Abbott on the Kelly File, Cruz on Hardball, Trump on the Simpsons and Perry on sanctuary cities

Good day Austin:

Our governor, Greg Abbott, was on the Fox News Channel’s Kelly File last night, where he linked the terrible shooting death of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco last week, allegedly by a Mexican man with a long criminal record who had been deported five times, to President Obama’s lawlessness on immigration policy.

Strong words, but Abbott was emotionally far more restrained than the host, Megyn Kelly, who was on an impressive show-length tear of outrage about Steine’s murder and the Obama administration’s culpability.

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Meanwhile, one click and a world away at MSNBC, Ted Cruz was talking about his new book, A Time for Truth, with his putative archfoe, Chris Matthews – who in the past has characterized Cruz as a cross between Joe McCarthy and Beelzebub – on Matthews’ show Hardball, though with Matthews searching for areas of agreement, it was less Hardball and more Fast-Pitch Softball, if that. (Below, for example, Cruz smiles as Matthews dismissed birther arguments against the Canadian-born Cruz: “I think you’re completely in the clear.”)

 

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And, of course, everywhere there was the meteor trail of Donald Trump (who notably has raised doubts about Cruz’s eligibility, just as he did about Obama’s), whose political star now burns so brightly that Fox is risking the premier episode of the 27th season of The Simpsons, on Trump’s not having burnt out into nothingness by then – though I suppose it would still work even then as a kind of fond memory of summer.

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First Abbott, who was brought onto Kelly’s show to talk about Obama administration officials being summoned to appear in the federal District Court in Brownsville next month to explain why they shouldn’t be held in contempt for violating an injunction issued against the executive order on immigration promulgated by the president late last year. The injunction resulted from a case Abbott bought at the end of his term as attorney general on behalf of Texas and half the other states in the country.

Here is  the interview.

From the interview:

Abbott: And Megan, that points out the similarity between what happened in that courtroom in South Texas and what happened in San Francisco, and that is a complete disregard for the law. It seems like this area of the Obama administration believes it is above the law and does not have to comply with it. In doing so is putting Americans in harm’s way.

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They continue to disregard the law to the extent that it is imperiling American lives.

Kelly: Governor, we’ll see if the Department of Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson and Miss Saldana have to go down to Texas federal court in August. It will be a sight to behold. I predict they will get their act together before that.

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(Fun fact: Abbott was followed on the show by Mark Fuhrman.)

More from Kelly earlier in the show:

KELLY: In the five days since an illegal immigrant shot and killed Kate, a 32-year-old woman, shot at random on a pier, this story has become increasingly ugly. First for San Francisco and now for the White House and President Obama. She was killed while walking with her dad in a popular and public location, allegedly by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times and had managed to put multiple felonies on his record as he kept coming back. Francisco Sanchez told police he had gone to San Francisco because it was a sanctuary city where he was less likely to be deported and sure enough, when he was being held on drug charges last March, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office decided to release him rather than have the feds deport him, saying that is their policy, but their policy undermines federal law.

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This cannot be turfed to Homeland Security. The White House owes the public an answer, a direct, straightforward, simple answer because it was this administration that apparently stopped a measure to combat sanctuary cities like the one in San Francisco in the first place. In fact, The Kelly File has unearthed direct evidence that the administration has no interest in cracking down on sanctuary cities and here is the proof for you to see for yourself. Listen to the head of ICE or Immigration and Customs Enforcement on this very issue less than four months ago. This is Thursday, March 19, 2015 and Ms. Saldaña on the subject of cities that put immigrant felons back on the streets.

Q – As you know, there’s, I don’t know, 200 or so state, local jurisdictions that have enacted laws or policies to not cooperate with DHS, with immigration — San Francisco being one. And the term is often called “sanctuary city.”  Does the President approve of or embrace those cities and communities that have adopted these policies or laws?

ICE DIRECTOR SARAH SALDANA [on 03/19/15]: Last calendar year, state and local jurisdictions rejected more than 12,000 ICE detainer requests. These are convicted criminals?

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN [on 03/19/15]: Would it help you if we clarified the law to make it clear that it was mandatory that those local communities cooperate with you? 

SALDANA [on 03/19/15]: Thank you, amen, yes. 

KELLY: Thank you. Amen, yes. Crack down on the sanctuary cities is what she said, but the very next day, Friday March 20, a complete reversal after the ACLU, immigrants rights groups and others pressured the White House and presto, the head of ICE makes a shocking about-face. This time in writing, though, saying, quote, “[a]ny effort at federal legislation now to mandate state and local law enforcement’s compliance with ICE detainers will, in our view, be a highly counterproductive step and lead to more resistance and less cooperation in overall efforts to promote public safety.” What happened to ‘thank you, amen, yes’ a day earlier? And now, after clear evidence that it is not interested in a sanctuary city crackdown, this administration tells reporters it can’t comment on whether the President backs the sheriff or the policies in this case? 

Here is the exchange with White House press secretary Josh Earnest yesterday, which is pretty bureaucratic and unsatisfying.

Q – As you know, there’s, I don’t know, 200 or so state, local jurisdictions that have enacted laws or policies to not cooperate with DHS, with immigration — San Francisco being one. And the term is often called “sanctuary city.” Does the President approve of or embrace those cities and communities that have adopted these policies or laws?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Alexis, one of the important executive actions that the President announced back in November was a significant change to the Secure Communities program.  And the Secure Communities program was essentially the way that — it was essentially the program that codified the relationship between local law enforcement authorities and federal immigration enforcement authorities.

 And there was lots of dissatisfaction I think on both ends of that relationship about the Secure Communities program.  And so what the President announced back in November was essentially an overhaul of that system.  He threw out the Secure Communities program and put in place something called the Priority Enforcement program that was designed to improve coordination and allow local jurisdictions to exercise more flexibility in working with the federal government on these issues.

And the President did that — undertook that change with an eye toward making sure that we’re concentrating our limited federal law enforcement assets on deporting criminals, those who pose a threat to the community and those who may pose a threat to national security.  And too often, we saw a broken immigration system that allowed those enforcement resources to be diluted by being focused on essentially hardworking people who were just trying to provide for their families and that it resulted in a situation where every bit as much attention was focused on separating families as deporting felons.  And the President didn’t believe that that made a lot of sense.  It certainly isn’t consistent with the kinds of values that we hold dear in this country and it certainly is not consistent with a common-sense assessment about what’s going to best protect the American people.

 And so this Priority Enforcement program was put in place to improve the coordination between state — I’m sorry, between federal and local law enforcement, and make sure that these law enforcement resources were being focused on the greatest need, which is deporting those individuals that pose the greatest threat to communities across the country or to the country itself.

 Q – So back to the situation in San Francisco recently that was much in the news.  Does the President believe that the sheriff in San Francisco made a mistake, or it should have been handled differently?  What’s his feeling now?

 MR. EARNEST – Well, as it relates to this specific case, I’m just not going to be able to talk about the specific details of this matter.  But the Department of Homeland Security may be able to share more with you.

Back to Kelly:

KELLY: They have to got to speak to their ongoing support for these policies. It isn’t okay to try to turf it to Homeland Security. Who ultimately runs Homeland Security? President Obama is in charge of all of it. He can’t dodge responsibility for the policies he refuses to support at the federal level. The laws that are on the books by saying, take it up with Saldaña or Jeh Johnson. They answer to him. 

He allowed this to happen. They – the administration knew the person he placed in charge of ICE was telling Congress, ‘yes, help us, get these cities into compliance’ and someone took her behind the wood shed and said you’re reversing that explicitly and now they don’t want to answer for it because they know the press will be too lazy to hold them to account. It is lawlessness.

From the AP:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The killing of a woman at a sightseeing pier has brought criticism down on this liberal city because the Mexican man under arrest was in the U.S. illegally, had been deported five times and was out on the streets after San Francisco officials disregarded a request from immigration authorities to keep him locked up

San Francisco is one of dozens of cities and counties across the country that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The city goes so far as to promote itself as a “sanctuary” for people in the country illegally.

In a jailhouse interview with a TV station, Francisco Sanchez, the 45-year-old repeat drug offender arrested in the shooting Wednesday of Kathryn Steinle, appeared to confirm that he came to the city because of its status as a sanctuary.

From a 2009 Congressional Research Service report:

(S)ome jurisdictions have been unwilling to assist the federal government in enforcing measures that distinguish between legal and non-legal residents of the community. Some of these jurisdictions have adopted formal or informal policies limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Austin is sometimes described as a sanctuary city, but as the AP’s Jim Vertuno wrote when a renewed effort was made in the Legislature this session to ban them:

The term “sanctuary city” has no legal meaning; it is typically used to describe local governments that ban police from asking about a person’s immigration status. A bill by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would prohibit local governments from prohibiting such bans.

The state Republican platform calls for banning sanctuary cities, and Abbott would have been expected to sign the legislation if it reached his desk. But it died in the Senate, without a whole lot of fanfare, though that might have been different if the recent events in San Francisco had transpired a few months earlier.

But it is interesting, in the current moment, to read Enrique Rangel at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, on why Charles Perry’s bill failed in the Texas Senate.

Two Republican senators joined their 11 Democratic colleagues in opposing the measures.

That’s the minimum number of senators needed to block legislation under the new three-fifths rule in the 31-member Texas Senate. The rule requires at least 19 senators be present to agree bringing a bill to the Senate floor.

“I am a ‘no” on sanctuary cities on repealing the in-state tuition law,” said Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler.

“Sanctuary cities is a local control issue and I trust that in my city they do a fabulous job on this issue,” said Eltife, who served as mayor of Tyler before being elected to the Texas Senate a decade ago.

“With regard to in-state tuition, we are targeting the wrong people,” Eltife said in reference to undocumented students who were brought here when they were children and many have not even been back to the country where they were born.

Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, gave stronger reasons for opposing SB 185 and Senate Bill 1819, the in-state tuition bill filed by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels.

“Let me just say that there are three problems with (SB) 185, that’s the one I’d like to concentrate on,” Estes, said.

“First of all, it is absolutely important to realize that it’s the federal government’s job to enforce our immigration laws and I worry about the burden that it puts on our local police,” he said.

“Point number two is this: I feel that the bill lacks the protections for American citizens being stopped at random,” he said. “American citizens, no matter what their ethnic origin, have the right to go about their daily business and not be stopped and being questioned.

“Let me say this: the phrase ‘show me your papers,’ is more like Nazi Germany than it is about the U.S.A.

“The third reason is a political reason,” Estes stressed. “For the Grand Old Party, the Republican Party to be viable in the future, we have to compete for the American Hispanic vote. And nothing could alienate Hispanic Americans more than being stopped at random, arbitrarily and asked their status because of the color of their skin.”

 Meanwhile, the other Perry – Rick not Charles – who is running for president and has touted his experience with border security and immigration as a prime credential – just released a statement this afternoon on his plan to end sanctuary cities.

From Rick Perry:

Ronald Reagan once called immigrants “Americans by choice.” In Texas, we have a long history of welcoming immigrants from all over the world, immigrants who have helped make our economy the strongest in the country.  It’s not fair that some people try to jump the immigration line by coming across our border illegally. One of the core responsibilities of the federal government is to secure the border. As the recent tragedy in San Francisco has shown us, it’s important for the federal government and local governments to be able to cooperate to apprehend illegal immigrants with criminal histories. San Francisco—and many other cities in America run by left-wing governments—have become ‘sanctuary cities’ that choose to openly defy U.S. immigration law and prevent cooperation with federal authorities. Perversely, the federal government subsidizes this behavior by sending Justice Department funds to cities that intentionally harbor illegal immigrants in their jails. This has to end.

Today, I am proposing to pull funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program—or SCAAP—from sanctuary cities. States with sanctuary cities will lose a proportionate amount of their SCAAP funding as well. SCAAP funding will also be restricted to jurisdictions that actively participate in immigration law enforcement programs. Cities and counties with sanctuary policies in place will also be prohibited from applying for federal law enforcement or Department of Homeland Security grants. Federal taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize the irresponsible behavior of these governments. Furthermore, the Justice Department should allow federal immigration officials, either through the executive branch or Congressional action, to have access to prisons and holding facilities in sanctuary cities and counties, so as to verify the immigration status of people in those facilities.

The Governor Perry Plan To End Sanctuary Cities:

  • Pull federal State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) funding to cities and counties with sanctuary policies in place.
  • Pull federal SCAAP funding to states with sanctuary cities and counties at a proportional level to the population of said cities and counties.
  • Limit SCAAP funds to jurisdictions that actively participate in immigration law enforcement programs.
  • Prohibit cities and counties with sanctuary policies in place from applying for federal law enforcement or Department of Homeland Security grants.
  • Allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, either through legislative or executive action, access to prisons and holding facilities in non-compliant sanctuary cities and counties to check the immigration status of all individuals arrested.

 

Now to Cruz, and the truism that book tours heal all wounds, or maybe that it’s simply harder to say mean things to someone when you’re looking them in the eye.

 

Here are some highlights.

On Trump and birtherism:

Matthews: Tonight, we’ve got a lot of Trump, but also all of the men who may
replace him as the Republican Party`s number one challenger to the
political establishment. Texas senator Ted Cruz — he`s author of a new
book, “A time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America.” There he is,
and we have him with us tonight.

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Let me ask you about this thing about Trump. Now, Trump is out there
still playing the birther card ….. On the day you announced your candidacy, Senator, Trump also said your birthplace — well, you were born in Calgary, I guess your father was working up there, father and mother at the time up in Canada — could be a hurdle for your campaign.
Let`s watch him here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He was born in Canada. If you know — and when we all studied
our history lessons, you`re supposed to be born in this country, so I just
don`t know how the courts would rule on it. But it`s an additional hurdle
that he has that nobody else seems to have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, actually, “natural-born” means that you were born to
American parents. You don`t have to be naturalized. I think you`re
completely in the clear here, as I believed from the beginning the
president is, because Trump, he has never said that the mother of Barack
Obama is not the mother of Barack Obama.

But what do you think of the fact he still says it`s a hurdle for you?
And by the way, you`re quite open about how you grew up and where you were
born.

CRUZ: Well, sure. Sure. Now, look, I like Donald Trump. You know,
there are a lot of folks in Washington right now that seem to be crawling
all over themselves to smack Donald Trump. I`m not one of them. I think
he`s bold, I think he`s brash, and I think he`s got backbone. I think
he…

MATTHEWS: Well, why does he say stuff about you?

CRUZ: You know, look…

MATTHEWS: Why does he say it`s a hurdle for you, when no one else is
causing you trouble? And by the way, George — who is it — Romney, George
Romney, was born in Mexico to American parents. John McCain was born in
the Canal Zone. Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona, a territory at the
time.

CRUZ: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: Nobody made a beef about that.

CRUZ: Yes, look, the legal question is quite straightforward, that
the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural-born citizen. As you
noted, my mom was Irish and Italian, born in Wilmington, Delaware. And
when I was born in Calgary, I was a citizen by birth. I`ve never breathed
a breath of air on earth…

MATTHEWS: Yes. So you are black Irish. This is great!

On Super PAC money in politics

MATTHEWS: So the games are being played. But what about campaign
financing? I mean, you`ve got a big PAC out there, like everybody else,
with all this money coming in, $37 million. And the American people are
supposed to believe that the guy who`s running, who’s benefiting from the
PAC money, doesn’t know anything about how it`s being raised, does’t even
know the guy running it.

But you know the guy. His name is Dathan Voelter. How do you
avoid ever meeting him, winking at him, talking to him to keep non-
collaboration?

CRUZ: Well, let me take…

MATTHEWS: Because that`s what people wonder about. They think it`s a
joke. Is it a joke?

CRUZ: Let me take those two one at the same time. I want to start…

MATTHEWS: Start with the Senate leadership, if you want.

CRUZ: Well, yes. You mentioned what happened with the debt ceiling,
and the opening chapter of the book describes what happens behind closed
doors in the Republican lunch.

MATTHEWS: I thought it was a good chapter.

CRUZ: And it`s entitled “Mendacity.” It really highlights what I try
to do. Look, I recognize not a lot of your viewers are likely to be Ted
Cruz fans. But if your viewers are wondering, All right, why is this guy
fighting for what he`s fighting for, if your viewers are wondering what
happens, what happens behind closed doors in the Senate, what this book
tries to do is really shine a light on the corruption, on the role of
money, and it takes on both parties.

MATTHEWS: So you`re saying this is a good book to buy.

CRUZ: Well, I`m certainly encouraging folks to buy —

MATTHEWS: By the way, that part of the book I completely agree with.
But campaign financing to me…

CRUZ: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: … has gotten to be this sort of double game. Well, I
only take so much from my campaign, $2,700 a head. But all this guy money
comes in. It`s not marked. Nobody knows who it is. Isn`t that part of
the corruption?

CRUZ: Look…

MATTHEWS: Is that part of the corruption?

CRUZ: Absolutely. And the current system makes no sense. Right now,
most of the candidates in this race, the bulk of their money is in Super
PACs where it`s illegal to coordinate. Who in their right mind — I mean,
as the result of this race, I`m not allowed to talk to folks who are going
to be spending more money communicating my message than I am. That`s
idiocy!

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s a joke, though, because you write a speech, you
give a speech, and they know what your message is and they put it on
television. This idea of secrecy or non-collaboration`s a joke!

CRUZ: Well, and that`s why I introduced legislation that was called
the Super PAC Elimination Act of 2014. And what it does is real simple.
It would allow unlimited contributions from individuals…

MATTHEWS: Right.

CRUZ: … directly to campaigns and require immediate disclosure
within 24 hours.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CRUZ: Now, that actually — you`d have sunshine, you`d have sunlight,
and the difference would be super PACs effectively would go away because
people would give to campaigns, and that way, Hillary could communicate her
message from her supporters, and we could all talk about — if someone
gives a gazillion dollars to a candidate, we could talk about, OK, are they
on the take?

But I believe in more speech and more sunlight is the best thing for
democracy.

On the Supreme Court and Bush v. Gore

MATTHEWS:  In the 2000 election, you had a big role in the recount. We covered it here. It was the best thing I ever covered. I never liked covering anything like the recount. But you bring the Supreme Court into it, which you were happy as a lover of the Supreme Court then. You brought them in. They basically said the state lost its rights to recount (INAUDIBLE) because of equal protection.

Now — now, on the issue of marriage equality, you say no equal protection, leave the states alone. So how do you be consistent there? Are you consistent or inconsistent on equal protection?

CRUZ: Listen, I believe I`m very consistent. And one of the things I describe in the book is how I’ve spent my entire adult life fighting to defend the Constitution. It`s been a passion…

MATTHEWS: And the court.

CRUZ: … literally since…

MATTHEWS: And the Supreme Court.

CRUZ: … I was a teenager…

MATTHEWS: You`ve always been pro-Supreme Court.

CRUZ: Well…

MATTHEWS: Until now

CRUZ: I revere the court. As you know…

MATTHEWS: Yes. OK.

CRUZ: … I was a law clerk to Chief Justice Rehnquist.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) in the book. As you would say, it`s in the
book. And this is even the book, by the way, it`s “A Time for Truth.”

I really think it`s important to read it. Now you`re for retention
elections. You’ve had to raise a ton of money to run for president, and
you`re definitely in the running. You`ll be in the debates and everything.
Should judges have to go out and raise $37 billion to run for reelection?
How can you put judges out there and make them politicians?

CRUZ: Listen…

MATTHEWS: They won’t be an independent judiciary.

CRUZ: I am reluctant to call for retention elections. It makes me
sad.

MATTHEWS: But you’ve done it!

CRUZ: But I have done it because I believe that a majority of the
justices are not honoring their judicial oaths. And…

MATTHEWS: Is that the solution, elections?

CRUZ: Look, if unelected judges are going to seize every major policy
issue of this country — you know, there was a time…

CRUZ: They seized the presidency in 2000 and you did not complain!
The Supreme Court said no to the state of Florida. You can`t recount!
Even though it`s a close election, you are not allowed to recount. We`re
giving this to our guy, 5 to 4 Republican vote in the Supreme Court. If
there was ever a case of partisanship or ideology getting out of hand, it
was 2000, and you loved it!

CRUZ: Chris…

MATTHEWS: You loved it! You were cheering, you said in the book!

CRUZ: Chris, those are great talking points.

MATTHEWS: But they`re true.

CRUZ: How many times did they count the ballots in Florida?

MATTHEWS: Four.

CRUZ: Four times. How many times did Bush win?

MATTHEWS: Four times.

CRUZ: Four times.

MATTHEWS: They wanted to try it one more time.

CRUZ: Yes, the…

MATTHEWS: Aren`t states allowed to do that?

CRUZ: The Democrats’ strategy was, “We`re going to keep counting and
counting and counting and counting, and eventually, maybe enough people
will cheat and somehow our guy will win.” After four times…

MATTHEWS: How do you know they’re going to cheat?

CRUZ: After four times…

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. I just think it`s a case of states rights, which
you usually champion, and equal protection, which is the first time in the
history Republicans championed equal protection, and then they`ve lost
interest in it now…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: … marriage equality.

CRUZ: I describe how the first time the Supreme Court unanimously
vacated what the Florida supreme court…

MATTHEWS: OK. OK.

CRUZ: … did when it came down — you know what the Florida Supreme
Court did?

MATTHEWS: Right.

CRUZ: It told the U.S. Supreme Court go jump in a lake, didn`t even
cite its opinion!

MATTHEWS: I know, but they…

MATTHEWS: They wanted to continue with the recount under the decision
of the Legislature.

CRUZ: It was partisan defiance of the court. And frankly, what the
Florida Supreme Court did in the Bush versus Gore recount is the same thing
the U.S. Supreme Court did with “Obama care.”

Finally, Trump on The Simpsons.

As you will recall, Cruz recently  “auditioned” to replace Harry Shearer as a voice of many of the most beloved characters on The Simpsons.

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But, since then, Shearer’s back in the fold.

https://twitter.com/keatingthomas/status/618785711408295936

And if Cruz’s love for The Simpsons might have seemed unlikely, what to make of Cruz’s continued affection for Trump – brash, bold and well-backboned – even as he questions Cruz’s natural-born bona fides.

Why?

Philip Bump offered a cogent theory the other day at the Washington Post on Why Ted Cruz is defending Donald Trump.

As anyone who has written critically about Trump can tell you, he’s very quickly built up a vocal base of support on this issue — a base of support that will be looking for a home if and when Trump bails.

And Cruz will greet them with arms wide open.

Gallup polling from in September 2014 showed that the group most concerned about immigration was conservatives. Seventy-six percent of that group considered immigration “extremely” or “very” important to their vote last November, compared to 58 percent of moderates and 59 percent of liberals (although the reason immigration was so important to each group almost certainly differed). Unlike Bush or Rubio, Cruz is well-positioned to appeal to those conservative voters.

Unlike other candidates who might similarly want that support, Cruz is relatively immune to the racial overtones of the issue. Cruz is Hispanic, of course, and the son of immigrants himself. While his family isn’t from Mexico, his comments in support of Trump have been in support of the man and the big-picture issue, not the specifics of Trump’s critique, which are very difficult to defend if you look at the facts. Cruz likely has the luxury of worrying far less about the general election repercussions of bashing illegal immigration than, say, Bush.

It doesn’t take much imagination to envision a scene a few weeks from now in which Trump, for reasons ostensibly beyond his control, announces that he’s not going to run after all. And shortly thereafter, throwing his arm around Cruz to offer some support. “I respect Ted Cruz for the view he’s got,” Trump said on CNN last week. “He was really out there and strong on it.”

“I shouldn’t say this,” Trump continued, “because, I assume, he’s an opponent, but the fact is he was very brave in coming out.”

It’s not hard to see Cruz e-mailing those words out to everyone on Donald Trump’s yuge, classy e-mail list.

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Abbott raises nearly $1 million a day the last nine days of June

Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign committee raised $8.25 million the last nine days of June.

That’s very good. Nearly $1 million a day.

At that pace, he could run for president.

But, to put it in context, those were the first nine days Abbott could receive contributions since being elected governor, so it reflects a certain pent-up energy.

To avoid the indelicate impression that influence might be being bought or sold, state officeholders in Texas cannot receive contributions during biennial legislative sessions and the veto period that follows. The prohibition extends from Dec. 14 to June 21.

Even so, the fundraising numbers – released by his campaign Wednesday ahead of next week’s filing deadline with the Texas Ethics Commission –  only enhance Abbott’s reputation as an epic fundraiser and a politician who knows that the best way to discourage a serious challenge, or defeat an opponent, is with a big pile of cash.

Abbott’s campaign committee has $17.7 million in cash on hand. Two years ago, as he embarked on his campaign for governor, he had $20 million in the bank. Abbott is not up for re-election until 2018.

A statement from Abbott issued by his campaign committee suggested that strong fundraising numbers were a vote of confidence in his early tenure.

“Texans from across the state continue to invest in our vision to build a better Texas, and I am grateful for their steadfast support,” Abbott said. “While we achieved much of what we set out to accomplish this legislative session by improving education, building more roads and securing our border, there is still more work to be done to create an even brighter future.”

While it is very early to be talking about re-election, the numbers only buttress the impression that Abbott is virtually impregnable. He defeated his Democratic opponent, Sen. Wendy Davis, by 20 percentage points in November. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the only candidate anyone could imagine challenging Abbott, has said he has no designs on the governor’s office. The dimensions of Davis’ defeat put a damper on any talk of 2018 being their year, and it is not a presidential year when turnout is higher and Democrats have the potential to do a little better.

Also from the governor’s statement: “I look forward to continuing to travel the state, speaking with and hearing from Texans who share my goal to grow jobs, strengthen freedoms and ultimately make Texas a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

Abbott uses campaign money to pay for all his travel as governor, except in the case of travel related to state emergencies, as in his visits to areas hit by recent flooding.

Gov. Abbott with flood survivor Sherman in Wimberley
Gov. Abbott with flood survivor Sherman in Wimberley

According to the Abbott campaign, the money raised came in more than 2,000 donations, more than 80 percent collected on-line, and including several donations in Bitcoin.

 

 

 

For whom Cecil Bell tolls: On impeaching Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan

Good day Austin:

Once upon a time, Rip Van Winkle went for a ramble in the Catskill Mountains, encountered some little men bowling, took a few nips from their keg and fell into a deep sleep. When he awoke on what he took to be the next morning, he returned to town to learn that 20 years had passed. His children were grown. His bossy wife was, much to relief, dead. And, much to his surprise, George Washington and not George III now ruled supreme, within, of course, constitutional limits.

I just took barely more than a week’s vacation. While I was away, the Confederate flag, at least for the powers that be, even in the South Carolina – that very citadel of Confederate nostalgia – had lost its charm. And, in the same blink of an eye, the right to same-sex marriage became the law of the land, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, which also, along the way, affirmed Obamacare’s legitimacy.

(Meanwhile, my children are a week older – my daughter did change her hair color – and my wife, thank God, is better than ever.)

I knew that that would not be the end of it. I knew that this kind of breathtakingly swift social change – even if those who find the disaffection from the Confederate flag and the legitimizing of gay affection long overdue – cannot possibly happen without some significant resistance and backlash.

So it is that NASCAR fans this weekend largely ignored the entreaties of the sport’s authorities to stop displaying the Confederate flag at events, even offering the inducement that if you  surrendered your rebel flag you would, in return, receive the flag of the Republic for which it stands – a perversely ill-designed strategy for soothing the psyche of Lynyrd Skynyrd-Americans.

And I anticipate that we may be on the cusp of a retro outcropping of billboards dotting the Southern landscape, as they did more than half a century ago, urging the impeachment not just of a chief justice, as in the case of Earl Warren, but of the five justices who concurred in the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges.

WarrenImpeachPCMED

It may present a design challenge. cramming even just the last names of Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, on the new impeachment billboards. So, particularly under the current circumstances, I would suggest they forgo the flags, as they appeared on this billboard, like many, sponsored by the John Birch Society, which was a moving force behind the effort to impeach Warren.

impeachearlwarren

A later effort to impeach Justice William O. Douglas, by a more mainstream figure – House Minority leader and future President Gerald Ford – also went nowhere.

But, if a new effort to impeach members of the Supreme Court gains any traction, I think it is safe to say the movement was born Monday in Magnolia at a press conference at the Landmark Building at which Rep. Cecil Bell, the Republican representative from Magnolia, called for the impeachment of the five justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage.

Here it is:

And yes, this Cecil Bell, who is about to step into the annals of history, is the same Cecil Bell that Texas Monthly put on its “Ten Worst” legislators list.

Well, back at you Texas Monthly.

Here is their explanation of putting Bell on their Worst List.

Cecil Bell Jr. has become known around the Capitol for two things: wearing a cowboy hat and—in his second session at least—filing bills to prevent gay marriage in Texas. We’d love to see more of those hats on the floor; they bring much-needed flair to the House. But we’d love to see less of his legislation.

We don’t begrudge Bell his honest opposition to gay marriage, but filing four bills on the subject amounts to swatting at a fly with a sledgehammer. The fate of gay marriage lies with the U.S. Supreme Court. Everything else is just noise. Bell contended throughout the session that he was protecting Texas’s sovereignty. But rudimentary civics tells us that a state law can’t nullify a Supreme Court ruling; Bell’s bill would have merely delayed gay marriage in Texas for a short time at most.

exas State Rep. Cecil Bell, Jr, center, gets some helpful hands from fellow legislators as he prepares to cut a 10-year anniversary wedding cake to celebrate the same-sex marriage ban. Faith and Family Day, put on by Texas Values and Texas Right to Life supporters, was held in the Texas Capitol Auditorium Tuesday afternoon February 24, 2015 as a celebration of the state's 10-year-old ban on same-sex marriage. They celebrated with a wedding cake and speeches to a crowd that included members of Texas Values, Concerned Women for America, and Texas Right to Life, along with state legislations from both chambers. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas State Rep. Cecil Bell, Jr, center, gets some helpful hands from fellow legislators as he prepares to cut a 10-year anniversary wedding cake to celebrate the same-sex marriage ban.
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Late in the session, with a midnight deadline looming, one of his bills, which would have forbidden local governments to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was buried on the calendar. The bill was going nowhere and Bell knew it: Democrats had stalled debate to prevent it from coming to the floor. Faced with this scenario, legislators often pull down the offending measure, so other legislation can pass. Bell refused that gentlemanly act, and many bills perished. Pressing divisive, unnecessary bills that waste time and clog the calendar is never in style, no matter how much we like your hat.

Cecil Bell. The worst?

I was a bit surprised also because he was only tied for 10th worst on Equality Texas’ list  of Ten Worst House Members on LGBT issues.

If Cecil Bell wanted to use this session to become a nation-wide figure of derision and an embarrassment to the entire state of Texas then he accomplished his goal. If that’s not what he wanted then the quick succession of four (four!) anti-marriage bills attempting to do everything from taking away the salaries of county clerks who comply with marriage court rulings, to giving the Secretary of State the ability to shut down county marriage license offices to requiring the Attorney General to keep a list of Texans married to someone of the same gender (huh?) accomplished it anyway. We get it Cecil, you really don’t like the freedom to marry – everyone’s convinced – you can stop now.

I understand that “worst” is very subjective, and that it is not intended to merely record the names of the dumbest, laziest, most corrupt or ineffectual.

As for Texas Monthly’s rationale:

We don’t begrudge Bell his honest opposition to gay marriage, but filing four bills on the subject amounts to swatting at a fly with a sledgehammer.

C’mon.

If they don’t begrudge him his honest opposition to gay marriage, they do begrudge him acting on it. And the fly here, love it or hate it, is one of the most monumental social changes of recorded history. It’s a huge deal.

Bell’s crime is that they view him as on the wrong side of history, and being unwilling to accept that.

What they seemed to be saying is that Bell was among the worst because he persisted in a lost cause, an affront to both  “rudimentary civics” and “gentlemanly” behavior.

Well, by that definition, every damn legislator who supported secession would have made Texas Monthly’s 1861 worst list.

Cecil Bell called for the impeachment of five Supreme Court justices on Monday.
Cecil Bell called for the impeachment of five Supreme Court justices on Monday.

As to rudimentary civics, Bell says Texas Monthly’s notion of Founding Fathers 101 is not nearly rudimentary enough, and that the impeachment  of Supreme Court justices is not only explicitly written into the Constitution as a remedy for actions like those taken by the majority in the same-sex marriage case, but actually called for by the current Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in his dissent in the case.

Here is what Bell told me Monday night.

I am listening to my congressman (U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands) saying there is nothing you can  do but accept our Supreme Court’s edict. That’s not what our Founding Father’s said. I find it really interesting that we find ourselves in this position where the  elected officials we have are out of step with the Founding Fathers

 That’s the problem that is frustrating all of us. We have a very strong delegation (in Washington), but we need citizens to understand that the Constitution  wasn’t written so that the federal government would always have the same feel.

We have the ability as citizens to accomplish politically  that which our forefathers (fought for) at egregious cost –  it cost them their lives, their fortunes and all of that so we might have …  the constitutional ability to  address the challenges that we see today in a political manner. They did not have that ability in their time.

We need our elected officials to stand between us and what is, according to the chief justice, an unlawful and without constitutional support effort that is being evidence by the Supreme Court. And that’s the chief justice making that argument and not me, and I’m certainly willing to add my name to that and my voice to that. But the ability  to provide a level of scrutiny that can only be found in having the chief justice call into question the court in its entirety, that’s a pretty powerful thing.

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I asked if any other public figure so far has called for the impeachment of the justices because of the marriage ruling.

Bell said:

You know I have I not heard anyone else talk of that, and I’m not sure. But my suspicion is the reason why is there are concerns that opens the slots (for President Obama to pick five new, younger justices).

But I will tell you, and I have heard when you listen to people talk, that there’s not a belief you can do that. But it has occurred before, Not only can it be done but it has been done before. In 1805, Samuel Chase  was impeached. Now the Senate did not try (and convict) him, so therefore he was not removed from office, but he lived forever under the cloud of being impeached. He lived the rest of his life under the cloud of having been impeached.

For those interested in the particulars of the Chase case, read what follows from the U.S. Senate website. Others, skip ahead.

Samuel Chase had served on the Supreme Court since 1796. A staunch Federalist with a volcanic personality, Chase showed no willingness to tone down his bitter partisan rhetoric after Jeffersonian Republicans gained control of Congress in 1801. Representative John Randolph of Virginia, at the urging of President Thomas Jefferson, orchestrated impeachment proceedings against Chase, declaring he would wipe the floor with the obnoxious justice. The House voted to impeach Chase on March 12, 1804, accusing Chase of  refusing to dismiss biased jurors and of excluding or limiting defense witnesses in two politically sensitive cases. The trial managers (members of the House of Representatives) hoped to prove that Chase had “behaved in an arbitrary, oppressive, and unjust way by announcing his legal interpretation on the law of treason before defense counsel had been heard.” Highlighting the political nature of this case, the final article of impeachment accused the justice of continually promoting his political agenda on the bench, thereby “tending to prostitute the high judicial character with which he was invested, to the low purpose of an electioneering partizan.”

On November 30, 1804, the Senate appointed a committee to “prepare and report proper rules of proceedings” for the impeachment trial. When they took up the case against the Federalist justice in January 1805, the Senate consisted of 25 Jeffersonian Republicans and nine Federalists. Chase appeared before the members on January 4, 1805, to answer the charges. He declared that he was being tried for his political convictions rather than for any real crime or misdemeanor and requested a one-month postponement to prepare a defense. The Senate agreed and the trial began in earnest on February 4.

Chase’s defense team, which included several of the nation’s most eminent attorneys, convinced several wavering senators that Chase’s conduct did not warrant his removal from office. With at least six Jeffersonian Republicans joining the nine Federalists who voted not guilty on each article, the Senate on March 1, 1805, acquitted Samuel Chase on all counts. A majority voted guilty on three of the eight articles, but on each article the vote fell far short of the two-thirds required for conviction. The Senate thereby effectively insulated the judiciary from further congressional attacks based on disapproval of judges’ opinions. Chase resumed his duties at the bench, where he remained until his death in 1811.

Sounds OK, but obviously the mass impeachment of a majority of the court would be a way bigger deal, and would definitely boost ratings on both Fox and MSNBC.

 

Of the reaction, to date, of state officials to the court’s ruling, Bell said:

I think we certainly have seen the AG step up. We need to rally around those people who do stand up. We need to lend our voices across the state and across the nation . We need to add our voices so that those folks who are willing to stand between us and whatever may be coming at us – and we can pretty clearly see what that is –  let’s add our voice so that they know that they can take the steps necessary to state our position, to keep our society intact, and … challenge the lack of legality, and challenge the lack of constitutionality.

We need to add our voices for state officials who are standing in the gap, so they can stand as firmly in the gap as we  would expect them to and, in my opinion, go so far as to say, “Not in Texas,” and bolster those individuals so that they have the strength of numbers to offset the efforts by the pollsters to define the landscape.

Of impeachment, Bell said.

That’s the what the Founding Fathers put in place to make sure that if we reached a day like this day, we had some recourse. I’m saying, let’s use that political recourse.

Bell said the marriage case was not the only grounds for impeachment, but it was the most compelling because, in his view, the chief justice’s dissent articulates the grounds for impeachment (By contrast, the Warren Court’s decision in Brown, a precipitating factor for impeachment efforts, was unanimous.)

The reason that I mention the marriage case with the impeachment is it puts it outside  the case of me being viewed as the interpreter of whether or not it is bad behavior and it literally looks at the chief justice’s definition  to best assert that.

I think it’s not limited to that, but the fact that the dissent of those justices, and particularly the chief justice, was so forward – it’s more than just a scathing dissent – it is a call for the public to recognize that the court is impotent in its ability to enforce this edict. He said that. Why are we acting as if it were potent?

From Roberts’ dissent:

With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them—with each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the “reasoned judgment” of a bare majority of this Court—we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence.

From Bell:

(Roberts) says that court acts without the support of law. That is lawless conduct. That it acts without the support of constitutional authority. That is misconduct. 

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More from Roberts, in which, he essentially points out that culturally, folks like Cecil Bell have no representation on the court:

Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in East and West-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination. The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today’s social upheaval would be irrelevant if they were functioning as judges, answering the legal question whether the American people had ever ratified a constitutional provision that was understood to proscribe the traditional definition of marriage. But of course the Justices in today’s majority are not voting on that basis; they say they are not. And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.

From Bell:

Some of the other justices described it as following the disappearing trail of legalistic marble jarble, just tomfoolery and foolishness and even Kennedy says it doesn’t look to law, it doesn’t look to constitutionality, it looks to individualism and love and while those may be meritorious in and of themselves, that they are not what the Supreme Court justice is supposed to consider.

From Scalia’s dissent:

As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion, whatever disappearing trail of its legalistic argle-bargle one chooses to follow, is that DOMA is motivated by “ ‘bare . . . desire to harm’” couples in same-sex marriages.”

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 1.32.29 PM

Bell said that while the “the attorney’s interpretation,” is that, “the Supreme court is the final authority and that whatever their edicts are is the law of the land,” the Founding Fathers were not all lawyers. There were business people and farmers and ranchers (though they might not have used the term) like himself, who understood that beyond the final legal appeal, there was built into the system, a further political appeal.

We’re not without the ability to take action and I don’t know why it is that  we are at a time when the media, and many of our elected officials tell us that we have no recourse. I think that’s a total lack of leadership. It’s a willingness to take the easy political trail or to appease the political correctness of the day.

Those folks who want to change (the law to allow gay marriage) work hard and speak out and are constantly energized to act.

It is we, as a majority, who don’t tend to react until we lose something.

The majority spends a tremendous amount of time asleep, a sleeping giant.

 Right now we are awakened and looking for guidance or leadership.

By establishing a PACT for the Constitutional Restoration of State Sovereignty Monday, Bell said,We’re trying to provide that leadership.”

The gay marriage ruling, and what to do about it, is certain to play a big role in the Republican Party’s presidential nominating contest.

While the candidates have uniformly condemned the decision, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has gone further, describing the Obamacare and gay marriage decisions on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox as  “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.”

Here is Cruz, on TheBlaze with Glenn Beck.

About four minutes in he talks about how, “We are seeing a propaganda effort from mainstream media and from Hollywood” on behalf of gay marriage.

“Forty states  – four zero – have passed either  laws or constitutional amendments protecting traditional marriage,” Cruz said. “When it goes to the ballot box, the people vote very differently from what the Hollywood advocates claim the American people want.”

“So this notion that gets repeated every day on the mainstream media is baloney,” Cruz said. “If it were true that the American people wanted this, there would be no need for a court case because they could win at the ballot box.  They haven’t been winning at the ballot box. They are doing this because they can’t win at the ballot box.”

Writing in National Review, Cruz argued:

This week, we have twice seen Supreme Court justices violating their judicial oaths. Yesterday, the justices rewrote Obamacare, yet again, in order to force this failed law on the American people. Today, the Court doubled down with a 5–4 opinion that undermines not just the definition of marriage, but the very foundations of our representative form of government. Both decisions were judicial activism, plain and simple. Both were lawless.

xxxxxxx

Sadly, the political reaction from the leaders of my party is all too predictable. They will pretend to be incensed, and then plan to do absolutely nothing. That is unacceptable. On the substantive front, I have already introduced a constitutional amendment to preserve the authority of elected state legislatures to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and also legislation stripping the federal courts of jurisdiction over legal assaults on marriage.

Cruz did not call for impeachment of the offending justices, but did call for amending the Constitution to require that the justices face periodic retention elections.

In order to provide the people themselves with a constitutional remedy to the problem of judicial activism and the means for throwing off judicial tyrants, I am proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution that would subject the justices of the Supreme Court to periodic judicial-retention elections. Every justice, beginning with the second national election after his or her appointment, will answer to the American people and the states in a retention election every eight years. Those justices deemed unfit for retention by both a majority of the American people as a whole and by majorities of the electorates in at least half of the 50 states will be removed from office and disqualified from future service on the Court.

Bell’s Monday press conference was preceded by rumors that he might be announcing plans to challenge Joe Straus for speaker in 2015.

He told me, “that is a question for a different day, not this day.”

But, he’s not ruling it out.

“It is not sound for any member to limit what their abilities are,” he said.

As for being on Texas Monthly’s Worst List, Bell had this to say:

It didn’t shock me, but it is interesting that standing on principles and for issues as important as our, well the basis of our society and our traditional values, gets you on the worst list.

It certainly hasn’t caused me not to sleep good at night, but you always would prefer not to be on it.

There are different things that people might put you on the worst list for, but I try to be a good legislator with vision and even-handed in my dealing with my colleagues and I will continue to do that.

Did he buy a copy of Texas Monthly to read it?

I have not read it but my wife told me what it said.

She said, “You gonna buy Texas Monthly.” I said, “I’m not going to contribute to them.”

I don’t read it every month but I do usually buy one around that time because you’re close to those folks on the floor so it’s interesting to see how they view the conduct of those individuals … you kind of related to them on a first-name basis.

My comment to (my wife) was, “I would rather make the Worst List for standing on principle and for Texas and Texans than being on the Best List because I had none.” She just kind of nodded. She gets really upset on stuff like that.”

Any other family reaction?

Oh, my mother – “What did you do?” I said, “Mama, I did exactly what you told me to do.”

She wasn’t too mad. She just called me and said, “How in the world?” And I said, “Well, let me tell you.”

I also mentioned to Bell that, despite writing how much they liked his hat, Texas Monthly used an unflattering photo illustration of a hatless Bell to accompany his Worst write-up.

It’s like the picture you use when you’re campaigning against someone and you want to put them in a bad light – that’s the one with the drool on it.

That one did me no favors.

But he wasn’t too bothered by it.

When you get elected to the Legislature, he said, “that’s the world you agree to live in.”

A not particularly good photo I took of Bell when I first laid eyes on him signing in as a freshman legislator in 2013.
A not particularly good photo I took of Bell when I first laid eyes on him signing in as a freshman legislator in 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George P. Bush calls for de-listing of endangered Texas songbird

A key state policy-maker announced his support Tuesday for a de-listing of an endangered Texas songbird.

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush rallied behind an effort by former state comptroller Susan Combs to de-list the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.

The warbler, a small bird with distinctive yellow-and-black markings that was first listed as endangered in 1990, nests in fewer than three dozen counties in Central Texas — and nowhere else in the world. In spring, the birds arrive to raise their young before beginning a late summer migration to Mexico and Central America.

A golden-cheeked warbler perches in a madrone tree on the Los Madrones ranch in western Travis County, TX. CREDIT: Michael A. Murphy.
A golden-cheeked warbler perches in a madrone tree on the Los Madrones ranch in western Travis County, TX. CREDIT: Michael A. Murphy.

Combs led a trio of groups in petitioning the Fish and Wildlife Service last week to de-list the bird, arguing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s style of estimating species health is outmoded and that more recent data shows the habitat and population of the bird is robust.

But a Fish and Wildlife review of the warbler completed in August, citing other research, recommended against any change in the bird’s listing, which affords it special habitat protections.

“We now know the golden-cheeked warbler should never have been listed in the first place based on actual science,” Bush said in a news release that also announced the support of private property and business groups. He continued: “Its listing devastated private property owners across Central Texas and even limited military training at Fort Hood. With so much at stake, the federal government needs to get this right and de-list the Warbler.”

Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush delivering an address. Texas General Land Office/YouTube
Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush delivering an address. Texas General Land Office/YouTube

A Fort Hood official told the Statesman last week that military training hadn’t been hindered by accommodations for the endangered bird.

Asked for examples of private property owners who were “devastated” by the listing of the bird, Bush’s spokesman said he was referring to ways it could affect the value of private property and the mitigation fees that developers in some counties are required to pay.

Current state comptroller Glenn Hegar offered more muted approval for the Combs-headed effort.

“I support any effort to ensure that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviews species that have been listed to determine whether best available science continues to support that listing,” Hegar said.

As part of a compromise plan to allow development in parts of warbler-rich western Travis County, the city of Austin and Travis County agreed to piece together and manage a preserve of roughly 30,000 acres. (The Lower Colorado River Authority also plays a small role.) The preserve land, which also benefits other endangered species, is paid for, in part, with development fees.

Rick on race: Of Rick Perry, Jesse Washington, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump

Good day Austin:

Former Gov. Rick Perry delivered a speech Thursday at the National Press Club. It was entitled, “Economic Opportunity for All Americans,” but it was really Rick Perry’s speech on race.

I know Republicans have much to do to earn the trust of African-Americans. Blacks know that Republican Barry Goldwater, in 1964, ran against Lyndon Johnson, a champion of civil rights. They know that Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because he felt that parts of it were unconstitutional.

States supporting segregation in the South cited “states’ rights” as a justification for keeping blacks from the voting booth and the dinner table.

As you know, I am an ardent believer in the Tenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. The Tenth Amendment says that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

I know that state governments are more accountable to you than the federal government is.

But I am also an ardent believer in the Fourteenth Amendment, which says that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

There has been – and will continue to be – an important and legitimate role for the federal government in enforcing civil rights.

Too often, we Republicans – myself included – have emphasized our message on the Tenth Amendment but not our message on the Fourteenth – an Amendment, it bears reminding, that was one of the first great contributions of the Republican Party to American life, second only to the abolition of slavery.

For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote because we found that we could win elections without it. But when we gave up on trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln. As the party of equal opportunity for all.

It is time for us to once again reclaim our heritage as the only party in our country founded on the principle of freedom for African-Americans.

The body of the speech made the argument that Republicans, better than Democrats – that he, better than Barack Obama, the first black president – could pursue policies that would benefit African-Americans.

But what was most compelling and moving about Perry’s speech was its hushed preface, opening his remarks with a vivid account of the horrific lynching of Jesse Washington before a festive crowd in front of the McLennan County Courthouse in Waco, Texas, where a jury had taken all of four minutes to find Washington, who seemed barely aware of the charges against him, guilty of rape and murder.

Rick Perry at the National Press Club
Rick Perry at the National Press Club

Said Perry:

It was 99 years ago, on the 15th day of May, 1916, at a courthouse in Waco, Texas. 

There was a mentally disabled 17-year-old boy. His name was Jesse Washington. He was convicted of raping and murdering the wife of his employer.

He pled guilty and he was sentenced to death. But Jesse died no ordinary death. Because he was black.

After the death sentence was issued, Jesse was dragged out of the McLennan County Courthouse into a crowd of hundreds. And thanks to the advent of this new technology called the telephone, word spread rather quickly to what was about to happen, and soon there were 15,000 people watching Jesse Washington be tortured, to be mutilated, to be tied to a tree.

The lynching of Jesse Washington.  (From the BBC)
The lynching of Jesse Washington.
(From the BBC)

Someone lit a fire under Jesse, and raised him up in the air.

Jesse tried to climb up the chains to keep from being consumed by that fire.

Someone started cutting his fingers off, so that  he could not climb that chain

One man castrated him,  Another used a pole to prevent him from pulling himself away from the fire.

The lynching of Jesse Washington. (From the BBC)
The lynching of Jesse Washington. (From the BBC)

There was a A prominent local photographer who took pictures of Jesse’s charred remains and sold them, as souvenirs, on a postcard.

Lynching postcard. (From the BBC)
Lynching postcard. (From the BBC)

 

Lynching postcard. (From the BBC)
Lynching postcard. (From the BBC)
Message on lynching postcard. (From the BBC)
Message on lynching postcard. (From the BBC)

Even today, we Texans struggle to talk about what happened to Jesse Washington. We don’t want to believe that our great state could ever have been the scene of such unimaginable horror.

But it is an episode in our history that we cannot ignore. It is an episode we have an obligation to transcend.

We’ve made a lot of progress since 1916.

A half-century ago, Republicans and Democrats came together to finally enshrine into law the principle that all of us – regardless of race, color, or national origin – are created equal.

Shedrick Willis was a slave. This was before the Civil War. He had been bought and sold on the courthouse steps of McLennan County, the same courthouse where Jesse Washington would later be drugged down and brought to his death.

When I was governor of Texas, I had the proud distinction of appointing Willis’, Shedrick Willis’ great-great-great-grandson, Wallace Jefferson, to be the first African-American justice on the Texas Supreme Court.  In 2004, I appointed Wallace to be the Supreme Court’s first (black) Chief Justice.

There are tens of thousands of stories like Wallace Jefferson’s.

When it comes to race, America is a better and more tolerant and more welcoming place than it has ever been. We are a country with Hispanic CEOs, and Asian billionaires, with a black President.

We are a nation with a black president.

 

So why is it that even today, so many black families feel left behind? Why is it that a quarter of African-Americans live below the poverty line, even after the impact of federal programs like food stamps and housing subsidies?

The supplemental poverty rate for African-Americans is nearly double the rate for other Americans.

Democrats have long had the opportunity to govern in African-American communities.

It is time to help black families hold them accountable for the results.

I am here to tell you that it is Republicans, not Democrats, who are truly offering black Americans the hope of a better life for themselves and their children.

I am proud to live in a country with an African-American President. But President Obama cannot be proud of the fact that the prevalence of black poverty has actually increased under his leadership.

We cannot dismiss the historical legacy of slavery, nor its role in causing the problem of black poverty. And because slavery and segregation were sanctioned by government, there is a role for government policy in addressing their lasting effects.

But the specific policies advanced by the President and his allies on the left amount to little more than throwing money at the problem and walking away.

Perry’s answers were not surprising. He talked about Texas’ successes, citing the economy, education and criminal justice reform.

From 2005 to 2007, more African-Americans moved to Texas than any other state except Georgia. Many were coming from blue states like New York, Illinois, and California. Many came from Louisiana, where they had lost their homes due to Hurricane Katrina.

But each new resident was welcomed to Texas, with open arms.

They came to a state with a booming economy. We kept taxes and regulation low, and frivolous lawsuits to a minimum. And we worked hard to educate every child.

Let me be clear. We haven’t eliminated black poverty in Texas. But we have made meaningful progress.

xxxxxx

 If we do these five things – if we create jobs, incentivize work, keep non-violent drug offenders out of prison, reform our schools, and reduce the cost of living – we will have done more for African-Americans than the last three Democratic Administrations combined.

What was more striking to me than the specifics, however, was how a speech that was intended to be a rejoinder to President Obama on race in some small measure echoed the tone of Obama’s recent remarks in his eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was among those murdered in their Charleston church, though, of course, Perry did nothing to rival the president’s moving singing of Amazing Grace.

From Obama’s eulogy:

Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah — (applause) — rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement.  They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart — (applause) — and taught that they matter.  (Applause.)  That’s what happens in church.  

That’s what the black church means.  Our beating heart.  The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate.  When there’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel — (applause) — a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes.  (Applause.) 

When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws.  When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps.  A sacred place, this church.  Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion — (applause) — of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all.  That’s what the church meant.  (Applause.)   

We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history.  But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act.  It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress.  (Applause.)  An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination; violence and suspicion.  An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.
    
Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.  (Applause.)  God has different ideas.  (Applause.)  

He didn’t know he was being used by God.  (Applause.)  Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group — the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle.  The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court — in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness.  He couldn’t imagine that.  (Applause.)  

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For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens.  (Applause.)  It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders.  But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge — including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise — (applause) — as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride.  (Applause.)  For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.  We see that now.  

Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers.  It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — (applause) — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong.  (Applause.) It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds.  It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union.  By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.  (Applause.)

But I don’t think God wants us to stop there.  (Applause.)  For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present.  Perhaps we see that now.  Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.  (Applause.) 

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate.  (Applause.)  Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system — (applause) — and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.  (Applause.)    

Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal.  (Applause.)  So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote.  (Applause.)  By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American — by doing that, we express God’s grace.  (Applause.)  

Only now, nearly a century since Jesse Washington’s lynching, are the true dimensions of lynching in America becoming fully evident.

In a February First Reading I wrote about the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., releasing a stunning new report on the history of lynchings in the United States. From the press release that accompanied the report:

Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror documents EJI’s multi-year investigation into lynching in twelve Southern states during the period between Reconstruction and World War II. EJI researchers documented 3959 racial terror lynchings of African Americans in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia between 1877 and 1950 – at least 700 more lynchings of black people in these states than previously reported in the most comprehensive work done on lynching to date.

 Lynching in America makes the case that lynching of African Americans was terrorism, a widely supported phenomenon used to enforce racial subordination and segregation. Lynchings were violent and public events that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. This was not “frontier justice” carried out by a few marginalized vigilantes or extremists. Instead, many African Americans who were never accused of any crime were tortured and murdered in front of picnicking spectators (including elected officials and prominent citizens) for bumping into a white person, or wearing their military uniforms after World War I, or not using the appropriate title when addressing a white person. People who participated in lynchings were celebrated and acted with impunity.

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The report explores the ways in which lynching profoundly impacted race relations in this country and shaped the contemporary geographic, political, social, and economic conditions of African Americans. Most importantly, lynching reinforced a narrative of racial difference and a legacy of racial inequality that is readily apparent in our criminal justice system today. Mass incarceration, racially biased capital punishment, excessive sentencing, disproportionate sentencing of racial minorities, and police abuse of people of color reveal problems in American society that were shaped by the terror era.

No prominent public memorial or monument commemorates the thousands of African Americans who were lynched in America. Lynching in America argues that is a powerful statement about our failure to value the black lives lost in this brutal campaign of racial violence. Research on mass violence, trauma, and transitional justice underscores the urgent need to engage in public conversations about racial history that begin a process of truth and reconciliation in this country.

I think, in this context, Perry’s focus in his remarks Thursday on the lynching of Jesse Washington, matters.

From sociologist Joe Feagin, a prominent scholar of race at Perry’s alma mater, Texas A&M University.

Clearly, savvy politicians like Rick Perry understand that the demographic trend inside and outside Texas is one where whites are an increasing minority in many places now – and will, in two-and-a-half decades, be a voting minority in the country.

Republicans cannot win in most places, eventually – and in California and some other important places now – without growing and significant percentages of voters of color. So, the politically smart whites like Rand Paul and Perry are going to make some play for voters of color, and that effort will grow by 2020, for certain.

However, the current white attention to these matters, including eliminating the Confederate battle flag (symbol of white resistant to racial change since its intentional use for that purpose in the early 1960s), is rather superficial and does not reach to the level of a majority of whites supporting aggressive anti-discrimination action by local, state, and federal governments – and certainly not for remedying the huge impact of 346 years (slavery, then Jim Crow) of whites unjustly enriching themselves and unjustly impoverishing black and many other Americans of color with large-scale programs of resource enhancement and just compensation for that huge and unjust economic impoverishment (and associated violence and other brutality for 83 percent of our history)

Most whites do not even know much about the 83 percent of our history that was white imposed slavery and Jim Crow…. or that we were not remotely or officially a real democracy until 1969, when the totalitarianism of legal segregation ended.

The massacre in Charleston recalled the violence of that era.

From David Remnick in The New Yorker:

Between 1882 and 1968, the year Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, three thousand four hundred and forty-six black men, women, and children were lynched in this country—a practice so vicious and frequent that Mark Twain was moved, in 1901, to write an essay called “The United States of Lyncherdom.” (Twain shelved the essay and plans for a full-length book on lynching because, he told his publisher, if he went forward, “I shouldn’t have even half a friend left down [South].”) These thousands of murders, as studied by the Tuskegee Institute and others, were a means of enforcing white supremacy in the political and economic marketplaces; they served to terrorize black men who might dare to sleep, or even talk, with white women, and to silence black children, like Emmett Till, who were deemed “insolent.

That legacy of extreme cruelty and unpunished murder as a means of exerting political and physical control of African-Americans cannot be far from our minds right now. Nine people were shot dead in a church in Charleston. How is it possible, while reading about the alleged killer, Dylann Storm Roof, posing darkly in a picture on his Facebook page, the flags of racist Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa sewn to his jacket, not to think that we have witnessed a lynching? Roof, it is true, did not brandish a noose, nor was he backed by a howling mob of Klansmen, as was so often the case in the heyday of American lynching. Subsequent investigation may put at least some of the blame for his actions on one form of derangement or another. And yet the apparent sense of calculation and planning, what a witness reportedly said was the shooter’s statement of purpose in the Emanuel A.M.E. Church as he took up his gun—“You rape our women and you’re taking over our country”— echoed some of the very same racial anxieties, resentments, and hatreds that fuelled the lynchings of an earlier time.

But the words attributed to the shooter are both a throwback and thoroughly contemporary: one recognizes the rhetoric of extreme reaction and racism heard so often in the era of Barack Obama.

Just as the church massacre in Charleston was a signal moment in history that, as the president said, in wholly unexpected ways, has a resulted in people rethinking their attitudes toward the Confederate flag – right up to and including TV Land canceling reruns of the Dukes of Hazard, and NASCAR asking fans to refrain from displaying the Confederate flag – the lynching of Jesse Washington was so appalling that it became a popular cause that led at least some people to rethink their attitudes toward lynching.

As Patricia Bernstein wrote in her book, The First Waco Horror

While the newspapers and the journals chewed over the grisly story of the Waco Horror, the NAACP took immediate action. On May 16, 1916, one day after the lynching of Jesse Washington, Royal Freeman Nash, the white social worker who was then secretary of the NAACP, wired Elisabeth Freeman in Fort Worth, where she remained following the statewide suffrage convention in Dallas.

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Freeman wired back that she was mystified as to the “nature of business” Nash wanted done-at least until she received Nash’s follow-up letter, also written on May 16. In the letter Nash tells Freeman that the evening papers had all carried a brief AP story on the Waco lynching: “Such a spectacle in the public square of a town of over 25,000 inhabitants, a young boy condemned to death and then taken from the court-room, affords one of the most spectacular grounds of attack on the whole institution of lynching ever presented.” Nash’s next remark makes it clear that the NAACP had been lying in wait for a lynch mob to strike again: “Mr. Villard of the Evening Post, our treasurer, asked me when I came back from Georgia to get the inside story of the next horrible lynching so that he can write it up and spread it broadcast through the Southern press over his own name.”

In February, when the Lynching in America report, was released, I wrote:

William Carrigan, a historian at Rowan University in New Jersey, grew up in Chalk Bluff, Texas, just outside Waco. As an undergraduate at the University of Texas in Austin he took a history class taught by the historian George Wright, now president of Prairie View A & M University. It was a large lecture class – maybe 300 students – but he passed out photos from the Jesse Washington lynching, the famous photos focused on the faces in the crowd.

It set Carrigan on the path of trying to understand how those good, ordinary people could have been a party to such evil.

In his 2004 book, The Making of a Lynching Culture: Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas 1836-1916, Carrigan writes:

Ironically, the moment of central Texas’s most brutal act of racial violence became a turning point in the region’s history of race relations. The local, national and global reaction to the murder of Jesse Washington prompted civic leaders to reconsider their tolerance of central Texas’s culture of violence. Although mob law did not end there overnight – indeed racial violence persists to this day in the region – the burning of Jesse Washington ended an era eight decades old. No longer would central Texas’s leaders publicly support, praise, and encourage the use of extralegal violence. Eventually, the cultural and intellectual change led to a decline in the size and frequency of the region’s lynch mobs. The struggle over the local memory of the region’s racial violence continues, a reminder that we are never completely free of the past.

Last year, Carrigan and co-author Clive Webb, published another book, Forgotten Dead: Mob Violence against Mexicans in the United States, 1848 – 1928, in which they recall that “in 1854, a vigilance committee in Austin expelled every landless Mexican `who is not vouched for by respectable citizens.’”

Per capita, Carrigan said, Mexicans in the United States were as likely to be lynched as blacks.

Flash forward to Donald Trump, whose announcement for president last month included the following passage:

The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. [Applause] Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Far from hurting him, those remarks, and the backlash against them, appear to have helped move Trump into second place among Republican presidential aspirants in national and Iowa and New Hampshire polls, and led Trump to stand his ground against those who, he said, are “folding” under pressure from the politically correct.

From Thursday’s Guardian:

Donald Trump doubled down on his claim that Mexican immigrants are responsible for a large number of rapes in the US on Wednesday. “Who’s doing the raping,” Trump shot back in an interview when challenged on his controversial remarks.

The businessman and would-be president, who launched his presidential campaign with an attack on Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, criminals and rapists, has claimed that there is “mind-boggling” link between rape and illegal immigration.

“If you look at the statistics of people coming, you look at the statistics on rape, on crime, on everything coming in illegally into this country it’s mind-boggling!” he said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday night.

Trump, who has already sparked a minor diplomatic incident and lost business deals with five companies over his remarks about Mexicans, claimed that statistics show that Latino immigrants are more likely to perpetrate rape than the wider population. However, the Fusion article he referred to said 80% of women crossing the Mexican border are raped along the way, often by criminal gangs, traffickers or corrupt officials.

When CNN host Don Lemon pointed out that Trump had misread the article, the former Apprentice host said: “Well, somebody’s doing the raping, Don! I mean somebody’s doing it! Who’s doing the raping? Who’s doing the raping?”

There are no centrally recorded government statistics on the ethnicity of convicted rapists in the US.

Trump’s surge in the polls has come at the expense of other candidates, including both Perry and Ted Cruz.

Nonetheless, despite that, and despite the fact that Trump has said he is not sure if Cruz, by virtue of his Canadian birth (to an American mother), is eligible to run for president, Cruz said that he remains a big fan of Trump, and thinks he has nothing to apologize for.

From The New York Times:

The Republican from Texas told Fox and Friends on Tuesday that he had no problem with the billionaire businessman’s suggestion that those who cross the southern border illegally are “rapists” and “criminals.”

“I like Donald Trump. I think he’s terrific, I think he’s brash, I think he speaks the truth,” Mr. Cruz said.

NBC severed its relationship with Mr. Trump on Monday after criticism of his comments, canceling plans to air his Miss USA beauty pageant. Mr. Trump has threatened to sue for breach of contract.

Mr. Cruz said that Mr. Trump, who is a rival for the Republican nomination, should not have to apologize for speaking out about the problem of immigration. He suggested that NBC was being “silly” with its political correctness.

“Donald Trump, he has a way of speaking that gets attention, and I credit him for focusing on an issue that needs attention,” Mr. Cruz said.

Cruz’s defense of Trump’s remark enraged Jon Stewart even more than Trump’s remark itself. As he put it:

It is hard to get mad at Donald Trump for saying stupid things, in the same way you don’t get mad at a monkey when he throws poop at you at the zoo. It’s a monkey. It’s what they do. In some ways, it’s on you for watching. What does get me angry is the ridiculous, disingenuous defending of the poop-throwing monkey.

But, unlike Cruz – whose father emigrated from his native Cuba to Austin in 1957 – Perry condemned what Trump said about Mexicans.

 

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Here is the exchange with Charles Payne on Fox News:

CHARLES PAYNE, FOX NEWS: “You’re talking big tent, you’re talking inclusion. You were also asked today about Donald Trump, some of the comments he made and the way he’s entered the GOP race. One thing that is undeniable is that he has made an amazing splash, rocketing up in the polls and resonating with a lot of GOP voters. What is he doing wrong in your opinion?”

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: “Well I don’t think he’s reflecting the Republican Party with his statements about Mexicans. I think that was huge error on his part and, number one, it’s wrong. When I think about the Hispanic in Texas, and I think about the individuals who have paid a great price, whether were Tejanos at the Alamo in 1836 or whether it’s been as late as the last wars that we’ve had with Hispanics being killed for America.”

PAYNE: “But with all due respect, he didn’t talk about people who were here legally, Mexican or otherwise, he was saying that Mexico itself–”

GOV. PERRY: “But I would suggest to you he painted with a very broad brush, and I think that’s the problem. Yes, we have some challenges. Nobody knows that border better than I do. Nobody has stepped into the fray on that border the way that I have–”

PAYNE: “But are they sending bad people over here? Listen, I guess that’s the point, because let’s face it, he is resonating. I’ll give you this, corporate America is dumping him like crazy. Macy’s, NBC, they’re all lining up. Even the City of New York. To a certain degree that may reflect the greater electorate and also it’s just galvanizing and making Donald Trump a legendary figure within your party because he is standing up, he’s not a politician and he’s not afraid. What would a career politician like you say to that?”

GOV. PERRY: “What I would say is that we want somebody who’s actually dealt with this before, not somebody that’s just going to shoot from the hip. I will suggest to you I know how to secure the border, and the border security is the real issue here. It’s not painting with this broad brush that, obviously, I think Donald Trump, painted with, where he tried to say, you know, Mexicans are bad people, they’re rapists and murderers. Yes, there are bad people that cross the border but how about let’s get a Commander in Chief that knows how to secure the border, and at that particular time we can have a conversation about how to deal with this immigration issue, but not until that border is secure.”

PAYNE: “In the meantime, were these companies right to dump Donald Trump?”

GOV. PERRY: “Listen, that’s their call. My way to address this is to talk about the contributions that the Mexican-American has made to this country. Knowing that they are the number one trading partner for the State of Texas, knowing that Mexico is going to play an incredibly important role economically in the future of North America with the energy resources that they have. Canada, the United States and Mexico, you put those energy resources together you lower that corporate tax rate, you lower the electricity prices, bring back manufacturers in this country and this region can explode economically, and that’s what we ought to be focused on.”

 

Happy Fourth.

Appeals court returns Texas gay marriage case

As expected, a federal appeals court Wednesday affirmed a lower-court decision that had overturned the Texas ban on gay marriage in 2014.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which overturned bans on gay marriage nationwide, “is the law of the land” and “should not be taken lightly by actors within the jurisdiction of this court.”

The appeals court returned the case to U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio so he can enter a judgment in favor of two couples who had challenged the Texas ban — Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman of Austin, who wanted Texas to recognize their Massachusetts marriage, and Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss of Plano, who wanted to get married in Texas.

Garcia, who ruled in February 2014 that the Texas ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional because it demeaned the dignity of gay couples, had delayed implementation of his ruling while the state appealed — allowing Texas to continue enforcing its ban until last week’s Supreme Court ruling.

Hood County to issue gay-marriage licenses

Hood County Clerk Katie Lang
Hood County Clerk Katie Lang

Hood County will issue same-sex marriage licenses, Clerk Katie Lang says.

Lang updated her office website Tuesday night to say that while her religious beliefs compel her to decline to serve gay couples, other members of her office will be available to issue marriage licenses “as soon as the appropriate forms have been printed and supplied to my office.”

“I am grateful that the First Amendment continues to protect the sincerely held religious beliefs of public servants like me,” Lang wrote.

Earlier this week, Lang posted a statement criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed gay marriage and saying that she will not be issuing licenses to gay couples because of religious objections. She gave no indication that licenses would be available in the future. An employee in her office, reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, said same-sex licenses were not available.

On Sunday, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a legal opinion that said county clerks and their employees could decline to serve gay couples if they opposed same-sex marriage on religious grounds. Paxton’s opinion, however, stopped short of giving county offices permission to refuse service to gay couples, saying marriage license duties can be delegated to employees who do not oppose the practice.