Good ol’ Bubba. He never disappoints. He’s always reaching for something new to feed his ravenous ego, now that age has withered, among other things, his ravenous libido.
He has persuaded the real-estate hustlers, small-town hucksters and dime-store merchants who mismanage things in Little Rock to rename the municipal airport to carry his name — and Miss Hillary‘s, of course — unto the next millennium. Or at least until someone else runs things.
The Little Rock Airport Commission has been trying to clean up, or at least hide, scandal and mismanagement. Now the commission thinks it would be cool to erase the name of a hometown Air National Guard pilot killed in the line of duty, which has adorned the airport for 75 years, and replace it with the name of the nation’s most celebrated draft dodger.
Adams Field would become the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, though neither Bonnie nor Clod is even from Little Rock. Hillary’s a yankee to boot. Capt. George Geyer Adams, the dumpee, was born into an old Little Rock family and was a National Guard pilot who died when a propeller exploded in his face. The airport was named to honor him on the eve of World War II, when sacrifice in arms was valued above all else, and celebrity was mere afterthought.
The press agent for the airport commission — Hillary was once the commission’s lawyer — insists that the idea “originated” with the commission, and only after that did the commission “reach out” to the Clintons on “appropriate naming options.” Nobody in Little Rock believes that. Bonnie and Clod have tried for years to get the airport named for one or the other of them, and the commission concedes that a sketch for the new airport sign, to be bathed in a blue light reminiscent of the Hot Springs bordellos of Bubba’s youth, was some time ago submitted to Bubba and the missus for their approval.
Bubba is worried that he will eventually be remembered only as a stain on a little blue dress or as a president impeached for lying under oath, since the impeachment trial was the highlight of his eight years in the White House. Worse, perhaps, he was not even the first president to be impeached. He has to share that distinction through the ages with a president who hung out with Republicans. The ignominy of it.
Nobody has ever accused the Clintons of good taste and a cultured sense of occasion and propriety, and not everyone in Little Rock is happy about switching such a signal honor from military hero to draft dodger. “A pretty high-handed bunch runs things here,” a prominent Democratic lawyer from an old-line family says, begging anonymity. “Mike Huckabee once described Arkansas as a banana republic, and maybe that was harsh, because he was talking mostly about Little Rock. The good ol’ boys think Bubba is good for business.”
Bubba and his pals stirred up folks several years ago when he tried to get Markham Street, one of the longest and most prominent streets in town, renamed President Clinton Avenue. He finally settled for a small stretch of the street which runs a few blocks through a lively riverfront honkytonk district to his new presidential library, perched above the south bank of the Arkansas River like an imposing double-wide mobile home lifted out of a trailer park. The architect who designed it clearly had a taste for wit and irony.
The good ol’ boys take good care of each other. Last year, Ron Mathieu, the executive director of the airport, allocated $40,000 to the private school his son attended to pay for a new surface on the football field. The airport in return was to get an advertisement painted on the grass. The stink that followed forced the return of the money, and Mr. Mathieu was denied a pay raise. This year the commission raised his pay and gave him a $10,000 bonus.
The good ol’ boys fear a new controversy once the public gets on to the dumping of Capt. Adams to make room for interlopers and outlanders. The airport spokesman says the renaming is meant to celebrate four new gates and ticketing and baggage-handling improvements. And there’s finally going to be a direct flight from Little Rock to Reagan National Airport in Washington, to “serve as a unique and symbolic link between two of our nation’s great presidential administrations.” Better honor by association than no honor at all.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.