Governor Hutchinson made yet another national TV appearance this morning, on CNN’s State of the Union, and it found him tiptoeing again.
He’s thrown in with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s publicity stunt to join a surge of Republican governor-dispatched troopers and troops to the Texas border to heighten the appearance of a crisis to pin on Joe Biden. On CNN today, he disagreed that it was political theater, claiming a crisis that demanded state support
But he said South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was setting a bad example by allowing a Tennessee fat cat to pay for the cost of her Guard troopers to go to Texas. He said he wouldn’t have accepted a donation and that the Arkansas Guard will be paid by the state budget.
Yes, after a fashion. But don’t forget. These are summer soldiers with real jobs. When they are called to duty, their employers must allow them time off to serve — for up to 90 days in this case for what the governor has called a “training exercise” for a group serving in a motor pool capacity. There are training exercises every summer for Guard troops, FYI.
“Not for this purpose. This is a state function. It is something that we respond to other states in terms of disaster.” The governor continued: “I would consider it a bad precedent to have it privately funded. Now, whenever you are looking at supplemental pay for some state employees, we use private foundation money, so it is not an across-the-board rule against that.”
He’s both a political opportunist and hypocrite, too, in other words. Take a look at the regular $50,000-plus pay supplement from private money to Hutchinson’s pet, Commerce Secretary Mike Preston, despite a lacklustre record except when it comes to polishing big business knobs with special handling. Working stiffs don’t get the same treatment. In fact, they got cut off federal unemployment benefits 10 weeks early thanks to Hutchinson.
The Guard question came only after another round of questioning about Arkansas’s abysmal vaccination rate for COVID-19, a segment that opened with UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson’s worry about a “third surge” of the virus in the state.
Would he reconsider a mask mandate? Hutchinson dodged Dana Bash’s question. He said vaccinations were the answer. He said he was concerned about the rise in the Delta variant and infections among younger people. But, he said Arkansas is celebrating the Fourth with, among others, Pops on the River in Little Rock. That likely means a mass of unmasked, unvaccinated Arkansans cramming together down on the river. But Hutchinson noted vaccinations will be offered at the event
Hutchinson also put on his scientist uniform and said he didn’t think the state would experience a third surge.
I think our vaccination rate is sufficient that we can avoid the surge in hospitalizations that puts us in jeopardy. But that remains to be seen. And we’re — we are in a race. And if we stopped right here, and we didn’t get greater percent of our population vaccinated, then we’re going to have trouble in the next school year and over the winter.
So, we want to get ahead of that curve. Working very hard to do that.
BASH: Governor, why are you having so much trouble getting people vaccinated? Why is it so hard?
HUTCHINSON: Well, in a rural state, in a conservative state, there is hesitancy. And you’re trying to overcome that.
We got the early vaccinations out because people were anxious. They were in a very vulnerable population. Our cases went down dramatically. And that slowed the vaccination rate. The urgency diminished. And now it’s picking up again.
One of the things we’re going to concentrate on is working with our employers. They’re really one of the keys. As Jeff Zients said, obviously, the medical professionals are most trusted, but the employers have an opportunity to make it accessible for them, give them paid time off, the employees, they can go get vaccination, and to encourage them with the right level of education and information.
Those are the kind of strategies that I think will make a difference in the coming days.
Blaming the low vaccination rate on the rural nature of the state is another way of saying we are a Trump state. That tribe doesn’t believe in masks, shots or facts.
He naturally said he supported the bipartisan infrastructure bill but opposed Democratic plans for further economic stimulus.
He’s a Republican, in other words. Just not a Trumplican. That’s a small number these days with only a few areas of separation.