Travels With Huck

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Travels with Huck

by Don Elkins (Notes) on Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 1:48am

OK, so I haven’t written a newspaper column since the spring of ’06. I’ve enjoyed sitting back and watching the world go by. I’ve stayed away from the mic at local radio stations too. I went from a six-day-a-week rolling media orgy to nothing pretty fast. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t sworn it off, I’ve just let myself get immersed in local television again, and everyone knows how easy it is to get wrapped up in work and to forget about the mortal combat of politics and opinion.

Quite a few things have crossed my radar screen lately. I’m still plugged into Arkansas, and it’s hard not to be with someone like former Governor Mike Huckabee gaining ground in Iowa and running and insurgent campaign for the GOP nomination. I admit it, I’m amazed he’s come so far, but again maybe not so much. After all, he is exactly what the most active base members of the GOP want, even if they don’t like his last name. I spent some time with the Governor when he was still the CEO of Arkansas, Inc. I was always impressed by his personality, even though the first time I had a chance to sit two feet away from him and listen to him discourse on the state economy I suffered a kidney stone attack and had to be driven to the local VA hospital. I’d imagine he might remember that little incident. He was a sport when I harassed him on-air about wearing what I thought looked like his father’s suits. He’d lost a lot of weight and he still had his old clothes. I have to admit I didn’t give him a hard time because I thought it was funny, rather I wanted to make him irritated. I think it startled him a little, but didn’t shake him much. I have to admit being frustrated and more than a bit annoyed when talking to him about immigration and education issues, but he was always a nice guy, always the guy you’d probably enjoy duck hunting with, even if you’d never gone out to shoot down a mallard before in your life.

I knew a good number of people the governor probably referred to as “Shiite” republicans from the Northwest corner of the state, people he thought took “conservatism” too far (if I recall correctly, he WAS the one who made that phrase popular.) Many of them had the last name “Hutchinson” or “Duggar” and one was simply a state senator named Jim Holt. I keep wondering when Jim will crop up during all of this. Both men really seemed to dislike each other – Jim, if you read this, don’t deny it, because you and Gov. Mikey always fought about immigration and about benefits for the children of immigrants. You didn’t like that, but couldn’t in my mind square that up with your self-professed Christian ideals, and he told reporters you drank a different kind of “Jesus juice” then he did. In all, it was very entertaining, and we always hoped he’d either make you cry, or the two of you would slug it out unexpectedly. Jim, I still think the man really and truly hated you.

He did, however, really and truly hate the Arkansas Times and Max Brantley. That was apparent, even though I never received confirmation of that from Ms. Alice Stewart, the former KARK anchor and now Huckabee press secretary. I once spent some time having lunch with Alice, but wasn’t impressed. Guess she decided it was no big loss losing out on a co-anchor spot with me when she could go trotting around the country with her fellow long distance running friend Mike Huckabee. It would be interesting to see her play the role of Karen Hughes on the national stage, but I’m still going to say I don’t think it’ll happen. Caught another media friend this week extemporizing about Huck on NPR. John Brummet, who still has my deepest respect, turned up on the airwaves the other day as I was heading into my afternoon editorial meeting. Big John told the world that everyone likes Mike Huckabee until they get to know him, at which point they realize he can be vindictive. The guy can also mess up state policies pretty well. As Sullivan once said, “make no small plans.” That’s OK, Mike doesn’t make ANY plans short of this attempt at the White House that I can tell. After his long-running fueds with a democratically controlled state legislature, I’d be afraid to see what his relationship would be like with a democratic congress. That would be a mess, a-la the education funding dust ups and the fight over the (yes, regressive) grocery tax. And, yes, he seems to have pissed off the Eagle Forum, John Fund of the Wall Street Journal and a good handful of other influential conservatives for some reason. Perhaps all that will change if he whips Romney in Iowa. Good luck, Governor, the only thing else you have waiting for you is that job at Oachita College afterward. I’d pretty much kill to see you run against the democratic nominee, but America couldn’t take two presidents from Arkansas in such a short stretch of years. However, yes, I could be underestimating the power of having Chuck Norris on one’s side.

NEXT: Watching Janet Huckabee try to hide from President Bush behind the 2x4 frame of an under-construction house during the “Today” show. AND, watching Rep. Bobby Rush of Chicago beat up on a very clean-cut, very earnest Barack Obama.

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