Comparing the current president to his father, a character in “Doonesbury” says of the first President Bush, “To begin with, he didn’t torture people.” Yes, you always like to see that in a man. And it’s a quality generally not hard to find in presidents; most torturers are eliminated in the early primaries. Bush I, Reagan, Clinton, Carter – it’s impossible to picture one of them authorizing and defending the use of torture, as Bush II does.

Tolerance for torture is not the only defect in the Bush II makeup. As Doonesbury goes on to say, the first Bush was also “moderate, informed, prudent, responsible, forgiving and modest … everything, in fact, his son is not.” Ironically, it took the presidency of the son to make us all realize we’d insufficiently appreciated the father.

Even Bush I’s comical vice president is starting to look better. If Dan Quayle had bagged a hunting companion rather than a game bird, everyone would have taken it as only one more example of the confused state in which the vice president habitually functioned, or tried to. He didn’t mean any harm, we’d say, understandingly. Such words don’t come as easily when the shooter is Dick Cheney. The idea that Cheney would shoot someone accidentally is hard to swallow.

It’s clear now that Bush II takes after his mother. She’s always had a reputation as the mean one in the family. Put a loaded shotgun in Babs’ hands, and she’d accidentally bring down her limit of war protestors. Maybe a few cartoonists, too.

History, Santayana said, will come back and bite you in the butt if you don’t watch out. History is chewing right now on state Sen. Tim Wooldridge of Paragould, a candidate for lieutenant governor. In 1995, Wooldridge introduced a bill to bring public hangings back to Arkansas. The bill was defeated, and Wooldridge says today that he knew it would be, but inevitably it has popped up in the lieutenant governor’s race. Wooldridge’s explanation, long and murky, seems to come down to saying that the bill “was intended to elevate the level of dialogue about deterring violent crime.” Funny, it looks like it would have exactly the opposite effect. Wooldridge forcefully rejects the bill today, but it and his change of heart are legitimate subjects for discussion. More recent history is hounding state Rep. Dustin McDaniel of Jonesboro, who sponsored a bill last year allegedly to “clean up” previous legislation allowing private developers to tap into public school funds. But McDaniel’s bill did not correct the major problems with the tax-increment financing (TIF) legislation, and it was backed by the developers, at least one of whom is a close political supporter of McDaniel’s. Robert Herzfeld, another a.g. candidate, is justified in making an issue of it.



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