Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Feb. 23, 2014.
We're not electing Alamo defenders against Satan
If there's one question Texas voters should answer for themselves before casting ballots in the primary election, it's this:
Does Candidate (Fill In The Blank) really think we're that stupid?
A troubling pattern has emerged in several prominent campaigns - the message has nothing remotely to do with the job description. It's as if the candidate never bothered to read it.
Don't be fooled. The candidates know what the job is, but choose the message they think will make the biggest splash. Never mind whether it has anything to do with the job. Show them an opponent unwilling to sacrifice principle to play this game and they'll show you a loser.
Take, for example, the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, the most interesting of the statewide contests because it's a powerful position and there's not a single no-name among the four candidates. The lieutenant governor's job is to preside over the Texas Senate and appoint committees. Other than that, there's the occasional stand-in duty when the governor has left the state to go insult Californians to their faces.
The lieutenant governor is NOT the state's bulwark against illegal immigration. But a voter would never guess it from the ads and rhetoric. Candidate Dan Patrick claims to be the hardest-line of the four. The recent revelation that he employed undocumented immigrants in the 1980s notwithstanding, voters should have dismissed him already for bringing border security up in the first place. Ironically, the Dan Patrick described to The Dallas Morning News and Houston's KTRK-TV by a formerly undocumented former employee possesses redeeming human qualities we've never seen in the demagogic Dan Patrick portrayed by candidate Dan Patrick.
Another of the popular off-point campaign themes is gun rights. It's one thing for candidates for governor or the Legislature to talk gun policy. They actually can affect it. But it has managed to seep into the comptroller's race. The comptroller is the state's chief financial officer, accountant and collector and distributor of revenue - last we checked.
Maybe we should be impressed that comptroller candidates are courageous enough to collect taxes from a polite society of armed taxpayers. Candidate Glenn Hegar in particular has a video of himself at a gun range shooting a semi-automatic handgun and an AR-15 rifle. Knowing his way around Excel would seem more germane.
Hegar also wants the electorate to know that he's vehemently anti-abortion, as does Railroad Commission candidate Wayne Christian. It's pointed out often that the Railroad Commission has nothing to do with regulating railroads. It has even less to do with regulating abortion.
It used to be a traditional ruse by all candidates for attorney general to campaign on a lock-'em-up law-and-order platform when the attorney general's main purpose is to provide legal guidance and represent the state's legal interests. The law-and-order shtick was a lot more honest than what is going on nowadays.
The tendency is to blame far-right preening on the tea party for pushing already far-right Republicans farther right. It's true that a lot of pragmatic right-leaning politicians are playing this game as a survival tactic.
But the way we see it, the tea party is a group of voters who vote. That means voting in the primary, which a lot of so-called voters don't bother to do. The ones who DO bother will make many if not most or all of the key decisions in this election.
So, don't blame the tea party. Blame voters.
But don't let politicians off the hook. In each race there's at least one candidate trying his or her darnedest to discuss actual lieutenant-governing, comptroller-of-public-accounting, or land-, railroad- or agriculture-commissioning. Smart voters know what to do.
Houston Chronicle. Feb. 21, 2014.
Patrick's kind act: In GOP race, hypocrisy is boundless
The lawyer's question had to do with defining the good life, and the teacher's answer included, in part, the admonition to love one's neighbor.
So, who is my neighbor? The prideful lawyer wanted to know. In response, the teacher told a story: A certain man was going down from Houston to the Rio Grande Valley to visit his ailing mother, who lived across the river in a foreign land. Coming back, he knew, would be dangerous, because he lacked appropriate papers. He ran the risk of being jailed, deported. By chance, two men of respectability were going down that way, but given the man's illegal immigrant status, both passed by on the other side. But a certain Houston bar owner - actually, the man's boss - was moved with compassion and offered to drive the man back to Houston if he made it back across the river. Now which of these three, the teacher asked, was a neighbor to him who needed help visiting his ailing mother?
Who could have guessed that three decades later, the "neighbor" would find himself pilloried by his political cohorts for his act of kindness? Or that he would deny it ever happened? Or that this Houston "good Samaritan" would be spending millions of dollars desperately trying to convince Republican primary voters that he would never, ever be guilty of acting kindly toward the undocumented among us.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, now in a hard-fought primary race for lieutenant governor, may or may not have helped out his undocumented employee. But what could be more unseemly - unneighborly - than Patrick's campaign strategy of scapegoating hardworking men and women like his former employee, now a naturalized U.S. citizen, as dangerous, disease-carrying aliens? Almost as odious is the effort by Patrick's opponents to lay him low by charging that he once acted compassionately. These self-professed godly men might remember that a certain teacher who told a similar story two millennia ago also had some pointed things to say about hypocrisy.
San Antonio Express-News. Feb. 21, 2014.
Gone in Congress: art of the possible
Congress' dirty little secret on immigration reform: It's likely that a majority of House members want it because they know it's needed. But reform is dead this year and, possibly, the next.
Cynicism has replaced the art of the possible in Congress. Here's the calculation at work:
First, much of the GOP House caucus doesn't want immigration reform. But, combine those Republicans who do with nearly all of the Democratic caucus and you likely reach the majority needed to pass the legislation. This won't happen because of a rule that dictates that no legislation be allowed on the floor unless a majority of the GOP caucus wants it.
Got that? Majority votes are supposed to rule in Congress - unless the majority party makes sure that a majority vote never occurs. Another way of putting it is that a majority of the representatives of the American people want immigration reform, but they are being blocked by a majority of Republicans, who comprise a minority of the House.
The Senate minority party's version of this is using procedural maneuvers to prevent a majority vote, though tellingly not with immigration. The Senate has passed comprehensive reform that even many House Democrats would vote for.
Second, many GOP House members don't want a vote on immigration reform because they live in fear of a vocal, active base of voters who dominate their party's primary elections. Translated: Keeping what is likely a minority - but voting - portion of even their own party happy is key to re-election. And re-election is what these House members value most.
That's the dynamic at work on immigration reform. "Good" for some House members. Bad for the country. Cynical all around.
The Dallas Morning News. Feb. 20, 2014.
Abbott's bad call on Ted Nugent
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott seems to have a lock on the GOP primary for governor. Even in the lead-up to November's general election, his campaign could cruise to victory with minimal effort, since the steep uphill task of convincing skeptical Texas voters belongs to the likely Democratic nominee, state Sen. Wendy Davis.
Why, then, would Abbott take the reckless step of inviting an ultra-divisive American personality, hard-rock star Ted Nugent, to campaign with him this week in North Texas?
Abbott thought Nugent's vociferous Second Amendment advocacy would help burnish the candidate's gun-rights credentials. But Abbott and his campaign staff apparently didn't look into the more controversial aspects of Nugent's past, which should have given everyone reason to keep the candidate as far away from Nugent as possible.
This misstep calls Abbott's leadership and judgment into question and unnecessarily places his campaign on the defensive.
Nugent is about as crass as they get. He labeled President Barack Obama a "subhuman mongrel." He has referred to feminists and prominent female politicians as "fat pigs" and "dirty whores." He's acknowledged having affairs with underage girls, calling the experience "beautiful."
Nugent's background was outlined in a report Monday by Dallas Morning News staff writer Christy Hoppe. Abbott had plenty of time to cancel Nugent's appearance and minimize any damage, but he proceeded anyway. The candidate later said he didn't know about Nugent's past. At one event, Nugent was hustled away before reporters could ask him questions.
This isn't the first judgment lapse by Abbott. When a Twitter poster referred to Davis as an "idiot" and "retard Barbie" last summer, Abbott responded by thanking the man online.
When American Airlines announced merger plans with U.S. Airways last year, the attorney general joined a federal lawsuit to stop it on antitrust grounds. Then he announced a settlement with the airlines and pulled Texas out of the lawsuit.
Once again, Abbott is giving Texas voters reason to doubt him. Some might shrug off the Nugent debacle as bad advice by his campaign staff, but Abbott is the man in charge.
He badly miscalculated that Nugent's appearance would help focus this election on distinctions between him and Davis on gun rights, as if Texas voters care about nothing else. Conservatives and liberals alike put lots of stock in civility and respect for the dignity of girls and women. Nugent makes a mockery of those core values.
Davis calculates that women could constitute a swing vote in Texas, and her goal is to invigorate a large bloc of inactive voters who assume - wrongly, she hopes - that a Democratic gubernatorial candidate has no chance in this solidly red state. By proceeding with Nugent's appearance, Abbott just handed Davis an inexplicably generous campaign gift.
Waco Tribune-Herald. Feb. 23, 2014.
State law means citizens need to think a bit more before heading out to vote
The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is inviting anyone confused about the new Texas voter ID law to contact it with questions (1-866-687-8683). Some of the concerns it cites this election period:
As you might guess, women will again face greater likelihood of polling problems thanks to the requirement that the name on a voter's photo ID be "substantially similar" to the name on the voter's registration form - a potential oversight when some women change their names after getting married.
Elderly voters have reportedly faced difficulties in obtaining the required voter ID and have sometimes been forced to make several trips to the Texas Department of Public Safety to obtain acceptable photo IDs - a possible problem in itself if you have gone to our local DPS office. You can sometimes wait an hour or more to see a staffer.
Voter ID requirements might be applied inconsistently across the state, given confusion in protocol and changes in procedures. During the law's first run last fall, state Sen. Wendy Davis, state Attorney General Greg Abbott and former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright of Fort Worth all reportedly encountered hurdles while trying to vote on proposed constitutional amendments - and few enough people vote on constitutional amendments as it is. (Well, did you vote?)
One might argue the extra expense to procure documents required to qualify for a state photo ID or the trouble of transportation to a DPS office, say, two counties over should be worth the precious right to vote. Then again, a poor man should not be troubled any more than a rich one when voting in America. Officials should watch this election closely with an eye toward improving our new voter photo ID law.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.