Good morning Austin:
I was in Washington for inaugural week.
Then, I went to New York for a week to visit family, figuring I could take a little time off between Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, and Gov. Greg Abbott delivering his State of the State Address today, without too much happening.
I was wrong.
Ten days in, covering the Trump presidency is looking like a vigil.
The situation is so serious that when Rachel Maddow finished her show last night, she went over and sat in on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show.
I would not be surprised if MSNBC declares its own version of martial law in which Maddow remains on the air, dressed, as ever, in Johnny Cash black, until Trump is defeated, impeached, or completes his two terms in office and is succeeded by Ivanka.
Can he keep it up?
From Maureen Dowd’s Wild Child Takes Charge in Sunday’s New York Times.
The White House “is distilling Donald to his essence,” says another biographer, Michael D’Antonio. “If he could have commanded the attention of the world media every day of his life in the past he would have. The fact that the press corps is captive in the White House and can be dragged into these executive order signings is, for him, like mainlining heroin.
“He has hit his stride and is thrilled with this. The only thing that torments him is the disapproval of The New York Times. Every story that is critical of him hurts.”
“He is really a unique creature,” D’Antonio says. “He’s transfixing, riveting, really. It’s hard to take your eyes off him.”
I ask the biographer if he’s as nervous as everyone else, and he says yes.
“Donald’s manic without being depressive,” he muses. “The only thing you can do is keep him distracted for a day and then one more day so that he doesn’t do anything disastrous.”
Just like Obama and May, D’Antonio says, “a lot of people over the years have tried to mollify him and accommodate him day by day. And eventually you get a year behind you. Everybody else wants stability, but he thrives in turmoil.”
That’s all good for Trump.
This is who he is. This is how he operates.
And it has, so far, proved spectacularly successful for him.
He is, after all, president of the United States.
But what about Texas Republicans?
In early September, I wrote a First Reading, Why Texas Republicans would be better off with Hillary Clinton as president, in which I wrote:
The real hero of Greg Abbott’s big victory in 2014 was President Barack Obama, whose presidency gave Texas Republicans absolutely everything they could want to run against.
In fact, the central mantra of Abbott’s campaign was that, as attorney general, “I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home.”
Now, just suppose John McCain had been elected president in 2008, or Mitt Romney had been elected in 2012?
What would Abbott have run on?
“I go into the office, work hand-in-glove with the federal government, and I go home.”
That’s no good. No good at all.
Truth is, Texas Republicans are going to sorely miss Barack Obama.
But they need not grieve for long, because Hillary Clinton is pretty near just as excellent as a substitute, which is why, in their most secret heart-of-hearts, Texas Republicans are, or ought to be, rooting, for Clinton to win in November.
From Rice University political scientist Mark Jones:
From a Democratic perspective, Hillary Clinton is probably good for individual Texas Democrats if she’s in the White House, in that she can do things and promote policies that they agree with. She’s bad for Texas Democrats in terms of electoral politics because she will make it all the harder for Texas Democrats to win in 2018 and more likely than not, many of the gains they obtain this cycle, they’ll lose back to Republicans in 2018 when Republicans can campaign against Clinton in the White House and they’ll have Greg Abbott headlining their ticket as opposed to Donald Trump.
For Abbott or Cruz or any other Republican interested in being president, Jones said:
Trump is a no-win situation in the White House because either he is successful, in which case he will run for re-election in four years, or, more likely, he implodes or is such a disaster that the Republican brand is so damaged that it will be a cake walk for the Democratic nominee.
Ten – now eleven – days in, it’s fair to say that Trump is ploding, but it is too soon to tell whether he is exploding into an even more epic Trump, or imploding into a heap of ash and hair.
In the meantime, as I watched developments in Austin from a distance last week, I was surprised to see how the spirit of Trump was having an energizing, synergizing effect on Abbott, with his judicial background and judicious, unTrumpian temperament, and how, improbably, in newly-elected Travis County sheriff Sally Hernandez, Abbott had found a worthy substitute for Hillary Clinton, and, in sanctuary cities, an issue that would fully align with the ‘you’re fired,” Trumpian zeitgeist of our time.
I assume that cracking down on sanctuary cities will be among the emergency items that the governor will identify for expedited action in his State of the State Address today at 11.
From Priscilla Alvarez at the Atlantic last week.
On Wednesday, Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at cracking down on so-called “sanctuary cities,” which limit cooperation between state and local law enforcement and federal immigration agents. It follows through on his campaign-trail promise to withhold federal dollars from such cities, which might jeopardize support for services including education, health care, and housing for millions of American citizens.
According to the executive order, dubbed “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” cities that do not comply with federal immigration enforcement agents “are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.” It also notes that the director of the Office of Management and Budget will be responsible for obtaining and providing “relevant and responsive information on all Federal grant money that currently is received by any sanctuary jurisdiction.” It is not clear, however, which grants are at jeopardy.
Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at the daily press briefing: “We’re going to strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants. The American people are no longer going to have to be forced to subsidize this disregard for our laws.”
The governor went on Fox to prosecute his case against Hernandez.
In Sunday’s Statesman, from Tony Plohetski and Philip Jankowski:
That issue is now at the heart of a full-scale political showdown between Gov. Greg Abbott and new Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who announced nine days ago on YouTube that she would dramatically limit her cooperation with federal immigration officials.
Hernandez joins many other local authorities in her belief that such policies are fundamentally unjust — that they dismantle families over relatively minor offenses, drive up costs to the county and weaken the bond between local law enforcement and a large swath of the communities they serve.
Under a policy set to begin Wednesday, Hernandez said she will only honor such requests if an inmate has been charged with murder, sexual assault or human trafficking — or if federal agents obtain a court order or arrest warrant for a suspect. Otherwise, they will be allowed to post bail and be released, no matter their immigration status.
Abbott responded with escalating threats on social media, in national TV interviews and a strongly worded letter to Hernandez. He vowed to strip from Travis County nearly $2 million in grant funds administered through his office. Late last week, he indicated he might go further, demanding a list of all monies the state and federal government award Travis County, which total $10 million. He also said he would seek to remove Hernandez from office.
From Edwin Rios, Mother Jones: The First Big Fight Over Sanctuary Cities Pits a Latina Sheriff Against Texas’ Governor. Sally Hernandez says she won’t back down.
From the office of state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin on Saturday.
Austin, Texas — Yesterday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter to state agency heads demanding that they submit to the Office of the Governor a list of all state and federal funds administered to Travis County and its various departments in FY 2016. Governor Abbott’s request for information includes, but is not limited to, contracts, grants, or any other payment of funds.
Governor Abbott gave the agency heads a deadline of Friday, February 3rd to submit the information to his office. He issued an ultimatum to Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez earlier this week, threatening to withhold millions of dollars in state grant funds from the Criminal Justice Division (CJD) unless she reverses the county’s immigration detention policy by Wednesday, February 1st.
State Representative Eddie Rodriguez issued the following statement in response to Governor Abbott’s letter to state agency heads:
“The funding that the Governor is threatening to withhold goes well beyond any immigration policy. His actions only hamstring efforts to help victims of child sex trafficking, violence against women and gang activity in Travis County.
“The Governor has shown that he will resort to any tactic, no matter how extreme to get what he wants. In this case, rejecting the will of Travis County voters to allow the widespread, extrajudicial detention of certain Travis County residents.
“This road will never lead to a clean political victory. Governor Abbott’s Trumpian tactics will only backfire in a state where Mexican Americans play such a critical role in every part of our social and economic life in Texas.”
Before there was Sally Hernandez, there was Lupe Valdez – Dallas County’s first-ever lesbian Latina sheriff!
From Jankowski last week:
Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez knows what it’s like to get a letter from the governor.
In 2015, Valdez announced that her office would no longer provide blanket compliance with federal immigration officials seeking to intercept unauthorized immigrants at local jails for possible deportation.
Her new policy raised ire from numerous fronts in a deeply red Texas. And, like recently sworn-in Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, Valdez quickly became the recipient of a letter from Gov. Greg Abbott with harsh criticism.
“He is doing the same thing to Sheriff Hernandez,” Valdez said in an interview Tuesday with the American-Statesman.
Where will this end up?
I don’t know.
It is a splendid issue for Abbott. There is none better with the base. President Trump will have his back. And, it enables the governor to occupy center stage as a man of action and not merely a spectator with a front-row seat for the Dan Patrick Show.
(Read R.G. Ratcliffe’s excellent profile in Texas Monthly.)
And going after Austin is the cherry on top.
Except, on a cautionary note, the last time a Texas governor tried to remove a Travis County Democratic official, it led to the governor’s indictment, a failed bid for president, Dancing with the Stars, an appointment to the Trump Cabinet and, along the way, a couple of trips to Sandy’s.
The Stone Zone
Meanwhile, my copy of Roger Stone’s The Making of the President 2016 arrived yesterday.
More later, but Stone makes clear how much he loves Alex Jones, and how much he loathes Ted Cruz.
Yes, I know that Jones has his critics in the Mainstream Media, but I love the guy! His fiery words have struck a chord in the nation and he speaks for millions. In fact, more people follow Alex than watch Fox News or CNN.
Alex is fearless and a real showman. He likes s rink, a good cigar, bawdy stories, and hunting and fishing. he’s a man’s man. I quickly came to realize he could be a tremendous help for Trump. Despite Alex Jones’ enormous appeal, not one candidate was pushing for his support as the primaries drew closer – not Marco Rubio, not Ted Cruz, not Ben Carson, not Jeb Bush. No one! It was just mind-boggling how candidates chose to turn their backs on such a pool of potential voters as those millions of Americans who listen to or watch Alex Jones every day.
Ted Cruz is a smart, canny, talented guy who ran a great `long race’ campaign. He aspires to be Reagan but, trust me, he’s Nixon – right down to the incredible discipline and smarts playing the political game. Ted Cruz is not who he appears to be. Heidi Cruz recently said that her husband’s candidacy was showing America “the face of God whom they serve.” Heidi has it wrong, however, for Ted Cruz is more reminiscent of Elmer Gantry, the sleazy sociopathic preacher created by novelist Sinclair Lewis in the1920s.