In the interest of good taste and his own political advancement, Governor Huckabee should take that $3,700 pair of cowboy boots the state Republican Party gave him and donate them to a worthy charity like the ACLU or Planned Parenthood. The boots could be sold to raise funds for separation of church and state, or abortion rights, making something good out of something bad. (A show of versatility by the governor might also impress pundits studying presidential candidates. In regard to gifts, Huckabee is known only as a catcher, not a pitcher.)

Nobody needs a $3,700 pair of cowboy boots. Or a $37 pair, for that matter. They are the most uncomfortable and pretentious footwear ever devised. And not widely worn in Arkansas, except by pathetic would-be Texans. It’s Texans who have a deep need to play cowboy, as President Bush is showing the world, to the world’s horror. We’ll bet he has closets full of expensive cowboy boots, donated by Kenny Lay and the Saudi royal family, among others. Hats too, probably.

It’s true that one of Arkansas’s great governors, Winthrop Rockefeller, wore cowboy boots and hats, but Rockefeller came from New York, put on Western attire mistakenly believing it was the norm throughout this whole section of the country, and was later too embarrassed to admit the mistake. In his case, it did no real harm. He was brave, big-hearted, humble, a fierce crusader for civil rights — no one ever mistook Winthrop Rockefeller for a Texan.

Huckabee doesn’t have that sort of stature. In cowboy boots, he might well be taken for another Bush. Kiss the White House goodbye if that happens.

Confused in the saddle

Speaking of cowboys, the movie cowboys of our youth defended the weak against their oppressors, the widows against the bankers foreclosing on the mortgage, the small farmer against the giant land pirate. Hopalong Bush is unclear on the concept. When he a submits a federal budget to Congress, he punishes the little people, proposing cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education, environmental protection, health research and other programs that help the people who need help. At the same time, he rides to the aid of the richest Americans, proposing to extend their undeserved tax cuts even further. All but one member of the Arkansas congressional delegation have rightly condemned Bush’s budget. The usual slacker, Rep. John Boozman of Rogers, is again missing from action. The people of Northwest Arkansas should send detectives out to find where and how he spends his time when he’s supposed to be representing them in Washington. There’s something else wrong with Bush’s interpretation of the cowboy role. He needs a lovable, comical sidekick. Dick Cheney doesn’t nearly fit the part.


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