House of chaos

The fallout from a governor’s office that’s far more intent on raising the governor’s national political profile than it is on actually running state government continues.

Last week, I wrote about a sweeping directive from the governor’s office that has left people across state government scratching their heads. The order was that there must be approval from the governor’s office before anyone can speak with the media.

Consider the fact that many state departments have full-time people who deal with the media. Let’s say that I’m in such a position at the state Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. I get a call from a newspaper reporter doing a travel piece on Arkansas. That reporter is in Chicago and on deadline.

Must I get permission from the governor’s office before I return the call?

Or is the order directed specifically toward certain people in Arkansas (which would be even worse and signal a paranoia unlike anything we’ve seen in Arkansas since the Faubus administration)?

I do hope the news side of my newspaper and other media outlets in Arkansas can find the time to dig for answers to these questions.

Here’s part of an email I received from an agency director: “The order was handed down to us through my immediate supervisor, who indicated to me that he did not know what to make of it or how exhaustively or literally to carry it out. I have not yet received additional guidance on how to honor the administration’s order while still being able to converse with all comers. I live in hope, however, of either this happening or the order being effectively, if slowly, walked back.”

Gov. Sarah Sanders continues to receive bad advice from the out-of-state political apparatchiks in her office, the group I’ve dubbed the Traveling Trumpettes. Only a political hack would advise the governor to do an exclusive interview on changes affecting Arkansas schoolchildren with The Washington Examiner (a far-right publication on the East Coast) rather than a publication Arkansans would actually see.

Here’s my hope: There are other people the governor listens to and trusts who will tell her what she needs to hear, not what she necessarily wants to hear.

They will say something along these lines: “Cut out the angry, divisive approach. Call on your better angels. Let’s focus on building Arkansas rather than raising money nationally for a campaign that’s more than three years away.”

When this administration ends and historians write about it, the governor will look back and most appreciate not the brownnosers but those who spoke honestly. The honest ones will be those who truly cared about her personally and cared about this state. The political hacks will have long since moved on to other states and other jobs.

I ask myself each day why our governor comes across as so angry. She has lived a charmed life. Her father was a highly popular governor during her teenage and college years. She was able to see and do things unlike any other girl in Arkansas.

She has two great parents, two witty and fun brothers, a wonderful husband (make sure to read Sunday’s High Profile story on Bryan Sanders; it’s a good story on a good man) and three adorable children.

She worked at a high level at the White House and then became the nation’s youngest governor.

There should be a constant aura of gratitude, humility and pure joy (a happy warrior as we used to call them in politics) for this golden opportunity to improve life in the state where she was raised.

So are the anger, scowls and tough words (which I can only describe as redneck bravado) simply a cynical way to raise even more money from the Trump cultists nationwide?

And for what reason is that money being raised now that she has achieved her goal of becoming Arkansas’ first female governor?

I realize she’s young and is holding public office for the first time. Our prayer must be that she has the maturity to realize she’s off to an awful start, that there must be course corrections immediately and that a smile, kind words and a willingness to listen still go a long way in Arkansas.

9 Responses to “House of chaos”

  1. Every Woman in America says:

    rex is your argument against SHS really that she needs to smile more? you don’t say those words, but every woman in america knows that refrain. essentially SHS is just too angry. have you considered that certain men have a hard time seeing the little girls they knew grow up to hold positions of authority. stick to fried food, leave the patronizing condescension to the experts over at the arkansas times.

  2. Oh Please says:

    I just came here from John Brummett’s Twitter feed to say exactly what the first reply already said. Sanders is a rotten person and a terrible governor, but to focus on her lack of gratitude, humility, and kind words is ridiculous. It’s sexist.

  3. rexnelson says:

    That’s just silly, Brenda. I would say the same thing about a male governor — gratitude and humility and important traits for both males and females. Your broad brush in terming something “sexist” doesn’t work here. I don’t do broad brushes.

  4. rexnelson says:

    Wow, it really must be something to have the illusion you represent every woman. You have such power that you should have the courage to post your real name when you make comments.

  5. NotEveryMan says:

    I realize I’m a white boomer guy coming to the defense of a white boomer guy–one who, incidentally, I have found plenty to disagree with over the years. But “anger” is a behavior, not an appearance. Sanders does indeed behave in ways that exude hostility; I’d go so far as to say hatred. It is not the contrast between this and the conventions of genteel femininity that pique my judgment of the Govenor [sic]; it is the contrast between her anger and the spirit of inclusion, respect, and pursuit of the common good which I find among… every… single… progressive that I meet.

  6. Tim Taylor says:

    I find Rex spot on, again, regarding Gov. Sanders not looking to her father, former Gov. Huckabee, for guidance. I never voted for Gov. Huckabee. As a centrist Democrat, there were (and are) just too many policy differences to garner my vote.


    Overall, I approved of and admired Gov. Huckabee’s handling of the Lakeview decision and its impacts on Arkansas K12 education and his handling of Hurricane Katrina refugees. Both major tasks were handled with a sense of great gratitude, humility, and kind words. Gov. Sanders, if she is really interested in improving the lives of Arkansans rather than running for a national office, will recalibrate her political tactics and strategy to be more like her father *when he was governor of Arkansas.*

  7. Tony says:

    She is not gathering money and favors for her next gubernatorial run, she’s gathering them for her vice-presidential pitch next year, as the veep choice for whoever wins the GOP primary. That’s what her staff is hoping for, too: an office in the White House.

  8. Sara Bartlett says:

    Rex, you give Sarah Huckabee Sanders too much credit. She just continues her act of hostility, anger and annoyance toward the press that she displayed while representing Donald Trump, her “LIAR in Chief”. Sarah’s arrogance shows us that she is not intelligent enough to recognize her shortcomings. She was propelled to power through lies and hate. She is not going to change. We can only hope this will defeat her, for the sake of our state.

  9. Chris Horan says:

    I also came over here from Brummett’s column. I am also disturbed when I learned that Sarah has ordered the new secretary to the department of corrections to answer directly to her. Not the board of corrections. Is that an authoritarian move that everyone has missed? BTW the new secretary is from Arizona where their prison system is a bit of a mess. In my opinion. And I’m tired of politicians and their faux anger, designed to impress some national audience rather than actually help constituents

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