Sen. Jason Rapert, and other members of the Senate Republican caucus, are not happy that Rapert’s angry comments about Gov. Asa Hutchinson relative to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling found their way on to the Arkansas Blog.
July 3, I reported that Rapert had sent a tirade to other senators because the governor had said county clerks had no choice but to issue marriage licenses, no matter how much he might dislike the Supreme Court’s decision extending marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Then, I printed another Rapert letter in which he said the governor should follow the hard-line resistance message put out by Arkansas Baptist preacher Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Rapert’s subsequent eruptions made clear his displeasure. They included some veiled threats about a legal reaction to those who’d publish his private communications without his permission. Welcome to the world of public service.
Rapert hasn’t let it die. He’s still mad at Gov. Hutchinson. After all, Rapert voted for Obamacare from beginning to end, giving Hutchinson the extension of private option he needed for his budget. Rapert apparently thinks he should get a lot in return.
Today I learned that he’s insisted that other members of the Republican caucus agree to release their emails so Rapert can attempt to find a leak. Unbelievably, the caucus is apparently willing to go along with the Bully of Bigelow’s witch hunt. Need I say that allowing any hothead to order up invasions of privacy of others’ communication is a bad precedent? And fruitless.
I don’t think it’s a good practice, either, to put public employees to work on this kind of thing. I am checking, but I presume legislative staff’s tech department has been assigned the chore. Is a state employee likely to object? Not when they witch hunters control their paychecks.
The irony is rich. Rapert thought HIS privacy was violated by release of his letter to 24 senators and others on a public policy dispute with the governor. Now he’s going to give state employees and his designated henchmen the ability to paw through communications to senators from their constituents, perhaps on highly sensitive personal matters. Talk about an invasion of privacy.
There is some good news, though. The Republican caucus met with Gov. Asa Hutchinson today. By accounts I’ve received, Rapert repeated his rant against the governor,but the governor did not retreat. The governor’s office said only this:
The Governor did meet with the senate caucus this morning, just like he did with the house and black caucuses last week. It was a good exchange and the Governor considers it a private discussion with the members.
Hutchinson has met a lot tougher than Rapert in his career in law enforcement. A slapdown was in order. But the most obvious response is simple: What exactly would Rapert have the governor do? Talk meaner about the gays? That’s about the only option. As Louisiana Gov. Earl Long supposedly told devoted seg Leander Perez when he was threatening resistance to desegregation orders in the 1960s, “Leander, the feds have the atom bomb.” They still do, figuratively and otherwise.
But note this: There ARE fractures in the Republican caucus. The dead-enders are spoiling for a schoolhouse door moment a la George Wallace on gay marriage. That Hutchinson won’t give it to them is a credit on his ledger. But other fights are possible. Birth certificates for same-sex couples, for example. That could take legislative action. Imagine Bro. Rapert in the Senate well on that one, with the family Bible opened to Leviticus.
Hutchinson needs all the help he can get in a state that has become increasingly controlled by the legislative branch. (That happens to be the subject of my column this week, to be posted later today.)
News today reports that the governor is spending a bunch of surplus on ongoing operations, particularly at prisons. With tax cuts coming, he really needs continuation of the private option — that Obamacare program that Rapert so helpfully delivered despite his nonstop tirade against the president and his health care program. Who knows what the future holds.