This small south Arkansas city was once one of the top oil producers in the nation.
Jim Holt always returns my calls. We always have a spirited conversation. We always seem to amuse each other. We always bog down in the reality that only one of us has any sense.
Here’s how it went the other day, paraphrasing and rearranging carefully so as not to misrepresent anything, and doing so only in the interests of space and readability.
Me: Whatever happened to your idea for an initiated act to bar legislators from taking even a cup of coffee from lobbyists? It was the only thing I ever agreed with you on and it would have been a fine calling card for what now appears to be a languishing candidacy for lieutenant governor.
Holt: I don’t know about languishing. Nobody in the media ever pays any attention to that bill. We didn’t have time to get signatures and run for lieutenant governor at the same time. Don’t worry, though: We have a strategy to bring it up in the campaign. And we’ll try to pass it in the Legislature as lieutenant governor next year.
Me: But you’re not going to be lieutenant governor next year.
Holt: Yes, I am.
Me: No, you’re not.
And so forth.
Holt: If by some miracle I’m not lieutenant governor, would you then admit that I have some good ideas?
Me: I said just a minute ago that you had a good idea, but you squandered it. But you and I are just not going to agree very much. I’m not conservative and you’re the most conservative man I’ve ever seen. There’s your “step right up for your ultrasound and deportation” bill. You think pre-K and a minimum wage are socialistic.
Holt: Oh, man, you ought to get out here on Main Street and talk to the people, if you want to see conservatives.
Me: I don’t want to. They scare me.
Holt (guffawing): I wish I had a column and you were running for office. Wouldn’t that be a good quote — “Brummett doesn’t want to talk to people because he’s afraid of them.”
Me: There’s a good reason I’m not running for office.
Holt: You claim to want politicians to tell the truth. You have to admit, I tell the truth. You don’t really think Halter is against gay foster parents, do you?
Me: I hope not, but I don’t know. It’s like I said about Beebe and Hutchinson the other day. With Halter, you get half a chance because he’s taken both sides. With you, you have no chance because you’ve taken the wrong side.
Holt: Wow, that’s so profound I think I need to sit down. So, you favor the guy who won’t give you a straight answer?
Me: In the current Arkansas political climate, that’s the best I can hope for.
Holt: I just don’t believe we should rely so much on government. I just don’t think prekindergarten works. The KIPP school in Helena — that works. And we didn’t start those kids at 3. And I don’t think we ought to be worrying about a minimum wage, but a maximum wage. We don’t need jobs at $6.25 an hour. We need good jobs. And I am confident I can help bring good jobs to the state as lieutenant governor.
Me: You can’t even find a job for yourself.
Holt: That’s a good one. I’ve got a full-time job as a state senator.
Me: Is that enough to live on, with nine kids?
Holt: With a lot of garage sales and Goodwill shopping. I’m a Republican who understands what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. My opponent is a rich man with out-of-state business interests. That kind of messes up your stereotypes, doesn’t it? By the way, I still want to ask for your vote. I have liberals who are for me. I have one friend who has a Holt bumper sticker right next to “Hillary 08.”
Me: He’s just trying to hurt Hillary.
Holt: My best to you and your family. I’m praying for you.
Me: Can’t hurt.
So let me get this straight. The Jay Barth who is writing this article about…
The Arkansas Democrats are disorganized. Black Democrats distrust white leaders who failed to support Obama…
Moneyed Republican interests in Arkansas have grown considerably during Obama's administration and are really a…