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Full speed ahead 

If we're lucky, the legislature will have met, enacted Gov. Beebe's severance-tax increase, and gone home by the time this appears. The less time for lawmakers like Sen. Bob Johnson to act up, the better.

The Beebe plan for raising the severance tax on natural gas may not be the best such proposal, but it's the one with the best chance of becoming law, and hugely better than what we have. The tiny severance tax that is now collected produces no substantial revenue for the state, and it helps perpetuate a philosophy of taxation in which the most is asked of those least able to pay.

Gov. Beebe has already confronted the regressive nature of Arkansas taxation. Last year, he won passage of legislation to halve the sales tax on groceries. Now, he would impose a tax on gas producers comparable to that of neighboring states, and in so doing generate as much as $100 million a year in new revenue, most of which would be used on Arkansas's chronically underfunded highways. If he succeeds — and he says he wouldn't have called a special session if he didn't have the votes — he'll have done what previous governors couldn't, and the legislators will have done what previous legislatures wouldn't. Both branches will deserve credit.

Getting Hillary

Hillary Clinton's candidacy may not have proved that female politicians are held to a higher standard, but it has proved — again — that candidates who are disliked by the media are held to a higher standard.

The more lies that were told about Al Gore, the more the media accused him of dishonesty. John Kerry's wartime heroism became a liability in comparison to the signature draft-dodging of the Bush administration. Clinton's exaggerated account of bravery in Bosnia was reprehensible, and dumb, but the pundits howling in rage were unmoved by the casual and continual fictions of Ronald Reagan. Concentration-camp liberations, imaginary black friends, millionaire welfare queens — Reagan manufactured them monthly, and whenever it was revealed they had no basis in fact, he grinned his engaging grin and said, in effect, “You didn't take me seriously, did you?” The media loved him for it.

The media do not love Hillary Clinton. (Unlike Reagan, she usually makes it impossible for them to believe they're smarter than she is.) And they're determined to keep her from winning the nomination.

It happens that the Democrats have another attractive candidate; the media seem to love him. Will they love him as much when he's running against a white male Republican? We hope so. We doubt it.

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