Leader Blues

Monday, September 25, 2006

EDITORIAL>>Looking at their records

By Ernie Dumas
Leader editorial writer

Having a long record in public office is a political advantage on the day that you announce for higher office because voters are supposed to put a premium on wisdom that flows from experience.

After the announcement, a long record becomes problematical. Asa Hutchinson, the Republican candidate for governor, has been hammering Attorney General Mike Beebe over his long record in the state Senate and his legendary ability to get things done.

If Beebe was such a powerhouse lawmaker, Hutchinson keeps asking, why was he never able to repeal the sales tax on groceries? Hutchinson implies that it is because Beebe secretly supported the tax.

Beebe says he will see to it that the tax is repealed or phased out if he is elected governor. Beebe answers Hutchinson’s taunts by citing all his votes to repeal the tax over 20 years in the Senate.

Hutchinson notes that Beebe never sponsored the repealer himself.

And Beebe’s answer to that is that he insisted that Bud Canada of Hot Springs, who fought for the repeal single-mindedly in a long career in the Senate, be the sole sponsor of the bill so that he would not have to share the credit.

Beebe pointed out that he engineered passage of Canada’s bill in the Senate three times only to see it defeated each time in the House of Representatives. Who knows how the issue shakes out with voters?

Meantime, Hutchinson is running on his long record, too, mainly the years from 2001 to 2005 when he was running the Drug Enforcement Administration in the Bush administration and serving as the deputy secretary in the Department of Homeland Security.

That is proving to be more of a handicap than Beebe’s ten thousand votes in the state Senate.

When Hutchinson an-nounced a program this week to go after illegal immigrants and methamphetamine makers and dealers, Beebe’s campaign said Hutchinson had a chance to do something about drugs and immigration and blew it.

He should not be given a second chance, the Beebe handlers said. As it invariably happens, there is evidence from the Bush administration itself that Hutchinson blew it, if you can believe President Bush’s Office of Management and Budget.

Its report is part of Hutchinson’s record, too.

Federal statistics show that drug use among youth went up significantly when Hutchinson became the national drug czar and then went back down after he left the office for Homeland Security 18 months later.

A report from the Bush OMB said pointedly that the office had failed to achieve success against illegal drugs in Hutchinson’s tenure. Hutchinson says the OMB needs to better define the word “success.”

The conservative Washington Times (edited by the racist Arkie Wesley Pruden Jr.) carried an article in 2003 quoting un-named agents under Hutchinson as saying that Hutchinson had provided no leadership at DEA and used his position instead to promote himself while enforcement declined and morale sagged.

Sometimes, it’s better to say that you’re utterly inexperienced and as clueless as a newborn lamb.