Ready … aim …

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - John Brum­mett John Brum­mett, whose col­umn ap­pears reg­u­larly in the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette, was in­ducted into the Arkansas Writ­ers’ Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at jbrum­mett@ arkansason­ Read his @john­brum­mett Twit­ter feed.

It’s been for­ever since we fired ar­rows to take stock of the con­ven­tional wis­dom of our un­com­monly volatile po­lit­i­cal age. Don­ald Trump has com­manded our sin­gle fo­cus. Nat­u­rally, we must start there.

Pres­i­dent Trump—How could a man pos­si­bly mess up the pres­i­den- cy with the econ­omy per­form­ing well, with ISIS in re­treat and with­out a ma­jor ter­ror­ist in­ci­dent on our soil?

There would be only one way. He could fail by be­hav­ing so poorly and er­rat­i­cally as to be over­whelm­ingly dis­ap­proved of per­son­ally or feared as men­tally or emo­tion­ally un­sta­ble. That’s how Trump finds him­self with an ap­proval rat­ing be­low 40 per­cent, as low as 33 per­cent in one poll.

But there is this con­sid­er­a­tion: With per­sonal be­hav­ior as his prob­lem, he could al­ways im­prove his stand­ing with bet­ter be­hav­ior.

Or could he? Is he ca­pa­ble? It begins to ap­pear not.

Hav­ing Robert Mueller find some du­bi­ous busi­ness deal of his with Rus­sians … that’s idle spec­u­la­tion at this point, though a fac­tor as long as a grand jury is in place and Mueller’s as­sign­ment re­mains to in­ves­ti­gate any other mat­ters aris­ing from the Trump-Rus­sian cam­paign col­lu­sion charges at the cen­ter of his work.

Chief of Staff John Kelly—He has said his job is to man­age the White House staff, not the pres­i­dent. Wrong. His job, if done prop­erly to pro­duce pos­i­tive re­sults, must be to man­age both. He must jerk two knots—one in the neck of the White House staff and an­other in the neck of the mad­man in the Oval Of­fice.

Kelly can turn this White House staff into the tight­est ship known to White Houses, and Trump can undo it all with one tweet or one ad-libbed ed­i­to­rial aban­don­ment of the teleprompter.

Sarah Huck­abee San­ders—She is de­fend­ing the in­de­fen­si­ble, and there’s no de­fend­ing that, but even the New York Times has pro­filed her as low-key, com­pe­tent and po­ten­tially a vast im­prove­ment over Sean Spicer.

In an in­ter­view with the Times, she said there’d been a time or two when Trump said some­thing that both­ered her—only a time or two?—but that good Chris­tians know we all sin and fall short.

Yes, all are im­per­fect, but I’ll leave to more qual­i­fied the­o­log­i­cal de­bate whether that truth is prop­erly used as a crutch and get-out-of-jail card for the likes of Trump.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cot­ton—Trump’s fa­vorite sen­a­tor, ac­cord­ing to con­ser­va­tive ra­dio king­maker Hugh He­witt, doesn’t de­serve the Arkansas sup­port he can take for granted while he nur­tures his na­tional pro­file.

As Trump be­haves in a way that ren­ders the GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion in 2020 un­cer­tain, Cot­ton is po­ten­tially what they call a “fu­sion con­ser­va­tive.” That means a Repub­li­can politi­cian con­ceiv­ably able to meld the Trump base with the Tea Partiers with the evan­gel­i­cals with the Koch-nour­ished eco­nomic right-wingers.

This guy is as am­bi­tious as a young Bill Clin­ton was, and, in a way, as for­mi­da­ble. He is not the gifted re­tail politi­cian Clin­ton was—no one is—but he seems adept in po­si­tion­ing him­self, whether from proud blus­ter on de­fense to cau­tious fi­nesse on health care.

That Arkansas pol­i­tics has turned en­tirely up­side down since Clin­ton’s time is ev­i­denced by the crit­i­cism Clin­ton got for ne­glect­ing Arkansas for his na­tional am­bi­tion while Cot­ton barely both­ers with Arkansas and gets home-front at­taboys for it.

That’s what hap­pens when ca­ble news and the In­ter­net na­tion­al­ize all pol­i­tics.

Democrats—They need, and don’t have, a “fu­sion lib­eral” to blend Bernie San­ders and the es­tab­lish­ment. “A bet­ter deal” sounds like what it is—a con­trived at­tempt at a slo­gan, akin to “make Amer­i­can ad­e­quate again.”

French Hill—Be­cause he is the doc­tri­naire con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can con­gress­man from Cen­tral Arkansas, he will be called to ac­count for vot­ing for that Oba­macare re­peal bill that was so bad that Trump called it “mean” weeks af­ter he cel­e­brated it.

Hill will sur­vive po­lit­i­cally be­cause Sa­line, Faulkner and White coun­ties will wipe out Pu­laski County’s Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity. But he’ll be put on de­fense on health care in ways that Steve Wo­mack, Rick Craw­ford, Bruce Wester­man, John Booz­man and Cot­ton won’t.

Gov. Asa Hutchin­son—He has only one prob­lem, which is my re­peated pub­lished in­sis­tence that, if we’re go­ing to be stuck with a Repub­li­can gov­er­nor, he’s the one to be stuck with. I be­lieve him to be the cen­ter-right coun­ter­point to the cen­ter-left Mike Beebe, and that, be­tween them, Arkansas has been for­tu­nate and well-led.

Bret Bielema—We’re en­dur­ing the chronic ir­ra­tional ex­u­ber­ance be­set­ting Ra­zor­back foot­ball fans. Switch­ing to a 3-4 setup on de­fense puts more sub­par lineback­ers on the field than be­fore and doesn’t af­fect whether your de­fen­sive backs can cover re­ceivers. In a scrim­mage Satur­day, Austin Allen com­pleted 19 of 23 passes against his team’s sec­ondary.

The good news is that 6-6 teams reg­u­larly go to bowls any­more.

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