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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: On the edge of the cliff

by John Brummett | July 15, 2021 at 2:54 a.m.

If you venture so far to the right that you get past U.S. Sen. John Boozman, a Donald Trump cultist except for that one time, you'll find a narrow opening teetering on the dark cliffs of insanity.

You'll find a Razorback over there.

It is a place that declines to accept Donald Trump's election defeat and hems and haws about whether the right-wing insurrection of Jan. 6 was a bad thing.

Boozman drew up just a little short of that sliver of space. He voted to confirm the election returns. He said Trump bore some responsibility for the criminal invasion of the Capitol by his costumed and reality-separated followers.

Boozman had become caught in a trap between his puppeteers--Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who controls him procedurally on the Senate floor and had had it up to here with Trump, and Trump, who controls Boozman's surrendered soul in the way he controls surrendered Republican souls everywhere.

So, in this tiny strip of space between Boozman and the dark cliff, you could get the autograph of a former Razorback football star. He'd provide it with the same big powerful paw that he boasts once wrapped up Tim Tebow for a loss of yardage.

His name is Jake Bequette. He's 6-feet-5, age 32, an Army enlistee who served in Iraq, and a Trump devotee to beat all Trump devotees.

Well, except maybe for Josh Hawley, the Missouri senator he seeks to emulate and who is to the right not only of Boozman but even Tom Cotton.

Bequette was a powerful force for the football Razorbacks back in the pre-motorcycle Petrino days. With opposing quarterbacks in his crosshairs, he'd barrel around left defensive end in a blur of determination, acceleration and ferocity.

He put out a video the other day commending his election to the U.S. Senate based in part on the recorded display of one such occasion. An opposing quarterback got crushed from the blind side by Bequette's Hog-ish heroism and fumbled the ball on his own goal line.

Send that pass-rushing rascal to Washington. Let Nancy Pelosi try to block that. That's what Bequette is saying, literally, in that video.

On Monday, Bequette announced his Republican candidacy against Boozman's renomination. He did it on Fox News because that's where Arkansas lives now.

But, in a concession to ancient convention, he gave an interview later in the day to a reporter for this newspaper.

And that became a bit of an adventure.

The reporter asked Bequette whether what happened Jan. 6 was wrong. The simple answer, "yes," evaded the young Razorback and Trumpster.

"Look, I'm here to focus on the future of Arkansas and the future of this country," Bequette said. "I'm focused on securing our elections. The electoral process in 2020 was an absolute mess, and we have to secure our electoral process nationally and by state to ensure free and fair elections. ... Look, right now, I'm focused on the future. I think what's important is securing our elections, making sure they are fair and secure."

You'll notice that he said the same thing twice, which is what often happens with nonsense. Those who spout it sometimes say it twice as if to use repetition as verification.

Then Bequette's campaign said he was on a tight schedule and had to go, which is what often happens when a candidate has made his nonsense clear twice.

Only later, probably after a confab with advisers, did Bequette put out a written statement insulated from human interaction and conceding for the record that--putting aside frustration over an election in which entirely too many votes were allowed against Trump--any attack on the U.S. Capitol was "reprehensible."

You'll also see that kind of thing a lot--a fumbled live interview recovered by a written supplement appearing from the safety of absentia.

Bequette's substantive objection to the election returns is that too many concessions were made for voting convenience owing to the pandemic. He doubts the legitimacy of returns, apparently on the basis of arguments that Trump made and more than 60 courts rejected and no courts accepted.

Just on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported from receipt of emails that Justin Riemer, the Republican National Committee's chief counsel, sought last year to discourage a Republican Party spokesman from allying with Trump's objections.

He wrote to Liz Harrington, an RNC spokeswoman at the time, that what Rudy Giuliani and other Trump lawyers were arguing "is a joke and they are getting laughed out of court. They are misleading millions of people who have wishful thinking that the president is going to somehow win this thing."

A new book soon out from Post reporters titled "I Alone Can Fix It" says that Giuliani spent Election Night telling everyone to pay no attention to the numbers and "just say we won."

John Boozman didn't say that Jan. 6, and Jake Bequette is over on the edge of a cliff wrapping those big paws around what he thinks Arkansas Republicans will consider a goal-line fumble.

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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