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Asa Hutchinson
Former Governor of Arkansas

William Asa Hutchinson II was born in Bentonville, AR in 1950. Attending law school at the University of Arkansas, Asa practiced as an attorney and businessman for 21 years. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Hutchinson as the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. At the age of 31, Hutchinson was the nation's youngest U.S. attorney.

It wasn’t until 1997 that Asa became an elected politician to the Arkansas House of Representatives, occupying his brother Tim’s former seat, as a member of the Republican Party. In 2014, Mr. Hutchinson defeated his democratic opponent Mike Ross and became the 46th governor of Arkansas, serving from 2015 to 2023.

Throughout his career, as has also served as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Undersecretary for the Border and Transportation Security division of the DHS under President George W. Bush.

As a businessman, Asa has seen success with the founding of a consulting firm, Hutchinson Group, LLC., and through investments in an acquisition company in the homeland security industry.

Listen to Learn:

  • About Asa's career in law and governance, including his work on the negotiation team during the Oklahoma City Bombing
  • How Arkansas became the last state in the South to go from blue to red
  • About Asa's campaign for the 2024 presidency, and more...

Podcast Links


TRANSCRIPT

EPISODE 403

[INTRODUCTION]

[00:00:08] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling, conversational interviews, and Kerry's natural curiosity, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners and insider’s view into the commonalities of entrepreneurs, athletes, medical professionals, politicians, and other successful people all sharing their stories of success and the ups and downs of risk-taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, funny, informative, and always encouraging weekly blog. And now it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.

[INTERVIEW]

[00:00:40] KM: My guest today needs no introduction, because everybody knows him. He is the former Governor of Arkansas William Asa Hutchinson II. Young William, known as Asa, began his career as an attorney and businessman. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Hutchinson as the US Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. At the age of 31, Hutchinson was the nation's youngest US Attorney.

It wasn't until 1997 that Asa became an elected politician to the Arkansas House of Representatives, occupying his brother Tim's seat as a member of the Republican party. In 2014 Mr. Hutchinson defeated his Democratic opponent, Mike Ross, to become the 46th governor of Arkansas serving from 2015 to 2023. Soon after his term, Governor Hutchinson announced his candidacy in the 2024 Republican party presidential primaries. He suspended his campaign on January the 16th 2024.

It is with great pleasure we welcome to the table the intelligent, hardworking, accomplished lawyer, politician, and businessman, Arkansas's 46th Governor, Mr. Asa Hutchinson. Yay.

[00:01:52] AH: Well, thanks, Kerry. It feels like it's been a good show already with that introduction. That was very nice of you.

[00:01:57] KM: Oh, it's about to get really good. And before we dig in – this is really strange. I'm watching an HBO documentary called An American Bombing. He's nodding. About the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing by Timothy McVeigh. And you're interviewed in this documentary. Why are you interviewed in a bombing that happened in Oklahoma?

[00:02:22] AH: Well, it's because of the Arkansas connections. Of course, when I was the United States Attorney, I handled the terrorist group called The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord or the CSA. That is featured in that HBO documentary. And that's why I'm interviewed. And, of course, Richard Wayne Snell, who executed an assassination plot on me, the federal judge. Wasn't successful, by the way. But he was linked both to that April 19th date that the Murrah bombing was on. As well as the CSA. As well as Timothy McVeigh was tied in with all of those groups. And so, the documentary really paints the connections between the terrorist in Arkansas, the Murrah Federal Building, and the extreme right-wing groups across the country.

[00:03:20] KM: And that he – and Timothy McVeigh was part of the militia group here in Arkansas? And what city were they in?

[00:03:25] AH: Well, he stopped by Elohim City. Elohim City is where you had Mr. Millar who was the pastor there who was involved with the CSA. He was a spiritual advisor to James Ellison who led the CSA in Arkansas. And so, that's where you see all of the flow and the connections. Of course, the CSA siege that we had for 3 days that I helped negotiate the surrender, put on a bulletproof vest as I would out there with the hostage rescue team, that was preceding the disaster at Waco.

And, of course, Timothy McVeigh went to Waco and he stood in the wings. He watched that. He identified with that. And so, it's an extremist group that goes connection to connection. And they tried to make the connection between all of those events as it led up to the bombing in Oklahoma City. And part of it was for revenge as to what happened in Waco. The motivation.

My prosecution of the CSA was of the leadership of the group on racketeering charges they were all convicted. Following that, my succeeding United States Attorney indicted all of the groups. Not just the leader of CSA, re-indicted them, but others on sedition charges. And they were acquitted of those sedition charges.

[00:05:02] KM: Some people think that them not being held accountable and being acquitted embolden other hate groups and almost link it back to the insurrection that happened in January 6th, 2021.

[00:05:17] AH: Well, the HBO documentary really presents the thesis that the white nationalists, the extreme right-wing groups that we face their challenges generation to generation, and that what you saw in January 6th was partly an outgrowth of that extremist movement and the white nationalists.

Now it's a thesis. It's a theory. But the fact is that when we prosecuted the groups in the 80s very successfully, it really dismantled them. And then I think your point's well taken that they get fired up both by an acquittal that happened in the 90s. But, also, they get fired up whenever they see the overreach of the federal government which they saw it in Waco. They saw it at Ruby Ridge. And so, whenever you see the federal government oppressing or utilizing its power against the citizens in an unreasonable way, they react to it. And that's been a pattern.

[00:06:29] KM: Yeah. I love interviewing people like you, because you've got these great, long careers that you can go over and you can see all the ups and downs and the learned wisdom that comes from just like everything you just said. Before we dig in too much, I want to tell our listeners a little synopsis of what we're going to talk about today. And then we'll go to a break for minute.

After graduating with a degree in law from Fayetteville, you worked for 21 years in private practice in Fort Smith, Arkansas. During which time, President Ronald Reagan appointed you, as we were saying, the US Attorney for Western Arkansas. Again, the youngest in the country at 31. Gray, your brother's 31. Can you imagine him being the US Attorney?

[00:07:03] GM: Yeah. It's pretty wild.

[00:07:05] KM: I know. Stop and think about all these 31-year-olds we know. You're very mature for your age.

[00:07:09] GM: I'm 36. And I don't think I could do it.

[00:07:10] KM: No. I'm 66. No, I'm not. But I still can do it. Anyway, you were the youngest in the country. You also ran twice for the Arkansas House of Representative and lost before winning your brother Tim's seat in your – is it two or three terms that you serve did you serve?

[00:07:25] AH: I served into my third term in congress.

[00:07:27] KM: Okay. Three-year term as a representative. You served as the House Manager during the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. President Bush appointed you to the administrator of the DEA, Drug Enforcement – what's the A stand for? Administration. Largely because probably your methamphetamine work you had done back in Arkansas.

And after 9/11, you became the First Border and Transportation Secretary for the newly formed Homeland Security. I can't wait to talk with him about the current trials with Trump, about the border security. And sometime in there, you went back into private practice again before you ran for governor. And the first time, you lost to Mike Bibby. The second time, you beat Mike Ross. And after two years term, everyone knows you announced your candidacy in the 2024 Republican Presidential primaries. And I didn't tell everything. I didn't tell about running for Attorney General.

[00:08:20] AH: Well, there's a lot of ups and downs in that path. And I am connected to Bentonville. I was born in Bentonville, Rogers Area. And then when I was appointed United States Attorney in '82, I moved to Fort Smith where I lived for 19 years. And that's where I served as US Attorney and ran for the senate practice law. A breath of experience. And I've been blessed in life. The best job ever, being governor of Arkansas for eight years.

[00:08:47] KM: Is it really?

[00:08:49] AH: Oh, without any doubt. And people ask me of, "All the positions that you've held, which one did you enjoy the most?" And, actually, I enjoyed them all at that particular time in life. I would say that being head of the DA was probably the most exciting. Being at Homeland Security after 9/11 was the most difficult, challenging, and wore me out. But it was also the most historic. I've had a breath of experience I'm blessed with.

[00:09:19] KM: All these people starting out, you didn't know your life was going to be like that. Did you?

[00:09:23] AH: Of course not.

[00:09:25] KM: You went to school actually for accounting. Then you went to school to being a lawyer. You're an accountant and a lawyer. What did you think you were going to be?

[00:09:33] AH: Well, I love talking to young people. And I want to paint the picture that Bill Clinton knew he wanted to be president when he was in high school. Some people plan their life. Mine unfolded. And so, I picked accounting as my major because it was the first major listed alphabetically in the catalog.

[00:09:56] KM: That's not true, is it?

[00:09:57] GM: I don't know.

[00:09:58] AH: And so, I was a teenager not knowing what I want to do. And then four years of accounting, I got a degree. But I fell in love with the law through debate. And I went to law school. I was the first one of my family ever to do anything like that. And so, life unfolds. It's not always planned. People say, "When did you decide you wanted to be governor?" It never even entered my mind as a possibility till I was 46 years old. And so, be patient in life. And you have your ups and downs. And you seize the moment.

[00:10:30] KM: You have really had your ups and downs. You fell in love with debate. And your wife Susan, who I interviewed, fell in love with you while you were on the debate team. She saw you and she chased you down. And for any of our listeners that hasn't heard the story of how Susan fell in love with Asa, go back and listen to it, because it is charming. She had her eye on you from the beginning. Your family's political.

[00:10:52] AH: Well, part of it. My mom and dad were independents. Whenever it was the Kennedy-Nixon race, they split their vote. They were independent. Voted for their person. Whenever I became a young lawyer, I actually campaigned for David Pryor in his runoff with John McClellan. And I actually made a very conscious decision to join the Republican party because I identified with Ronald Reagan and his conservative principles. Secondly, I wanted to have a competitive two-party system in Arkansas. I want to build that Minority party. And we were successful at that. But I'm the youngest of six children. And other than my brother Tim and I, the rest of them are normal. They were not involved in politics.

[00:11:44] KM: No you got a sister-in-law and you got some nephews.

[00:11:48] AH: That's right. You're looking on the hindrance side. And they are very political as well.

[00:11:52] KM: You got the first twin nephews in the house.

[00:11:56] GM: Oh, wow.

[00:11:57] AH: I served as Governor at the first time, I had two nephews in the senate.

[00:12:03] KM: How fun is that? How Arkansas – your brother was the first representative elected since 1879 in the Republican Party. 1879. For over a hundred years, nobody – a Republican had not been elected to the house. We were a blue, blue, blue state. How do you think Arkansas went from a blue state to a red state? What happened?

[00:12:29] AH: By people like me getting out there, and running, and presenting our ideas, and falling short, and losing, you build upon each other and you start winning. And so, Arkansas was the last state in the South to turn Republican. And so –

[00:12:46] KM: Oh, really?

[00:12:46] AH: We were. I mean, you look at Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, they all turned red before we did. In fact, in 2010, which is not that long ago, we were a blue state. But within four years, when I became Governor, we were totally red. It was a quick transition that we had laid the foundation for from many years.

[00:13:06] KM: As a governor, you were kind of known for keeping the extremists at bay.

[00:13:12] AH: Well, that's important. Once you get elected to office, you represent everybody. And you want to accomplish things. In Washington, they can fight. But if you're governor, you're expected to get things done. And to do that, you got to work with a lot of people. We did. We worked with both sides. We got things done. I'm a conservative. No apology for it. But we don't have to be angry. We don't have to be crazy. We can govern and lead.

[00:13:43] KM: Okay. This is really off the subject. And then we're going to a break. You are named William Asa Hutchinson II. But your dad is named John Malcolm Hutchinson. Where did your second come from?

[00:13:54] AH: My uncle. My uncle Asa from a Oklahoma. He was William ASA Hutchinson. I'm named after him. But it's not a direct lineage. I'm the second. I've got the third. And we've got the fourth. And so, how do you distinguish the three Asas that live today? A2, A3, A4.

[00:14:14] KM: It's just like us, honey. We have three Gradys.

[00:14:14] GM: I was about to say, I'm the fourth. Yeah.

[00:14:17] AH: You're plagued.

[00:14:18] GM: I am. One of them is here in the office with us. Yeah.

[00:14:21] KM: Yeah. You come to a party at our house and everybody's named Grady. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll dig into the life and opinions of Arkansas's 46 Governor, Mr. Asa Hutchinson. Still to come, his career both public and private, border security, impeachment of President Bill Clinton, and what he thinks of the political party today.

[BREAK]

[00:14:40] GM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago with only $400, Kerry founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last five decades, the business has grown and changed along with Kerry's experience and leadership knowledge. In 1995, she embraced the internet and rebranded her company as simply flagandbanner.com. In 2004, she became an early blogger. Since then, she has founded the nonprofit Friends of Dreamland Ballroom. Began publishing her magazine, Brave. And in 2016, branched out into this very radio show, YouTube channel, and podcast.

In 2020, Kerry McCoy Enterprises acquired ourcornermarket.com, an online company specializing in American-made plaques, signage, and memorials. In 2021, Flag & Banner expanded to a satellite office in Miami, Florida where first-generation immigrants keep the art of sewing alive and flags made in America.

Telling American-made stories, selling American-made flags, the flagandbanner.com.

[INTERVIEW CONTINUED]

[00:15:43] KM: We're speaking today with Arkansas's past Governor, Mr. Asa Hutchinson, who also threw his hat into the ring as a Republican Party candidate for the Presidential Primary Election of 2024. Let's talk about your 21 – if you're just tuning in, you need to go back and listen to the beginning, because Asa is a real person with real stories. And he's a deep thinker. And he's got a lot of – and I'm not going to go over everything he said.

But going forward, let's talk about the 21 years in your successful law practice. You're a trial lawyer, I think, at heart. You practiced law in Fort Smith for 21 years or 19 years. And you handled more than a hundred jury trials. One of which we just heard that I think is fascinating. While practicing law in Fort Smith, President Ronald Reagan appointed you as the US Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas at the small, little age of 31. The young age of 31, you were the nation's youngest US Attorney. How did that come about?

[00:16:37] AH: My appointment?

[00:16:37] KM: Aha. How did he pick you?

[00:16:40] AH: Well, John Paul Hammerschmidt took a risk with a young attorney. And I think I'd made a little somewhat of a name for myself in supporting the Republican cause and campaigning for Ronald Reagan. I've got this incredible ad that is signed by Sam and Helen Walton, myself, and Susan, my wife, Jim and Lynne Walt in 1980 supporting Ronald Reagan for president against Jimmy Carter.

And so, because of that and because I am a visionary attorney, I got the appointment. I'm very honored to have that. And I was fortunate that we had a small United States attorney's office with a lot of action. And so, I actually tried case. A lot of US Attorneys just oversee. They're out of the courtroom. They don't do that. I was in the courtroom.

And after 4 years as a federal prosecutor, I went into private practice. And I'm of the generation you took what came in the door. But I started having a little niche in defending white-collar criminal cases because of my experience in federal court. And that's where I had a lot of success and juries.

[00:17:57] KM: What was the biggest one? We won't spend a lot of time. But whose names?

[00:18:02] AH: Well, there's a lot of good names there. I tried an espionage case in the Eastern District of Virginia. That was on 60 Minutes. I defended that case. My last jury trial was in Dallas, Texas. I defended a gentleman by the name of Muhammad Abuawad before a Texas jury for trafficking in person. And the judge, Godbey, during the voir dire, says, "Now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, these defendants here are from the Middle East. Does that cause anybody any problem in terms of being fair?" They all shot up their hand and said, "Yes, it's 9/11. They're responsible for it." My client turns to me and said, "They hate me. It's a Texas jury. My name is Muhammad. I'm a Muslim. I'm never going to get a fair trial." And I said, "Let's just wait and see. And I know they don't like you."

8 days of trial, 9 hours of jury deliberation, and acquittal on all counts. And the moral of the story is that sometimes the prejudice of America can be overcome by our sense of fairness. And he was innocent. And to see him saluting the justice of America was a great moment. I had that verdict on the governor's office wall for eight years.

[00:19:23] KM: Say what you just said a second ago, the moral of the story, one more time.

[00:19:28] AH: The moral of the story is that we go into that courthouse and we all have our prejudices. But the sense of fairness can overcome that prejudice. And that's what happened.

[00:19:37] KM: Yes. That's what we need more of.

[00:19:40] AH: And I say that cautionary, because I think back in the African-American history, and there's a lot of people's – the sense of fairness did not win out.

[00:19:53] KM: Not always.

[00:19:54] AH: But, today, I like to think that it works. And in that case, it certainly did.

[00:20:00] KM: And that speaks highly of you. You're the comeback kid. While practicing law, you challenged Dale Bumpers for the Senate. Lost. You ran against Winston Bryant for Arkansas Attorney General. Lost. Eventually, 1997, you ran for your brother Tim's – yeah, vacancy. When he went to the US Senate and won a couple of terms. Talk about your accomplishments while you were serving in the house. You were the House Manager in the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton during that time. Right?

[00:20:26] AH: I was. And I had the most recent experience as a trial lawyer as I was elected to Congress. And so, I was natural for them to pick me to help present the case over in the Senate. And I presented it in a professional way as a lawyer would without demagoguing, without being crazy. And it earned me the respect of the United States Senate that later set the foundation for me being confirmed by the Senate. Because they knew me. They saw me. And had a great deal of support there.

But it was an incredible experience. It was difficult, because I had the president for my home state. People thought it was political suicide for me. And I just believed I have a constitutional responsibility. But, also, I don't want the crazy speaking for me. In a tough time in our country, I'll speak for myself.

[00:21:22] KM: Well, that's true.

[00:21:23] AH: And I think my tone set me apart. And President Clinton was acquitted in that case. And my response is just like in any other jury trial that I've had, the jury has spoken.

[00:21:37] KM: Yeah. And I don't think people understand what the impeachment was about. It was about lying under oath.

[00:21:42] AH: Very importantly so. And, of course, you had a Federal Judge, Susan Webber Wright, that later suspended the president's law license because of that. And so, it was clear there was lying under oath. And to me, that's important in a civil proceeding, domestic relations proceedings. And that's the reason it was pursued.

[00:22:02] KM: Do you think it has a similar ring to the Trump trial today with Stormy Daniels?

[00:22:06] AH: I'm glad you ask about that case. Similar back to my statement that you accept the jury verdict. And that's what I'm worried about. This is most likely going to be an acquittal. It could be a conviction. But regardless of the outcome, the most important thing is that the public has confidence in what happens in that courtroom and the jury verdict.

I believe that the jurors, many of them might have gone in there with ideas in their head. But they clearly are listening carefully trying to do justice. And we need to respect that. And it bothers me not that we're fighting hard in the courtroom as we should, but that we're setting the stage to attack whatever that jury does.

And whenever you see some of my former colleagues that ran for president in the courtroom and coming out there afterwards and having a news conference and saying, "This is a sham proceeding," and they're laying the foundation to attack whatever happens. And that has long-term damage to our institution of justice in this country. And that bothers me.

[00:23:19] KM: He's got more than one count against him right now though, right?

[00:23:23] AH: Well, he's got a lot of counts against him. In this case – and, of course, he's got three other criminal prosecutions pending. Mishandling classified information in Mar-a-Lago. This trial is the weakest of all of them. There's multiple counts. But it's all based upon false documents. And I think the prosecution has clearly established that they were false representations in the documents.

But to make it a felony, it has to be to hide a crime. And so, they have to show what crime is being hidden. And those are basically campaign law violations. And that's why it's a weak legal theory. We will see – I think they've technically made the case. But as to whether the jury accepts this, we'll see.

[00:24:17] KM: You crack down on drugs while you were in the house, methamphetamines, which is probably why Bush appointed you the Administrator of the DEA, which you said was the most exciting. What did you do in Arkansas? What do we have a problem with drugs? And why can't we solve some of the problems today?

[00:24:32] AH: That's an important question. And it's just like we're not going to abolish mental illness, we're not going to abolish the challenge of addictive drugs.

[00:24:41] KM: And they kind of go hand-in-hand.

[00:24:44] AH: They do. Absolutely. And they got worse during the COVID. But while I was United States Attorney, we were dealing with methamphetamine in the 90s. And then we moved into the club drug scene. And now it is oxycodone. It is the opioids.

[00:25:00] KM: What's the – fentanyl.

[00:25:01] AH: And fentanyl is the latest one, which is an opioid. And it gets more deadly and more deadly. And, of course, you've got the cartels that utilize America's compulsion toward addiction. And then they lace it with very poisons, such as fentanyl, that they buy on the street. And it's deadly.

[00:25:22] KM: I don't know why they want to kill their clients. That's what I can't figure out. Why do you want to kill your clients?

[00:25:29] GM: Goes straight to business.

[00:25:31] AH: It goes straight to the bottom line. That they can lose a few clients if they can create hundreds more addictive people. And so, it's a business model that they have without regard to human life.

[00:25:44] KM: Also, during this stint of your life, you were the homeland security – 9/11 happened. You were Homeland Security and became the first Border and Transportation Secretary. That job, you said, was the hardest job that you had. I've heard it say that it's easier to come across the border illegally than it is to come across the border legally.

[00:26:06] AH: Well, I mean, first of all, you've got – under my responsibility, we had 110,000 workers, which included Customs and Border Protection, which I created. ICE. All of the border patrol, all the customs agents. We had TSA. All of those reported to me. And it was during the post-9/11 environment that we had some very specific threats from terrorists. And some of them were on international flights. And we had to build this protocol that all the flights coming from Charles De Gaulle or Heathrow in London coming toward JFK in the United States, we had to vet the names of the passengers against terrorist watch list before they ever left. And they would do all the clearance. Then they would call me to give the final okay. Sometimes it'd be 2am in the morning.

[00:27:01] KM: Do you let any slip through?

[00:27:02] AH: Well, here's the story. Sometimes over at Charles De Gaulle or at London, Heathrow, they got impatient and they release the plane before we got finished with the vetting process. I get a call, "Mr. Secretary, we got a plane over the Atlantic headed for JFK. And there's a direct hit on the terrorist watch list. What should we do?" And so, I say, "Well, you're going to have to follow the protocols. Land it in Bangor, Maine. Unload the passengers. Make sure everybody's safe." That's how we handle those things. I said, "By the way, who's the passenger?" And they said Yusof Islam. I went back to bed. The next morning, I found out that us Yusof Islam was Cat Stevens.

[00:27:47] GM: Oh, sure. That's right. I was like, "Yeah, that sounds familiar."

[00:27:48] KM: I knew I knew that name. Oh, funny. That's right.

[00:27:52] AH: And so, anytime something like that happened, Secretary Ridge would say, "Asa, I need you to go over to the European Commission and explain to them why we didn't allow Cat Stevens into America."

[00:28:03] GM: Oh, my God. That's so good.

[00:28:06] KM: What is the solution? Come on. You ought to know. What's the solution right now? And, also, do I need to blame you for taking off my shoes in the airport all the time? Is that your fault?

[00:28:17] AH: Actually, we got it better. Go through TSA pre-checked. You don't have to worry about that.

[00:28:22] KM: That's right.

[00:28:22] AH: But, yeah, it was really a difficult time. And I applaud TSA. They've got the processes streamlined. We're much more safe. But let me just say this, that there's two issues on security. One is border security that we can talk about. But the other one is just protecting us from terrorist. And we're probably at a more vulnerable time now than we have been since 9/11 simply because of what's happening with Iran, with Hamas. And the terrorists are riled up. And they see the United States as the enemy.

But we have one layered security. It sounds easy to get in here and to do some violence. But we have a lot of different layers of security. But, secondly, we adopted a means that balancing the protection of security with the protection of civil liberties and freedom that we have. And so, we don't inspect everybody. We make sure that we target and use information so that we try to identify those that pose a risk to us to keep the commerce flowing, to protect civil liberties. And I think that's a right strategy that we have. And it keeps and sustains our freedom. And not a police state. But at the same time, adds a real level of protection.

[00:29:46] KM: You didn't really work on the Mexico border.

[00:29:47] AH: I did. I was responsible for it.

[00:29:49] KM: What's wrong with it now? Why can't they fix it?

[00:29:52] AH: The Biden Administration.

[00:29:53] KM: Oh, it was that way with everybody. It's been that way forever.

[00:29:56] AH: I knew I'd get you fired up.

[00:29:57] KM: No. I mean, it's been that way forever. Why can't anybody figure it out?

[00:30:02] AH: Well, it is complex. It is challenging. But –

[00:30:06] KM: Do we not want to keep them out?

[00:30:09] AH: Well, first of all, it was tough during the Trump Administration. You had lines of people coming in. He took some very harsh action. Some tough action. And it had an impact. Whenever Biden came in, the first thing he did is we're reversing all of Trump's tough policies. And that sent the message that it's open. He didn't use the words open. But that was the message that he conveyed. And no matter what he does since then, people see Biden and they see an open border.

[00:30:39] KM: Yeah. All right. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Arkansas's 46th Governor, Mr. Asa Hutchinson. Still to come, more about his interesting big life as Governor of Arkansas and as a Republican Party candidate for the Presidential Primary Election in 2024. And some behind-the-scenes about debate talks between the participants. I think this is interesting. We'll be right back.

[BREAK]

[00:31:01] TW: Now that we're into the patriotic flag season, we like to say don't get caught with your flag down. Building, or repairing, or lighting your flag pole? Well, we've got the best selection of flag pole hardware, pole lights, accessories, and patriot flag display cases here at flagandbanner.com. We offer everything you need. Just visit our flag pole section and you'll find commercial, residential, indoor, and ceremonial polls, accessories and hardware. The best-sellers are always at flagandbanner.com.

[INTERVIEW CONTINUED]

[00:31:32] KM: We're speaking to today with Arkansas's former Governor, Mr. Asa Hutchinson, who you will remember, threw his hat into the ring as a Republican Party candidate for the Presidential Primary Election of 2024. I just love that he ran for things, lost, and ran again. I think that's just a great message for all the young people out there.

[00:31:54] AH: Well, that was more difficult. You're right. Because at that point, I had lost three statewide races. And Mike Ross used the language, "He's lost three statewide races and he's getting ready to lose his fourth." I mean, that's hard for somebody to overcome that.

[00:32:10] KM: Yeah. How'd you keep the morale up?

[00:32:12] AH: And then Mike Ross, right out the gate, raised $3 million. A record amount in a quarter. And it just looked like it was all his. And the time was right, which is the key in politics. And we ran a good race. And we won. And we won fairly handily. And we won re-election with 65% of the vote. It was a tough decision. It was really tough on my wife, because she said, "Lord, don't let him lose again."

[00:32:43] KM: For having that kind of money and thinking that you were going to lose, and then to come out with 65% of the vote, which is more than any Republican has ever done, why? How did it happen? What was the reason that that happened?

[00:32:54] AH: Of course, when I ran for governor, my message was we're going to lower taxes and we're going to put computer coding in every high school.

[00:33:02] KM: And you did.

[00:33:03] AH: And we did that. And we're going to make government more efficient. Three simple promises. They caught on. And, particularly, the coding, not because it's computer science, but it's because it was something about education that was very specific that people believed. And they knew that was important for our state. It was an idea campaign. And then the timing was right. And that's what makes success. Because we governed well, we were able to win re-election.

[00:33:32] KM: You did secure over 700 million per year in tax cuts. That was in your promise that you just said. I liked this one. You safeguarded the retirement pay of veterans from state income tax.

[00:33:45] AH: Right. Exempted them.

[00:33:46] KM: You did shrink the size of the state government. You created over 100,000 new jobs and led a national initiative to increase computer science education. It was national?

[00:33:57] AH: Yes, it was. Arkansas, we're rarely in the top 10 on a category. We were actually number one in the nation on our computer science education. And so, we were a national leader in it. And I took what we did in Arkansas as a model. And other states have adopted it. South Carolina. Louisiana's looking at it. And then I was Chairman of the National Governor Association and I promoted it nationwide.

[00:34:24] KM: You also were an early adopter to Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, which I think was wonderful for Arkansans. And a lot of other Republic Governors just weren't going to do their party hacks. And they were not going to do it because it wasn't their party's idea. And you, again, thought of the citizens and adopted that, which I thought was really good.

[00:34:47] AH: We measured it. And it was really important for expanding healthcare in Arkansas. It saved our rural hospitals. And it expanded healthcare in Arkansas. It was what was needed. And now, at that time, we were really the only Southern State that utilize that expansion of Medicaid.

[00:35:06] KM: No. I don't have Obamacare. But I thought they've taken a lot of the nuts and bolts out of it. And it's not really as good as it used to be.

[00:35:14] AH: Many of the bad parts have been struck down. And what's left is something that's part of the fabric of our healthcare system today.

[00:35:21] KM: I think that people don't realize that small business owners really would rather have – or at least I know, all my friends would rather have a mandated. Because healthcare falls on the backs of small businesses. And we are burdened with it. And we don't have large enough employee pools to make it affordable for small businesses. And then if you pay your employees very much, they can't afford Obamacare. And so, you end up in this catch-22. And I don't think it's good for small business to not make it mandated for everybody to so that we drive the price down and it gets it off the back of small businesses. I don't mind if large businesses do it. They've got huge pools. They've got huge amounts of money. But small businesses can't offer it. It doesn't level the playing field for us.

[00:36:10] AH: That's right. And small business are ones that are caught in the middle. It's difficult for them. I think I'd make two points. First, it is important that we have the private sector engaged in health insurance. And we not simply have government-run health insurance. I do think that's important.

[00:36:30] KM: You do?

[00:36:30] AH: But when it comes to small business, I would like to see a greater pooling of small businesses together across lines so that you can have a self-insured pool or an insurance pool that keeps the rates down that's large enough and not just reflective of every individual small business.

[00:36:50] KM: I can't believe that anybody in the world would want to run for president. Are you crazy?

[00:36:57] AH: Thank goodness, people do.

[00:37:01] KM: Not very many. Look at who the candidates are.

[00:37:04] AH: Exactly. Well, we ran into a brick wall. But I was the third one to announce. You had president Trump announce, who rushed his announcement to get out there. And then you had Nikki Haley, and then myself. And I just made up the mind. And I kept saying that we're going to have an alternative. Donald Trump, I think he forfeited his right. Obviously, I proved wrong on that. But January 6th. And his failure to appreciate the legitimate passage of power in our country, in our democracy was a failure on his part. And so, I said that enough that I said I'm going to have to get out there and provide that alternative.

Now the fact is that every candidate that ran against Donald Trump ran into the same brick wall that I did. And so, it lasted through the Iowa caucus. And we were probably the last four in the race. But my support wound up going to Nikki Haley as the lead opposing candidate to Donald Trump. And then Nikki Haley ran into a brick wall in her home state of South Carolina. Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the Republican party. I'm perplexed by it. And we'll see where this race goes. I think his vice presidential selection is very important.

[00:38:27] KM: Is it going to be Sarah Huckabee?

[00:38:28] AH: Well, we will see. But he's got two options. One, to reinforce his base. Or the other one is to seek independence in suburban voters. And I think he's got a big decision to make as to which direction he's going to go.

[00:38:45] KM: Who would he select as his cabinet? He has burned the bridges behind everybody.

[00:38:50] AH: Well, he needs to start building those bridges. And, for example, Nikki Haley, he needs to pick up the phone call Nikki Haley and say –

[00:38:59] KM: She's normal.

[00:39:01] AH: Exactly. And she's perceived that way. And so –

[00:39:05] KM: How about you?

[00:39:06] AH: Well, he ought to pick up the phone and call me. But, probably, he's smart enough to know that's probably not a good call.

[00:39:13] KM: But we need some calm people around him. We don't need Greene and Heist. What's that other guy's name over –

[00:39:20] AH: Oh, Gaetz.

[00:39:21] KM: Gaetz. We don't need Gaetz and Greene in there as his – running America.

[00:39:27] AH: You're absolutely right.

[00:39:28] KM: That's frightening. Are they being paid by Russia to disrupt our democracy?

[00:39:33] AH: Well, it doesn't go directly into campaigns, but it goes into social media. It goes into information campaigns. Absolutely, the foreign influence is a great concern. That's one of the reasons I'm involved with the National Center for Election Integrity. Trying to make sure we can preserve the integrity of our elections.

But whenever you're talking about Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and others, including Donald Trump, I'm worried that the Republican Party becomes a pro-Putin party.

[00:40:07] KM: That's what I'm talking about.

[00:40:08] AH: I want a pro-America party. You realize the America First Movement started pre-World War II. Joseph Kennedy and Charles Lindbergh said, "We should not be supporting England, because Nazi Germany is going to take them over regardless how much money we spend there and how much armament we send." That was their argument. And that's the same argument you hear today from those that oppose supporting Ukraine. And we ought to learn those lessons from history. But that's the fight that we have today. I don't want the Republican party to be pro-Putin. I want them to be pro-freedom.

[00:40:51] KM: I don't think people know the history very well. It seems like we're repeating history over and over again, which has been going on forever. And you're exactly right. Poland right now is building bomb shelters for fear that Ukraine is going to fall. And Putin won't stop. And then this war will turn into World War III. We don't give money to Ukraine right now, I fear we will be in World War III.

[00:41:16] AH: You've got somebody fighting for their freedom and their sovereignty with great sacrifice. They're not asking the United States to shed blood there. They're saying, "Give us of your resources," which we benefit from in Camden on the manufacture of some of the weapons that they need in Ukraine.

[00:41:35] KM: Oh, really?

[00:41:36] AH: Oh, yes. We're one of the great producers both for Israel and for –

[00:41:40] KM: In Camden, Arkansas?

[00:41:41] AH: Camden, Arkansas. We got a great aero-defense industry there. Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin. We're making it.

[00:41:50] KM: You, at the beginning, were an outspoken Trump critic. Calling for the former president to drop out of the race. You also rebuked allegations made by fellow Republicans that the Department of Justice had been weaponized against Trump.

[00:42:06] AH: I did. And not very many people listened. Or maybe they listened and they just didn't agree with me. But on the weaponization issue, certainly, we don't have a perfect justice system because we're humans and we make human errors. But it's the envy of the world what we produce in terms of our justice. And so, I don't want to see it undermined.

And you look at – I mean, the weaponization presumption is that a Democrat administration is just going to go after Republicans. Well, who are the last two people indicted? It was Senator Menendez from New Jersey who's a Democrat. And then a Democrat congressman from Texas, I believe it is, had been most recently indicted by the Department of Justice. You can say you agree or disagree with the cases. But don't make it a partisan issue as to how the justice department is administrating and utilizing enforcing the law.

[00:43:03] KM: That's back to the politicians showing up at the trial of Trump again. They're weaponizing it again. Politicians.

[00:43:10] AH: Yes. In other words, our words matter.

[00:43:14] KM: Not anymore.

[00:43:15] AH: And it undermines our institutions of democracy.

[00:43:19] KM: And I've never seen everybody feeling so justified at saying so many ugly things in my lifetime. I know there was McCarthyism. And it was terrible back then. But in my lifetime, this is the first time. And then I also hear young people say all the time, "Oh, we're just living in a terrible time." And I just want to say you didn't live through the Vietnam War when they were drafting your brothers. It's not that bad right now.

[00:43:45] AH: That's right. And it is – let me say, I think there is some bad parts, but there's a difference. We've been divided many times in our country. Civil War. I've been reading the 1860 Convention where Abraham Lincoln was nominated as a dark force candidate. But you had third parties. You had immigration issues. You had the Civil War that was pending. And then you fast forward. As you mentioned, the Civil Rights era, the Vietnam era, the 1940s of America First Movement. We've been divided many times in our country. It's not unusual the division today.

The difference is that we have leaders that capitalize on the division versus leaders in the past who have tried to bridge the divide in our country that rose above that division. And so, we need those leaders again that says let's at least work on bringing this country together.

[00:44:40] KM: Let's be the United States of America. Let's stand up to our name. All right. We're almost out of time. But I love this about – I didn't know this was going on. The debates. Tell our listeners about the decision by the Republican National Committee to require candidates wishing to participate in the debate to sign a loyalty pledge saying that they would support the eventual Republican nominee. You and Chris Christie were the only ones that said, "I'm not going to do that."

[00:45:10] AH: We stood on that debate stage and said we're not going to pledge allegiance to a candidate particularly if they are a convicted felon.

[00:45:19] KM: And dividing the country.

[00:45:20] AH: Exactly.

[00:45:21] KM: And trying to divide our country. You suspended your campaign in January. Was it heartbreaking?

[00:45:32] AH: I was realistic about it. We gave it all we could. But I could see the shift of support to the other – well, to Nikki Haley, who had garnered a lot of momentum. And so, I was being very realistic about it. It's one of the greatest experience that I've had my political life. It's such an honor to be out there and to meet people talk about important issues, fight for your country, speak the truth. And so, I just feel great about it.

[00:46:03] KM: Was it fun to get up every day and go, "Today, I'm going to make a difference?"

[00:46:06] AH: Absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:46:08] KM: I interviewed Janet Huckabee. And she ran for something and lost. And I said – and then her daughter was running and her husband. And I said, "What makes you people want to run for office? It sounds horrible." And she said, "It is the most rewarding thing you will ever do. Everybody should do it."

[00:46:25] AH: That's good advice. And it's empowering. I've been appointed to positions. Very high positions. But nothing is more empowered than being elected. And people think that being elected constrains how you think. It actually gives you freedom. It gives you freedom, because the people trust you. And it's a high-level of trust. But it is empowering. And I mean that in a positive sense. Not in an absolute power sense.

[00:46:55] KM: Ego-maniac way.

[00:46:59] AH: But I also love the private sector. We're blessed here in America. And people should not be so consumed that they can't run, speak their choice. And then if they lose, salute and accept the verdict of the jury, which I'm used to as a lawyer. And that's what the what the public does when they vote.

[00:47:19] KM: All right. This is the last break. We'll be right back to wind up our conversation with the accomplished businessman and politician, Arkansas's 46th Governor, Mr. Asa Hutchinson. We'll be right.

[BREAK]

[00:47:27] TW: We've been surprised at the number of people who were unaware of Sam Ellis and Rock Town River Outfitters. He was our guest last week on Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Learned how tour guides train for whitewater rafting. When it's safe or dangerous to kayak on the Arkansas River? And how the evening cruises are available almost year-round here in Downtown Little Rock. Go back to our YouTube channel or flagandbanner.com, click on radio show and listen to the podcast of Sam Ellis last week on Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy.

[INTERVIEW CONTINUED]

[00:48:00] KM: We're speaking today with Arkansas's past Governor, Mr. Asa Hutchinson, who you will remember, threw his hat into the ring as a Republican Party candidate for the Presidential Primary Election of 2024. We talked about who would be Trump's advisors. We talked about Russian interference, pro-Putin. What do you think about the Republican party today? Some believe that it's such an extremist. Like we were saying, that it's losing its way. And a lot of people, like Ronald Reagan, actually switched parties. If you'd have switched parties to run for the presidency, you might have won. No. I'm just kidding.

[00:48:40] AH: Yeah. Exactly. But let me talk about that. If you look at the polling numbers, the people of America on the what are the major issues? It is the economy. It is border security. It's energy security. On all of those issues, they trust Republican philosophy ideas. Obviously, Republicans understand the importance of fighting crime and the rule of law.

Now, traditional Republican is what Americans trust. And we haven't lost our way there. But we have been captured by Donald Trump who has made it more about his personality and chaos that he creates versus the principles of the party. And what has strengthened America through that Republican-limited government view.

I am a Reagan Republican. I believe in limited government. I also believe in the strength of American supporting and standing with our allies. And that America should not abandon our leadership. Those are fundamental division with our party right now. Even though we're still that party of principle, we're still a divided party. You look at the eight people that were in the first presidential debate, Republican debate. I was there on the stage. You mentioned Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, and so on. Four of those candidates have endorsed Donald Trump. Four have not.

[00:50:15] KM: Oh, really?

[00:50:16] AH: So that to me reflects a divided party in terms of Donald Trump. We're united that we need to beat Joe Biden. But we're divided as to how we're going to approach Donald Trump.

[00:50:29] KM: What's next? Back to your roots in private practice? Retirement? Or still interested in politics? You said that you have to leave in a hurry from this interview because you're going to go and be a commentator for Scripps?

[00:50:41] AH: Scripps News. There are a growing number of stations across the country. I do political commentary with them every week. But I am with my roots in Homeland Security. I'm uh going to be on a corporate board. I've got speaking opportunities. And I really love going on college campuses.

And so, University of Arkansas. I've spoke to students there. I'll be doing some work at the law school there. But I've also been at Washington and Lee University, at Duke University. They need conservatives. The students need to hear from somebody with a different point of view. I love that opportunity to engage with young people as well.

[00:51:22] KM: I love how you're so centered about why you're running and what the Republican Party should look like. And that you're open to saying it. Is there anything you want to tell our listeners take away from this interview in particular?

[00:51:35] AH: Jut just that I'm proud of you and your business model here. What you do for our country. You got the best building probably anywhere in the country. And every day, I drove by this and I say, "What a beautiful building. And she's got all the flags out." I'm honored to be here today.

[00:51:51] KM: Well, small business, backbone of America.

[00:51:53] AH: Amen.

[00:51:55] KM: Here's your present. That's Washington, D.C. I don't know if you ever lived up there or not. But it's a desk set US, Arkansas and DC.

[00:51:59] AH: Very good. Thank you very much.

[00:52:00] KM: I'm sure he's probably got lots of flags.

[00:52:02] AH: I don't have a D.C. This is unique to me.

[00:52:05] KM: Good. This show was recorded in the historical Taborian Hall in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas and made possible by the good works of flagandbanner.com; Mr. Tom Wood, our audio engineer; Mr. Jonathan Hankins, our videographer; daughter, Ms. Meghan Pittman, production manager; and my co-host, Mr. Grady McCoy IV, A.K.A. Son Gray.

To our listeners, we would like to thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening. And it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence, or your life. I'm Kerry McCoy. And I'll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.

[OUTRO]

[00:52:41] GM: You've been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio show and choose today's guest. If you'd like to sponsor this show or any show, contact me, Gray. That's gray@flagandbanner.com. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stay informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel or podcast wherever you like to listen. Kerry's goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.

[END]

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