Tag Archives: Ann Richards

R.I.P., Texas GOP trailblazer

I never thought of Clayton Williams as a political trailblazer.

Then comes word today that Claytie — a Midland oil and natural gas tycoon who ran for Texas governor in 1990 — has died at age 88.

I extend my condolences to Williams’ friends and family. I do want to offer a comment on his single, but futile run for public office.

He sought the governorship running against the late Texas Treasurer Ann Richards — who had rocketed to national notoriety with her stellar 1988 Democratic National Convention keynote speech in which she declared that then-GOP Vice President George H.W. Bush “can’t help it, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

Richards and Williams, a Republican, faced off two years later. Williams was poised to win. Then he started committing a series of gaffes. He compared inclement weather to rape, urging Texans to “relax and enjoy it”; he refused to shake Richards’ hand at an event, a gesture that rankled many Texans who believe a gentleman shouldn’t act that way toward a woman; then he revealed he didn’t pay federal taxes when the oil industry was collapsing in the 1980s.

Richards won the governorship. She served a single term before losing in 1994 to the “silver-footed” VP’s son, George W. Bush.

The Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey makes a fascinating point, though, about Williams’ political legacy. He notes that Bill Clements was the lone Republican to win the governorship since the Civil War Reconstruction era. Williams lost in 1990, but well might have paved the way for “W” to win in 1994.

Since then, according to Ramsey, Republicans have clamped a vise grip on the governorship, as well as every statewide office.

The things you can learn …

Rest in peace, Claytie.

How will Trump lay out his next agenda?

As I look ahead to the upcoming presidential campaign, I keep wondering just how Donald J. Trump is going to campaign for a second term.

Will he actually offer an agenda for the next four years? Or will he get into the name-calling game that helped get him elected in the first place?

Texas Gov. Ann Richards sought re-election to a second term in 1994, but got beat by a political newcomer, George W. Bush. Part of Gov. Richards’ undoing was her seeming inability to lay out a second-term agenda as Texas governor. Bush, meanwhile, stayed focused on his own agenda and campaigned relentlessly without veering too far from his talking points.

Richards, meanwhile, got too negative in her effort to derail the up-and-comer. It didn’t work.

So, will the president borrow a page from the failed Ann Richards playbook?

The major issue, from my standpoint, is that Trump’s initial agenda has been buried under the chaos and confusion that has been hallmark of his term in office. How will the Democratic nominee campaign against that first term? I suppose he or she will point correctly — in my view — to the chaotic nature of the president’s (hoped-for only) term.

Trump, meanwhile, likely will be true to form and respond with the blizzard of insults and innuendo that became the centerpiece of his victorious campaign in 2016.

Second-term agenda? Hah! There well might not be a mention of it.

How does Trump plan to make his re-election case?

Donald J. Trump is going to ask Americans to re-elect him to another term as president of the United States. I am baffled to the max over this question: How is he going to make the case that he has earned a second term?

Trump got elected in 2016 by demonizing his opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton and by stoking fear of enemies outside of our borders and of those within them. He promised to vanquish them all. He told us that “I, alone” can repair all that ailed the nation.

Well, he hasn’t.

He has been bedeviled by questions concerning his relationships — business, personal and political — with foreign governments. He claims today that he has been “exonerated.” He hasn’t been cleared of anything. That’s another story.

As he ramps up his re-election campaign, Donald Trump is facing a critical question. How is he going to sell himself for another four years in the White House?

I am reminded a bit of the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who ran for re-election as governor in 1994 against a political novice, a fellow named George W. Bush. Richards was thought of at the time to be highly popular. She had good — if not great — public approval ratings.

She made a critical error during her first term. She vetoed legislation that would have referred a concealed handgun carry bill to the voters for their endorsement. The veto enraged gun enthusiasts.

More than that, though, Richards hardly spoke of how she would govern during a second term. She spent a lot of public time blasting George W. Bush, calling him a lightweight and a “jerk.” Bush remained focused on his campaign themes.

Bush ended up winning. Richards was gone.

There ought to be a lesson for Trump here. Except that he won’t accept it. He won’t campaign on a second-term vision because, in my view, he doesn’t have one. Heck, he didn’t have a first-term vision, other than banning Muslims from traveling to this country, building The Wall along our southern border and eliminating the Affordable Care Act.

He stoked fear and loathing. He appealed to our darker instincts.

Is he going to brighten his vision for the future? Hah! Hardly! A 70-something-year-old man isn’t likely to change the strategy that won him election to the first public office he ever sought.

In my humble view, these basic tenets remain the same today as they were when Trump rode down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his presidential candidacy:

  • Donald Trump is unfit at every level imaginable to be president.
  • Trump will continue to be the fear monger in chief.
  • He will continue to lie incessantly.
  • Trump will demonize his opponents in the most venal, disgusting, disgraceful, personal terms.

Donald Trump doesn’t deserve re-election any more than he deserved election in the first place. I intend to do everything within my meager power — through this forum — to make that case.

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.