So I went out to the Capitol to see the big steel plant announcement for Osceola, and, in the course thereof, picked up a little item about Democratic senators being irked at Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.
Understandably irked. Appropriately irked. Righteously irked.
Actually, all reasonable people in the state ought to irked.
Senate Democrats are beleaguered anyway, since there are only 14 of them in the 35-member Senate. But at least they have, or had, the governor on their side.
A few days ago some of them were approached by state Sen. Jason Rapert of Conway, the leading showboat demagogue of the Republican caucus, who handed them a copy of the governor’s centerpiece legislation — a bill to complete the governor’s proposed and popular drawdown of the sales tax on groceries as budget developments allow — and said he would be sponsoring the bill for the governor.
I have been advised as to several Democratic senatorial responses, most of them profane. “Are you [bleeping] kidding me?” was one. “Jason [bleeping] Rapert? Jason [bleeping] Rapert?” was another.
There are two issues here, in ascending order of significance:
1. Democratic senators were at least due the courtesy of a heads-up, which they didn’t get.
2. Jason [bleeping) Rapert?
Bipartisanship is one thing, and a good thing. But Rapert is singularly the most grandstanding right-wing blowhard in the Republican caucus.
But, more than that, a moderate Democratic governor with near-70 percent approval has just handed a marginalized, extremist, out-of-the-mainstream Republican new bonafides of credibility by letting him handle as lead sponsor the governor’s most popular measure.
More even than that, Beebe has placed his imprimatur on the Republican senator who is the lead sponsor of that bill — unconstitutional — to force women seeking legal abortions to endure a vaginal probing by a doctor for signs of a fetus heartbeat, in which case she couldn’t get the legal abortion without the doctor going to prison.
The sponsor of this atrocity to women is now the governor’s bosom buddy on getting rid of the sales tax groceries.
Beeebe told me Rapert was the first to ask and that he seeks bipartisanship.
Bipartisanship is one thing. Intergalactic alliances and betrayal are other things.
I asked Morril Harriman, Beebe’s right hand and chief of staff, if Beebe at least extracted a vote from Rapert for something. Harriman said Beebe doesn’t work that way, though there was some discussion between the two men about pending issues.
Beebe should have extracted nothing less than Rapert’s vote for Medicaid expansion.
Of course the last I heard from Rapert on Medicaid expansion was this little gem: If Arkansas expanded Medicaid and our adjoining states didn’t, all the poor people from those other states would flood us.
Like Democratic senators, I don’t get it.
All the ever-savvy Beebe would have had to say was that he welcomed Rapert’s support for the grocery tax repeal, but had already asked a couple of senators to handle the bill and that he needed to speak with them first.
Then he could have gone out and found somebody. I know three or four who would have been thrilled to handle the bill.