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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Not ready for the big stage

by John Brummett | February 3, 2021 at 3:48 a.m.

Uh, oh. Gov. Asa Hutchinson appeared on a national television weekend news show again.

The woman on ABC's "This Week" who alternates being host with George Stephanopoulos--Martha Raddatz--is apt to ask anything. That's regardless of whether it has to do with Arkansas or whether Asa is in any position to do anything about it.

I ask the governor a lot of questions. But it had not occurred to me to inquire whether he thought freshman U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia ought to get kicked out of Congress or at least ejected from committee seats.

I've been more interested in what Asa might do about or with state Sen. Trent Garner. I am hopelessly provincial, out of touch, it seems. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is introducing an Arkansas governorship that is totally about national resentment.

She's getting more coverage in international right-wing conspiracy-seeing media than Arkansas media, by her apparent design. It's better for reaching her base.

She doesn't seem to think the route to the Arkansas governorship is a state highway. She seems to think it's through the One America Network or something called the Epoch Times.

Those right-wing conspiracy outlets were reporting over the weekend on her supposedly detailed platform for the gubernatorial campaign. What they touted as a platform was a thread of Sanders' simpleton and demagogic tweets of the last few days.

Hutchinson's eagerness to embrace a national profile--and some sort of national pathway to continued relevance after he is term-limited as governor in two years--is evident in his busy national talk-show schedule. But he is perhaps more confident of his ability to perform on the Broadway stage than is warranted.

He tells me it's all for the good of the state. He said it serves the state for him to advance moderate views to resist the extremes.

But I remain unclear on the benefit to Arkansas of its governor going on "This Week" on ABC on Sunday morning to label merely "a little bit different" the views of this Georgia congresswoman.

Some of those views advance QAnon conspiracies. They include a history of social-media affinity for violent messaging.

There is the matter of Greene's view that some of the school shootings didn't really happen. There is a social media posting a couple of years ago by someone who endorsed a bullet to the head of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and which Greene checked "like."

It takes all kinds, I guess. You have your center-right people, like the governor. You have the center-left, which I claim for myself. And then you have what the governor calls a slight difference from us that is bat-bleep.

Hutchinson's answer to what the House ought to do with this woman wasn't horrible until he got to the part about a little bit of difference.

He said he'd never vote for Greene himself, but that he was not going to thrust himself into the congressional fight over disciplining of her for her views.

But then he said he people who elected her would have the chance again if she chooses to seek re-election, and that the Republican Party itself needs to define itself by emphasizing its mainstream rather than its extreme.

Then, yes, he managed to pooh-pooh the House kicking somebody out over that little difference of opinion.

"The question on the Georgia congresswoman was a surprise," Hutchinson told me. "In other words, I had no notice on that, and that is a risk about going on national TV. The interview topic was on vaccines and covid relief. Obviously, she drifted from the topic. I turn down about 60 percent of requests because of time limitation or the message opportunity is not right."

He should have turned Sunday's down.

The governor's core job description might have been better served if he'd spent Sunday morning tending to his damaged in-state legislative relations rather than his national profile and his open mind on nutcases who are just a little different from the rest of us.

For that matter, Hutchinson's entire appearance Sunday on ABC was a dud.

His role was to follow the West Virginia governor and explain why Arkansas hadn't done as well as West Virginia in getting its people vaccinated.

It was a bad day for the home team all around.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.


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