Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

EDITORIAL>>Huck makes Sooners mad

Gov. Huckabee’s brief sojourn in Oklahoma last week to campaign for local Republican candidates explains better than anything else why he will never get far in the stakes for the presidential nomination of the Republican Party. He has an irresistible impulse for oafish, intemperate and embarrassing remarks when he crosses the border and escapes the becalming influence of the Arkansas public.

That weakness was first detected when he went to New York in 2000 to be on the Don Imus nationally broadcast radio show and referred to his state as “The Banana Republic of Arkansas” because its people were insensitive to election fraud. Huckabee said the motto in Arkansas was “Vote Early and Vote Often.” Imus did not get around to the obvious question: Aren’t those the same people who elected you?

Someone was around to ask the obvious questions when Huckabee went to Tulsa last week and attacked that state’s attorney general and the state’s environmental protections, which he said were entirely too strong. Arkansas’ government is much kinder to polluters, and the governor implied that Sooners would be well advised to take their cues from us. He suggested that Arkansas just might dam the Illinois River in Washington County and prevent its waters from flowing into Oklahoma if the state didn’t shape up and be kinder to polluting industries in Arkansas.

However much we deserved them, Huckabee’s remarks were an embarrassment for Arkansas, and they must have sent the Oklahoma Republicans whom he was there to help running for cover. The man sometimes just does not think before he opens his mouth.

Huckabee and Oklahoma’s Democratic attorney general, Drew Edmondson, had exchanged barbs before. Edmondson is suing poultry producers in Arkansas and Missouri because the chicken litter that the big commercial chicken farms use for pasture fertilizer fills the Illinois River with phosphorus and makes the stream unfit for municipal water supplies when it crosses from Arkansas near Siloam Springs into Oklahoma, where it gums up Lake Frances and Lake Tenkiller with algae.

Huckabee and Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe have defended the big poultry companies and Arkansas’ pollution standards. According to the Tulsa World, Huckabee said Edmondson’s suit was politically motivated and that his criticism of the poultry industry and the Arkansas government’s laissez-faire attitude toward its depredations on the environment were unfair and offensive.

Huckabee said the stream standards established by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in 2002 and approved by the federal Environ-mental Protection Agency — George W. Bush’s EPA found them acceptable! — were unattainable. The World took it that he was saying that Arkansas would never try to reach such standards.

The newspaper’s conservative editorial page said Huckabee couldn’t resist “sticking his foot in his mouth.” But let the World explain it: “[Huckabee] threatened that if Oklahoma persisted in the lawsuit, Arkansas might dam up the Illinois before it crosses the border. ‘You won’t have any dirty water, but you won’t have any water,’ he said, apparently admitting that the water flowing out of Arkansas is indeed dirty.

We’ll just divert it. We can live with it. Can Oklahoma live without any of it?’” “First of all, does Huckabee not realize that damming the river would cut off water to Oklahoma only until the reservoir behind the dam filled up? Does the Keystone Dam cut off the flow of the Arkansas River into Arkansas? “Second, Huckabee’s threat might actually be good for Oklahoma. A dam on the Illinois might trap a lot of the Arkansas chicken poop that flows into Oklahoma.

“Third, why is a guy who hopes to run for president making such intemperate and parochial statements? “Huckabee’s line of baloney might sell in his home state, but it’s difficult to imagine that it helps the Oklahoma candidates for whom he is stumping. Most Oklahomans, after all, like the idea of clear, clean water in their state.”

Well, so do most Arkansans. And, as near as 18 months ago, so did a narrow majority of one house of the Arkansas Legislature, which thwarted commercial development that would pollute Lake Maumelle, central Arkansas’ major drinking-water source.

But the poultry industry in Arkansas is like the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma. The government and the leading politicians are at its service. Arkansas people understand that, too. But most of them would like their goodwill ambassador not to rub it in their faces when he goes forth from their bourn to enlarge his career. Try to make us look good, governor, or else just ignore your native state and talk about what you know best, body fat and gay marriage.