Good morning Austin:
Based on the absolutely gorgeous weather for yesterday’s inauguration of Greg Abbott as governor and Dan Patrick as lieutenant governor, God must love Texas. Or maybe that’s Mother Nature. Well, either way, God and/or Mother Nature must love Texas. And what’s not to love?
Here is how Patrick’s speech began:
If not for the grace of God, you, and millions of Texans, I would not be standing here today. Proverbs 21:31 says: “the horse is made ready for battle, but the victory is the Lord’s.” I worked hard, but the victory was His. I’m humbled, grateful, and blessed beyond belief for your trust in electing me as the 72nd Lt Governor of Texas.
In Matthew 20:26 the Bible says: “whoever wants to be a leader among you must first be your servant.” I stand here with a servants heart, respectful of all faiths, but as a Christian first, a conservative second, and a Republican third.
But first, as is his wont, Patrick took a selfie.
As the Statesman’s Chuck Lindell wrote:
Moments after taking the oath of office Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick celebrated his faith, promised to take conservatism to the next level and reminded the federal government that “Come and take it” is more than a historic motto.
First, however, the tea party favorite pulled out a cellphone and turned his back to the crowd gathered on the Capitol’s south lawn to watch Tuesday’s inauguration ceremony for Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott.
I can’t resist this moment here,” he said, snapping selfie photos from various angles.
From there, it was all seriousness as Patrick, quoting from the Bible’s book of Matthew, vowed to be a servant leader for Texas.
“I respect all faiths and religions, but I am a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third, and I praise Jesus for this moment and this day,” he said
Patrick also sought to punctuate his speech with a call-and-response with the crowd:
Dan Patrick: “What day is it?”
Crowd: “It’s a new day in Texas.”
But, for whatever reason, the crowd didn’t seem all that into it. Their response was more like that of an early morning congregation, whose weak reply to the pastor’s initial “Good morning,” requires the pastor to say, “Good morning” back again in a louder, disapproving tone, indicating it’s time to wake up and do a little better than that.
None of what Patrick said or did yesterday was new or unexpected. He is, after all, the author of the immodestly titled, “The Second Most Important Book You’ll Ever Read: A Personal Challenge to Read the Bible.”
I have no idea whether this rubs Abbott the right way or the wrong way.
In substance, what Patrick says is not very different from what Abbott says, but he says it differently and it leaves a different impression. Ronald Reagan had his 11th Commandment – “Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican” – and Abbott might be wondering if there ought to be a 12th Commandment – “Thou shall not out-God a fellow Republican, especially a fellow Republican who went to the Supreme Court to defend the Ten Commandments Monument on the Capitol grounds.”
In his speech, Abbott invoked God but in the more personal context of his own recovery from the accident three decades ago that partially paralyzed him:
The journey from that Houston hospital to the Texas Governorship was possible because of two powerful forces.
First is the grace of God. The Book of Matthew reminds us that With God all things are possible.
I am reminded of this when I hear a song that often plays in churches. It’s titled “You Raise Me Up”:
You raise me up so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up to more than I can be.
As I begin my Governorship I humbly ask for God’s continued grace and guidance, and I assure you: We will never forget that we remain One Nation Under God.
On the other hand, Patrick’s more insistent invocations of God in pursuit of a more unyielding conservative agenda may serve the purpose of making Abbott seem a more temperate figure, which may be useful to him.
In any case, comparisons of the Abbott and Patrick approaches were a feature of the coverage of yesterday’s events.
In the Texas Observer, Christopher Hooks wrote:
Inaugurations are an odd part of American civic life, and they vary wildly from state to state. In Oregon this year, the re-election campaign of Gov. John Kitzhaber was nice enough to distribute cookies to the public after his inaugural address. In Washington State, a “non-partisan, nonprofit committee of citizen volunteers” planned a few events, which could be attended by members of the public for a flat fee.
But this is Texas, where we do politics as God intended, and so the inaugural ceremony that ended the decade-and-a-half reign of James Richard Perry and began the bright new era of Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick was a $4.5 million dollar corporate- and donor-powered blowout, complete with a flyover of F-16 fighter jets, cannon fire, and enough barbecue to feed a small army, and their horses and those horses’ horses.
It was a reminder that Texas disdains nothing more than modesty. It was also, of course, a chance to take the pulse of Abbott and Patrick as they take hold of power. Abbott spoke genially and tamely about the greatness and goodness of Texas, his family, and God, in no particular order; Patrick proved he can still stoke fires and poke eyes.
Patrick’s swearing-in came first, administered by his son, a Houston judge. It’s remarkable how little has changed since Patrick’s address to the state Republican Party convention this summer, the first time he declined a chance to swerve to the middle. He opened his speech by invoking Proverbs 21:31 to explain his election victory—“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” Patrick, one presumes, is the horse.
“I worked hard,” Patrick told the crowd, “but the victory was His.” He was now, as he had been during his primary run, “a Christian first, a conservative second, and a Republican third.” He would strive to be “trustworthy, encouraging to others, and humble.”
There was a godly theme at the Capitol grounds today. Dr. Tony Evans, a Dallas preacher who bills himself as “the urban alternative,” urged his audience to remember that “government was created by God, for the benefit of the people it serves.” He hoped that the pink dome behind him would continue to be “His house,” belonging to the “ultimate King.” Abbott and Patrick’s speeches did their best to flesh out what this would mean in practice.
This was not lost on Joe Gaston, who came to the Capitol with an enormous, wheeled cross. He told the Observer he’d be circling the Capitol for the next two days, bearing the cross and praying for the state’s leadership. He was happy, he said, that “God was not hid” in the men’s speeches: “To hear a politician get up and publicly make that kind of statement, you’ve got to be bold.”
At Quorum Report, Eric Bearse, who, as he noted, “had a very small part in the crafting of Governor Abbott’s remarks today” (and a big part in crafting Rick Perry’s farewell speech last week to the Legislature), also compared the Abbott and Patrick approaches:
Governor Abbott reached broadly, speaking to our diverse heritage and using his diverse family as an unspoken metaphor for Texas’s past, present and future. He spoke in stirring terms about his own journey, and for me it was most poignant when he spoke slowly about being in a hospital bed 30 years ago, and arriving on this stage today to become Texas’ 48th governor. Yes, governor: the improbable is possible in Texas.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick gave more of a fiery campaign speech. His best words were saved for the issue of school choice, when he spoke persuasively and passionately about helping parents choose better schools for their children. The repeat refrain, requiring audience participation, about it being a new day for Texas was a bit quirky. I felt like I was listening to my evangelical pastor tell me to look at my neighbor in the pew and say, “it’s a new day in Christ.” It seems Mr. Patrick has message discipline: he doesn’t detour away from giving red meat to the conservative base. Nor did he attempt to broaden his appeal with this speech.
At the Inaugural Ball at the Convention Center last night, when Patrick took to the stage he reiterated that “God guided us all the way – I give all glory to Him.” But then he went on to thank, Jan, his wife of 39 years, who, he said, was as beautiful today as she was the first day he laid eyes upon her. He also said that his daughter had just announced that she was expecting their fourth grandchild in July.
A short while later, Abbott made a grand entrance.
Here is some video of Abbott’s appearance at the ball.
And, as he noted, there was his backstage time with Lady Antebellum, the featured performers for the night.
The musical highlight for me was the Austin band Soul Track Mind’s rendition of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, which, come to find out, is how a young Jack White mispronounced or misunderstood Salvation Army.
I’m gonna fight ’em off
A seven nation army couldn’t hold me back
They’re gonna rip it off
Taking their time right behind my back
And I’m talkin’ to myself at night
Because I can’t forget
Back and forth through my mind
Behind a cigarette
And the message comin’ from my eyes says leave it alone…
I also liked when country performer Pat Green of Fort Worth told the assembled revelers that, even though they were Republicans, he knew they could “shake their ass,” and expected them to do so.
Abbott’s appearance culminated in a blizzard of confetti – and Patrick joining him for a selfie.
Meanwhile, even as nearly 10,000 Republicans (there might have been a few Democrats, Independents and Libertarians) were celebrating Abbott and Patrick at the Inaugural Ball at the Convention Center last night, across the country, President Obama was delivering his State of the Union Address.
Speaking before joint session of Congress, Obama didn’t mention God until the last line of his speech, and then in only the most perfunctory way:
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.
Today’s First Reading concludes with a little Twitter reaction to the POTUS’ SOTU.
When Obama said – “In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new.” – there was this from J.D. Gins, executive director of the Travis County Democratic Party.
This all-purpose critique came from Brandon Morse: