Politics and football met again Saturday in Fayetteville.
In 1969, Bill Clinton sat in a tree smoking marijuana and burning an American flag while famous American politicians, including Tricky Dick Nixon, watched Texas beat Arkansas at Razorback Stadium. (That Clinton stuff is a joke based on an old fractured fable, sports fans.)
The UA-Texas shootout at Fayetteville last Saturday had plenty of political angles, too, along with another painful loss for the Hogs.
State Rep. Jan Judy, the underdog Democratic candidate for Congress from the Third Republican District, passed out densely lettered campaign cards to tailgaters. It's amusing to imagine the look on UA Chancellor John White's face should Judy actually win. White once suggested Judy and some other area legislators should be replaced because they didn't do enough for the university. His words encouraged a Republican to enter Judy's race. She won, but the campaign time cost her a shot at a seat on Joint Budget, where she sure enough could have helped the University.
Bush-Cheney volunteers plastered maybe a fourth of the crowd with campaign stickers. I saw precious few Kerry stickers (or black faces, come to think of another underrepresented demographic), but I tailgated in the parking lot for big Razorback donors. The big-money crowd trends Republican. There are exceptions, of course. How else would I be there?
There was politicking on the field, too, of the subliminal variety.
The halftime show was an anniversary observance of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It turned into a tribute to armed forces in Iraq, complete with jumbotron photos of the 12 Arkansans who've died there and a screaming fighter jet fly-by.
The conclusion seemed obvious. The Bush administration has accomplished its mission. It has convinced the Razorback Band, along with the majority of the country, that Iraq was behind the Sept. 11 attacks. To remember Sept. 11, you must talk about Iraqi soldiers not dead New Yorkers. Even the Bush administration knows better than to say this directly. If retaliation against the base of hijackers was the aim, we would have bombed Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Of course we should remember Sept. 11. Of course we should mourn the 1,000 dead and 7,000 wounded in Iraq. But we should also remember that the link between 9-11 and Iraq is George W. Bush, not Saddam Hussein. And Bush's war has made us less safe.
The Razorback band announcer even parroted the Bush theme that the Sept. 11 attacks were the work of enemies of freedom. It so happens that James Fallows calls this idea "dangerous claptrap" in a carefully researched piece in the latest Atlantic magazine. Fallows' devastating assessment of Bush's post 9-11 failures says that Islamic extremism has grown not because the extremists hate freedom (they haven't struck Norway, after all). Rather, it has grown because of "several decades of specific policy disagreements with the U.S." Misunderstand the enemy's motivation as irrational hatred, and the U.S. will win the battle only by brutal suppression, feeding the extremists fresh martyrs all the while.
More football politics: A tiny chant of "no more war" arose briefly in the vicinity of student seating during one of the night's Iraq references. The chant was quickly drowned out by angry white men bellowing "USA, USA, USA." A precursor to Nov. 2? For sure, you know who the bellicose white men will vote for.
I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
When the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a Walton Foundation-paid lobbyist, long devoted critics of the Little Rock School District, lead the messaging for a quarter-billion dollars in new tax debt for the district, it is cause for caution.