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Monday, October 03, 2005 

John Brummett on Mike Beebe -- Part II

We are going to take a break from “Livin’ on Tulsa Time” to show a quick summary of Brummett’s assessment of Beebe. Oh how some things never change:

Periphery, perception plague Beebe John Brummett

State Sen. Mike Beebe of Searcy golfed Thursday with Bill Clinton out at Chenal. Perhaps the president advised him between mulligans on how to overcome overwhelming political odds and withstand the innuendo of scandal based on peripheral associations.

The latest legislative outrage -- the most recently exposed insiders' raid on your money -- has worrisome implications for Arkansas Democrats who were beginning to sidle up to Beebe as their challenger to Gov. Mike Huckabee's election next year.

Beebe has formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee, raised a lot of money swiftly in $ 100 increments and won a thoroughly favorable front-page biographical article in the statewide press. But now comes Lawyergate, advancing the personable litigator to an upper-level course in the perils of electoral politics.

That Beebe is probably specifically innocent is nearly beside the point. It may not be fair that now he'll have to run with Nick Wilson and Jim Guy Tucker around his neck. But we're talking about politics after all, and fairness doesn't apply. Beebe is embedded in the periphery of disdainful behavior, and the perception is ripe for exploitation.

Beebe's problems are as simple as one-two-three:

1. Some Democratic legislative insiders cozy with Wilson, the official state rascal, got caught pushing through a measure they then abused to route absurdly lucrative contracts for representing children in chancery court custody cases to a pair of legislators, a lobbyist who formerly was Tucker's top aide and a former legislative staff lawyer. Beebe's best pal, Sen. Morril Harriman of Van Buren, sponsored one of the bills that got abused. Another of his pals, Sen. Steve Bell of Batesville, who formerly handled Tucker's legislation, prepared the incorporation papers for two of the abusing insiders.

2. Huckabee is milking for all it's worth his innocent outsiderism against these greedy maneuvers of Democratic legislators. Huckabee can boast, and ought to boast, that he vetoed an element of the bill setting up this spectacularly abused appropriation. The Democratic Legislature overrode his veto. Beebe voted to override after Wilson urged his Senate colleagues to join him in doing so.

3. Beebe is often described as an insider's insider at the Legislature -- as, in fact, the most accomplished and effective member therein. His command of legislative detail has been extolled in this space and elsewhere, nearly universally. His choices are to plead innocent in the aforementioned shenanigans and appear less the wise, savvy, all-knowing legislator, but one oblivious to this scheme and perhaps others, or to assert his legislative competence and vitality, in which case he would need to explain his acquiescence to such a disgrace.

I can hear the Huckster now in a debate: "Senator Beebe, it says in the paper that you run the Legislature. Lord knows I don't have any influence down there. I'm just trying to get you to own up to your press clippings. And then you might be so kind as to explain to us how you and Senator Wilson and assorted former allies of Jim Guy Tucker managed to feather the nests of pals to the tune of $ 750,000 by abusing a program designed for kids, for kids, even after I tried to do the right thing by vetoing this outrage."

Beebe could answer, if he could still draw breath, but it'd take time and he'd need to trash a few Democratic colleagues in the process.

He could begin by explaining that he could spend all his time keeping up with Nick Wilson's machinations, or he could try, as he did, to work with Wilson as much as possible on such vital matters as schools and human services in the absence of strong gubernatorial leadership from the neophyte Republican.

He could explain that Wilson supported him as he pretty much dictated school funding and controlled most of the Revenue Stabilization Act. He could explain that, in a legislative tradition older than Henry Clay, he in turn went along with Wilson's interests whenever possible. (Problem here: Huckabee might shoot back with a parable about making a deal with the devil.)

He could explain that he led the way for a vital override of Huckabee's nonsensical veto of a provision in the school funding bill requiring minimal equity, and that Wilson backed him, and that he went along when Wilson asked for an override of Huckabee's veto of an arcane provision in a harmless-sounding measure.

Beebe could say quite correctly that the real scandal was not in the legislative enactment of a worthy program, but in the wholly unaccountable way the Supreme Court's administrator disbursed three quarters of a million dollars apparently on orders of a legislator who got a cut from one of the contracts.

That's what he could say. Makes sense. But Huckabee's lines are shorter and punchier. Copyright 1997 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock, AR) September 28, 1997, Sunday

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