Tag Archives: Teel Bivins

You go, Gov. Perry!


I have lived in Texas for 32-plus years.

For most of that time, Rick Perry has been in the public eye: as a then-Democratic state legislator from Haskell County, as Texas agriculture commissioner, as state lieutenant governor, as governor and as a two-time Republican candidate for president of the United States.

I’ve never rooted for him to win anything.

Until now.

He has been selected to compete on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Our paths have crossed a few times over the years. I first met him in Beaumont, when he ran for agriculture commissioner. I would talk to him again after he was elected lieutenant governor and then governor. The late state Sen. Teel Bivins once introduced Perry to my wife and me while we were attending a Chamber of Commerce event in downtown Amarillo.

I’ve never particularly cared for the man’s politics, nor his personal demeanor for that matter.

He’s going to cut a rug, so to speak, on the ABC-TV network show.

I have no earthly clue as to why I actually am pulling for him to win. It might be that he’ll be a huge underdog. I don’t know who else is in the mix, but I’m sure there’ll be a healthy complement of athletes whose athletic skill requires them to be nimble on their feet.

I remember when Tom DeLay, the Republican U.S. House majority leader, kicked up his heels on the show. He was a great sport when he lost out early in the competition. Will the same fate await his good friend and fellow GOPer Rick Perry?

The world awaits … with bated breath.

First, though, I have to remember to watch the show!

That, right there, is going to be a challenge.

Minds can change in heated political climate

I’m hearing a lot of pundits saying things about how locked in Americans are on the presidential election.

Voters’ minds are made up.

They’re going to vote for Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton or Republican Donald J. Trump. Perhaps they’ll vote for a minor-party candidate; we’ve got a few of them on the ballot this year.

Nothing either of the major-party nominees can say is going to sway voters on the other side.

I’m not so sure.

I witnessed the changing of a mind nearly a year ago. It involved an Amarillo municipal referendum. I wrote about it. Take a look.

A mind has changed on the MPEV

The above blog post, published in October 2015, also notes how one former Texas legislator, the late Teel Bivins, told me how another legislator, Carl Parker, could change minds during Texas Senate floor debate.

Are our minds locked in on this election?

Maybe. Maybe not.

GOP cannibalism now under way


Somehow, you just knew this would happen.

Back when there were many more Republican Party candidates for president, they all signed a “pledge” to back whoever the party nominates.

That was then. Now that we’re down to just three men standing, they all now are going back on their pledge. As noted Republican analyst Matthew Dowd said this morning on “Good Morning America,” he never considered the pledge to be “the Magna Carta,” meaning he’s not surprised that the candidates are walking back their pledge of support for the other guy.

Well, this is a byproduct of what has been the least dignified presidential campaign in memory — if not in history.

Donald J. Trump said the Republican Party has “treated me very unfairly.” The frontrunner is mad because the GOP brass doesn’t want him to be the nominee and is staying up into the wee hours concocting a scenario that would deny him the nomination at the party convention this summer in Cleveland.

Rafael Edward Cruz has said he is “not in the habit” of supporting candidates who attack his family, which the frontrunner — Trump — has done.

John Kasich is no fan of either of the other guys. He especially appears to detest Trump and has said — almost categorically — that the frontrunner won’t get his support if he’s the nominee. As for Cruz, should he be the nominee, a Kasich endorsement also sounds a bit iffy.

Trump, to no one’s surprise, said he never “pledged” anything. I guess that picture of him holding up that document in which he signed his name was a mirage.

A friend of mine reminded me this morning of something a prominent Texas Panhandle politician used to say about how Republicans treat each other. They resort to a form of cannibalism.

The comment came from the late state Sen. Teel Bivins of Amarillo, who used to joke that redistricting, which the Texas Legislature performs every decade after the census is taken, is when “Republicans eat their young.”

He said he hated the redistricting process. “Sure you do, Teel,” I would tell him. He just couldn’t stop doing it.

Are we seeing the three remaining GOP presidential candidates “eat” each other? They just might take this intense dislike with them to that convention in Ohio late this year.

Bon apetit, gentlemen.

Get rid of gun free zones? Really?

Back in 1995, when the Texas Legislature was debating whether to allow Texans to carry concealed handguns, the publisher for whom I worked posed an interesting question to our state senator.

“Why don’t you just allow folks to carry guns on their hips and walk around the State Capitol?” he asked the late Teel Bivins, a Republican and an avid proponent of gun-owners rights.

I cannot recall Bivins’s response. Perhaps he thought it was a rhetorical question.

But it comes to mind now as I read this essay about gun free zones in the wake of the Chattanooga murders of four Marines and a sailor.


Why not allow guns into the U.S. Capitol?

Joel Zeitz, the author of the essay, noted that Donald Trump sounded like a mainstream Republican when he said we need to “get rid of gun free zones.” According to Trump, the men who died at the hands of the shooter didn’t have a chance because they were in a zone where gun are prohibited, which of course didn’t stop the shooter from sneaking a gun into the place.

The U.S. Capitol has seen gun violence erupt. People have gotten past security systems with weapons. They have harmed individuals and damaged the structure.

Would guns inside the Capitol stopped the incidents? I have trouble believing they would have worked.

Texas’ concealed handgun carry law, by the way, hasn’t been the disaster some of us thought it would be when the Legislature enacted it two decades ago.

However, this argument that more guns makes us a safer society has yet to be proven — at least to me.

Redistricting really and truly matters to us

Redistricting is an issue that usually appeals to policy wonks, political junkies and perhaps nerds who have nothing better to do than think about this stuff.

I’m not really a wonk; I don’t consider myself a nerd. I am a bit of a political junkie.

But the redistricting mess is something that ought to concern everyone who’s affected by state and national government.

That means, um, everyone.


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on its last day of his latest term that Arizona can allow someone other than the legislature to redraw congressional lines. The 5-4 ruling means that the state can appoint a special commission to do the job left normally to partisan politicians.

So, what does that mean for Texas?

Probably not as much as it should, according to the Texas Tribune.


The late state Sen. Teel Bivins of Amarillo used to say that redistricting provided Republicans the “chance to eat their young.” I never quite understood what he meant by Republicans eating their young. Democrats do the same thing.

The Texas Legislature redraws legislative and congressional boundaries after every census is taken. It’s done a horrible job of gerrymandering districts into shapes that make zero sense. It’s a bipartisan exercise in political power retention.

After the 1990 census, Democrats who controlled the Texas Legislature managed to split Amarillo in half in an effort to protect Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Sarpalius. It worked through one election cycle, as Sarpalius was-re-elected in 1992. Then came 1994 and Sarpalius got tossed out when voters elected Republican Mac Thornberry.

Some of the congressional districts downstate snake along streets and highways. They make zero sense.

As the Texas Tribune reports: “The Arizona case opens the door for voters to take the map-drawing away from the people who are occupationally dependent on the lines on those maps. That’s a fancy way of saying the lawmakers have a conflict of interest when they draw. They’re picking their voters instead of drawing the lines as if they had no interest at all.”

Did you get that? Legislators who draw the lines are the actual beneficiaries of their very own work.

They shouldn’t be involved. The Constitution doesn’t require legislators to do this task; it says only that states must do it.

If legislatures pass that duty to specially appointed commissions, then they are entitled to do so.

So, Texas legislators, what are you waiting for?

Turner bids teary farewell to Legislature

rep. turner

This is something you don’t see every day: politicians from both sides of the political paying heartfelt tribute to one of their own as he prepares to depart their ranks.

So it was when state Rep. Sylvester Turner bid farewell to the Texas House of Representatives. He’s leaving the House, where he served for 26 years, to run for mayor of Houston.


Is this a huge thing? Not really. It’s simply worth noting in light of the occasional acrimony that flares up in Austin and more often, it seems, in Washington, D.C.

Turner is a Democrat, but the praise he got from Republican colleagues seemed heartfelt and sincere.

They praised Turner’s rhetorical skills. This came from Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo: “He could turn the House with logic and good argument.”

I once heard the late Republican state Sen. Teel Bivins of Amarillo say the same thing about a one-time foe, former Sen. Carl Parker, D-Port Arthur, who used to deride his GOP colleagues as “silk-stocking Republicans.” He included Bivins among that category of Republican. Bivins didn’t take it personally and they men remained friends despite their political differences.

That’s the way it ought to be.

As Turner told his colleagues to their faces, with tears welling up in his eyes: “I love each and every one of you. Whether we have voted together or not is not important to me. Whether you are a D or an R is not important to me. The reality is we are Texans, but proud Texans.”

Well said.


No love for Hillary from White House

The late state Sen. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, once told me that the Legislature’s decennial redistricting effort gave Republican lawmakers a chance to show how they “eat their young.”

It’s a cutthroat business, carving up a state into equally sized legislative and congressional districts. It has to be done once the census is taking every decade.

Well, it’s good to point out that Republicans aren’t the only ones who “eat their young.” Democrats do it, too.


A New York Post columnist reports that sources tell him that White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett leaked to the press Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email account while she served as secretary of state.

Where’s the love from the White House? Not with Jarrett, apparently. It remains to be seen if the Post article can be verified by other, independent sources. A part of me isn’t surprised by what the columnist is reporting.

Remember ol’ Willie Horton? He was the murderer whose prison furlough was approved by then-Democratic Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who was his party’s presidential nominee in 1988. Then-Vice President George Bush, the Republican presidential nominee, hammered Dukakis mercilessly over that furlough, as Horton went out and killed someone during the time he was set free.

Do you remember who introduced that issue into the 1988 political campaign? It was a young U.S. senator from Tennessee, Democrat Albert Gore Jr., who was seeking his party’s nomination along with Dukakis. Gore ratted out Dukakis in a Democrat vs. Democrat game of insults.

I’m certain my friend Teel Bivins would enjoy watching this latest bit of political cannibalism.



Politics determines ambassador picks

CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta wanted to know whether a campaign “bundler” for President Obama is the best person to represent the United States at its embassy in Paris.

Well, what difference does it make? Ambassadorships are political prizes. Always have been. Republican presidents dole out these gifts and so do Democratic presidents.

Acosta’s question came while wondering whether U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley questioned the White House about the “optics” that might occur if we didn’t send a high-ranking emissary to the unity rally.


Then came the query about Hartley’s role as someone who gathered up campaign cash from contributors to the Obama campaign; she and her husband had hosted a high-dollar campaign dinner at their New York home for conributors, which apparently earned her an ambassadorial appointment to Paris.

With few exceptions, ambassadorships go to political allies and those who have contributed tangibly to the winning presidential candidate’s political effort.

Take the time George W. Bush appointed the late Teel Bivins to be our ambassador to Sweden. Was the state senator from Amarillo an expert on Sweden? Did he have keen insight into the geopolitical relationship between the nations? No on both counts.

He was a longtime friend of the Bush family and he worked tirelessly to get President Bush elected in 2000.

Thus, he got himself a ticket to Stockholm.

I wish it weren’t that way. Jane Hartley is no different than the vast majority of ambassadors representing this country at overseas posts.

This issue, though, does make me wonder: What does someone have to do to get an ambassadorial appointment to a hellhole of a country?


Thrill will be gone soon from Texas Senate

Texas lawmakers of both political parties have told me over the years how much “fun” they had serving in the state Legislature. Both chambers comprised members who had pals on the other side.

They were chums. They shared an adult beverage after hours. They would talk about common interests. They would seek each other’s advice.

I remember meeting the late state Sen. Teel Bivins for the first time. The Republican knew I came to Amarillo from Beaumont and he shared in our first meeting his respect for a Democratic adversary from Southeast Texas, Sen. Carl Parker, who used to refer to Bivins and others of his stripe as “silk-stocking Republicans.” Bivins never took it personally and he actually admired Parker’s debating skill, which he would employ on the floor of the Senate.

My trick knee is telling me those days are about to end.

Dan Patrick will become the next lieutenant governor in January. Patrick has made it known his desire to abandon a couple of Senate traditions: one is the two-thirds rule that requires 21 Senate votes to bring any bill to a vote of the entire of body; the other is the practice of appointing senators of the other party as committee chairs.

Patrick, a Republican, said earlier this year that given Texas’s strong conservative leaning and the fact that Republicans stand like a colossus over the landscape, then — by golly — he would prefer to have an all-GOP lineup among the Senate leadership.

Crank up the steamroller, folks.

What does this mean for what’s left of the party’s more moderate element, which must include Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, who wants to lead the Education Committee?

A friend of mine and I were talking Friday about the next Legislature. He’s been observing Texas politics for decades and he wonders how the state will function when it is run by the TEA party wing of the GOP. He mentioned former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, a wise man and moderate Republican, and lamented that Ratliff no longer is in public life. “Who would have thought that Kel Seliger would be considered a ‘liberal’ within the Republican Party?” he asked … rhetorically.

There once was a time when serving in the Legislature could be considered “fun.” Hey, it doesn’t pay very much so you look for fun whenever and wherever you can find it.

The tone and tenor of the upper chamber is about to change. For my taste — and perhaps the taste of others around the state — it won’t be for the better.



Envoy posts: political payoffs

It’s not exactly a dirty little secret, as many folks know this already … but ambassadorial appointments are more likely than not going to individuals who’ve helped presidents get elected or re-elected.

You can be sure as shootin’ on this one: President Obama’s appointment of Jane Hartley as the next U.S. ambassador to France is going to bring out the critics who’ll say they’re simply “shocked, shocked!” that the president would pick someone who so darn political.


That’s been the custom since the beginning of the Republic.

Hartley is a well-known “bundler” who helped the president win re-election in 2012. Bundlers are those who go around collecting large sums of money from various interest groups and then contribute that money to whatever political cause or candidate they support.

I have no clue whether she’s an expert on France or whether she even knows anything about The Bastille. She is yet another in a long line of ambassadorial appointments that fall into this category of so-called “political hack.”

The vast majority of the complaints will come, of course, from Republicans.

I shouldn’t have to remind our friends in the GOP — but I will anyway — that presidents from their party do the same thing. I’ll cite one example quite close to home.

The late Teel Bivins of Amarillo served in the Texas Senate for 15 years before President George W. Bush tapped him to become U.S. ambassador to Sweden. Did Bivins get the nod because he was an expert on preparing pickled herring? Oh no. He got it because of his own campaign grunt work raising money and speaking on behalf of President Bush during the 2000 campaign.

One of Bivins’s top Senate aides actually told me at the time the president was rewarding the senator for “15 years of service to Texas.” Sure thing.

Well, Teel Bivins’s service to Texas wasn’t the reason he was sent to Stockholm. Hartley’s service won’t matter when Hartley jets off — once the U.S. Senate confirms her — to take her post in Paris. It hardly ever is the case whenever presidents make these appointments.

These folks are rewarded for their “service,” all right. It’s all politics.