I THINK ABOUT the Jot-em-Down Store every time I read a news story about a new embarrassment at the White House, which means I think about it a lot.
The White House is so ineptly run that I find myself agreeing with Ross Perot. He said during the campaign that Arkansas was "a tiny, rural state [smaller] than Toys R Us." He said last week that Clinton's experience as governor of Arkansas only qualified him to be a "middle manager in a medium-sized company." He ridiculed the White House's gaffes involving the travel office as "straight out of Arkansas."
Now, before Bill Clinton came along, the most famous Arkansans in America had been Lum Edwards and Abner Peabody. They were the fictional owners of the Jot-em-Down Store in Pine Ridge, Ark., on the radio show "Lum and Abner." The show was on the air from 1931 to 1951. It was one of the most popular radio shows of the time. Lum and Abner personified the "innocence and ignorance" of small town Arkansas in those days, according to one social historian.
Lum's signature phrase was an exasperated "aye, grannies!" I kept expecting White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty to say that the other night. He was debating campaign finance reform on "The McNeil-Lehrer News Hour." He knew practically nothing about the legislation or the issue. There's no reason the White House chief of staff should know such details. But he should know enough to send someone who did to represent the administration.
That was not the most embarrassing Arkansan display of innocence and ignorance on the tube recently. Webster Hubbell was testifying before the Judiciary Committee on his nomination to be associate attorney general. He was asked about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's well-known legal theory that there is no such thing as legislative intent, that a statute must be interpreted on the basis of its plain language and not on the debate on the bill in the House and Senate.
Answered Hubbell, the man who will play a major role in selecting Clinton's judges and justices, "I wasn't privy to that comment." He seemed to think it was a remark dropped at a
cocktail party. Aye, grannies!
There is another school of thought about the Clinton White House's gaffes. It is that there's not too much hillbilly but too much Hollywood: Bill and Hillary don't think they're Judy Canova and the Duke of Paducah, they think they're Steve and Eydie. Thus the $475 for a pair of haircuts. They wouldn't be caught dead in the Jot-em-Down Store.
Their Hollywood buddies, Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, who got Christophe to give Bill the most debilitating trim since Samson's, dispute this. They say they, themselves, are more Arkansas than Hollywood.
But you have to wonder how Arkansan it is to drop into such a demurral the reminder that their salaries are "six figures a week." Sam Walton wouldn't have done that.