Monday, November 18, 2013

Reluctant Take on Milligan-Baird Dispute

"Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people." - attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt
Uggghhh! This is the kind of story I really don't like writing.   Usually I will wait a few days to see if a story like this either goes away on its own or someone else says what I was thinking and saves me the trouble of writing it out.  Usually young Nick Horton over on the Arkansas Project gets close, and he is giving the story extensive coverage, but on this one I think we have somewhat different takes on the matter.  Talk Business also has the story.   Reluctantly, I am going to weigh in on it, but I am going to try to make this story as much about ideas as it is about people.

For those not familiar with the back-story, Rep. Duncan Baird of Rogers and Dennis Milligan, former state Chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, are running against each other for the Republican nomination for state Treasurer.   During the early most recent special session, after visiting a local tavern, Baird took an early-morning (as in 2 AM) tour of the capitol with several other legislators, Davy Carter, John Burris, and Micah Neal, and a couple of females.  They wanted to go on the roof of the capitol building, but the guard would not let them.  Someone in the group threatened to complain to the Secretary of State.

Milligan got video of the events of the night, and emails relating to it, via a FOIA request.   He then met with Baird and threatened to go public with whatever he thought he had unless Baird dropped out of the race.  I am not sure that the things which Milligan tired to make into a mountain even rose to the level of a mole hill.  Milligan asked Baird how his wife would feel about it if she knew he was out drinking and wandering around the capitol building in a group with other women present in the wee hours.  Milligan disputes that he asked Baird to leave the race, but Baird was secretly recording the meeting and it is hard to get any other other meaning of what Milligan was trying to convey from those words.

The natural human reaction, and the training of our culture, is that when something like this happens we want to find out who the "good guy" is and who the "bad guy" is.   Who is the "criminal" and who is the "victim"?  I have learned to look past the binary thinking that the system is attempting to condition us all to accept.  If I have anything of value to offer on this story it will be on that basis.

This story is simply a symptom of a much larger problem- a broken candidate selection system.   There is not a good guy and a bad guy in this story- there are two guys who should not be considered the best this state has to offer for Treasurer of State.    There is not a criminal and a victim here- unless the people of Arkansas are the victims of the two-party system which has brought candidate selection to this low place.

What we have here is not the story of a flawed candidate, but two flawed candidates. That is easier to see with Dennis Milligan.   Most of the reaction to Milligan's antics in this matter has been negative- and it should be.   His actions in this situation were neither smart nor honorable.   But then, this is nothing new.    He frequently sounded like a buffoon during his brief tenure as party chairman, such as the time he suggested that America needed another 9-11 in order to bolster support for Bush the Younger's mis-adventures at home and abroad.   He also said that grassroots republicans should quit using the term "RINO" to describe other Republicans.  I agree with him, but not for the same reasons he had for saying that.

But while everyone else is jumping on the "let's tar and feather Milligan" lynch mob, they are missing something really important here. Like Milligan, they missed the real scandal.   Baird does not appear to be a good candidate for the Treasurer's office either.   I don't mean because he was out partying with women not-his-wife in the wee hours.  If Mrs. Baird does not have a problem with it then who am I to object?   This episode is a scandal, but not because Baird was out partying, to all appearances innocently, with these women.

The scandal should be that Baird was caught out partying with House Speaker Davy Carter and Majority Leader John Burris.   These two men have already shown themselves to be less than honest- which is the same thing people are jumping all over Milligan about.   Duncan Baird was an honest man, and perhaps he still is one, although not one that I would want to have a private conversation with, given his predilection to record them.  But even if he is still an honest man, it now seems that he prefers the company of dishonest ones, and I notice that scripture admonishes us "do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals."

Davy Carter said that "A vote for the private option is a vote against Obamacare."   Carter was attempting "The Big Lie Theory."    In the internet age though, Big Lies are harder to pull off, and when Carter was called on it, his response was not facts or reason, but rather a Twitter Tantrum.

John Burris was Carter's right-hand man in imposing Obamacare on the state- the worst possible version of Obamacare because it combines the worst of socialized medicine and crony-capitalism.   And he too was willing to make bold yet false statements to help implement this disaster.  "Nothing could be further from the truth" than to say the private option was Obamacare, Burris proclaimed from the House floor.   Well, turns out that anything that was in the least untrue could be further from the truth.  The "Private Option" is Obamacare in a hat and sunglasses, and after 2016 even those are set to come off.

So Baird, the one-time champion of ethics legislation, is now running buddies with the two house members most responsible for imposing Obamacare on the state.  This after the people gave the Republicans a legislative majority for the first time in our lives based on the idea that they would resist the implementation of Obamacare to the maximum extent possible under the law.  Bad company corrupts good morals.

And come to think of it, Baird was among those who voted for implementing Obamacare after running against it too.  In fact, a lot of the Republican candidates for state-wide office are among those who flipped on the defining issue of the previous campaign.:   Baird for Treasurer, Collins for Lt. Governor, Lea for Auditor.    If the party system was working correctly, the grassroots could retaliate by getting their own credible opponents for these races.   Lea may have one in Ken Yang, but Milligan is not grassroots opposition, he is just a party operative trying ham-fisted insider tactics to eliminate the opposition.

The special interests (insurance and hospital lobbies) which stand to gain from Obamacare can reward the sell-outs by donating to their campaigns a small fraction of the loot they will get from the taxpayers under this program.   So in this state we have a completely crooked and dishonest Democratic party, and a Republican party run by the likes of Milligan and Carter.

We have a system which funds those politicians who sell out to special interests, and the insiders of both sides seem to like each other more than they do the honest members of their own party.   When Sec. of State Mark Martin was slandered by Gov. Mike Beebe and the Democratic Party of Arkansas recently, the state GOP did not even put up a press release on their website to defend him.   The Republican Majority Leader of the Senate could not be bothered to defend Martin either, but did defend felonious Democrat Paul Bookout, who was forced to resign in disgrace anyway.

We have problems with the candidate selection system in this state which cannot be fixed by simply seeing who shows up for a party primary, then designating one of them the "good guy" and the other the "bad guy."   The first critical step to fixing it, IMO, starts at or something like it.


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