Category Archives: State news

Dewhurst is pushing the panic button

David Dewhurst always seemed like a reasonable, responsible, reliable Republican.

I didn’t know much about him when he and I met the first time as he ran for Texas land commissioner back in 1998. He was new to the Texas political spotlight. He seemed bright and engaged fully in the nuance of Texas government at many levels.

Now he’s gone to the dark side. He’s joined the nut-case crowd of the Texas Republican Party. He’s now a lame duck, having been beaten for his job by someone who’s even farther out there on the rightest wing of the party, Dan Patrick.

So what does Dewhurst do? Does he recede quietly back into the shadows and wait for his term to end? Oh no. He goes to that Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. and proclaim that Muslims are infiltrating our southern border.

How does he know that? He says Border Patrol authorities have found prayer rugs way down yonder. That means those dreaded “Islamic fanatics” are coming into Texas to blow up buildings, kill people and convert the United States of America into an Islamic nation.

Of course, the federal government denies such rugs exist.

The Texas Tribune reports: “(A) Texas congressman who sits on the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee has argued that there’s no threat of extremism on the border. U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, said during that same panel that top Pentagon officials had denied that there was any threat on the Texas-Mexico border from the Islamic State (ISIS) or similar groups. He added that similar claims were made about extremists crossing into Texas from Mexico during the United States’ conflicts with Libya in the 1980s, which he also mentioned to The Economist in an article published this week.”

Dewhurst always struck me as a studious guy, dedicated to the meticulous detail of legislating. It’s been said of him that he at times lacks the people skills needed to be an effective politician.

After reading his remarks at that Values Voter gathering, he also seems to lack the judgment to keep his finger off the panic button that signals the start of a religious war.

This isn’t a fight against Islam. It’s a fight against terrorists.

Cool it with the prayer rug talk, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst.

This DUI doesn't get under Perry's skin

Texas Gov. Rick Perry must have gotten over his anger at a public official’s arrest for drunken driving.

What got him all worked up when Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg got busted doesn’t seem to phase him when it involves Jack Stick, the top lawyer for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Oh, I know now what it is.

Lehmberg is a Democrat; Stick is a Republican — like Perry.

Stick got popped for DUI and faces a pre-trial hearing. We’ve heard nary a peep from Perry’s office over this one. Compare that to what happened when Lehmberg got arrested, pleaded guilty and then served jail time. Perry threatened to veto money for her public integrity office, which he did. A Travis County grand jury looked into that and indicted him on abuse of official power.

Perry just couldn’t stand it when a Democrat got busted for drunken driving. When it’s a Republican, though, well that’s different.

OK, the cases aren’t identical. Lehmberg behaved boorishly when she was booked into jail. Stick apparently has minded his manners.

It still interests me that the lame-duck governor would get so worked up over one case but clam up on another one.

Aren’t they both worthy of the governor’s righteous anger?

Texas: reddest of the Red States

Texas is Ground Zero — pardon the reference — of the conservative movement.

That’s the assessment of Dan Balz, a veteran Washington Post political reporter, who uses land commissioner candidate George P. Bush as his example of the state’s rightward shift.

Bush is the grandson and nephew of two former presidents and the son of a former Florida governor. All three of his ancestors, Balz said, used to personify the “kinder, gentler” wing of the Republican Party. Bush thinks GOP firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz is the future of his party and he said so at a gathering of pols and pundits at a Texas Tribune talk-fest held in Austin.

Indeed, the view that Texas is leading the conservative charge probably isn’t that much of a surprise. Even when it leaned heavily Democratic, its officeholders weren’t usually considered — at that time, at least — to be squishy liberals. The most successful Democrats in the state were folks like John Connally, Lloyd Bentsen, Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson. Yes, you had your occasional lefty in there, such as Ralph Yarborough and then Ann Richards.

The last Democrat elected to statewide office in 1994 was John Sharp, hardly a lefty, who’s now chancellor of the Texas A&M University System.

So, Texas has leaned right for longer than the GOP has been in control of everything.

As for the model of today’s modern conservatism in Texas, look at Dan Patrick, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor. He’s just recently declared his intention to rid the state of the DREAM Act, which allows Texans brought here illegally by their parents to enroll in state public colleges and universities as “in-state” students, paying in-state tuition rates.

Gov. Rick Perry, a fiery conservative if there ever was one, endorses the DREAM Act. Not Patrick. If he’s elected, he’ll get rid of it.

Yep, the state is No. 1 all right.

Sen. Cruz denies the obvious

Someone will have to pass the smelling salts to me. I must have been in a stupor the past year or so.

Either that or U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is utterly delusional.

I’ll go with the latter for now.

Cruz is a Texas Republican who has denied playing a role in shutting the government down over a fight about the Affordable Care Act. He said at Texas Tribune Fest that the “blame” belongs to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Cruz’s role in that debacle? He says he didn’t have any role to play.

Huh? Cruz’s Republican colleague in the Senate, fellow Texan John Cornyn, said otherwise.

So has every observer of Capitol Hill — Democrat, Republican, independent, media observers — said that Cruz was a key player in the shutdown.

He filibustered against the ACA trying to repeal it. Didn’t he do that?

Of course, Cruz blamed the media — which he said sides with Democrats — for the characterizations attached to the junior senator. According to a blog posted by the San Antonio Express-News: “Remarking that Republicans are usually criticized as either crazy or evil, Cruz said he took it as ‘somewhat of a back-handed compliment that the press has invented a third caricature of me, which is crazy.’”

Well, he’s not crazy. Almost everything he’s done publicly since joining the Senate in January 2013, though, reveals a burning ambition. He’s been out front on high-profile issues almost from Day One of his still-young Senate tenure. He ignores Senate decorum. He’s drawn the ire of fellow Republicans as well as Democrats.

Now he says he had nothing to do with the government shutdown.

The young man possesses some serious hubris.

ACA is hardly an 'abject failure'

Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott declared something the other day during his debate with Democratic opponent Wendy Davis that I cannot let stand.

“Obamacare,” he said, “is an abject failure.”

That’s it, then. The verdict is in. The Affordable Care Act isn’t working. It isn’t providing health insurance to Americans who couldn’t afford it. It isn’t saving lives. It isn’t saving people’s livelihoods.

How does he come to that conclusion?

Oh, wait. I think I know. He’s running for governor in a state that detests the ACA’s author, President Barack Obama. So it makes political sense for Abbott to declare the ACA a complete failure. It makes as much sense for the state’s attorney general to promise, as he did the other night, to bring “more health care to Texans.” The question, however, is this: How — precisely — does the governor do that?

I’ve noted already that the ACA rollout was full if fits and starts, hiccups, mistakes and all manner of “technical difficulties” with the website that was supposed to be up and running.

However, Americans are enrolling in the ACA. They’re getting coverage now after being unable to get it prior to enactment of the law.

Will this process now proceed hitch-free? Probably not.

The ACA is just a few months old. It’s going to be fine-tuned, tinkered, tightened as we move along.

That’s the case — without exception — with all landmark laws.

Glad the Scots said 'no' to independence

I’ve been thinking about the vote in Scotland to stay attached to the United Kingdom and the thought occurs to me: Would a “yes” vote to declare independence fuel further secession talk in Texas?

I’m only half-joking about that speculation.

A neighbor of mine sports a “SECEDE” bumper sticker on the back of his vehicle, right next to one that says he was “Proud to Serve” in the U.S. military. Frankly, I don’t get the juxtaposition.

Imagine if Scotland had voted to pull out of the UK. The Scots would have had to form their own military establishment, rather than relying on Her Majesty’s impressive military establishment for protection. There would be all kinds of ancillary expense to forming a nation.

The same thing applies to any notion that one of the United States of America should want to secede.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry a few years back made some careless remarks about secession. He came strangely close to endorsing the idea, only to back away and say he is a proud American who doesn’t want the Union broken up.

And we hear such talk among others around the state. I would call them the fruitcake wing of the Lone Star State’s 26 million or so souls, most of whom are good, decent and proud Americans.

I shudder to think what might have happened had the Scots had said “yes” to independence. I’m glad they went the other way on the issue. Sanity has a way of prevailing when the chips are down — most of the time.

Davis needed a knockdown; she barely landed a punch

It pains me to say this, but Wendy Davis — if you’ll pardon the boxing pun — barely laid a glove on Greg Abbott at their debate this past week in Edinburg

She tossed haymakers from the opening bell. Abbott — using his best Muhammad Ali tactic of pulling away from the punches — let them sail past him.

The two candidates for Texas governor have another debate lined up later this month. If Davis, the Democrat, hopes to draw blood (politically speaking, of course) from Abbott, the Republican, she’ll need to land some sharper jabs and hooks.

Have you had enough of the boxing puns? Good. Me, too.

Davis has had difficulty getting traction for her uphill campaign against Abbott. It’s not entirely that I want her to win, which I do, that upsets me. I am hoping at the very least that Davis makes Abbott defend himself in his effort to torpedo the Affordable Care Act in Texas, his support of deep cuts in public education, and his support of the overly restrictive anti-abortion bill that Davis fought to defeat.

I’m beginning to go along with most Texas political observers who think Abbott is going to win this one easily. I’m thinking 12, maybe 15 percentage points.

Part of Davis’s problem in campaigning against Abbott is that Texas voters seem to turn deaf ear to problems involving Republican candidates. The state is so deeply Republican these days that GOP candidates seemingly need to be caught committing acts of bestiality to have their credibility stripped.

Is Abbott a crook? Is he a liar? I don’t think he’s either.

He’s just running for governor as a Republican at precisely the right time in this state’s history to be doing so. He is running as a smart politician who knows the lay of the land.

Moreover, if Abbott he trounces Davis — as some are predicting — then I would caution another up-and-coming Republican, lieutenant governor nominee Dan Patrick, to be wary of challenging Abbott in four years.

'Roosevelts' has curious relevance to today's reality

Public television is by definition supposed to be educational.

Thus, PBS’s series titled “The Roosevelts” is educating a nation about the 32nd president of the United States, his wife and his fifth cousin, the 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt.

As for “32,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Ken Burns-produced documentary offers and interesting insight into the norms of the time FDR was coming of age politically. Moreover, it tells me how times have changed per one of those norms.

FDR took great pains to conceal from the public that he was stricken by polio, that he was wheelchair-bound and that he had great difficulty standing and walking. Photographers were not allowed to take pictures of him being helped in and out of automobiles; Secret Service agents would confiscate the cameras and film of the offending photographer.

Image was everything and FDR believed in projecting an image of a vibrant man.

Now, let’s flash forward — about 80 years.

Texas is about to elect a man who also is wheelchair bound. Greg Abbott has been confined to a wheelchair since his mid-20s, when he was struck by a falling tree in Houston, suffering a broken back.

It fascinates me to no end to watch “The Roosevelts,” learn of how certain secrets were kept out of public view and then realize just how virtually everything has changed in the decades since.

There would be no way a high-profile public figure today could keep secret a physical condition such as what afflicted Franklin Roosevelt.

It’s been said by many historians and pundits over the years that FDR likely couldn’t be elected president today, given his peculiar marriage to Eleanor and the myriad relationships both them had outside of their marriage. They also have noted his physical condition as a deal-breaker back then with voters.

It’s a better, more enlightened time now. A political figure’s physical ailment has nothing to do with his or her mental or emotional state. In FDR’s case, his own disability perhaps made him stronger, more empathetic to others’ suffering.

As for the Texas attorney general seeking to be elected governor, he too has been strengthened by his own struggle. It’s good that he has no reason to keep it a secret.

Perry to be 'better prepared' next time

So, lame-duck Texas Gov. Rick Perry vows to be “better prepared” to run for president of the United States — if he decides to do so.

My gut tells me he’s made up his mind, just as Hillary Rodham Clinton has made up her mind to run for president in 2016.

The only decision left for either of them is when to make the announcement.

We’ll get back to Clinton another day.

I am hopeful Gov. Perry will be prepared for this next run. No more “oops” moments; no more tantrums; no more strange soliloquies that have people asking, “Is this guy drunk, stoned or what?”

If he keeps his wits about him, I am hopeful the national media will probe one important thing about Perry’s interminable time as Texas governor: his governing style.

I’m referring specifically to the way he would mass-veto legislation after the Legislature ended its session. I believe he set some kind of record for vetoes after the 2009 or 2011 sessions. What was most astonishing about the vetoes is that they included legislation that had passed both legislative chambers by unanimous or near-unanimous votes.

With Republicans in Congress upset that the Democrat in the White House is allegedly misusing his executive authority, I’ll be waiting to hear how some GOP lawmakers will react to the knowledge that as governor, Rick Perry has used his own executive authority as governor with more than a touch of zeal.

Then again, Republicans won’t mind that one little bit. Perhaps the Democrats in Congress can raise the issue.

I’ll await the governor’s well-prepared answer.

Blogging is a blast … most of the time

Readers of this blog know — I hope — that I take great joy in expressing opinions on this or that subject.

I consider it a form of recreation, perhaps even therapy. I like sharing it on various social media. I post the blog entries to my Twitter feed, which goes automatically to my Facebook feed. They also post automatically to LinkedIn and Tumblr.

Sometimes, though, the Facebook feed results in some, shall we say, unfortunate reactions among a few of the hundreds of friends and “friends” who read this stuff on that social medium.

Some of my friends/”friends” react to the blog post. Their reaction draws a critical response from someone else on the feed. Then the initial responder respond to the response. Back and forth it goes. Then others enter the fray. Then it becomes a game of insults, a put-down contest, if you please.

Some of it is good-natured. Some of it isn’t. Then it gets out of hand.

I commented earlier today on Texas executing a young woman for the murder of a little boy. I stated my opposition capital punishment. Then the fusillade started among a few folks who had read the blog.

It got a bit crazy.

Sometimes I’m a bit slow on the uptake and sometimes I don’t recognize good humor when it’s hidden behind insults. Perhaps my friends — and these individuals are people I know well — were just kidding among themselves. They really didn’t mean to say all those nasty things to each other, or at least outsiders looking in — such as yours truly — shouldn’t interpret them as mean-spiritedness.

Forgive me, guys. I don’t get it.

I’ll keep spewing this stuff. Others can comment. They’re free to insult each other as long as they don’t use the magic word, which in baseball rhubarb parlance is “you.” By that I don’t want them saying, “You bleeping so-and-so!”

Let’s keep it clean.