Among the questions that stacked up during my absence along with those about progress in the Naramore child death in Hot Springs and the absence of an attorney general’s opinion on open carry was a question about Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s rare use of the Arkansans Ask Q&A format on AETN.
Gov. Mike Beebe did the show at least quarterly, and often monthly during legislative periods, his spokesman Matt DeCample recalled when I asked him about their practice.
Hutchinson has appeared once, taking questions from Steve Barnes and viewers in an hour-long program April 6. It seemed uneventful in my cursory review. He basked in the afterglow of a successful legislative session and handled smoothly some questions about some of the hot button issues of the day.
He hasn’t been back, not even around the time of the recent special legislative session.
I inquired. Hutchinson’s spokesman, J.R. Davis, said the show is a “great format,” but the governor likely won’t appear as often as his predecessors. “It’s tough to get it onto the schedule,” he said. “The governor is probably going to do it again in the fall.” But he said the appearances “won’t happen as often.”
Another correspondent mentioned that Hutchinson hadn’t made an appearance at Arkansas Governor’s School last summer, the first time the namesake has not appeared in the summer program for talented student’s long history. Governors have sometimes taken some tough questions there, particularly when Mike Huckabee had the program in his sights for supposedly objectionable material.
Again, Davis said scheduling was the problem. He said the school was a “fantastic tradition.” The governor was out of the country when school opened, the day the governor traditionally speaks. And an alternate time couldn’t be arranged, he said.
I’d add as a postscript that there’s a growing tradition in politics — bipartisan, though I’ve encountered it more often on the Republican side — to more closely control public as well as media access and to reduce exposure to unscripted questions. Gaffe avoidance and message control are everything.
But, in that vein, I’ve actually found Hutchinson somewhat more accessible, particularly than many of his Republican counterparts in Arkansas. I had, in fact, just this morning finished a column for this week making that same point.