The U.S. Supreme Court suspended the enforcement of strict standards on abortion clinics in Texas Monday, a move that buys time for abortion providers fighting against far-reaching restrictions that have already closed more than two dozen clinics.
The 2013 abortion law, known as House Bill 2, required clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers — such as wider hallways, new infrastructure and expensive medical equipment — and required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Abortion rights advocates have argued those restrictions were onerous and placed an undue burden on women seeking abortions, particularly women who live in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas, hundreds of miles from the nearest clinic that meets the standards of an ambulatory surgical center. Supporters of the law, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have said the restrictions ensure women’s safety.
The full implementation of the law, set for July 1 before the Supreme Court suspended it, would have closed all but eight clinics that already meet the hospital-like standards in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Fort Worth.
A ninth facility in McAllen, however, was granted an exception from the surgical center requirement by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which earlier this month upheld most of the abortion law.
If that particular clinic closed, it would place an undue burden on women in the Valley who would need to travel more than 200 miles to the nearest abortion clinic, the three-judge panel ruled.
The owners of several abortion clinics had asked the appeals court to temporarily halt its June 9 ruling. The appeals court rejected that request, prompting abortion rights attorneys to file an emergency petition to the Supreme Court to step in and halt implementation while the case is appealed.
In a 5-4 decision, the justices granted that request.
The nation’s highest court is the final stop for abortion rights advocates whose protracted legal challenge has seen victories in a federal district court in Austin, only to be reversed in large part by the more conservative federal appeals court in New Orleans.
From 1991 to 2008 my job as a reporter was to write about race.
From early on it seemed to me that the big, overarching story was America’s progression from a nation that was 85 percent white in 1960 to a nation that by around 2044 would have no racial majority. It seemed to me something that was unlikely to occur without some sense of dislocation, and loss and adjustment by at least some whites.
Between 2000 and 2008, I attended four of the biennial American Renaissance conferences outside D.C., white nationalist gatherings at which I was the only reporter from a mainstream news organization who attended them from start to finish, or really, for any more than a few hours, if at all.
I attended them because, while they appeared to be confined to a marginal, right-wing, white racial fringe, I thought that they were articulating a sense of white racial consciousness and white racial grievance that might shed light on thoughts and feelings other whites were having without explicitly expressing or even fully realizing or recognizing them; that these gatherings were, in that sense, the canary in the coalmine of white racial reaction to their eroding majority status.
I thought the gatherings would also help me sort out what seemed to be a kind of shadow continuum between this unrespectable fringe and the more legitimate precincts of right-wing Republican politics.
Finally, it seemed to me that Jared Taylor, the convener of these gatherings, presented these views in their most refined form – that if white nationalism ever gained any broader purchase beyond the fringe, it would be with the likes of Taylor.
This week, Taylor was back in the news when he emerged as the designated spokesman for the Council of Conservative Citizens – a like-minded if rougher-around-the-edges white nationalist organization that he has been a member of for the last 20 years. The Council made one of its occasional forays into national consciousness with news that Dylann Roof’s apparent manifesto suggested that it was the Council’s website that had “informed” his thinking on race and propelled him toward the massacre at the Charleston, S.C., church of which he stands accused.
From the manifesto:
The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was. It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right. But more importantly this prompted me to type in the words `black on White crime’ into Google, and I have never been the same since that day. The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?”
That was followed by news, first reported by the Guardian, that the Council’s president, Eart Holt of Longview, had given tens of thousands of dollars in contributions over the years to conservative candidates, including some in Texas.
Yesterday I wrote a story about how Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. Ted Cruz and other Texas politicians who had received money from Holt – who was not a well-known figure or a particularly big donor – were either returning the money, or giving it to charity, or in some manner seeking to disassociate themselves from Holt
Late last night I spoke with Taylor and what follows are excerpts from that interview.
Below that are excerpts and links for stories I wrote from each of the four American Renaissance conferences I covered. (Warning: With the inclusion of all this supplementary material, today’s First Reading is especially long, but I am off for the next ten days and won’t be doing First Reading again until July, so, take your time.)
For those interested, I think those stories will give you a better feel for Taylor, for white nationalist thinking and also for the CofCC.
Gordon Baum of St. Louis, who, until his recent death, was the longtime president of the CCC, and was a regular attendee at the conferences – though he spent a lot of time outside smoking – figures in these stories.
Baum died in March.
Here is an excerpt from an obituary written by his son-in-law, Hunter Wallace, which gives you a sense of the CofCC’s “mission.”
Gordon was not someone who admitted defeat, who gave up, and that is putting it mildly. Since he was 16-years-old, he spent his entire adult life completely devoted to the cause of our people – literally days before his death, while he recovered from pneumonia, he was telling us to call various CofCC members. Even then, his mind was still focused on the cause. In this way, he reminded me of one of my heroes, the South Carolina fire eater Robert Barnwell Rhett, who once said, “I will keep up the fire, if like a lost hunter in a prairie, I have to kindle it alone, with my gun flint, and watch by the blaze, rifle in hand to keep off the wolves.”
That was my father-in-law in his time: when the Civil Rights of Act of 1964 was passed, when the Citizens’ Councils movement collapsed, when George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, and all the rest repudiated segregation and proclaimed their newfound faith in “racial equality,” when others quit, Gordon Lee Baum stood firm. As the world entered the present Dark Age, Gordon was there to keep up the fire of resistance. Together with other veterans of the Citizens’ Councils, he rebuilt the defunct organization as the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) in the 1980s, which has remained down to the present day an island of stability in the pro-White movement in the United States.
Like many alienated young people, that’s what first caught my eye about the CofCC. By then, it was an established institution with an unmatched record of stability, an organization with deep roots in the old resistance to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The CofCC was a natural home for White people with a populist conservative temperament who wanted to work with others, without apology or dog whistles, to preserve and restore traditional Southern values. At the 2010 CofCC National Conference, Gordon gave me a hard sales pitch and I signed up then and there.
That was no small thing. It later had a decisive impact on my life.
Every night without fail right down until the end, Gordon sat down in this chair to watch and absorb the local and national evening news. That will be one of my lasting memories of him. He wouldn’t have understood the reference, but he was, so to speak, a “Watcher on the Wall.” Near the end of his life, he watched the entire Ferguson saga unfold. Decades ago, he was watching the St. Louis metro area transform into “Ferguson,” and was dumbstruck that White people passively let it happen.
After Baum’s death, Holt, who is from St. Louis and was co-host of a radio show there with Baum, assumed the presidency.
R.G. Ratcliffe reported some about Holt’s St. Louis exploits yesterday at Texas Monthly.
Here now, my interview with Taylor (even though I am also a JT, in this case, JT is Jared Tayl0r.)
FR: How did it fall on you to be the spokesman for the CofCC at this moment?
JT: The president of the CofCC, new in office after the death of Gordon Baum, did not wish to speak to the media, so I stepped into this fiery breach.
FR: What can you tell me about the new president.
JT: His name is Earl P. Holt III. He was adamant about not wishing to speak to media about this.
(Earl Holt doesn’t meet with the press yesterday in Longview.)
FR: Was Dylann Roof ever a member of the CofCC?
JT: He has certainly never been a member, and as far as we can tell, no member who we have a headcount of has heard of this guy’s name. As far as we know the only connection is that he stumbled onto the website.
FR: Do you know if Roof ever visited the American Renaissance site?
JT: He’s certainly never said so and, as far as I know, I’m not aware of him ever having left a comment on the AmRen page.
We have absolutely no idea of him either.
Don’t forget, he said that (the CofCC website) is the first site he found from his initial interest in interracial crime.
Then in his manifesto he goes on to talk about how blacks are always thinking about race, that Asians are nice folks, there’s a Jewish problem, all of that I gather is something that came after his discovery of the CofCC website. He just says that’s the first site he went to. As you know, once you start exploring the Internet there’s just no end to it.
(The information on the CofCC site about interracial crime) surprised him because the dominant narrative is, as you know, one of unremitting white racial violence against blacks. So he was apparently flabbergasted that that is not actually the case and this is what led him to a dissident state of mind.FR: Does what Roof did give you pause about the consequences of what is on the CofCC site? Any sense of culpability?
JT: The parallel I would draw is, let’s imagine that you are deeply concerned about global warming and that you have researched the subject and arrived at strong conclusions based on what you think is conclusive evidence and it turns out that someone with whom you agree, even 100 percent, then walks into the headquarters of ExxonMobil and shoots up the executive floor, kills people.
Does that mean you decide, uh oh, I was wrong, my ideas were all wrong. No, that’s not your conclusion. You conclude that what this guy did is horribly wrong but your ideas, you still stand by, and I think that’s the position we have to take. This was a terrible, horrible thing that happened, but the fault, if there is one, I think is with the fact that this information is essentially air-brushed out of the picture.
If there were awareness of the proportion of black-on-white crime, if this were considered a problem that people agonized over, that there was some sense people were trying to get to the bottom of this, to stop this, then perhaps, just perhaps, this guy would not have killed people, he would not be so frustrated.
I think it’s this sense of being in the grip of some all-encompassing set of misconceptions, of refusals to face a certain reality, this long-term dispossession of whites. I think people become obsessed with this, and those that can’t control their anger are likely to go off the deep end.
After years of thinking it over, Floyd Corkins finally had a plan.
He’d bought a gun and learned how to use it. He’d loaded three magazines. And he had stopped by Chick-fil-A to pick up 15 sandwiches, which he planned to smear in the dying faces of staffers he expected to kill at the Family Research Council in Washington.
It would be a statement, he said, “against the people who work in that building,” according to documents filed in U.S. District Court, where Corkins pleaded guilty on Wednesday to three charges related to the August shooting at the conservative policy group.
Corkins told Judge Richard Roberts that he hoped to intimidate gay rights opponents.
The shooting came amid intense debate over remarks against gay marriage by an executive with the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A restaurant chain and the company’s support for groups considered hostile to gay rights.
The research council, a Christian group that focuses on family, anti-abortion and religious liberty issues and views homosexuality as harmful, backed Chick-fil-A in the ensuing controversy.
“They endorse Chick-fil-A and also Chick-fil-A came out against gay marriage, so I was going to use that as a statement,” prosecutors quoted Corkins as telling investigators.
Corkins, 28, pleaded guilty to committing an act of terrorism while armed, interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition, and assault with intent to kill while armed.
JT: He was a gay activist and he went and wanted to go and attack this Christian organization that opposes homosexual marriage.
Does that mean that the people who are gay activists would rethink their position?
People do crazy, violent things for all sorts of reasons. People attack abortion clinics. People attack people who attack abortion clinics. This is a horrible thing, but I think that so long as the idea is we are dealing with facts in a realistic way, I don’t see how you can possibly modify your position.
FR: You think there is a lot of white anger out there?
JT: I can say with considerable confidence, there is a lot of anger
I know young people, particularly young people, who are especially angry because they feel have come into a world, certainly one which is not of their making, and they’re informed that they are the race that are the villains of history, that white people are responsible for all the terrible things that happened to non-white people everywhere in the world. They’re hopping mad about it. I know they are and I sympathize with that anger, but that anger has to be channeled to useful political work and not anger.
FR: Would you want to talk with Dylann Roof?talk
JT:I would like to talk to him, yes. I don’t suspect I’ll ever have that opportunity, but yes I would.
FR: Why? Would you offer him some advice?
JT:Too late for advice, no. I would be curious why he took this action.
By any standard this sets back any kind of race realist movement tremendously.
Here is a guy who is Heidi Beirich’s wet dream.
Note: Let’s pause here to note that Beirich directs the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which tracks extremist groups and leaders. Here, for example, is the SPLC’s thumbnail on Taylor:
In his personal bearing and tone, Jared Taylor projects himself as a courtly presenter of ideas that most would describe as crudely white supremacist — a kind of modern-day version of the refined but racist colonialist of old. He is the founder of the New Century Foundation and edits its American Renaissance magazine, which, despite its pseudo-academic polish, regularly publishes proponents of eugenics and blatant anti-black and anti-Latino racists. Taylor also hosts a conference every other year where racist intellectuals rub shoulders with Klansmen, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.
OK, back to Taylor on why he would want to talk to Roof.
JT: Here’s a guy who confirms this historic account of racist violent whites. He’s exactly what we don’t need and I would just try to get a handle. OK, I sympathize with a couple of things you say, but don’t you realize how destructive your behavior was. That’s what I’d want to know. I’d want to plumb his mind a little bit.
FR: What has been the reaction of other readers of American Renaissance?
JT: They’re horrified by this, absolutely horrified by this because this gives our opponents just the kind of ammunition that we don’t want them to have. This guy is not a credit to his race. He is a horrible criminal and a terrible embarrassment. And to the extent one agrees with him, it is a shocking shame that he has taken this knowledge that he’s acquired and this is the consequence. This is exactly what we don’t want to happen.
At some place, it goes without saying- well perhaps it doesn’t go without saying – that we don’t encourage any kind of violence or illegality. I think anyone who would end up at the AmRen page would know that.
To say, by the way, we’re opposed to lawbreaking, we’re opposed to violence, that almost sounds like you’re praising that kind of behavior by even calling attention to that. I don’t know what one says about that.
I think anyone who is dissident in any serious way probably has to grapple with this possibility, and perhaps we haven’t grappled with it sufficiently, I don’t know, but as far as I know no one has ever done a violent thing that was somehow attributable to American Renaissance.
The Council of Conservative Citizens page is, of course, a different animal from ours. We have different pages because we have different conceptions. The approach of American Renaissance is the one I personally endorse.
FR: You say that Roof has hurt your movement, but won’t he and this manifesto draw people to look at the CofCC site, to look at your site?
JT: If this is what it takes to get more visitors to the site, we sure don’t need it.
FR: Roof also appears to have advanced the day when the Confederate flag will be removed from the state Capitol grounds in South Carolina.
JT: Every group in the country is encouraged to take pride in their heritage and ancestry except for whites and especially Southern whites. They’re the one group who are told to say, `No no, your ancestors were evil slaveholders,” and I think this is yet another mistake to force people to give up a symbol which for them in many cases means devotion, courage, dedication, to say to them, “We don’t care what you think about this symbol, we think it’s awful and we’re taking it down, screw you.” I think that is yet another insult to young whites, young Southern whites. I think all of this is going in a terrible direction, and more and more people are going to be angry about this.
What the left wants is all white people on their knees begging forgiveness. That’s what the left wants. And to a remarkable degree, that’s what the left has gotten. It ain’t going to work for everyone. Believe me I know it’s not working for everybody, and many people are very, very angry.
As if the flag somehow made him do this. Does anyone even believe that? They’re acting as if they do, but who’s even asked that question?
Up until the 1950s, nobody thought the flag represented racism, or very few people, North or South alike. It was a symbol of doughty resistance. The Confederate flag was on matchbox covers, bicycles. It was sort of a standard motif. The ’50s in particular had this kid of Confederate flag vogue. But not now.
If we want to prevent this (what Roof is alleged to have done), the absolutely wrong thing to do is keep piling on this notion of guilty white people. That’s just not going to work. The left has tried this a long time.
Does it really do any good to pile on the guilt? I think it does a terrible lot of damage but nobody is interested in hearing that.
FR: Do you think you speak for more than a small fringe of white people?
JT: Oh indeed. Millions and Millions. Quite literally. Just look at the comments on mainstream media sites these day. More and more they read as if they could have been written by AmRen readers. In fact, it’s often striking. Even something like the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune, you look at the comments on any race-related story, the commenters are almost harsh in opposition to the author and they have a much more kind of hard-nosed view of race.
FR: Were you surprised or disappointed that conservative politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott so quickly distanced themselves from Holt and the CofCC?
JT: The pressures on them must be tremendous and I am not surprised they are doing this.
But these are extraordinary circumstances. Otherwise, of course, they’d happily accept this money. They’re giving it away because of the circumstances and that’s the only reason.
I think if they were to happen to discover something like this, that Earl Holt was head of the CofCC, if this were not a big media matter, it would make no difference at all. Sure they’d keep the money.
Let’s put it this way – if the CofCC could muster a million votes for Ted Cruz, he probably wouldn’t give the money back.
Or who knows, maybe he would anyway.
I’m really not at all surprised. I would have predicted this.
On this score, I think Taylor is right.
Greg Abbott campaigned for governor with Ted Nugent last year shortly after Nugent referred to President Obama as a, “Communist-raised, Communist-educated, Communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel … ACORN, community organizer, gangster.”
Is that any more provocative than what Holt has had to say?
It’s just that Nugent had more of an upside and Abbott had to worry that, if he repudiated or even just distanced himself from Nugent, he might alienate some among Nugent’s large constituency – including a lot of white people who are OK with calling Obama a “subhuman mongrel” – and who vote.
Likewise, Abbott, Rick Perry and even David Dewhurst never felt obliged to disassociate themselves from blogger Robbie Cooper, Austin’s local answer to Earl Holt, though probably with more political juice. Read here for an account on Cooper from the Texas Observer’s Forrest Wilder and Christopher Hooks.
The point here is that the sense of white racial grievance goes well beyond Dylann Roof and Jared Taylor, and while hardly anyone holding those views will act violently, and not all that many will even self-consciously assert those views, as Taylor does, Republican politicians have to take that underlying sentiment into account, or confront it at their peril.
Many groups face discrimination in the U.S., Texas voters say, but they don’t always agree on who faces it most, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
Transgender people, Muslims, gays and lesbians, and African-Americans — in that order — face the most discrimination, Texas voters say. They’re followed, in order, by Hispanics, women, Christians, Asians, whites and men.
But the differences from one group of respondents to another were very different.
Rural voters (55 percent) and Tea Party Republicans (62 percent) said that white people are discriminated against in the U.S. Only 40 percent of all voters thought so.
From Jim Henson, co-director of the poll.
If you look at self-identified conservatives, they rank Christians first among groups that are most discriminated against. Self-identified conservatives are more likely to think that whites experience discrimination than to think that blacks, Hispanics and women are discriminated against.
The notion of whites as subject to discrimination is not new, of course — the idea fueled the “reverse discrimination” argument against civil rights and affirmative action going back to at least the 1970’s. But extent of these attitudes among conservative and Tea Party identifiers is striking. It’s hard not to see some of the initial struggles among Republican presidential candidates to respond publicly to the Charleston murders in this context.
Of course, no one is going to condone such heinous acts in the name of either whites or Christianity. But the initial stumbling around with possible explanations that the killings should be seen primarily as an attack on religion, or that the killer might have had motivations other than race, seem to reflect some implicit acknowledgement of the sense that there are constituencies who think of whites and Christians being under siege .
What follows are excerpts and links to the stories I wrote on four American Renaissance conferences, three for Newhouse News Service and the fourth – my favorite – a 2006 story I wrote for the Jewish newspaper, The Forward, on the struggle between Jews and Nazis in the white nationalist movement.
HERNDON, Va. — The prospect of Barack Obama becoming America’s first black president drew scant attention and little overt alarm among the 250 white nationalists at this past weekend’s biennial American Renaissance Conference.
“I got an e-mail from a fairly prominent person, ‘You should be rooting for an Obama presidency because that would send money and support surging your way,’” said Jared Taylor, the event’s convener and the movement’s most euphonious voice.
But, Taylor said, “I really don’t think that’s true. I don’t think many white people will say, ‘This is the last straw.’”
Those who already “see the world” as he does, Taylor said, “will see this as yet another step, perhaps an inevitable one, in this direction.”
Indeed, many here regarded Obama, contrasted with Republican John McCain, as the lesser of two evils.
Taylor is the founder of American Renaissance, a newsletter and Web site, which since 1994 has sponsored conferences every two years where white men in suits and ties — and a handful of white women — listen to speakers talk about white genetic and cultural superiority and, with increasing urgency, lament the peril to the U.S. national character of mass immigration from places other than Europe.
The last six conferences have been held near Taylor’s home in the Washington suburbs, close to Dulles Airport. He is the glue for the fractious groups and individuals who participate — some of whom can barely stand to be in the same room.
The last gathering ended with long-simmering hostilities between neo-Nazis and Jewish white nationalists spilling into the open. The ensuing weeks and months saw a furious online debate that left neither side entirely satisfied with Taylor. This year’s conference, however, hewed closer to the high-brow demeanor Taylor prefers.
“We’ve got some of the cream of our race here at our conference,” former Alabama Klan leader Don Black said in a radio report for Stormfront, perhaps the most prominent white power site on the Web.
Black’s “cream” is an assemblage that, for monitoring groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, amounts to a rogues’ gallery of the racist right. All who attend an American Renaissance Conference are acutely aware that, politically, they are beyond the pale.
In his address, Taylor admonished the audience that “every one of us is an ambassador to a hostile nation.”
“We have to be better,” he said, explaining that in tone and behavior, they must be “morally unassailable.”
For the most part, Taylor’s speech fit what is now a familiar pattern. First he roused with a call to white racial consciousness “out of duty to our ancestors, out of duty to our descendants.” Then he acknowledged how deaf most whites remain to this call.
“I’ve been trying to get white people to think sensibly about race for about 20 years,” and yet, he said, the puzzle persists: “Why are white people so sound asleep and what is it going to take to wake them up?”
Is White Nationalist Tent Big Enough for Jews and Nazis?
LETTER FROM HERNDON, VA.
For the small, hardy band of right-wing Jews who attended this past weekend’s American Renaissance Conference, the biennial gathering of white nationalists ended on a sour note.
The events Saturday, February 25, passed without major incident. But then, late Sunday morning, none other than former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke approached the microphone on the floor during the question-and-answer session for French writer Guillaume Faye. After congratulating Faye for stirring remarks that “touched my genes,” Duke asked if there weren’t an even more insidious threat to the West than Islam.
“There is a power in the world that dominates our media, influences our government and that has led to the internal destruction of our will and our spirit,” Duke said.
“Tell us, tell us,” came a call from the back of the room.
“I’m not going to say it,” Duke said to rising laughter.
But Michael Hart, a squat, balding Jewish astrophysicist from Maryland, was not amused. He rose from his seat, strode toward Duke (who loomed over him like an Aryan giant), spit out a curse – “You f…ing Nazi, you’ve disgraced this meeting” – and exited.
As it happens, only a few minutes earlier Hart, a mainstay of American Renaissance conferences, had been trying to reassure Herschel Elias, a first-time attendee from suburban Philadelphia, that he should not let his observation that the meeting was “infiltrated by Nazis and Holocaust deniers” ruin his impression of American Renaissance.
“The speakers aren’t Nazis,” Hart assured him. “Jared isn’t a Nazi.”
Jared is Jared Taylor, editor of American Renaissance magazine. He founded the publication 1990, and since 1994 he had sponsored the biennial conference that bears its name. A former liberal, Taylor is glib, gracious and genial, capable of putting his white nationalism in the most benign and commonsense terms.
“We mean well to all people,” he said in his address at this year’s conference, “but our own people come first.”
The conference has attracted ever larger crowds, with this year’s event drawing about 300 people – all white (no more than 5% Jewish) and most of them male. The attendees are united by a common belief in black intellectual inferiority, opposition to non-white immigration and ardor for maintaining America’s white majority. By the end of this seventh biennial conference, however, the delicate state of his coalition seemed apparent.
Hart, who spoke at the 1996 conference about his plan for a racial partition of the United States, said that Taylor now had to face the fact that he must purge the Nazis or lose the Jews. “He can’t expect Jews to come if there are Nazis here,” Hart said.
And therein lies Taylor’s dilemma.
From the start, he has been trying to de-Nazify the movement and draw the white nationalist circle wider to include Jews of European descent. But to many on the far right, taking the Jew-hatred out of white nationalism is like taking the Christ out of Christmas – a sacrilege. Actually inviting Jews into the movement is an act of lunacy, or betrayal, to them.
HERNDON, Va. – While their deportment was excellent and their intellect obvious, the 250 white nationalists as most called themselves at the fifth biennial American Renaissance Conference were all too aware that they exist along the shadowy fringes of American public life.
“We are minoritarian,” said Jared Taylor, who convened the gathering named for the monthly newsletter he edits. “We are marginal in terms of influence and numbers and not only that, according to the mainstream, we are a despicable group.”
But Taylor and others who joined him “In Defense of Western Man,” as last weekend’s conference was themed, are modestly optimistic that white people are beginning to be roused to the self-conscious racial identity that they believe is all that can save them from losing their dominant place in America in the face of immigration and multiculturalism.
In a new book, Carol M. Swain, a Vanderbilt University professor of political science, warns that their optimism may be warranted, that they may not be on the fringe forever and that the broader public ignores them at its peril. Swain, a black woman whose new book, “The New White Nationalism in America,” will be issued July 4, sees the cadre of folks who attend the American Renaissance conferences as the intellectual vanguard of a slicker and smarter racist right that could gain a following among more mainstream white conservatives in years to come, with disastrous results for American race relations. And Swain believes that black leaders and the multicultural left bear some responsibility for creating the conditions in which this movement could flourish.
“I believe the arguments that Jared Taylor puts forth would appeal to a substantially larger percentage of the white population than are willing to admit it,” said Swain, who was previously at Princeton University and whose earlier book critiquing black electoral districts won her several prizes and considerable controversy.
Borrowing from the identity politics of the left and with a finesse and sophistication not commonly associated with what she calls “the misfits and psychopaths” who have come to symbolize white supremacy in years gone by, these new white nationalists could effectively address white grievances that go unanswered even undebated in the mainstream public arena, Swain believes. In the current political milieu, and as their demographic dominance wanes in the face of immigration and lower white birth rates, Swain said, “Whites are going to behave like any minority group. Maybe we have reached the point in history where there are legitimate white interests and maybe more and more whites are going to see that.”
Taylor and company certainly think so.
“We in this room are the Paul Reveres of our time,” said Taylor, a graduate of Yale University and the Paris Institute of Political Studies, his voice catching with emotion. “We’re riding through the night not just in a few New England hamlets but all through the world, crying, ‘White man, wake up.’”
“If white America survives, then this meeting will be considered very very important, very important,” said Mark Weber, director of the California-based Institute for Historical Review, which attacks the mainstream scholarship on the existence and extent of the Holocaust. “If white America fails, it will have been the last gasp of a white intellectual America that is gone forever.”
The theme and speakers at this year’s conference were much the same as two years ago, but there were subtle differences in tone and temper that indicated a movement on the rise. The crowd was a bit larger, and as one of the rare women in attendance, Sarah Norman, put it at conference’s end, “It’s more normal all the time.”
A few minutes earlier, her husband, Frank, had taken to the microphone to announce “some very good news.” Holding high a Victoria’s Secret catalog, Norman announced that all the models were white. “I take it you looked at every page,” said Taylor.
RESTON, Va. – April 1 was Census Day, the moment the 2000 census was supposed to capture, marking the first census of a century that promises by its mid-point to record a United States that is less than half white. By coincidence, it was also opening day for a conference of some 200 white men and a handful of white women who are appalled at that prospect and astonished by the apparent willingness of most whites to let it happen.
“We’ve lost the ability to say ‘us’ or ‘we.’ Most whites simply cannot bring themselves to say, ‘This is our culture, this is our nation and it belongs to us and no one else,’” declared Jared Taylor, the charismatic convener of the fourth biennial American Renaissance Conference, named for the publication that he edits.
Attendees suffered no such lip-lock. The conference brought some of the leading intellectual and political lights of the white far right to the Sheraton Hotel in this planned community a traffic jam from the nation’s capital. For two days, they talked to one another in tones by turn defiant and despairing of the demographic changes threatening white dominance in America and the West, and their determination to rally dormant white racial consciousness to turn back that day or at least to go down in history as those who dared curse the twilight of white primacy.
“Our people are going to be extinct if we don’t stand up on our hind legs and do something,” said Gordon Baum, the affable St. Louis lawyer who heads the national Council of Conservative Citizens, which counts as members at least 80 legislators across the nation.
They talked about an America that they believe once was and ever ought to be a white, European-American nation. Theirs would be a nation bound by blood and sanctified by the genetic scientists who appeared before them as a place where white people might rightly prevail over the black and brown people; a nation where what they consider the natural hierarchy might finally triumph over what they count as the false promise of egalitarianism.
In the words of Samuel Francis, an influential writer and one of its leading ideologists, theirs is “a movement that rejects equality as an ideal and insists on an enduring core of human nature transmitted by heredity.”
This is, of course, many giant steps outside the modern American political mainstream. For the weekend, the Sheraton was a place where racial diversity was denigrated and John Rocker “the one sane man in sports,” Taylor said was celebrated. But, with the exception of a handful of protesters who showed up on the eve of the conference, the broader world barely took notice.
To the faithful in attendance, and to those who warily watch their progress, the American Renaissance Conference represents a notable coming together of previously disparate forces under the banner of white nationalism. Its numbers may be small, but its wingspan stretches from the outskirts of politics and academia to the far reaches of the racist right. And, under Taylor’s tutelage, it is a movement endeavoring to subvert stock stereotypes.
Like a Nietzschean Henry Higgins, Taylor, who was raised in Japan by liberal Presybterian missionary parents, is trying to create a respectable and presentable white racial nationalism.
In advance of the conference, he promised a highbrow affair. “We’re the uptown bad guys,” he said with his genial lilt and disarming self-awareness. The invitation reminded guests that this was a “three-star hotel” and instructed, “Gentlemen will wear jackets and ties.”
Andrew Hacker, the Queens (N.Y.) College sociologist who writes frequently on race and who attended the 1998 conference as an observer, believes Taylor’s analysis is both right and wrong.
“If you’re of European origin, I don’t care if one’s left or right, whether you like it or not, you believe you are superior,” Hacker said. The difference is that conservatives will admit that among themselves, while “liberals hate having that view and wish they could get rid of it.”
But Hacker predicts that the demographic transformation Taylor and his allies fear will never actually occur.
“In 50 years a very high percentage of Hispanics and Asians will have adapted to the Anglo model,” Hacker said. “We absorb, we assimilate and co-opt at a pretty hefty tempo.”
That is not the American Renaissance vision of how it is going to go down.
“For much of the next generation race and racial issues are going to be the major issues around which politics revolves,” said Francis, a syndicated columnist and editor in chief of the Citizens Informer, the paper associated with the Council of Conservative Citizens.
“As non-whites increasingly invade the country through immigration and the racial balance runs against whites, we will see an increasing level of interracial violence directed against whites, an increasing level of discrimination and outright persecution of whites for any challenge or resistance to non-white domination, and an increasing level of barbarization of our culture as immigrant and indigenous non-whites challenge and replace white civilization.”
As I was leaving the Capitol after an interview last night I checked my phone and there it was – an email from Wayne Bell, the king of cultural coloring books, the publisher of the best-selling U.S. Sen. “Ted Cruz” to the Future Comic Coloring Activity Book, with news of his brand new, hot-off-the-presses offering: To Thine Own Self Be True: An Adult Coloring Book about Rachel Dolezal.
Oh dear. Oh my.
As someone who wrote about race for nearly two decades, I was, naturally, especially intrigued, bothered and bewildered by the Dolezal story. But it wasn’t my story, and I kind of felt that however drawn to the story I was, Dolezal was reaping more attention, ridicule and scorn than any human being who hasn’t actually killed anyone or announced she is running for president should have to endure.
But then Wayne Bell of Really Big Coloring Books Inc. in St. Louis sent me the email, I looked at the coloring book, and, well, I’m a reporter.
So here it is, along with some excerpts from a conversation I had last night with Bell.
FR: I was kind of feeling sorry for her because I don’t know how much one person can stand. Do you think the coloring book is going to push her over the edge?
WB: We actually talked about that for the last two or three days before we released the book this evening. And we talked to a lot of parents and they’re our gauge for everything – people who actually have children of color – and we asked parents what they thought. And I’ll tell you right now, 90 percent of the parents we talked to, they may feel sorry for her, but they feel more anger and distrust and disbelief in her than they do in feeling sorry for her.
She took money pretending to be black, she affected people’s lives pretending to be black. Very negative.
People call her a con woman, a big white liar.
We’re not going after her as a human being, as a person. We’re going after her actions.
“To thine own self be true.” One person said that in the office and people were like, “that’s the deal, that’s the deal, that’s the deal.”
And that’s when we decided, we’re going to go ahead and make this book and get it out there and teach children that if you’re honest about yourself, you learn who you are, you love yourself, you build your identity, you accept the differences of others, then you learn about your heritage and you figure out who you are as a human being. If you lie about yourself you lose self-esteem, you hurt other people, you live a lie, you have no real identity and you lose what makes you unique as a person if you’re a big liar.
And most people call her much worse than a big liar, because at the end of the day, when she goes to bed at night, all her makeup can come off, her hair can be straightened and she understands that she is a white woman.
But she was pretending to be a black woman and that’s really odd. A lot of people just don’t understand it, but it surely does affect them emotionally.
WB: We’re looking at how we can affect kids in a positive manner, is the whole position of the book. We’re trying to take something that’s not only strange and weird but something that’s very negative to a lot of people, trying to show that as an example of what not to do when you grow up, and turn a very negative thing into something positive for other people, and that’s the whole gist of the book.
FR: Where did the idea originate?
WB: The idea came about when I was sitting down watching TV and I thought, this is a human being that has just got such a negative impact on the people around her in the end and no matter what her mission was and no matter what her deal was, she got majorly confused somewhere. And I thought there was going to be a coloring book on this one sooner or later, and that’s when we started asking people about it, talking to people about it, ’cause I can just sense if there actually needs to be a book on one of these cultural events.
FR: You call it an adult coloring book.
WB: Yes, this is an adult coloring book. We don’t want kids in kindergarten to grab this coloring book and run to school with it and say, “Hey, look what I’ve got, ‘To Thine Own Self Be True.'” This is a book that grandparents and parents and older siblings or brothers and sisters can use, and lot of adults will buy this book and just keep it.
FR: Why would an adult buy a coloring book?
WB: They could use it themselves. There’s crossword puzzles in it, there’s mazes, there’s all kinds of activities. They could also use it with children – it’s about life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and to teach children words like “inclusion,” or “truth,” or “pride” or “love” or “self-love,” or “identity” or “acceptance.” It talks about freedom. It talks about justice and there’s exercises here for children – “What do you like about yourself.”
You could use this in a classroom.
WB: And then there’s also the page, “What would say to Rachel Dolezal if you could speak to her?” What do you think her pretending to be a person of color that she is not? She’s not black, she pretended to be black. She was lying. She’s not black. So what would you say to her?
It’s a very engaging little book.
WB: A lot of adults will grab this book and just hang onto it. It’s a novelty item, but there are a lot of great lessons inside the books for kids. It teaches kids what to do and what not to do. It teaches them, do not lie, it will hurt you, it will hurt other people, it will destroy your identity.
It’s a terrible thing to do. That’s the whole basis of this book is that this woman has upset the whole country in her lying ways.
We didn’t do a ton of research on Dolezal, but we did quite a bit. We read what other people had to say about her and I listened to several interviews on her. We listened to what professionals said about her, and this woman even confuses the professionals.
Here is the centerfold from the Dolezal coloring book.
Is it me or does the boy with the “Self Love” shirt in the panel on the left look like a young Ted Cruz?
It was, as I mentioned, the Ted Cruz coloring book that first connected me with Bell in December 2013.
FR: How’s the Ted Cruz book doing?
WB: I would say the Ted Cruz book is doing fantastic. Super duper. That book’s a hot book. It’s been hot for a long time. It stayed at number one on Amazon.com, on Children’s Coloring Activity Books, I think for probably very close to 20 weeks. I don’t think that book’s going to disappear anytime soon.
It outsold Bill O’Reilly for a while.
The Ted Cruz book now comes with a 14-page supplement on how Ted Cruz is going to save America.
WB: The Cruz book was named the top political gift of 2013 by Chuck Todd on NBC on Meet the Press.
Ted Cruz has got an extremely large following of people, and I think a lot of the Huffington Post people bought it too because they couldn’t believe it actually existed.
“It’s amazing. America’s id is running for president,” Stewart said.
“Thank you Donald Trump for making my last six weeks my best six weeks,” Stewart said. “He is putting me in some kind of comedy hospice where I’m just getting straight morphine.”
Trump’s entry does place the other players on the Republican stage in an uncomfortable position. Are they supposed to play along?
And if they don’t, do they come off as spoil sports who just don’t get it.l
“I’ll let the Donald do what the Donald does, but we’re going to be focused on the real issues,” said Rick Perry.
I feel for Perry.
Trump’s celebrity could cost Perry a place on the main stage at the first Republican debate on Fox News Aug. 6 in Cleveland and cripple his candidacy.
Here, the newly erudite Perry spent the last year hard at work studying and learning the issues, and he could be knocked out of contention by a stream-of-consciousness loudmouth whose candidacy could set PolitiFact ablaze.
Donald Trump factchecks True 0% Mostly True 14% Half True 21% Mostly False 0% False 36% Pants on Fire! 29%http://t.co/5WoppE1J8x
The Democratic National Convention isn’t for 13 months, and Hillary Clinton isn’t the party’s nominee, but some Hispanic Democratic leaders are already pushing hard for Julián Castro to be her running mate — or at least a top contender for the job.
The former San Antonio mayor and current housing secretary was in Washington while Clinton raised money in his hometown on Wednesday, but his name is on the minds and lips of Democrats close to the Clinton camp as the presidential front-runner crosses Texas for campaign fundraisers and a Houston speech on Thursday.
The flashy trial balloon and Castro’s innate appeal have likely ensured the Mexican-American Cabinet member a place on Clinton’s vice presidential long list if she wins the nomination, Democrats close to Clinton said. But Castro hardly has any relationship with the candidate herself, and the effort has gotten a mixed reception at best.
Democrats say it’s far too early for this conversation — arguing that it’s unproductive to talk about a general election ticket when Clinton is battling three other declared Democratic candidates and the ever-present perception of inevitability.
What’s more, several Democrats warned, Castro’s backers run the risk of overplaying their strong hand.
“If I were Julián Castro I’d be worried,” said one Clinton ally with an eye on Democrats’ efforts to woo Hispanic voters. “Others who are in his corner need to dial down those effusive musings.”
Ah yes, effusive musings.
Leticia Van de Putte heard the siren song of effusive musings. They led her into a race for lieutenant governor which, while it didn’t end well, did nothing to quiet those voices, and then to surrender her seat in the Texas Senate to run for mayor of San Antonio, which ended Saturday in a narrow but decisive defeat.
Gilbert Garcia in the San Antonio Express-News, likened her fate to that of former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison when she challenged Rick Perry for governor in 2010.
A popular, veteran Texas senator heeds the call of her supporters to bring her political career back home.
She sacrifices her Senate seat and launches what is widely expected to be a triumphant campaign that will provide the perfect conclusion to a long stint in public service. She finds herself going head-to-head with an underestimated incumbent and ultimately learns that she has taken on more than she bargained for.
That was the story of Kay Bailey Hutchison’s 2010 gubernatorial bid, which began with Hutchison holding a 24-point lead over incumbent Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary, and ended with Perry cruising to a landslide win.
It also is the story of Leticia Van de Putte’s splashy campaign for mayor, which began last November with widespread assumptions that Van de Putte would be unbeatable, and ended Saturday night with appointed Mayor Ivy Taylor scoring a narrow, hard-earned win.
Her local admirers urged her to run for mayor because they worried that last year’s departure of superstar Mayor Julián Castro (to the Housing and Urban Development Department) would cripple Castro’s vision for an activist local government and a dynamic downtown. They believed the city needed a figure with political gravitas, and they saw Van de Putte as that person.
Van de Putte’s unbroken string of election wins had been snapped in last year’s race for lieutenant governor, but most of us saw that as a battle that no Democrat could have won.
The truth is, many of us (including those of us in the media) underestimated how many local voters had a negative view of Van de Putte. In Taylor, they saw an anti-Van de Putte: someone with no history in partisan races, admired by her loyalists because she doesn’t even pretend to have the skills of a political backslapper.
When Hutchison lost to Perry in 2010, it effectively ended her political career. As for Van de Putte, after two painful losses in seven months, it’s hard to see where she goes from here
Van de Putte’s messaging did sometimes seem confused.
For example, in the ad below, she leads in by saying, “It’s about time San Antonio had a mayor who can get the vital projects done.”
But what does “it’s about time” refer to. Castro has been gone from mayor for less than a year.
And then there is this from Jan Jarboe Russell in Texas Monthly piece in January called The Anti-Castro
In October 30 San Antonio’s new mayor, Ivy Taylor, stood behind a lectern at Club Giraud, a private dining club situated downtown on the banks of the city’s famous river, and faced a crowd of business leaders. Only hours before, Taylor had pushed through a unanimous city council vote to build a $3.4 billion pipeline that will bring water from Burleson County, 140 miles away, to San Antonio. For more than thirty years, a long line of mayors had promised to secure a supply of water for San Antonio, which has drawn exclusively from the diminishing Edwards Aquifer. All of them failed. Building on the work of her predecessors, Taylor corralled the votes and received the credit.
“I must tell you that I feel the weight of history tonight,” said Taylor, who was dressed in a white suit and stood straight on tall heels. Her dark hair was neatly cut into a chin-length bob, and a gold cross studded with small diamonds hung from her neck. The only line on her smooth face was the crease of a broad smile. “At long last, we have gotten this done.”
It would seem to me that Julián Castro’s vice presidential prospects would be greatly enhanced by having San Antonio City Hall in the hands of an ally who could defend and burnish his legacy. As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Castro couldn’t get directly involved on Van de Putte’s behalf. But his twin brother, Joaquin, the Democratic congressman from San Antonio, can, and did endorse Van de Putte, after his original candidate, former state Rep. Mike Villarreal, didn’t make it into the runoff.
But, if he put any muscle into the Van de Putte campaign, it wasn’t evident in the result, and it seems as if in sizing up running mates, the Realpolitik Clintons might have been impressed with someone whose political operation could help deliver his majority-Hispanic hometown for an ostensibly popular Latina candidate running against a relative political neophyte in Ivy Taylor, a black woman who came to Texas from New York City.
In the meantime, as Politico wrote:
… the public nature of the pro-Castro campaign has nonetheless rubbed some Clinton allies and staffers the wrong way: One Democratic campaign veteran who is in frequent contact with Clinton’s top donors said such a high-profile effort all but ensures that Castro will have a harder time getting through the eventual vetting process.
And it has also functioned to bring other vice presidential contenders to the public eye. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper recently announced he has an autobiography coming out around the time the vice presidential conversation may be heating up, and many Clinton loyalists are enamored of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, widely considered the front-runner for the post.
But the fact remains that Clinton’s team views courting the Hispanic vote as a top priority as she looks to replicate Obama’s electoral success with minorities. Clinton’s decision to unveil her immigration policy in Nevada was no mere happenstance, and when she returns to the state later this month she will speak at conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
Even so, Castro’s ethnic background may not be as effective in appealing to Hispanic voters as some believe. As one Clinton ally put it: “Tim Kaine speaks Spanish much better than Julián Castro does.”
Not to mention Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.
From Ed O’Keefe’s coverage of Bush’s announcement yesterday in the Washington Post:
Monday’s event was strikingly different from most Republican campaign rallies this year, which have drawn overwhelmingly white crowds. Bush spoke at a campus of Miami Dade College, a system that boasts the largest Hispanic student body in the nation, and packed the gymnasium with cheering Asian American, black and Latino supporters, young and old, who held up campaign signs in Spanish and English.
Before Bush took the stage, a family of Cuban singers performed regional classics. A black Baptist minister called Bush “a man of deep conviction.” The Colombian mother of a disabled daughter defended his record, in Spanish. Bush’s former lieutenant governor looked across the big crowd and said: “It looks like family. The Bush family — the big Bush family.”
State Sen. Don Gaetz told the crowd that Bush is “the new Florida. He is the new America. He is the new Republican Party.”
“Everyone has a right to rise,” said Bush, which I guess translates as, “Every Bush matters.”
Already, the choice is taking shape. The party now in the White House is planning a no-suspense primary, for a no-change election. To hold onto power. To slog on with the same agenda under another name: That’s our opponents’ call to action this time around. That’s all they’ve got left.
The presidency should not be passed on from one liberal to the next.
So, here’s what it comes down to. Our country is on a very bad course. And the question is: What are we going to do about it?
The question for me is: What am I going to do about it?
And I have decided.
I am a candidate for president of the United States.
We will take command of our future once again in this country.
Of his family, Bush said:
And they didn’t mind at all that I found my own path. It led from Texas to Miami by way of Mexico.
In 1971, 8 years before then-candidate Ronald Reagan said that we should stop thinking of our neighbors as foreigners, I was ahead of my time in cross-border outreach.
Across a plaza, I saw a girl.
She spoke only a little English. My Spanish was okay but not that great.
With some intensive study, we got that barrier out of the way in a hurry.
In the short version, it has been a gracious walk through the years with the former Columba Garnica de Gallo.
Whatever else I might or might not have going for me, I’ve got the quiet joy of a man who can say that the most wonderful friend he has in the world is his own wife.
And together, we had the not-so-quiet joy of raising three children who have brought us nothing but happiness and pride: George, Noelle, and Jeb.
The boys have also brought us more Bushes – their wives, Mandi and Sandra, and our grandchildren Georgia, Prescott, Vivian, and Jack.
Campaigns aren’t easy, and they’re not supposed to be.
And I know that there are good people running for president.
Quite a few, in fact.
And not a one of us deserves the job by right of resume, party, seniority, family, or family narrative. It’s nobody’s turn. It’s everybody’s test, and it’s wide open – exactly as a contest for president should be.
The outcome is entirely up to you – the voters. It is entirely up to me to earn the nomination of my party and then to take our case all across this great and diverse nation.
As a candidate, I intend to let everyone hear my message, including the many who can express their love of country in a different language.
Ayúdenos en tener una campaña que les da la bienvenida. Trabajen con nosotros por los valores que compartimos y para un gran futuro que es nuestro para construir para nosotros y nuestros hijos.
(Help us to have a campaign that welcomes them. Work with us by our shared values and a great future is ours to build for ourselves and our children.)
Júntense a nuestra causa de oportunidad para todos, a la causa de todos que aman la libertad y a la causa noble de los Estados Unidos de América.
(Gather around our cause of opportunity for all, the cause of all who love freedom and the noble cause of the United States.)
Writing yesterday, Matt Barreto and Gary Segura, of the opinion research firm, Latino Decisions, predicted that ultimately, Bush won’t do well with Latino voters because he is on the wrong side of the Obama executive orders on immigration, Obamacare and Medicaid expansion, raising the minimum wage, dealing with climate change, and taxing the wealthy.
Bush’s supposed advantages are based on three specific observations—that the Bush family has historically had a more positive relationship with this community than other candidates in the GOP, that the Spanish-speaking Jeb personally benefits from having a Mexican-born wife and Mexican-American children, and that Bush has a history of more moderate positions on issues of importance to the Latino community.
None of these is likely to withstand deeper examination. The first two—the broader family history and the personal characteristics of Bush’s immediate family—are based on a form of identity politics that Latinos seldom if ever practice. Latino voters have proven more than willing to reject even actual Latinos as candidates when their policy positions are in contrast to the community preferences. Bush’s marriage and linguistic skills, while symbolically important, would founder if his issue positions are in contrast to the average Latino voter.
So what about those issue positions? Bush’s misplaced reputation for moderation is belied by his actual policy record. And few if any analysts have stopped to consider how Bush’s specific policy issues line up with Latino support for key policy issues. If Bush is to ultimately be the Republican nominee, Latino voters will no-doubt review and assess his policy commitments. In a review of recent statements by Jeb Bush, we find five significant policy areas where Latino public opinion stands in direct contrast to policy advocated by Jeb Bush. Additionally, Jeb Bush is not currently campaigning for the average Latino voter but, rather, is campaigning for the average GOP primary voter, his path over the next months is far more likely to push him further away from the average Latino voter on a wide range of important policy issues.
All that said, Jeb Bush does not have to win the Latino vote to be elected president. He merely needs to hold his own and be more like his brother, George than Mitt Romney in his appeal to Hispanic voters.
BRESNEN SUES BASEL
Austin lobbyist Steve Bresnen filed suit yesterday against Joe Basel’s American Phoenix Foundation, hoping to discover who funded their videotaping in and around the Capitol this session.
From Bresnen’s press release:
Today, my Austin attorney, Anatole Barnstone, filed suit on my behalf in Travis County against the American Phoenix Foundation (APF), which has failed to comply with state and federal laws that protect the public from abuses of the privilege of operating as a nonprofit, tax-deductible, tax-exempt entity.
Specifically, I’m asking the Court to order APF to comply with the Business Organizations Code requirement to provide access to the nonprofit’s books and records and to compel APF to provide complete copies of APF’s federal tax returns, including Schedule B, which lists the dates and amounts of APF’s contributions over $5000 for the last three years.
The Code requires nonprofits to maintain detailed records including “…complete entries as to each financial transaction of the corporation, including income and expenditures…” As a member of the public, the law gives me a right to this information. The public also has a right under federal law to the information contained in APF’s federal tax returns.
I hand-delivered my request for this information in the House Gallery to APF President, Joe Basel, and APF’s lawyer, Ben Wetmore, more than two weeks ago. Joe’s response was limited to a comparison between me and a female body part, for which he used a distinctly non-journalistic derogatory colloquialism. Ben later told me to make the request in person at APF’s “principle business office,” which is, in fact, a 3” by 3” private mailbox at a UPS Store.
Because APF refused to comply with my lawful request, litigation will be used to bring home to them their legal responsibilities.
When a nonprofit does not have any members, the Code makes the details of its financial activity open for public inspection. AFP’s corporate charter shows it is controlled by a few youngsters without any of the legal accountability that goes with having members.
If an entity has members, its members have the right to inspect the entity’s books and records because those members have the power to hold the entity accountable and bring the entity into conformity with state and federal law, if something is wrong. When a nonprofit chooses to operate without the oversight of any members, the Legislature has empowered the public with the right to serve the functions that members would serve. That is my intention.
Basel dismissed Bresnen’s complaint:
We gave him what was reasonable and what was legally owed. He asked for everything.
He’s trying to say he has a right to every business document in every office of ours (and others). That standard is insane, and unconstitutional.
If we lose this case, I truly cannot wait to go enforce his ridiculous interpretation of this rule around the state and shut down every non-profit with this kind of harassment.
But, Basel said, “we think the court will agree with us.”
The Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates oil and gas drilling, declared on Friday that it found no evidence that a record 4.0 earthquake that struck North Texas last month was caused by injecting oilfield waste into underground wells.
“While we can’t say at this time there is a connection,” said Craig Pearson, the agency’s in-house seismologist, of the Johnson County tremor, “this is the beginning of the process, not the end in analyzing and understanding whether there is any correlation and what, if any action by the Commission may be necessary in the future to protect public safety and our natural resources.”
The Johnson County quake, which struck on May 7, was not one of the tremors studied by researchers who had declared in April a link between the disposal of fracking-related material and a swarm of earthquakes in the Fort Worth area. At the time, I wrote about how Texas policy-makers received that news:
“Key decision-makers have said there’s no clear link, including the head of a House subcommittee on seismic activity and the director of the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry.
“‘This is not the definitive study,’ state Rep. Myra Crownover, who leads the House subcommittee on seismic activity, said of this week’s report by Southern Methodist University researchers.
Asked what it would take to change her opinion, she said, ‘In medicine, you have peer-reviewed science. You and I can speculate to anything.’
When told the SMU study, co-authored by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Texas and which relied on some industry data, was published in a peer-reviewed journal, Nature Communications, she said the issue ‘is fascinating, and requires more thought.'”
At the time, a Railroad Commission spokesman said the state agency, which regulates oil and gas drilling, “takes the issue of induced seismicity very seriously.” Its executive director invited the researchers to brief the agency’s commissioners and the agency’s seismologist said he was reviewing the SMU report.
Last week, XTO Energy challenged the SMU report, arguing before state regulators that it was not responsible for earthquakes that shook the towns of Reno and Azle in late 2013 and early 2014.
The university researchers did not participate in that hearing, issuing a statement that they would not provide comments “on any non-peer reviewed science being presented at the hearings.”
“We remain confident in the conclusions presented in our peer-reviewed publication, which was based on multiple lines of evidence,” they said.
Evan Smith’s interview with House Speaker Joe Straus was fine.
Of campus carry, Straus said, “I think the way we did it was fine.”
Of using A to F letter grades to evaluate schools, “I’m fine with it.”
“Not a top priority of yours?”
Of his relationship with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, “I worked with him fine.”
And, of Greg Abbott’s first session as governor, “I think he did fine.”
“Again with the fine,” said the mildly exasperated Smith.
“OK, he did well,” Straus said.
“Mr. Speaker, I could go down the list of issues here, what I’m struck by is your standard, stock, low highs, high lows, even-keeled response, `It’s fine,’ `It’s fine.’ What are you enthusiastic about – other than getting out of here by 9 o’clock? Yes it’s OK, we’ve all looked at our watches in cases like this. It’s fine.”
“What are you enthusiastic about?” Smith asked Straus.
Said Straus, “I’m excited about the culture of the Texas House. How we work together.”
I think I know the problem here.
Straus exasperated Smith the way I’m sure he exasperates Michael Quinn Sullivan and tea party folks who thinks he is what’s wrong with Texas politics. Joe Straus is simply imperturbable, unbothered – and, for all the brickbats thrown his way – unruffled and utterly relaxed.
Mr. Como has developed relaxation to a high art. Although his movements consist of little more than an occasional hand gesture or a subtle rhythmic switching of a foot, he conveys a sense of vitality and involvement merely though the glimmer in his eyes and a little lifting quirk in his smile. He keeps his voice at a subdued, intimate level and in a low register most of the time.
Better than that, here is Eugene Levy as Perry Como in a classic Second City parody.
Here is the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey on Smith’s Straus interview:
Straus: A Cautious, Conservative Session
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on Tuesday pronounced the just-ended legislative session a success — and said one indicator of that was dissatisfaction from some of the people on the liberal and conservative fringes.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, Straus touted the new state budget, franchise tax cuts and the Legislature’s slow but steady pace this year.
“We were careful, cautious in policy-making,” he said at one point. Later, he added, “I’m cautious by nature. We used to call that conservative.”
Despite Straus’s Como-esque personae, Smith’s interview did elicit some interesting scenes.
There was the Twilight Zone scene from early last year.
I’ll tell you a little story. Back when, I guess it was during his primary and I was traveling the state and it was just a small world incident. I was taking the last flight to San Antonio from Love Field and Lt. Gov. Patrick was taking the last flight to Houston from Love Field. I was sitting at the bar, watching a Spurs game, waiting for my flight, and the only other person in the airport was Dan Patrick. He walked up and sat with me and we had a very nice visit.
Straus is especially hard to figure because he does not seem the least bit driven by his next job, or some other ambition, and he is conspicuous in not displaying the way he exercises power.
Here is the writeup on Straus from last session’s Texas MonthlyBest List
Though at times Straus was criticized (as usual) for not exercising a stronger hand, he earned the loyalty of his members by letting them drive the train, so long as they remained on the track. It is one of the great ironies of Texas politics that at a moment when the House chamber is a roiling cauldron of tea partiers, ultraconservatives, and clueless freshmen determined to undo the sins of the Obama administration from their offices in the Capitol Extension, the body has as its leader one of the more genteel and thoughtful Speakers in recent memory. Straus’s greatest assets are his intelligence and his temperament. Time after time, when a crisis arose, he remained unflappable. When the bill to fund the water plan failed in late April—the first hiccup of the session—Straus and his lieutenants averted a meltdown. The House at work is not a thing of beauty, more Jackson Pollock than Claude Monet, but the final package passed, even though it came down to the wire. An hour after the gavel fell on the session, Straus reflected contentedly on the events of the past 140 days: “We did what we said we were going to do.”
In other words, he is more concealed carry than open carry in his leadership style.
But then, during the discussion of campus carry, Straus offered the revelation that “I had a gun with me when I went to college out of state.”
Really? At Vanderbilt.
OK. Fine. Recalibrating my sense of Straus, I imagine him as kind of a James West dude – the Vandy Dandy, with an elegant little Derringer.
But maybe, since the Straus family were wholesale distributors for Remington guns and ammunition, it was the sweet XP-100 with the scope for drawing a bead on any armed malefactor raining bullets down from the Kirkland Clock Tower.
After Straus mentioned that the one thing that did excite him was the climate of the House, Smith pointed to the announcement this week by State Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, that she was going to call it quits after five terms.
“I’m just really disappointed in the way the Republicans act in the Texas House,” she said. “People need to know that consensus and moderation and working across the aisle is not a bad thing.”
“I’m sick that she’s leaving,” Straus said. But he said that was a decision Harless had been contemplating for a while, and perhaps she should have paused before making her announcement.
But, he said, “At the end of 140 days when you’ve been followed around by these unattractive people with their hidden cameras, especially for women being tracked around like that, being asked inappropriate questions, maybe you’re not going to leave with the same attitude I have.”
That, of course, was a reference to the work being done by the American Phoenix Foundation, amassing what are apparently hundreds of hours of video of legislators and other Capitol denizens, both under the dome and at various other more relaxed Austin locations, that they say will shed new light on the ways of the House and Senate.
But, none of their work has been released yet.
Here, then, the first work product from the American Phoenix Foundation, provided to me free of charge by one of their photographers, who thought I might have use for this photo of Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, taken from the House Gallery. It captures the moment when Dutton dropped to the floor during the open carry debate to demonstrate how police would deal with a legally licensed black man open carrying a handgun, absent his amendment to bar police from approaching an individual open carrying simply to see if that person was legally licensed. (Dutton said that without the amendment, the law is a license for police to racially profile.)
The amendment was stripped in conference.
Meanwhile, here is shot of Dutton I took a few days later, standing upright with House doorkeeper Alana Hays.
From Cool to Cold
Perhaps the best reason for the incredibly long and grueling process we have for choosing a president is that somewhere along that tortured route, a candidate reveals something fundamental about his or her character that we would want to know before electing that person president.
Here then, from last week, is Sen. Ted Cruz on the campaign trail in Michigan.
Which brings us to last Wednesday, when our senator’s road show took him to Howell, Mich., for a Livingston County GOP dinner. Cruz, as usual, was a hit as he trotted out some of the better lines from his arsenal. One line, however, drew what the Detroit News’ Chad Livengood said in a tweet was “faint laughter” among the 650 folks at the banquet hall.
It came after he mentioned Biden and followed with this:
“You know the nice thing? You don’t need a punchline. I promise you it works. The next party you’re at, just walk up to someone and say, ‘Vice President Joe Biden’ and just close your mouth
“They will crack up laughing,” Cruz said, both arms gesturing to emphasize the point.
Some in the audience laughed and applauded.
After the speech, Cruz told Livengood that Beau Biden’s death was “heartbreaking and tragic” and a “tragedy no one should have to endure” and that his prayers were with the Bidens.
Livengood then asked Cruz the right question, one with no right answer: “Why’d you tell a joke about the vice president tonight?”
Cruz looked down, walked away and did not respond.
Not long later, Cruz apologized. For some reason, he got a lot of credit for apologizing – and that’s fine – but I’m not sure what choice he had.
And I’m still not sure how this could happen.
I have heard him deliver the Biden line before.
But how could he possibly deliver that line again, and go on at some length, without something going off in his head that maybe this was not the time for a Joe Biden joke, that maybe that joke needed to be stricken, perhaps forever, from his standard patter?
And also, I wondered, why didn’t someone in his audience groan or even boo such border-crossing boorishness?
What makes it all the more puzzling is that when, a moment later, Cruz is asked about the tragedy that has befallen Biden, he says all the right things. But then when he’s asked why he still made the joke, he turns away with a look that I read as – “Come on. Don’t you understand how this game works? There is no inconsistency between expressing empathy for Biden even as I mock him for meager political advantage.”
My friend and former colleague, John McQuaid, posted this about it on his Facebook page:
Most politicians appear to have some humanity under the veneer. Ted Cruz is biologically human, I think, but still you have to have to wonder. He treats politics as entirely transactional, a means of self-advancement. This may account for the weird behavior here, in which he floats a tired Joe Biden joke during a time when everyone is united in sympathy for the VP. Then, when asked about Biden – a clear invitation to say oh, really sorry about that joke, he expresses sympathy formulaically, not mentioning the joke. Then, when asked why he told the joke, he turns and walks away. Then a prepared statement of apology is released (repeating the formulaic language used previously). This is not recognizably human behavior.
In and of itself, this may have just been a bad moment by a tired candidate.
I was talking with Ken Herman about this on our drive up to Dallas last week to cover Rick Perry’s announcement for president.
As everyone knows, Perry is still living down his “oops moment,” an embarrassing mind lapse by a tired candidate getting little sleep while recovering from back surgery.
No one doubts Cruz’s smarts. No oops moments for him, right?
But, if Cruz clearly has a higher IQ than Perry, Perry clearly has a higher EQ than Cruz.
It is impossible for me to imagine Perry delivering that Biden joke.
I have seen Perry at ceremonial functions, like the Star of Texas Award, given to police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical first responders who are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, and he was masterful in the way he greeted and consoled each and every family member, with a touch, a word, a gesture, that they would remember for the rest of their lives, that made them feel better.
Over the years, the president of the United States has emerged not just as commander-in-chief but consoler-in-chief. Some of the very most memorable moments of recent presidencies have been President Reagan’s speech after the Challenger disaster, President Clinton’s speech in Oklahoma City after the bombing, President George W. Bush’s remarks amid the rubble at the World Trade Center, and President Obama’s eulogy for Beau Biden.
I know if I ever need consoling, I’d rather Rick Perry – or Bill Clinton or George W. Bush or Barack Obama – than Ted Cruz had the job of doing the consoling.
I don’t mean to suggest that this one incident is the be-all and end-all.
But, if a few other things happen that feed the same narrative, it can become, for the public and the press, a defining character trait that’s hard to shake.
And, just as Rick Perry has little margin for error for another intellectual “oops” moment, I think Ted Cruz has little margin of error for another emotional “oops” moment.
Early on, after Cruz’s arrival in the Senate, Chris Matthews and others sought to liken Cruz to Sen. Joseph McCarthy. I thought that was overwrought and simply wrong.
But McCarthy’s demise does offer a cautionary tale.
From the United States Senate website, an account of what happened to McCarthy on June 9, 1954. (I count this as a formative, pre-conscious memory – I was three days old.)
In the spring of 1954, McCarthy picked a fight with the U.S. Army, charging lax security at a top-secret army facility. The army responded that the senator had sought preferential treatment for a recently drafted subcommittee aide. Amidst this controversy, McCarthy temporarily stepped down as chairman for the duration of the three-month nationally televised spectacle known to history as the Army-McCarthy hearings.
The army hired Boston lawyer Joseph Welch to make its case. At a session on June 9, 1954, McCarthy charged that one of Welch’s attorneys had ties to a Communist organization. As an amazed television audience looked on, Welch responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy’s career: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”
Overnight, McCarthy’s immense national popularity evaporated. Censured by his Senate colleagues, ostracized by his party, and ignored by the press, McCarthy died three years later, 48 years old and a broken man.
On Friday, the day after Rick Perry announced for president, Anita Perry sent out this “Dear Friend,” fundraising letter:
The last 24 hours have been truly amazing, and I am so proud that Rick has once again responded to our nation’s call to service. I’ve known Rick since I was a young girl, and I have watched him consistently put others’ needs ahead of his. This was true in our family as a husband and father, in Texas as Governor, and to our nation as an Air Force pilot. Growing up together in our small Texas community, I knew there was something very special about Rick – and I’m happy that America will get to see that too.
Rick used to tell our son and daughter, Griffin and Sydney, that sports don’t build character, they reveal it. I expect the same could be said about the campaign trail, which bodes well for Rick: he’s the most principled man I’ve ever known. After our experience in 2012, Rick has applied himself to preparations that put him in the top-tier on day one and will keep him there throughout.
The “call to service,” was a guiding theme of Perry’s announcement.
His speech began with an evocation of World War II.
Thank you, I was born five years after the end of a global war that killed more than 60 million people.
I am the son of a veteran of that war, who flew 35 missions over war-torn Europe as a tail gunner on a B-17.
When dad returned home, he married mom, and they started a life together.
They were tenant farmers.
They were raised during a time of great hardship, and had little expectation beyond living in peace, putting a roof over our heads and putting food on our table.
Home was a place called Paint Creek. Too small to be called a town, but it was the center of my universe.
For years we had an outhouse, and mom bathed us in a number two washtub on the back porch. She also hand-sewed my clothes until I went off to college.
I attended Paint Creek Rural School, grades one through 12. I played 6-man football. I was a member of Boy Scout Troop 48, became an Eagle Scout, and went off to Texas A&M where I was a member of the Corps of Cadets and an animal science major.
I was proud to wear the uniform of our country as an Air Force officer and aircraft commander.
After serving, I returned home to the rolling plains and big skies of West Texas, and I returned to farming.
There is no person on earth more optimistic than a dryland cotton farmer. We always know a good rain is just around the corner, no matter how long we’d been waiting.
The values learned on my family’s cotton farm are timeless: the dignity of work, the integrity of your word, responsibility to community, the unbreakable bonds of family, and duty to country.
Perry’s father left home to defend his country and then returned home to plow the unforgiving West Texas land. Perry returns home after serving his country – I returned to farming – only once again leaving his field after being called to service in Austin – as a state representative, agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor.
Now, as Anita Perry put it, Rick has once again responded to our nation’s call to service.
But how had the nation manifested this call?
Here is where Perry’s speech, which the former governor delivered flanked by retired Marines and Navy SEALS of storied valor, indulged in some canny rhetorical sleight-of-hand.
And among our great people, there is a spirit of selflessness – that we live to make the world better for our children, and not just ourselves.
It was said that when King George the Third asked what General Washington would do upon winning the war, he was told he would return to his farm and relinquish power. To that, the monarch replied, if he did that, he would be the greatest man of his age.
George Washington lived in the service of a cause greater than self.
If anyone is wondering if America still possesses the character of selfless heroes, I am here to say, “Yes, I am surrounded by such heroes.”
They are of different generations, but they are woven together by the same thread of selfless sacrifice.
They are heroes like Medal of Honor Recipient Mike Thornton, who survived an ambush by enemy forces in Vietnam, and made it back to the safety of a water rescue, only to find out a fellow team member had been left behind, presumed dead.
He didn’t leave though, he returned through enemy fire and retrieved Lieutenant Norris who was still alive – and then swam for two hours keeping his wounded teammate afloat until they were rescued.
Heroes like Marcus Luttrell, who survived a savage attack on the side of a mountain in Afghanistan, losing his three teammates and 16 fellow warriors shot down trying to rescue him.
He is not just the lone survivor, to Anita and me he is a second son.
And Taya Kyle, who suffered the deep loss of her husband Chris, an American hero. When I think of Taya Kyle, I think of a brave woman who carries not just the lofty burden of Chris’ legacy, but the grief of every family who has lost a loved one to the great tragedy of war, or its difficult aftermath. Anita and I want to thank her for her tremendous courage.
Jennifer Mercieca, a professor of communication at Texas A & M University, decoded this for me.
“You have often heard him compared to Cincinnatus,” the French traveller Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville wrote after visiting George Washington at Mount Vernon in 1788. “The comparison is doubtless just. The celebrated General is nothing more at present than a good farmer, constantly occupied in the care of his farm and the improvement of cultivation.”
Brissot’s classically-educated readers would have been familiar with the story of the Roman general Cincinnatus from the Roman historian Livy, or from contemporary works like Charles Rollin’s popular history of Rome, published in 1750. According to the story, powerful enemies of Rome, the Aequians, were threatening an invasion of the city. The Roman Senate, finding the current consul unprepared to meet the crisis, voted unanimously to confer the extraordinary powers of dictatorship on their most distinguished former general, L. Quinctius Cincinnatus.
At the time, Cincinnatus was living in retirement on his four-acre farm outside of Rome and representatives from the Senate found him working in his field. When he learned of the emergency facing Rome, he left his plow standing in the field, bid farewell to his wife, and led the Romans to victory against the Aequians. Fifteen days after assuming the dictatorship, Cincinnatus resigned and returned to his plow.
The parallels with General George Washington were not lost on his contemporaries. Called up from his retirement at Mount Vernon to lead the Continental Army, Washington dramatically resigned his commission and returned to his farm once the war had been won. In emulating Cincinnatus, Washington allayed real fears that he might use his position as a successful general to retain power as a military dictator. In the process Washington illustrated that he placed public service above personal gain.
For Romans and Americans alike, Cincinnatus represented the ideal republican simplicity, an enlightened poverty that spurned luxury and cultivated a simple nobility of spirit. As the historian Rollin wrote of Cincinnatus: “Happy times! admirable simplicity! Poverty was not universally practiced, but it was esteemed and honoured, and not considered as a disqualification for the highest dignities of the state. The conduct of Quinctius [Cincinnatus] during his Consulship… [shows] us what a noble nature, what constancy, and what greatness of soul, inhabited a poor wretched cottage.”
For the Revolutionary generation, the republican simplicity of the American farmer provided a pointed contrast with the perceived luxury and decadence of the British empire. As the American Cincinnatus, Washington embodied America’s agricultural self-sufficiency, which he saw as a crucial element in its economic and political independence from Great Britain.
Now back to Mercieca,
Because of Cincinnatus, the founding generation believed that you ought to never seek power; that ambition and self-serving seeking of power disqualified you for office, it made you the last person that we should ever put in power.
So for Rick Perry to be invoking the legend of Cincinnatus while he’s announcing the fact that he’s seeking the presidency is a little weird, but he tries to do it in such a way that he’s gesturing to those around him as being the Cincinnatuses here.
So he says,George Washington lived in the service of a cause greater than self, so that’s the anti-ambition thing, and then he says, If anyone is wondering if America still possesses the character of selfless heroes, I am here to say, “Yes, I am surrounded by such heroes.”
So, he’s not presenting himself as Cincinnatus. He’s presenting the veterans that he’s got on the stage as Cincinnatus, but it’s awkward.
I don’t think Rick Perry can position himself (as Cincinnatus), not in 2016.
There hasn’t been this, Run Rick Run PAC, (just RickPAC) “Oh, please, I hope Rick Perry runs.’ Maybe I missed it, but I don’t think so.
(Grover Cleveland as Cincinnatus.)
Ah, but here is where Perry’s speech makes that last ingenious rhetorical leap, with its stirring conclusion
America is an extraordinary country. Our greatness lies not in our government, but in our people.
Each day Americans demonstrate tremendous courage. But many of those Americans have been knocked down and are looking for a second chance.
Let’s give them that chance. Let’s give them real leadership. Let’s give them a future greater than the greatest days of our past.
Let’s give them a president who leads us in the direction of our highest hopes, our best dreams and our greatest promise.
Thank you, and God bless you.
It seems to me that what he is saying here is that he is being called upon to once again leave the plow – or at any rate that nice piece of property that he and Anita bought out in Round Top – in service of those Americans (who) have been knocked down and are looking for a second chance. But, of course, it is Rick Perry who is looking for a second chance, who hopes, in the political realm, to become the patron saint of the second chance.
In other words, Rick Perry, the modern Cincinnatus, the latter-day Washington, is being called back to service on behalf of … Rick Perry.
I like it.
SHOTGUN TOTER/REPUBLICAN VOTER
Perry strode to the stage at his announcement to the strains of Colt Ford’s slightly revised version of his country rap song Answer to No One.
Here was Perry being asked about it by Dana Bash on CNN’s State of the Union:
BASH: Last question, I have to ask you about the Rick Perry country-rap. Where did that come from?
PERRY: Colt Ford is – you know, Colt’s actually a golfer by (INAUDIBLE) but, he’s turned into quite a very good country-rapper, so – Pete Scobell who’s a dear friend, Navy SEAL, is a close friend of Marcus – Marcus Luttrell. He too came to me and said, listen, I got an idea for a song for your campaign, and so, anyway, that’s what it turned out.
Matter of fact, it’s on iTunes today, first day, so go to iTunes and buy it. Get a little country-rap going.
BASH: Alright, well, one day I’ll have you do your Rick Perry rap for me. Not today.
PERRY: Not today.
BASH: Thank you, Governor.
Here are the lyrics. I think the only change from the original is substituting Rick Perrysupporter for Hank Junior supporter. and subbing Rick Perry all the way, for ‘Cause this is what I say
Shotgun toter / Republican voter
Rick Perry supporter / Let’s protect our border
To heck with anyone who don’t believe in the USA / Rick Perry all the way!
I won’t back up / I don’t back down
I’ve been raised up to stand my ground
Take my job but not my gun
Tax my check ’til I ain’t got none
Except for the good Lord up above
I answer to no one
Give me right to vote / My right to tote
The weapon of my choice / Don’t censor my voice
Hate me if you want / Or love me if you can
If the truth is what you want then you’ve found your man
I ain’t backin’ down / I ain’t backin’ up
If you think like I think then crank it on up!
At the Houston Chronicle, Lisa Falkenberg panned the song and, indeed, the genre, describing country-rap as “an abomination.”
What bothers me most, though, about the pro-Perry rap song isn’t the notion of artisans as partisans. It isn’t the hard-core conservative, pro-gun, anti-government values. Those are as elemental as a steel guitar.
It’s the fact that this song tailored for Perry doesn’t really describe Perry.
Take the title: “Answer to No One,” to which the songwriter makes only one exception, and that’s for the “good Lord up above.”
As Texas’ longest-serving governor, Perry made quite a few exceptions.
Harold Simmons, the late Dallas billionaire, donated more than $1.1 million to Perry and got a radioactive waste dump permit approved for a West Texas site abutting an aquifer without so much as a hearing to consider the risks.
Bob Perry, the late Houston-based homebuilder, gave millions to Perry, and the governor gave the billionaire’s top lawyer a seat on a watchdog board that was supposed to protect consumers from unethical homebuilders but actually set up hurdles that kept homeowners from resolving disputes over defective houses. The Legislature abolished the agency in 2009.
Rick Perry’s long-touted Emerging Technology Fund allocated more than $400 million to companies and universities over a decade, but a 2011 state audit found the program lacked transparency and nobody was tracking its performance. An investigation by The Dallas Morning News found that more than $16 million was awarded to companies with investors or officers who were large campaign donors to Perry. To his credit, Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed a bill to get rid of the fund.
It goes on.
But maybe Perry is changing.
In his interview with Dana Bash, and with John Dickerson, the new host of CBS’s Face the Nation, the former governor was asked about the Perry Populist who emerge in a few lines in his announcement speech.
BASH: Let’s talk about the economy. In your announcement speech this week, you sounded like a populist. You said, “Capitalism is not corporatism,” you said it’s, “not a guarantee of reward without risk. It’s not about Wall Street at the expense of Main Street.” I’ve seen it written that you sounded more like Elizabeth Warren than members of your own party.
PERRY: I think I sounded like a boy who grew up on a dry land cotton farm in a house that’s – didn’t have running water.
I grew up in a place where my Mom and Dad both had to work really hard, and I don’t think it’s right for Wall Street to be able to walk away from bad mistakes, and the people on Main street have to pay for it. That’s – if that’s populism, than I’m proud to be a populist on that issue.
The bottom line is we need to be putting policies into place where Main street folks – Dodd-Frank’s a great example it right here in Iowa. These bankers – these small community banks are being strangled by regulations, and they can’t loan money to their farmers or small businesses. That’s just not right.
BASH: So, what would you do about Wall Street? Would you do – would you try to break up the big banks? How would you actually –
PERRY: – Well, listen, if a bank makes bad decisions, they’ll fail. Nobody ought to be too big to fail, and all these regulations did was codify in the law, and I’d certainly get rid of those. You make a mistake, and you make bad choices, you need to pay a price in this country. I don’t care who you are, or whether you’re a big Wall Street firm, or you’re a big bank. You know? That’s what our bankruptcy laws are for.
I wasn’t for G.M. getting a restructure. They should have been – gone through bankruptcy just like everybody on Main Street would have, Dana. I mean – this is pretty simple from my perspective. Treat everybody the same.
OK, but as recently as the end of last year, there was the decidedly less populist Perry in this interview with Philip Rucker of the Washington Post:
Last week, Perry studied income inequality and economic mobility with experts Scott Winship, Erin Currier and Aparna Mathur. In the Post interview, he was asked about the growing gap between rich and poor in Texas, which has had strong job growth over the past decade but also has lagged in services for the underprivileged.
“Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion,” he said. He cited statistics showing that since he took office in 2000, wages have increased among all four income quartiles. He said a young man who dropped out of high school in South Texas could make more than $100,000 a year as a truck driver.
Perry acknowledged that the richest Texans have experienced the greatest amount of earnings growth, but dismissed the notion that income inequality is a problem in the state, saying, “We don’t grapple with that here.”
His announcement speech seemed, at the very least, to set a different tone. Now I understand Hillary Clinton buckling to the Bernie Sanders steamroller and talking more about inequality and sounding more populist notes. But Rick Perry?
Here from his exchange with Dickerson:
JOHN DICKERSON: I’m going to ask you about something, Governor, you said in your announcement. You said, “The American people see a rigged game where insiders get rich and the middle class pays the tab.” Now, that’s coming from you. We talked to Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York. It could’ve come from him. It could’ve come from Senator Warren of Massachusetts. So talk about that a little bit. GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: As a boy who grew up on a dry-land cotton farm, the child of a couple of tenant farmers, I grew up in a house that didn’t even have running water. I relate to people who struggle and work hard to get ahead. And when we see these Wall Street bankers, when we look back at General Motors getting sweet treatment, if you will, I believe in the bankruptcy laws in this country. There is nothing too big to fail from my perspective when it comes to banks, or when it comes to big corporate entities. And I think Americans are fed up. I am. We’re fed up by seeing Wall Street get treated specially. And you can’t even get a loan from your community bank because of Dodd-Frank banking regulations. All that has to change, John. I’m telling you, American are fed up with that type of inside where the rich get richer and the folks out on Main Street have to pay the bills. JOHN DICKERSON: What are you going to do about Wall Street then? GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Well, regulate them. I mean, regulate them, make sure that that doesn’t happen. If they make bad decisions, let them live with those bad decisions. Don’t bail them out. JOHN DICKERSON: All right. But isn’t that what Dodd-Frank is? Regulations? You were just saying that was bad. GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Yeah. Dodd-Frank is killing. Dodd-Frank is killing the community banks. Overregulation in that sense. There needs to be some wisdom. My home state, one of the things that we were successful with was finding that balance between protecting the citizens and allowing the freedom for folks to grow, to be able to get loans, to be able to do the things that really matter. And Dodd-Frank just codifies into place these regulations. Big banks, they hire all the lawyers, they hire all the accountants, and then they write it off and we pay for it. Community banks that are the real core of lending for small businessmen and women, for farmers in Iowa, you’ve got to give them the freedom to loan to these people.
Got it? No problem. But Colt Ford might want to add a new verse to his Rick Perry anthem:
Shortly after Rick Perry announced for president the first time around in August 2011, Clay Risen of the New York Times wrote the following at the paper’s The Thread.
Consider the Rick Perry paradox: in a G.O.P. field notably bereft of experience in elected office, he has won nine back-to-back elections and spent the last decade as governor of America’s second-most-populous state. And, though the Thread has yet to see him in person, he is apparently the Red State equivalent of Kal-El. Or so says this rapturous lede from Politico:
It sounds like a political fairy tale: Months of campaigning by nearly a dozen candidates have left Republicans restless and worried. No one quite fits the bill. Less than six months remain before the primaries.
And then a superhero arrives.
He’s not just larger than life, he’s bigger than the Ames Straw Poll. His dramatic entrance alters the whole campaign. He swoops to the rescue and leaves everybody eating his dust.
This is the promise of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who announced his presidential candidacy here Saturday and stole the show from the straw poll 1,200 miles away.
He’s got good looks, charisma, experience. So how do you explain his penchant for comments that are, well, a bit out there? Ben Bernanke’s loose-money policy is “treasonous,” and Texans would “treat him pretty roughly” if he came to their state. Global warming is a hoax. Evolution is just an idea “out there.” Social Security is unconstitutional, and the 16th Amendment, which establishes the grounds for federal income taxes, should be repealed. Are these just the words of a newbie to the national stage? Or the future of the Republican Party?
James Fallows picks Door No. 1:
Just after Sarah Palin was nominated three years ago, I argued that anyone who moves all at once from state-level to national-level politics is going to be shocked by the greater intensity of the scrutiny and the broader range of expertise called for. Therefore that person is destined to make mistakes; the question is how bad they will be. For Palin, they showed up in her disastrous first few interviews, especially with Katie Couric. Perry is getting his own introduction to this principle just now.
No doubt Perry will learn to be a little savvier with his soundbites.
Well maybe not.
It’s not what were characterized by the Times as Perry’s fringe political ideas – which are now pretty much tea party mainstream – that ended up getting him in trouble last time. Rather it was a liberal outburst – suggesting to other Republican candidates, “I don’t think you have heart,” if you don’t support in-state tuition for students who, through no fault of their own, find themselves living in Texas illegally – and a heartrending moment of human failing when he couldn’t remember the name of the third federal agency that he wanted to eliminate, oops – that doomed his candidacy.
Today in Addison, Texas, outside of Dallas, Rick Perry will announce for the second time that he is running for president.
This time he arrives not as Superman, but as Underdog.
He is, by every evidence, in better health – last time out he was recovering from back surgery – and intellectually far better prepared to run for president than he was four years. He is no longer governor so he can also devote himself wholly to the task.
But the field he entered four years ago was truly odd and thin and aching for a hero.
This year’s field, by contrast, is the largest and richest in the party’s history, replete with present and former governors and senators, and with no one begging for yet another choice.
According to the most recent Real Clear Politics polling average, right now Perry ranks tenth with 2.7 percent of the vote, behind former Florida Gov. Bush, Wisconsin Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, celebrity businessman Donald Trump, and then Perry, who is followed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, businesswoman Carly Fiorina and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.
The good news for Perry is that the field is large and fluid. No one has a commanding lead. Bush and Walker generally top out at about 12 or 13 percent.
But the bad news for Perry is that the field is large and fluid and his special virtues – leadership skills, executive experience and likabilty, which could make him broadly acceptable – aren’t necessarily unique. What is unique to him, not just in this field but it seems in the annals of American history, is that he is the first major candidate for president running for president while under indictment.
He and his team have done a very good job of presenting that fact in its best light, and making it almost an afterthought, if that, in most of what is now written about Perry. But, the fact remains that he is under indictment back in Austin, with no resolution in sight.
From University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato:
I can’t think of any other serious presidential candidate who ran under indictment, certainly not in the modern era. John Edwards was indicted, but that was in 2011, three years after his 2008 candidacy. So Rick Perry is filling a unique niche.
Republicans almost universally see the indictment as political, so it shouldn’t much affect his run for the nomination. If he were actually to win the GOP nomination, and the indictment had not been resolved by the fall of 2016, the indictment would obviously be a drag on his campaign. But there are a couple of ‘ifs’ in there, and 530 days to go.
“I think it’s a first,” said University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus, author of The Institutional Effects of Executive Scandal.
Perry was indicted for abuse of power after threatening to veto funding for the state’s Public Integrity Unit unless Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg stepped down from office after her arrest for drunk driving and unseemly behavior at the time of her arrest.
While Perry initially played the indictment to his political advantage, over time, Rottinghaus said, it is nothing but an albatross. In a field as large as this, for almost any other claim Perry can make on a voter – his foreign policy hawkishness, his executive experience, his social conservatism – there is, Rottinghaus said, another candidate who can make that same claim and isn’t under indictment
“If I see a stack of resumes and one of them mentions `indictment’ I’m probably going to discard that one,” said Claremont McKenna political scientist Jack Pitney.
Pitney recalled that when former Texas Gov. John Connally ran for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination, he sought to turn his 1975 bribery trial into an asset.
As columnist Jack Anderson wrote in February 1999:
Big John Connally, his Stetson dominating the other hats in the presidential ring, has sought to turn his bribery trial into an asset. With characteristic bluff, he has claimed that he is the only presidential contender who is “certified innocent” by a jury.
But, unlike Perry, Connally’s trial was years behind him when he ran, and, most importantly, he had been acquitted. Even then, it didn’t end well for him.
From the Handbook of Texas entry on Connally, a little background:
Connally switched parties from Democrat to Republican in 1973, three months after LBJ’s death. In the wake of the bribery-related resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew in October 1973, Nixon passed word that he would name Connally to fill the vacancy. This would have put Connally in a strong position to run for president in 1976. Nixon and Connally had privately mused about starting a new Whig-type party in the tradition of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. But Democrats and Republicans alike in the Senate erupted in a “firestorm of protest.” Warnings went up that if Nixon pursued the appointment, some powerful Senate Democrats “would be determined to destroy Connally.” This was during the height of the Watergate scandal, which ultimately forced Nixon to resign. Nixon named House minority leader Gerald Ford vice president but said that he intended to support Connally for the 1976 GOP nomination. In the aftermath, Connally rejoined Vinson and Elkins but soon confronted a criminal prosecution for alleged bribery and conspiracy in a “milk-price” scandal. He was acquitted after a trial in federal court.
Connally’s aborted effort to win the GOP’s presidential nomination in 1980 was short-lived. He was hurt in part by a “wheeler-dealer” identification reminiscent of LBJ, and a press criticism that he was a political “chameleon.” He was also damaged by a 1977 bank partnership he entered into with two Arab sheiks and an ill-advised or misunderstood speech he delivered to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. in 1979, that was interpreted as having anti-Semitic overtones. Connally raised and spent $11 million on the fourteen-month campaign but dropped out of the primaries, having gained the binding commitment of only one GOP convention delegate. He felt himself to be a victim of the Watergate scandal. After he lost his bid for the presidential nomination in 1980, he left politics and government.
“Any encounter with the criminal justice system is likely to be bad,” Pitney said. “Even if you totally go with his protestation of innocence, that’s fine, but it still remains a tremendous distraction for a candidate and raises electability issues. It’s hard to see how Rick Perry gets elected president.”
And, according to Texans for Public Justice, the Austin anti-corruption research and advocacy group that brought the complaint that led to Perry’s indictment, the case seems unlikely to resolve itself anytime soon. From a brief they issued timed to Perry’s announcement:
Perry’s legal troubles are likely to outlive his latest presidential campaign. Trial court Judge Richardson, who has since been elected to the state’s top criminal court ,already has dismissed three separate Perry motions to dismiss the indictments.
Perry has appealed Judge Richardson’s rulings to Texas’s 3rd Court of Appeals.
The case is assigned to a three judge panel. A member of that panel, Judge Bob Pemberton, is a Perry appointee who previously served as Gov. Perry’s general counsel.
Judge Pemberton so far has resisted calls to recuse himself from the case.
The appeals court has not yet set a date for oral arguments. Even if that court eventually dismisses the indictment, the state would likely appeal, initiating yet another time-consuming judicial clock.
Meanwhile, trial court preparations continue even as Perry’s appeals unfold.
In other words, if Rick Perry is nominated for president, it will be a heroic comeback of historic proportions.
“He is hugely excellent retail campaigner. He loves people,” said Dave Carney , who was a top strategist to Perry’s last presidential campaign but is not involved this time. No one doubts that.
And, said Carney, “He has a great record that nobody can touch.”
That, of course, would be subject to partisan dispute. But for Republicans, there is no question that his stewardship of the largest red state is gold.
But Carney said it is the trash-talking nature of politics that wherever more than three Republicans gather somewhere in Iowa, someone will say something on the order of, too bad about Perry and that indictment.
Ultimately, Carney said, “I think activists don’t care about it.” Where it is most likely to hurt, he said, is with big-dollar Super PAC investors who may really like Perry but may be reluctant to throw a million dollars at a candidate with that big an asterisk next to his name.
“It’s not ideal,” said Ray Sullivan, co-chair of the pro-Perry Opportunity and Freedom Super PAC. “But, so far we’ve gotten what we need and most political folks, almost regardless of party, believe the indictment will be tossed out, that’s it’s groundless and rather ridiculous. The question is when and that’s something. It is a road bump, but it is not yet an issue.”