This small south Arkansas city was once one of the top oil producers in the nation.
A Republican friend called the other day to commiserate over the Arkansas Times’ shabby treatment by Gov. Mike Huckabee, and to assure us that it will not be rewarded by those whose presidential nomination the governor now seeks. “The party of Dick Cheney and Tom DeLay will never tolerate this kind of boorishness,” he said.
This is an important point. The Times will go on reporting the news and serving the public, despite the governor’s effort to make our work more difficult. The damage the governor does himself, politically and personally, is likely to be more serious, and longer-lasting. He seems to have forgotten the lessons of the Gospel he once preached, lessons that helped put him where he is today. Where is the turned cheek now? What do pride and a haughty spirit goeth before?
Things were different between the Times and the governor in the early days of his administration. Then it was beer and barbecue on the Mansion lawn, and talk into the early hours of our mutual hopes for our home state. “AT,” he’d say — he called us AT — “you’re my kind of media.”
But the governor changed; the old story of power corrupting, we suppose. Soon our mildest constructive criticism offended him, and rather than dissuading him from an erroneous path, caused him to press on even more determinedly. His over-reaction invited still more and stronger adverse judgments, of course, and eventually a point was reached at which the governor rejected all good counsel. He became intent on doing what Mike Huckabee wanted to do, regardless of its effect on the state of Arkansas, and he sought praise for his willfulness. We could not, in good conscience, comply.
So he and we arrived at the current unfortunate circumstance. Heartsick, we still have not abandoned hope that he’ll come to understand our obligation to point out his occasional missteps — that he will lay down his grudge, and in repenting save himself.
In recent years, the Arkansas Supreme Court has slid backward from what was once a strong commitment to uphold the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. Last week, in a 5-2 decision, the Court said that the city of Fort Smith did not have to pay the attorney’s fees of David Harris, a resident who won a lawsuit against the city for violating the FOIA, and who spent $10,000 of his own money in the process. “Aw, the city meant well,” was the gist of the majority’s frivolous opinion. A dissent by Justice Tom Glaze, joined by Justice Annabelle Clinton Imber, addressed the real issue. Hereafter, Glaze wrote, only the wealthy or the news media can afford to bring lawsuits against public officials who violate the FOIA. The Court majority condones illegal conduct.
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