Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> State plane flies again: Say it ain’t so, Mike

The Leader was complaining in an editorial Saturday about former Gov. Huckabee wearing out that State Police plane after he hijacked it for his personal use, flying with family and friends to all the fun places, high above the great unwashed — that’s us, the taxpayers who’re now supposed to shell out $4 million for a new airplane because Gov. Beebe likes it, too.
Huckabee was so secretive about how much he used the plane, he had the State Police computer hard drive crushed before he left office. He didn’t want the public to know how much he fleeced us, the suckers who foot the bill for an extravagance this poor state cannot afford.

You have to wonder what else Huckabee was hiding when he ordered other hard drives destroyed. We’re also wondering why, after the Huckster logged hundreds of thousands of miles on Jet Arkansas, Gov. Beebe is now eager to replace the old plane with a new one, instead of repairing it at a fraction of the cost for use in emergencies by the State Police.

Well, Beebe likes his new job so much, he wants to keep all the perks that Huckabee had made uniquely his own — until now.
What was good enough for the Huckster suits Beebe just fine — a state jet at his beck and call, free food and servants and state troopers always at the ready.

Say it ain’t so, Mike.

But it’s true: The Beechcraft King Air 200 turbo-prop hasn’t been grounded yet — Beebe flew on it to a weekend governors’ conference in Washington, then hurried back to visit hurricane-ravaged Dumas. Using a state plane for a photo-op after a hurricane is all right with us, but not for national conferences and personal appearances, which became a habit with Huckabee.

At least Beebe will let us know when he’s flying on the state airplane. Huckabee was very secretive about the many, many times he bummed rides on the plane. No wonder Huckabee’s presidential campaign is in trouble: With a record like his, it’s hard to win supporters beyond Arkansas’ borders — or inside its borders, for that matter.

You probably don’t know that former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, has dropped out of the presidential race. You probably didn’t even know he was in the race. He was running for a couple of weeks, but he couldn’t raise any money, plus nobody knew how to pronounce his name, so he’s the first casualty of the 2008 campaign.

Huckabee could be the next candidate to drop out. He can’t raise any money either, even though his name is easier to pronounce, but his record in Arkansas is dogging him wherever he goes: He raised taxes, was soft on criminals and wasted taxpayers’ money abusing that State Police plane and padding his expense account.

Beebe looks like he’s enjoying his new job, but he should fly commercial airlines more often, or keep a precise log of where he’s flying on the state plane. Still, after just a few weeks in office, Beebe knows how to run this state — after all, he’s been preparing for this job for 25 years, when he first entered the Senate, which he pretty much ran with a younger colleague who’s now his chief of staff.
Unlike Beebe’s predecessor, who played absentee landlord for much of the time he was governor — too busy flying on that jet plane — Beebe knows how to schmooze with legislators: He’s put a school-funding package together in a couple of weeks and signed a bill cutting the grocery tax in half, saving Arkansans hundreds of millions of dollars, the largest tax cut in state history.

Huckabee, desperate to present himself as a fiscal conservative, wants to take credit for the tax cut, but he had his chance and blew it. Instead of working with the legislature when he was in office, Huckabee was off flying in that state plane promoting his diet books. Almost as if to rub it in, a Democratic governor and legislature have passed that huge tax cut bill — not a very good record for a Republican presidential candidate to run on.

Out on the hustings, Huckabee’s saying he was for the tax cut before he was against it, but if he knew what he knows now, he would have pushed it through. No wonder he’s running for president — but not for very long. Somebody send him a bill for all the time he flew on the state plane instead of taking commercial flights like the rest of us. At least Mike Beebe promises to reimburse the state when he makes private use of the plane. Southwest Airlines could take him to most places at a fraction of the cost.