker's departure."
•Huckabee should name a new director of the State Police, an agency of which Morris said, "Pimping for then-Gov. Clinton...was the least of their sins."
•Huckabee and Whitewater Prosecutor Kenneth Starr "likely will establish some kind of quiet symbiotic relationship" in the course of "liberating Arkansas from corruption."
Huckabee said his conversation with Morrison was taken wildly out of context. His version: •On paper shredding: "His question was, 'We're hearing that there are documents being shredded and that kind of thing.' My answer was: 'There are always stories about those kinds of things around here.' "In the strictest sense, then, Morrison had it right. Huckabee said he was "aware" of stories of shredding. But, said Huckabee to the Times, "It was just a throwaway line.....Do I know of anything? No. Have I heard of anything? No."
•On the idea of replacing State Police Director John Bailey: "I was outraged when I read it. Let me just tell you unequivocally that the one guy who has the safest spot in Arkansas is John Bailey... He's a man of as much integrity and character as anyone I've ever been around in public or private life." Huckabee said he had known Bailey for 10 years.
•On a coming cozy relationship with Starr: "Everything I've done for the past year answers that. That's ridiculous." Indeed, Huckabee has refrained publicly from capitalizing on Tucker's troubles with the Whitewater prosecutor. As a practical matter, his success with a Democratic legislature and electorate depends on building bridges, not bombing them.
Huckabee said, "Right now, we don't need gasoline thrown on any fires. Arkansas needs to take a deep breath, chill out and reclaim its goodness."
Print headline: "Wall Street Journal burns Huckabee" June 14, 1996.