Watching a young Asa Hutchinson operate in the smartest-guys-in-the-room-style of Washington politics in the 1990s, the Republican Party’s Grand Old Man, Richard Nixon, said, “I find the way his jib is trimmed appealing. What about you, Hank?” “Ach du lieber,” Kissinger replied.
Congressman Hutchinson, who’d been a federal prosecutor devoid of scruple, was at the time pursuing Bill Clinton for the offense of being elected president while Democratic. Hutchinson was also courting the media tirelessly, persuading many pundits that he was an honorable and genteel man, far from the other boundless brutes of the Republican prosecution. Republican leaders promoted the dishonest notion that Hutchinson deserved credit for prosecuting in a nonpartisan manner.
The truth was that Hutchinson had been chosen for the assignment because he represented a safely Republican district, one the party was sure to retain control of, regardless of the outcome of the Clinton prosecution. And that Hutchinson looked like a comer in Republican politics. Hutchinson accepted the assignment for these reasons. He knew there was no case against Clinton. An honorable man would have declined a place on the Republican prosecutorial team. That Hutchinson could rise above honor is what won him Nixon’s admiration, and the backing of his party in several elections. He lost every one of them. Voters are almost always more discerning than pundits.
We were reminded of the shabby Hutchinson record last week. Now a Republican gubernatorial candidate, he sought the endorsement of the Arkansas Education Association, the school teachers’ union, friend and defender of the state’s school children and their working-class parents. On losing the endorsement, Hutchinson derided the AEA as an affiliate of the “left-leaning” National Education Association and said the AEA endorsement of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross put Ross in a league with Barack Obama and union bosses. Former President Nixon was heard to say “That’s my boy.”