Tag Archives: Ann Richards

Ground does shift under politicians’ feet

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger has been stripped of two committee chairmanships, citing differences in philosophy and policy with the man who took them away.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he did it because the veteran Amarillo Republican lawmaker spoke rudely to a key Patrick aide and calls Seliger a “corrosive” influence in the Senate.

Actually, there’s not a damn thing “corrosive” about Seliger, who has staked out a reputation over his 14-year Senate career as a man who works well on both sides of the political divide.

I believe Seliger’s view is the accurate interpretation.

The Texas Republican Party has morphed into something quite different from what it used to represent. It has become more interested in “social issues,” and issues relating to “morality.” I’ve known Seliger for more than two decades and I feel confident in suggesting that he doesn’t dance to the socially conservative tune played by the state’s GOP legislative leadership.

It’s not the rarest of events to see the political ground shifting under politicians’ feet. Texas Democrats begin tilting significantly leftward in the late 1980s leading up to the 1990 gubernatorial election, which seated Ann Richards in the governor’s office. Richards was far more progressive than your standard Texas Democrat. Indeed, there were a number of Democratic lawmakers who turned Republican about that time. One of them was former state Rep. Warren Chisum, the Pampa oil man and rancher who once was a proud Democrat but who turned to the GOP. His stated reason was that the party shifted away from his own world view.

Do I expect Sen. Seliger to wake up tomorrow morning and shift to the Democratic Party? No. He stands by his “conservative Republican” credentials. Seliger’s brand of conservatism, though, deals more with fiscal matters than it does with social issues. Patrick remains a fiscal conservative, but he has been seen by critics — such as Seliger — as being no friend of public education; he likes vouchers, which Seliger opposes.

So, for the moment, Seliger — as well as his West Texas constituents — are paying a steep price for the senator’s dispute with the lieutenant governor.  I am not going to buy into the notion that this stripping of power is based solely on a perceived rudeness by a senator who still enjoys great support among his colleagues.

Why did Judge Kavanaugh snub this child’s father?

A video segment from today’s opening of the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court has gotten a whole lot of attention.

For good reason.

As Kavanaugh was leaving the hearing room, Fred Guttenberg — whose daughter was among those slain by the gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. — extended his hand, apparently to shake Judge Kavanaugh’s hand.

The judge turned away. He didn’t take Guttenberg’s hand.

I do not know what Guttenberg might have said to Kavanaugh to prompt such a chilly non-response to what looked like a gesture of common courtesy. Maybe the grieving father said Kavanaugh’s wife wore combat boots, or some such childish statement.

I doubt it.

Surely the dad didn’t accuse Kavanaugh of complicity in the mass shooting. Surely he didn’t tell him he is responsible for the tragedy that erupted on Valentine’s Day.

So, why did the judge turn his back? Doesn’t a father in mourning deserve a handshake and an expression of good wishes?

These kinds of images have a way of imprinting themselves into observers’ collective memory. Just as Midland, Texas, oil mogul Claytie Williams who snubbed a handshake from Gov. Ann Richards during the candidates’ campaign for Texas governor in 1990. Williams paid for that rudeness by losing the election.

Nazi Holocaust denier becomes GOP nominee … wow!

I don’t know who coined the phrase, although I heard the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards say it once or twice.

“You dance with them that brung ya.”

So it is that Illinois Republican voters are facing a strange election season this fall. The GOP primary in a Chicago-area congressional district has nominated an avowed Nazi and a Holocaust denier. His name is Arthur Jones. None other than the Cruz Missile himself, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has urged voters in that congressional district to vote for the Democrat rather than the Republican nominee.

Cruz tweeted: “To the good people of Illinois, you have two reasonable choices: write in another candidate, or vote for the Democrat. This bigoted fool should receive ZERO votes.”

The state GOP is trying to find a way to run an alternative candidate against incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski. I’d say Lipinski will win in the heavily Democratic district, but then again, I thought Hillary Rodham Clinton would be elected president of the United States in 2016.

Here is how Politico reported the story.

Well, I am afraid the Republican Party primary has produced a winner. Art Jones is the man slated to run for Congress. The GOP sought to get Jones pushed off the ballot; it tried to find someone to challenge him in the primary. They failed. Jones was nominated.

Should the GOP succeed in finding an “alternative” candidate? We’ll see about that. It looks to me as though Republicans will have to “dance” with the guy they nominated.

Or … they can vote for the Democratic incumbent.

Thinking better of ‘W’ these days

You may count me as among those Americans who think better of former President George W. Bush than I did when he left office in January 2009.

A CNN poll shows that more than 60 percent of Americans currently think favorably of President Bush. CNN reports that “W” has turned his unfavorable ratings “upside down.” Bush’s favorable rating is nearly double where it was when he exited the White House.

I want to stipulate a couple of things here.

I didn’t vote for Bush when he ran twice for Texas governor. Nor did I vote for him when he ran for election and re-election as president.

However, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him, interviewing him at length and getting to know the man. Thus, I have a certain personal fondness for President Bush.

I met him the first time in the spring of 1995 not long after he took office as Texas governor; I don’t count an elevator encounter I had with him in New Orleans at the 1988 Republican National Presidential Convention.

I found the future president in 1995 to be fully engaged in Texas politics and government, even though he was new to the political game when he upset incumbent Gov. Ann Richards in 1994. He was well-informed, articulate, friendly and quite engaging.

We met in his office at the Texas Capitol Building. The interview was supposed to last for 30 minutes; we ended up chatting for an hour and a half. We would meet again in 1998 as he ran for re-election.

I look back now at his presidency with a certain wistfulness, given the fact that the nation elected a certifiably unfit individual to the office in 2016.

The juxtaposition of George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump suggests to me that it would be inevitable that “W”s standing would improve as dramatically as it has done in the past year.

President Bush made plenty of mistakes. The Iraq War was unnecessary, although the president’s leadership in the wake of the 9/11 attacks filled me with pride in the moment. I only wish the president would have kept his eye on the enemy he identified clearly and decisively while we sorted though our national grief.

Compared to the style of leadership we’re getting today? The 43rd president stands tall.

What’s wrong with a handshake, Mr. President?

There are awkward moments, and then there are events such as what we witnessed today at the White House.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a visit to Donald J. Trump. The two of them posed for cameras. Someone yelled out about a handshake. The president didn’t offer his hand. The chancellor looked puzzled after she had asked for one from her colleague and host.


Strange moment, indeed.

Hockey players shake hands after beating each other up during their matches; Little Leaguers shake hands after games, sometimes cheering “Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate … ?”

Gentlemen extend a hand to ladies. It can be interpreted, perhaps, as a game. Trump, though, doesn’t play games … apparently.

I heard about this moment and my thoughts flashed back immediately to something similar that occurred in 1990 right here in Texas.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Clayton Williams was running against Democratic nominee Ann Richards. The two of them were fighting each other viciously.

Then they appeared together at an event. I cannot remember its precise nature. Afterward, with candidates sharing a head table, Richards extended her hand to Williams — who promptly refused to take it; he called her a “liar.” He walked away.

Commentators said at the time Williams committed a cardinal sin among gentlemanly Texans by refusing to take a lady’s hand and it likely helped contribute to Richards defeating Williams in that year’s election for Texas governor.

The president of the United States need not worry about German voters should he decide to seek re-election in 2020.

But, geez, Mr. President. Show some manners.

Planned Parenthood … crossing many lines

You’ve got to connect a lot of dots with this item, but once you do you might find the symmetry fascinating in the extreme.

It involves Planned Parenthood, the bogeyman of those on the political right and, yes, the far right.

A U.S. District judge has just ruled that Texas cannot ban Planned Parenthood health services from being covered by Medicaid assistance.

Now we hear that Barbara Pierce Bush, one of former President George W. Bush’s two daughters, is going to be the keynote speaker next week at Planned Parenthood’s annual luncheon in Fort Worth. President Bush was an avid foe of abortion while serving as Texas governor and then as president.

His daughter, though, is a supporter of Planned Parenthood, which has been targeted by right-wingers because of the referrals it gives to women seeking to terminate their pregnancy.

But as the Texas Tribune reports, Barbara’s mother, Laura, doesn’t share the former president’s disdain for Planned Parenthood. Neither does Barbara’s grandmother, another former first lady.

The Tribune reported: “The younger Bush, the CEO and co-founder of Global Health Corps, called Planned Parenthood an ‘exceptional organization’ in a June New York Times interview, and attended a fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Paris in October.”

Then there’s Cecile Richards, daughter of the late former Gov. Ann Richards, who now runs the national Planned Parenthood operation. George W. Bush defeated Ann Richards in 1994, although abortion wasn’t an issue in that contentious campaign.

This story is circuitous, indeed. But there’s another interesting catch to it.

Young Barbara’s grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, was a noted supporter of organizations just like Planned Parenthood when he served in Congress in the 1960s. Then he agreed to toss aside his pro-choice views when he agreed to join the Republican presidential ticket led in 1980 by Ronald W. Reagan.

I guess you could say that this entire issue of reproductive rights, the pro-life movement, the pro-choice movement and all that they entail crosses many lines … even in the midst of the most high profile of political families.

As one who opposes laws that would criminalize abortion, I am glad to see that a well-known former first daughter is standing tall, speaking her own mind.

Trump may be channeling Claytie

I feel like a man who’s ahead of the curve.

I recently wrote about Republican presidential nominee-to-be Donald J. Trump’s insult-inspired campaign and how it might play with voters. In that piece, I mentioned some resemblance that his campaign has with another campaign from an earlier era.

The earlier campaign was the 1990 contest for Texas governor featuring Democrat Ann Richards and Midland oil tycoon Clayton Williams.

Well, lo and behold! It turns out that the Texas Tribune has drawn the same parallel.


We political junkies have the prospect of an intensely negative presidential campaign between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As the Tribune reports: “If Williams’ 1990 race for governor in Texas is any guide, the 2016 presidential campaign will get even nastier. Williams’ Democratic opponent was Ann Richards, at that point a former Travis County commissioner and the sitting state treasurer, a seasoned and well-connected politician of a liberal stripe. ”

Richards sounds a bit like Clinton, too. Yes?

Williams was a wealthy oil and gas mogul. He also dabbled in real estate and telecommunications. He campaign as a plain-spoken West Texan.

Richards presented herself with her trademark humor. She also was tough and relentless in her criticism of Williams.

The campaign got nastier and nastier as it progressed. The final straw occurred in Dallas when Williams refused to shake Richards’ hand that she extended to him during a joint appearance. He called her a “liar” because of a harsh ad her campaign ran a blistering ad accusing a bank that Williams owned of laundering drug money.

Is history going to repeat itself?

Williams was leading Richards early in that campaign. She kept pounding him and eventually won that race.

The Tribune reports: “How does 1990 inform 2016? Like Clinton has done to Trump, Richards turned Williams’ own words against him: Her campaign ads included direct quotes from Williams, enough to turn off many voters. Richards shifted to turn out her base, especially women, and campaigned in areas of strength. Clinton will do much the same, especially in emerging battlegrounds like New Mexico and Colorado.”

Yep, here comes the negativity

Yes, indeed. Something tells me history actually will repeat itself.

Yep, here comes the negativity

clinton trump

NBC News anchor Lester Holt asked a straightforward question.

“Are you going to campaign insult for insult against Donald Trump?” Holt asked presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

“No,” she answered, “He can run a campaign on insults. We’re going to campaign on the issues.”

What, pretell, are those issues? She said she’s going to keep reminding voters that Trump is “temperamentally unfit to be commander in chief.”


There you have it. Clinton said she’s going to campaign “on the issues,” and then spoke candidly about her presumptive Republican opponent’s temperament.

Is that an “issue”? Yes.

The question now facing the Republican Party brass that is gritting its teeth over whether Trump is capable of keeping his cool is: How is he going to respond?

They fear — with good reason — that Trump is fully capable of flying off the rails. He’s shown that propensity all along the campaign trail so far.

Here’s a scenario that could repeat itself. Longtime observers of Texas politics will remember when this happened.

The year was 1990. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ann Richards was campaigning against Republican nominee Clayton Williams.

The two of them shared a dais at an event late in the campaign. They each spoke to the crowd. Then as the event drew to a close, Richards walked over to Williams and extended her hand.

Williams refused to shake it. He called Richards a “liar.”

News photographers and TV cameras picked up the snub and reported all over Texas. How did the optics play? Not well … at all!

Williams’s refusal to “shake the hand of a lady” insulted a lot of Texans vicariously.

Richards defeated Williams to become the state’s governor.

Something tells me — if Clinton keeps talking “issues” relating to Trump’s temperamental fitness — that Donald Trump is fully capable of repeating Claytie’s mistake.

Listen to one of your own, GOP, on 'Obamacare'

Brent Budowsky is singing Karl Rove’s praises.

And why not? Budowsky is an economist of some repute and is a former aide to the late, great U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas. He thinks Rove — aka “Bush’s Brain” — is spot on in telling his fellow Republicans to give their futile effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

It’s a loser. Any remote chance the GOP has of tossing the ACA aside is going to cost them dearly, especially when — in Budowsky’s eyes — the first person dies because he or she is denied affordable health insurance because Republicans have won their fight to repeal the ACA.


And why should the GOP high command listen to Rove?

Easy. The man’s a brilliant political strategist.

He helped engineer George W. Bush’s winning campaigns for Texas governor (in 1994) and two successful races for the presidency (in 2000 and 2004). The governor’s race should have been in the bag for the incumbent, the late Democrat Ann Richards. Rove came up with a strategy that held Bush to a tightly scripted line of specific issues and reforms he would enact if elected governor. He never veered off the script as he went on to defeat Richards.

The man knows a winning political cause and a losing cause as well as anyone.

As Budowsky writes in The Hill: “Rove’s surrender to ObamaCare, advising Republicans against pretending they would repeal ObamaCare, is politically very wise. Rove’s fear about what happens to Republicans if the court does overturn ObamaCare provisions and the world witnesses horror stories of Americans being hurt because of Republican anti-ObamaCare politics — without any Republican policy to undo the damage — is politically brilliant.

“Imagine daily stories on television about very ill Americans being stripped of healthcare, about children losing their insurance because they would no longer be covered by their parent’s policies, about Americans with preexisting conditions being thrown to the insurance wolves without ObamaCare, and about huge insurance premium increases that would punish many millions of Americans because of the Republican war against ObamaCare.”

Budowsky also predicts that the Supreme Court is going to uphold the ACA when it rules on its constitutionality before the end of the court’s current term.

Pay attention. Karl Rove might not be every American’s favorite operative/pundit/talking head. Howeve, he is wise to counsel his fellow Republicans to give up a fight they’re certain to lose.


Gov. Cuomo told the harsh truth

A progressive voice is gone. Too bad for the nation he leaves behind.

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo — who died Thursday at age 82 — once was thought to be a possible candidate for president. Why, he even might have become president one day, perhaps a good or great president at that.

He chose instead to stay in Albany, N.Y., and govern his state. Cuomo would lose his governor’s job eventually in that 1994 Republican sweep, the one that took control of Congress and tossed out a number of governors. Cuomo was gone from public office, as was, say, his friend and colleague Ann Richards here in Texas.

But take a listen to a speech this good man delivered a decade earlier, at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. He told of a “tale of two cities.” One was the “shining city on the hill” envisioned by President Reagan. But there was another city that Gov. Cuomo sought to lift up.

He sought to bring attention to the suffering he said the president was dismissing.

Cuomo’s brand of progressiveness wasn’t the knee-jerk brand. He spoke from his heart. No, his politics didn’t play well in much of the country in 1984. Was his progressive brand popular here, in Texas — and in this part of the Lone Star State? Not even close.

As he told the DNC delegates in San Francisco that evening, he wanted the nation to know that while, yes, the nation did symbolize the shining city, it was — and is — a more complex place. People who are suffering need help from the government.

After all, he said, it is their government, too.

Rest in peace, governor.