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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: The fickle arrows fly

by John Brummett | May 30, 2021 at 8:56 a.m.

A reader sends a message that he hasn't seen the arrows of conventional wisdom in quite some time. It could have been an observation, complaint, request or celebration.

Let's take it as a request, and oblige.

Thus we'll be in keeping with an irregular tradition in this space of firing arrows on long holiday weekends--Memorial and Labor--that necessitate the writing of Tuesday's column before week's end.

You write five of these in a week and you're entitled to lean on an arrow's crutch once in a great while. That's my story, anyway.

Remember that the arrowed feature began decades ago, in part as a spoof on fleeting conventional wisdom, which has been known to change between composition and publication. The concept was stolen--adapted, I mean--from a Newsweek magazine feature.

Be aware also that, a few years ago, I stopped use of the crossways arrow on the premise that punting should not be allowed, that an arrow either should go up or down and that to fire one neutrally is to fire none at all.

Arrows reflect not my preference, as you'll soon see, but my grudging assessment. It hurts to shoot some of these, indeed most. So, let's get it over with.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson--A Republican governor of currently gone-mad Arkansas dissing many in his ruling extreme-right party to The New York Times and appearing on "The View" is one who is fast moving on.

Donald Trump--Arkansas is his domain, fully in service to his ego and the next election-stealing insurrection attempt. Joe Biden's acknowledging that we now must look into reports that covid really was a "Chinese virus," meaning an accidentally leaked and covered-up lab creation in Wuhan, gives Trump the tragic opportunity to crow that he told us so.

Tom Cotton--He also can say he told us so. He is well-positioning himself for post-Trump American conservatism, in which he is emerging as a leading thinker and champion. He also is a pioneer in a new American politics in which having a good personality no longer matters. Only angry resentment is important, and that is Tom's forte.

He also is an uncommonly young man of influence, spawning such imitative atrocities as state Sen. Trent Garner of El Dorado, and using his PAC to fortify and ingratiate himself with colleagues such as the needy GOP congressman in the Second District, French Hill.

French Hill--See immediately preceding item. To his credit, he voted for the bipartisan commission to investigate the Trump insurrection of Jan. 6. But to earn credit in this space and on that matter is essentially to plead for a downward arrow of conventional wisdom's fickle fate.

Joe Biden--He's doing well enough, although there once was a time when an American president would have been the first political figure appearing in these arrowed columns. I almost forgot to put him in at all.

But boring forgettableness is pretty much what the country needs right now.

Kamala Harris--Whatever happened to her? Has she taken firm command of the border crisis and I missed it?

Frank Scott--This one hurts as much as the upward arrows for Trump and Cotton. He emerged as, and still could be, the very thing Little Rock needs, a galvanizing generational force. But his overdue attempt to redefine the mayor's role as a true political chief executive--submitting plans to the city board members rather than trying to build pre-emptive consensus--has been clumsier than it needed to be, serving mostly to polarize.

Just the other evening, a board member asked him if it would be all right if she offered suggestions on how the state might spend federal pandemic-relief millions, rather than simply wait for him to tell her what he wanted her to do, as his comments had indicated.

The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville--In the current climate, a leading institution of higher education faces two imperatives. One is to raise a ton of private money from rich people. The other is to adapt to modern thinking on race, which is that sins and neglect in the past can no longer be excused. The J. William Fulbright statute and college-naming issue puts the UA in a wholly untenable situation.

The need for private money from rich people--some of whom would object to insulting the largely noble Fulbright legacy--will prevail, one has to think, and Fulbright will prominently remain. But there could be a cost affecting reputation and vital future diversity.

Jim Hendren--Talk of an independent gubernatorial candidacy has faded. His new Common Ground Arkansas, well-intentioned and well-staffed, needs to amount to more than a state version of the national No Labels movement, also well-intentioned and well-staffed. No Labels is as-yet unable to create a center-leveraging force changing the hostile binary dynamic that leaves national politics silly and dysfunctional.

We await Common Ground's signs of life and relevance, never mind effectiveness.

Me--I just fired nine arrows and eight of them--all but Biden's almost forgotten upward arrow--pierced my heart.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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