Twenty Years Ago Today

July 15, 2016

This post was sponsored by Iris Plans.

The opening line of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was this: “It was 20 years ago today….”

Well, exactly 20 years today, July 15, 1996, I became the 44th Governor of Arkansas under some of the most bizarre circumstances in the history of the nation. My predecessor, convicted weeks earlier in a federal trial, had set the date of July 15 for his resignation. It was odd that he would cling to power for another 7 weeks after the verdict, and in most circumstances, the press and the public would have demanded that he step down immediately since he was constitutionally ineligible to serve once convicted. But this WAS Arkansas, after all, and things done in the land of the Clintonistas didn’t have to follow the rules. There was no point in my trying to challenge the decision. The legislature was 90% Democrat and would have never pushed for THEIR governor to leave to make room for that interloper Republican. And the press certainly could be expected to be objective. They were reliably liberal and protective of whatever the the ruling class desired. Could a lawsuit have been filed to force the issue? Seriously? At that time, all judicial elections were partisan and almost 100% of the judges in the state were Democrats.

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The 7 weeks allowed the outgoing governor the ability to spend the remaining budget from the fiscal year that ended on July 1, and the ability to spend most of the next fiscal year’s budget in the first two weeks of the new budget year. And since about half of the state’s 1200 plus appointed positions to boards, agencies, and commissions came up for appointment on July 1, this allowed a convicted felon to appoint over 700 people whose terms would range from 1 to 10 years. Hundreds of millions were spent, I was saddled with appointments that were of the old establishment Democrat “good ol’ boy” crowd, and virtually no one said a word.

On the day of what was to be my swearing in, chaos broke loose. Although the previous Governor’s staff had mostly resigned, taken other jobs, and in many cases sold homes to relocate, and though many of my incoming staff had left their jobs, sold their homes, and moved to Little Rock to begin the transition, he called me at exactly 5 minutes before the swearing in to say he had changed his mind and wasn’t going to resign after all. It was as if the Capitol exploded. Thousands of Republicans were on hand to witness the first Republican governor in 26 years and only the 3rd since Reconstruction. The reneging of the promised resignation sent shock waves throughout the state and even Democrats in the legislature were outraged.

For the next 5 hours, two men claimed to be Governor. I called the legislative leaders to my office and told them that I planned to give the outgoing Governor an ultimatum—either resign or we would launch impeachment proceedings the following morning. It was the most surreal experience and created a Constitutional crisis. Lawyers, Supreme Court Justices, the Attorney General, and legislators all tried to consider the options. That afternoon, the Democrat Attorney General followed by the legislative leaders publicly stood with me. And late that afternoon, the outgoing Governor finally declared he would resign effective immediately when even his closest friends urged him to do so.

That was how my 10 1/2 years as Governor began. With a crisis of historic proportion. While many felt it was a horrible way for me to have to start my tenure as Governor, I look back and see it as a blessing. The sentiment dramatically and suddenly shifted from resentment of “this Republican” becoming Governor to people coming to my support and being able to see whether I had the leadership skills to handle a crisis and navigate through the unknown. It was a defining moment for me, the political structure of the state, and the future.

As the song says, “It was 20 years ago today….”

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A Tragic Irony

July 11, 2016

One of the tragic ironies of the racist Dallas police shootings is that Dallas has an African-American Police Chief, David Brown, who’s been widely acclaimed for maintaining both police discipline and good community relations while bringing the murder and violent crime rates way down. Dallas has even been described as a model for other big city police departments. Just look at the praise coming from the protesters, who are calling the Dallas cops heroes for putting their lives on the line to protect the very people who were there to protest them. Chief Brown just gave a news conference in which he said something that’s needed to be said for a long time to the professional agitators who are stirring up the blanket condemnation of police: If you want the job done differently, then why don’t you do it yourself?

Brown noted that the Dallas Police have been hamstrung by low pay (rookie cops make less than dog catchers) and the resulting loss of officers to higher-paying suburbs. So Brown said to the “Black Lives Matter” supporters that the Dallas Police are hiring: come fill out an application, take the training and become cops yourself. He even offered to assign the new hires to their own neighborhoods. Let’s see what kind of reaction that offer gets. Will the critics line up to show the cops how to police their neighborhoods in a caring, compassionate way? Or will they decide it’s a heck of a lot safer to keep letting someone else face danger and potential death at every turn, and then attack them for not handling it right?

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/07/11/dallas-chief-13-officers-used-force-stop-rampage/86942116/

This post is sponsored by Iris Plans.

There's a new breed of political operative spreading: the self-appointed “fact checkers,” who cherry-pick quotes to score partisan political points by branding honest disagreements as lies (for instance, a 2013 George Mason University study found that Politifact.com was three times more likely to accuse Republicans of lying as Democrats). I’ve become accustomed to having my comments twisted to imply things I never said, or even had my pants declared to be “on fire” (that itself is a blatant lie; that’s never happened, no matter how close I’ve sat to campfires). But this week brought a first: The Washington Post gave me “Two Pinocchios” for telling a deceptive half-truth because I quoted, with 100% accuracy, the Washington Post.

Perhaps WaPo’s slogan should be, “Quote us accurately, and we’ll call you a liar!”

The comment that sparked this “fact check” came on Fox News, when I mentioned that a study by the Washington Post found that “more white people have been shot by police officers this past year than minorities.” That is undeniably true, compared group-to-group. Out of 990 fatal police shootings in 2015, 494 suspects were white and 258 were black. Even WaPo’s “fact checker” was forced to admit that 494 is more than 258.

But she claimed it was only half-true because I failed to provide reams of context, such as adjusting the numbers to reflect the percentages of the races of the suspects in the general population, the racial demographics of the local areas, etc., all of which could have been used to build an argument that the killings of black suspects were disproportionate and/or racially-motivated. Sorry, but I’m still working on a way to motor-mouth 500 pages of data into an 8-second TV response window.

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I think the problem is that WaPo’s “fact checker” isn’t clear on the definition of a “fact.” What I stated was a fact. What she wanted me to include was highly selective data upon which to build an opposing argument. But the conclusion she seems to prefer (cops are racists based on proportional shootings per general population numbers) is not a “fact,” it’s an “assumption.” (And again: I had eight seconds!)

I could just as easily fault WaPo for a massive failure to provide “context.” The whole point of my Fox News comments was to put claims of an epidemic of racist police shootings into context and urge people not to leap to conclusions until all the facts were known. The Post left out the context of my quote! Also, the Post’s own study found that three-quarters of the police killings were defensive, involving suspects who were attacking officers or a third party. I would think even the harshest police critics would be more lenient in judging shootings of violent suspects. But WaPo didn’t include that “context," either. I did, along with endorsing prosecution of police if the evidence warrants, when I wrote about this on my website and Facebook pages (where, unlike on TV, space isn’t an issue. What was WaPo’s excuse?)

Also, did more black suspects than white suspects react violently to police intervention? And what were the races of the cops who shot them, or the third parties they were attacking? Who knows? The WaPo “fact-checker” didn’t say. She also didn’t “adjust” the numbers to reflect the violent crime rates in the local neighborhoods, only the basic demographic breakdown. By her own standards, leaving out all this "context" means she engaged in “half-truths” in an attempt to deceive readers.

She also failed to note that on the very same day, the New York Times published an article about a study of police-public interactions by a young, African-American Harvard researcher. He admitted he was very surprised to discover that blacks were actually less likely than whites to be shot by police. Of course, there’s more to the study, and you are free to use that to try to build a counter-argument. But I trust that you, unlike Hillary Clinton, know how the Internet works, so you can easily find it yourself.

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In assessing the rise of “fact checkers” who don’t recognize their own biases, Daniel J. Flynn of the American Spectator wrote, “It’s precisely the person arrogant enough to assume the mantle of ‘fact checker’ that proves most ill-suited to be one.” In a world where former Clinton operative George Stephanopoulos is considered an objective journalist and allowed to moderate a 2012 Republican debate (Hillary wanted him to moderate one of hers, but that proved a bias too far), the term “fact checker” has also been sadly eroded by liberal partisanship into meaninglessness. And that’s a fact, Jack.

I hereby award the Washington Post “Four Pinocchios” for calling its fact check of me a “fact check.”

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