The question in the lieutenant governor’s race is whether Jim Holt can successfully dissociate himself from his party’s gubernatorial candidate. He’s trying, but will the voters buy it?

Earlier this year, Holt was one of three state legislators to vote against an increase in the minimum wage. He also opposed an expansion of pre-kindergarten programs. And he said: “I was an analyst of the Soviet Union [at the National Security Agency] and I know socialism when I see it. Our children are not wards of the state. Taking children from their parents and setting a minimum wage is what the Soviets did.”

Holt’s opponent, Bill Halter, pointed out that Holt’s Republican running mate, Asa Hutchinson, claims to be for raising the minimum wage. (Hutchinson’s actual record on the issue is spotty.) Halter then asked Holt if Hutchinson was a socialist, and Holt dodged the question. He seeks to put space between himself and Hutchinson without a formal denunciation. Republican congressional candidates are trying to do the same with President Bush.

Hutchinson a socialist? It’s unlikely. Yet there are significant differences between him and Holt. Holt has shown signs that he’ll disagree with his party on occasion. These intimations of independence have drawn fire from yellow-dog Republicans like the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page. Hutchinson, on the other hand, follows the party line unwaveringly, even when it demands the impeachment of an elected president. As his former colleague, U.S. Rep. Marion Berry, says, Hutchinson is the kind of partisan who’ll drink the Kool-Aid.

Hutchinson followed orders from party leaders in prosecuting Bill Clinton, and was rewarded with high-paying jobs in Republican administrations. Add in Hutchinson’s attendance at Bob Jones U., the South Carolina school for segregationists; his anti-women, anti-free-speech votes in Congress; his persecution of cancer victims while at the Drug Enforcement Administration; his part in the failures of the Department of Homeland Security, and it’s clear why Holt wants to keep him at arm’s length. An extremist on the ticket can drag other candidates down with him.

Then and now

Though the casualties on all sides are just as dead, the Bush administration insists that Iraq is not like Vietnam. But the president himself demonstrated the similarity when he said that getting out of Iraq would mean “we will have lost our soul as a nation.” It’s exactly what Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara were saying 40 years ago, and still untrue.


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