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Roundup of Arkansas editorials

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Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Jan. 12, 2014

Yes, it's over at last!

Arkansas' long statewide nightmare is over. Mark Darr has agreed to do the right thing, if shamefully late. For what had seemed like forever, he was twisting in the wind, and a whole state with him. The difference is that the whole state hadn't chosen to inflict this punishment on itself. Mark Darr inflicted all this on himself, day by day and drip by drip, like some Arkie variation of the Chinese water torture.

For a time, the man's capacity for masochism seemed indefinite, at least till his term would end a whole year from now. Or the Legislature got itself in gear and cut short his and Arkansas' misery.

This wasn't just a test of our lieutenant governor. It was a test of the Legislature's ability to tell right from wrong, too, and then act on it. And cut this ordeal short for all concerned.

To adapt a phrase from the always quotable Edmund Burke, the only thing necessary for wrong to triumph is for good men to do nothing, which is what entirely too many legislators were doing all this time while Mark Darr kept collecting his salary-plus-expenses. And continued to disgrace the good name of Arkansas every day, every hour, he remained in the state's second highest office. Which is no place to do a second-rate imitation of Richard Nixon refusing to leave the White House long after it had became all too clear he needed to go-and finally end the national nightmare called Watergate.

Or maybe the "Hon." Mark Darr was taking his cue from Jim Guy Tucker, a disgraced chief executive right here in Arkansas who, at the last minute, decided he wanted to stay the state's chief executive despite his having promised to resign. Talk about The Longest Day: The day Jim Guy Tucker tried to hold on to his office before finally, finally seeing reason had to be one of the longer ones in the state's history.

Meanwhile, more and more members of our much put upon Legislature and candidates therefor were joining the lengthening list asking Mark Darr to clear out and get them off the spot.

The state's governor and entire congressional delegation had called for the man to quit. They were joined last week by three candidates for Congress in the Fourth District-banker French Hill, former North Little Rock mayor Pat Hays, and Ann Clemmer, a state rep from Benton.

Mr. Hill may have put the case for No More Mark Darr in the most reasonable way, noting that our lieutenant governor - by his own admission - hadn't met the standards of ethics or just simple accountability demanded by his high office. And he added:

"Our legislative leaders appear headed for an impeachment proceeding. Our small state should not have to endure the emotional, reputational or financial cost of an impeachment proceeding. Mr. Darr should spare us this pain by his prompt resignation."

The prompter, the better. Mr. Darr had already dilly-dallied all too painfully long. For this was one of those sad actions that, if it be done, needed be done quickly-instead of being dragged out forever.

Pat Hays, in his call for Mark Darr to resign at last, noted the conclusive findings of both the state's ethics commission and its legislative auditors. The lieutenant governor himself didn't challenge the findings, agreeing to pay $11,000 in fines for violating state laws and/or regulations-the largest fine the ethics commission has levied against an elected state official in its history. If that wasn't gross misconduct, which is one ground for impeachment, nothing is.

Mark Darr brings to mind the defendant who agrees he's guilty but then is tempted to wiggle out of the punishment in full.

Even now the man is staying in office till the end of the month. Maybe he needs the money, having been reduced to working part-time for the pizzeria he used to own. But that's no reason for delaying his departure. It's not even an acceptable excuse. It's pitiful, like much else about the poor sap.

___

Texarkana Gazette, Jan. 14, 2014

Recess appointments

The U.S. Constitution requires those appointed to cabinet-level and other senior federal positions by the president be confirmed by a vote of the Senate.

However, when the Senate is not in session, the president has the power to fill vacancies that occur during the recess. These appointments are either confirmed by the Senate or expire with the next Senate session.

It sounds pretty straightforward, but in practice, recess appointments can be anything but.

For example, exactly what does "recess" mean? Does it mean the time between formal sessions? Does it apply to intrasession recesses, and if so, does it require the Senate to be out for a minimum period of time, or is it anytime the body adjourns for any period of time, no matter how briefly?

Presidents have increasingly used the authority to push through nominees who had little chance of being confirmed, causing more controversy.

Such is the case now before the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, the justices heard arguments over three intrasession appointments made in 2012 by President Barack Obama to the National Labor Relations Board.

The Obama administration argues such appointments are within the president's power.

Republican lawmakers say intrasession appointments are not valid. However, there have been many such appointments by both Republican and Democratic presidents in the past without much outcry.

So far, three federal courts have said the president overstepped his bounds and the Senate was not actually in recess when he made the appointment. And it looks like he might lose in the nation's highest court as well.

Both conservative and liberal justices questioned the practice of intrasession appointments - and seemed doubtful it should be allowed to continue.

Even if the president loses, it won't be as bad as it could have been. New rules in the Senate make it harder to block nominations for high office.

There is a reason the Senate must confirm appointments. It's part of the checks and balances designed to keep one branch of government from becoming too powerful. In our view, the use of recess appointments has indeed strayed from the original intent. It's time for the court to rein in this particular abuse of presidential power.

___

Log Cabin Democrat, Jan. 11, 2014

Darr's resignation more defiant than apologetic

When Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr announced his intention to resign his post on Feb. 1, those of us who received the letter immediately scanned it to find out how exactly he would let the people of Arkansas know that he understood his wrongdoings.

We scanned and scanned and scanned. Then we decided to read it closely, word by word. We found this:

I made mistakes, but not one with malicious intent.

That was it. Mistakes. Just prior to that admission was this sentence:

I have been honest, forthright and acted with integrity.

Other than the obvious grammatical error, we take issue with the integrity part. We agree that the ethical issues - using state money for personal expenses including those involving his campaign - would not be considered malicious. We also agree that once everything was brought to light, Darr did not run from the accusations and was honest and forthright, so much so that he planted a stake in the ground and decided not to budge from his position at the state capitol.

It was only at the point of an obvious impeachment process - not when the governor called and advised resignation - when Darr decided it was best for himself and his family to vacate the office, although what he plans on doing for the next 20 days in anyone's guess. Even the hidden jab that he will not submit his letter to Gov. Beebe, only to the Arkansas people, shows that this letter is not an apology for what he had done but rather the chance at a "Mel Gibson in Braveheart" type of speech.

And that's when he gives us his last paragraph, a thumb at anyone who believes he should have resigned much earlier:

Politics can be a toxic business. I will no longer subject my family to its hard lessons. All my forgiveness to those who play the games and all my respect and appreciation to those who serve with class and humility.

One can infer that Darr is not stepping down because of anything he did, but because of the "toxic business" that his opponents are stirring up. He even is offering forgiveness, to whom we do not know. We were actually hoping he would be asking for forgiveness for making a mockery of the second highest ranking job in Arkansas' government.

The sad lesson from this last act in Darr's brief political career - although he may emerge in a few years - is that no matter what political party one is a part of, ethical violations have plagued the state during all of 2013. We were hoping to close this chapter of our government with a little more remorse. But Darr wouldn't even give us that.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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