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Steve Barnes


GAINESVILLE, Ga. — She could not abide being referred to as a “mother-in-law.” Perhaps she’d heard too many jokes by too many now long-dead comedians, of the genre that appeared regularly on the Ed Sullivan Show. Naturally I honored her wishes: she would be introduced as “Amy’s mother.” Her two daughters-in-law would follow the same linguistic protocol, so she was “Mike’s mother” and “Chris’s mom.”


Several days before the F.B.I. announced it would not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton, I received an e-mail from Facebook. It seemed my wife wanted to “Friend” me. Should I consent, I had only to click “Confirm” and we could keep up with one another, exchange photographs, share memories, etc., etc.


A new poll of Arkansas voters by the Talk Business/Hendrix College partnership indicates our former First Lady, of Arkansas and the U.S., is most definitely not first in our collective esteem. Were the presidential election to be held today Hillary Clinton would lose Arkansas to Donald Trump by eleven — that is 1-1 — points.


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – An attractive city it is, certainly from the Interstate, which permits a surface examination, nothing more than can be absorbed in the 10- or 15- minutes that unimpeded traffic allows: glass and steel office buildings, the sense of urban vibrancy accentuated by a downtown revival, the restoration of use to buildings once deemed useless but spared, somehow, from the modern woodsman’s axe — the developer’s wrecking ball.

The greatest there ever was

I knew just enough about boxing to enter the ring once too often at the old Pine Bluff Boy’s Club, which is to say I had just enough sense to get knocked senseless in the very first seconds of my fourth “bout.” I had had only enough judgment to assess my opponent as a harmless rube until he helped me to my feet, sincerely concerned that I was okay. I would not answer the bell (there was none) for Round Two because Round One had lasted but about ten seconds, and since I was too dazed to throw in the towel (there were none) one of the club’s operatives tossed it for me, bless him.


We were lunching, a trio: two journalists and another native Arkansan, a veteran of Washington politics, including service to Bill and Hillary Clinton in their eight White House years, and who remains in fairly close touch with both. Decades of acquaintanceship and the off-the-record atmosphere made for a relaxed, reflective and candid two hours. The conversation naturally turned to Hillary, her prospective presidency, how it might unfold.


We’re interconnected, aren’t we? The Middle East, Arkansas, its governor and General Assembly, its Highway Commission. And the little old lady in [Editors: choose your town] who is driving a car a third smaller than her last one but which is getting a third better mileage.

Researching the opposition

Opposition research, as it’s called, has been underway for decades. Every public utterance by Hillary Clinton has been vacuumed from the public record: newspapers, magazines, television and radio tapes, speech transcripts, White House letters and logs, congressional testimony, Senate papers, State Department correspondence (save for whatever may be, or may have been, on the personal e-mail server she used). As it becomes available, that is; some White House documents, stored at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, have yet to be catalogued and opened to inspection, a process that surely will bring more accusations that the National Archives is acceding to pressure from the Clintons to drag its feet.

Trump, state of the GOP

It is difficult to envision U.S. Sen. John Boozman losing his re-election bid this November, but you have to give his opponent credit for giving it his best. Conner Eldridge, the Democratic nominee, is keeping as vigorous a calendar as his resources permit, and rarely a day passes without an e-mailed press release scorching, or trying to scorch, the Republican incumbent.

In memory of Ray Thornton

The night before Ray Thornton of Arkansas died I was reading a biography of Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. And making notes about Adlai and Arkansas (the connections abundant and well-known) and what he would make of today’s politics. (That column, coming soon). The book was on my desk in the morning when on my computer screen appeared the first word of Thornton’s death. The physical resemblance the two men shared — nose, eyes, the hairline (or absence of one) — amused rather than startled.


Ask any bartender: drinking at lunch has practically ended among the employed of all occupations. Which is why you need the evening hours to find Democrats who believe Hillary Clinton has even a 50-50 chance of winning Arkansas in November.


Allen Gordon, an attorney, former state senator and seasoned politico, went to the polls on March 1. Born and reared at Morrilton and elected repeatedly as a Democrat in the years before term limits, Gordon knows everybody in and around Conway County, but: “Who are these people?” he asked his wife, she as bewildered as he. Jamming the line at their voting station were men and women he didn’t recognize. This, in a county of 20,000 souls.

Split within the GOP

The deep division within the Republican Party — the “Establishment” versus the insurgents — has made for a frightening presidential nominating season. Even before the campaigns pushed everything else off the stage, the schism made governing in Washington a continuing nightmare for the GOP congressional leadership, and indeed prompted the resignation of the nation’s then-top Republican, Speaker John Boehner.

History’s lessons lost on today’s political scene

Millions of Americans, surely, believed they had better things to do on Presidents’ Day than watch national politics on television. And those who did tune in almost certainly were watching the spectacle that is consuming the Republican Party. Or the less riveting insurrection nagging the Hillary Clinton campaign. All of it in living color.

Former Arkansans, in Iowa, New Hampshire

The city of White Hall has done a lot of growing over the past couple of decades. From traffic lights to businesses and all manner of residential developments, White Hall is growing up. One thing that hasn’t kept pace with all this growth: The White Hall High School. If you were a student there in 1981 the core amenities would look pretty familiar.

Anti-abortion witch hunts at work

There is much news about one of the most controversial issues of our day. Since it competes with the noise that invariably accompanies any discussion of it, especially in a presidential election year, it can be difficult to peel the details free of the decibels. The issue, yes, is abortion: a shameful if legal practice, some sincerely believe, and some more sincerely than others; though the question at hand is apportioning the shame among the political class.