Rick Perry takes break from Cabinet duties to intervene in Aggie GlowStickGate

 

Good day Austin:

Well, I suppose glow sticks do come under the purview of the Department of Energy.

Maybe.

After all, all you do is crack them and they produce light, which is some crazy science, and in some post-apocalyptic, post-grid, Mad Max world might be the only light we have to read by, in our caves.

And, unlike coal or oil or gas or other fossil fuels, glow sticks probably don’t contribute to climate change, if you believe in that sort of thing. Right?

Now, it is true that Perry’s job has more to do with overseeing the nation’s nuclear arsenal than its glow stick stockpile, which is really the purview of Walmart, the Dollar Store and  Party City.

 

As the New York Times reported in January:

Two-thirds of the agency’s annual $30 billion budget is devoted to maintaining, refurbishing and keeping safe the nation’s nuclear stockpile; thwarting nuclear proliferation; cleaning up and rebuilding an aging constellation of nuclear production facilities; and overseeing national laboratories that are considered the crown jewels of government science.

And yes, the Times’ story noted – unlike his predecessor, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science,” and Moniz’s predecessor, Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize – Mr. Perry studied animal husbandry and led cheers at Texas A&M University.

But there is no shame in that.

Which brings us to Perry’s Op-Ed in today’s Houston Chronicle.

As Texas’ first Aggie governor and as someone who was twice elected Yell Leader of Texas A&M University, I am deeply troubled by the recent conduct of A&M’s administration and Student Government Association (SGA) during the Aggie student-body president elections for 2017-2018.

(Rick Perry, far right, in the 1971 Texas A&M yearbook, The Aggieland. This is a photo of the Aggie Yell Leaders)

When I first read that our student body had elected an openly gay man, Bobby Brooks, for president of the student body, I viewed it as a testament to the Aggie character. I was proud of our students because the election appeared to demonstrate a commitment to treating every student equally, judging on character rather than on personal characteristics.

 Unfortunately, a closer review appears to prove the opposite; and the Aggie administration and SGA owe us answers.
Brooks did not win the election. He finished second by more than 750 votes to one Mr. Robert McIntosh. However, McIntosh was disqualified by the SGA Election Commission and Judicial Court through a process that – at best – made a mockery of due process and transparency.
At worst, the SGA allowed an election to be stolen outright.

Here are the facts: Six hours after the election polls closed, the SGA Election Commission received 14 anonymous complaints, accusing McIntosh of voter intimidation. Rather than question McIntosh or conduct an investigation, the Election Commission immediately disqualified McIntosh and declared Brooks the winner. Later, the Commission added a second charge – again from an anonymous complaint – that McIntosh had failed to provide a receipt for glow sticks appearing in a campaign video on Facebook.

 

 

You can watch the video here, though you may have to slow it down to Zapruder speed to really savor the the cameo by the contested glow sticks.

Here’s what may be the critical freeze frame.

 

Let’s pause here.

When I first saw Perry’s Op-Ed last night I doubted it’s authenticity.

Putin, I thought.

Or maybe some Macedonian fake Op-Ed mill.

But, no. It appears to be real. The genuine article.

And, based on the facts, at least as Perry describes them, one Mr. Robert McIntosh, does appear to have gotten a raw deal.

And yet …

Back to Perry:

Now, as someone who appointed university regents for more than a decade, I assumed that the administration would have briefed the Board of Regents, considering the allegations of widespread voter intimidation and the disqualification of thousands of student votes. If anything is worthy of oversight, these events should qualify.Incredibly, it appears that the Board of Regents was never informed.

Well, not so the Secretary of Energy, who it appears is deeply informed on the matter.

One can only hope that he didn’t skip any meetings with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the possibility of a first strike against North Korea after a series of recent ballistic missile tests by Kim Jong Un’s government, for another GlowStickGate briefing.

Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Perry extends his regrets for his absence, but, well you know and understand  (or maybe, Rex the Longhorn, you don’t) the priority he has placed on the Glow Stick Matter.

The concerning point here is that Secretary of Energy Rick Perry seems to know way too much about the ins and outs of the recent student government election at his alma mater.

To wit, picking up the tick-tock in Perry’s Op-Ed:

Upon appeal, McIntosh was cleared of all charges of voter intimidation. None of the complaints were made by students who interacted with McIntosh, and many of the accusers turned out to be supporters of Brooks or his campaign volunteers. In other words, the entire episode that initially disqualified McIntosh was dismissed as a series of dirty campaign tactics.

The second charge of missing receipts was upheld by the Court, despite the fact that McIntosh had acquired the glow sticks for participating in a charity event prior to the campaign. Further, they were no different than visual props used by McIntosh’s rivals’ campaign videos – none of which were itemized or expensed.

In its opinion, the Judicial Court admitted that the charges were minor and technical, but, incredibly, chose to uphold the disqualification, with no consideration given to whether the punishment fit the crime. The desire of the electorate is overturned, and thousands of student votes are disqualified because of free glow sticks that appeared for 11 seconds of a months-long campaign. Apparently, glow sticks merit the same punishment as voter intimidation.

Putting aside the merits of the case, Perry might have done well to acknowledge that he knows one Mr. David McIntosh.

From Lauren McGaughy in the Dallas Morning News:

McIntosh, a senior, is the son of Dallas-based Republican fundraiser Alison McIntosh, who worked on Jeb Bush’s 2016 campaign and Mitt Romney’s 2012 run for president. Perry, twice a presidential hopeful himself, is featured in photographs with McIntosh’s other children on Facebook.

From the Texas Tribune:

 

Add to that, McIntosh was a major fundraiser for President Trump in Texas in 2016.

And yet, the personal relationship with the McIntoshes may not have been the overriding motivation for Perry to get involved.

Just as likely, it was simply his existence in Aggieland.

I began a First Reading earlier this month:

One of the revelations for me on moving to Texas was how often people’s core identity was connected to their alma mater, and how it often seemed that the most fundamental divide in the state was not so much red and blue as Longhorns and Aggie

It now appears that in Aggieland, Brooks v. McIntosh was already Bush v Gore and the Russian hacking of the 2016 election all rolled into one.

How else to explain the response the Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston got when she asked U.S. Rep. Joe Barton about the controversy late last night at the Capitol on the eve of the big vote on health care.

Another high-profile Aggie, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, was already well-versed in the matter during a brief interview at the U.S. Capitol late Wednesday night.

“I’m aware of the controversy,” he said, explaining his understanding that a video used in McIntosh’s campaign included unreported glow sticks on a campaign finance report.

“I believe if you’re going to have a student-run organization, then it ought to be student-run,” Barton said. “I certainly don’t think this is worthy of federal intervention or former-governor intervention, but I do think on the merits the student that won, won. And maybe he should have paid a fine or something, but the candidate that got disqualified claims that he did not purchase the glow sticks, therefore did not think he had to report them. And to me, that seems to have merit. When somebody voluntarily gives you some material or something happens to be available, that shouldn’t in and of itself be grounds for disqualification.

“Then again,” he continued, “If you have a student-run organization, and the students make decisions, then generally you should stand back and let the students make those decisions.”

Aggieland’s angina may have been stoked, or informed, by a report on the disputed election Monday by Jon Cassidy at Watchdog.org.

It begins:

Some bureaucrats-in-training at Texas A&M have revoked the results of the election for student body president over some orange, pink, yellow and purple glowsticks.

Despite winning 35 percent of the vote in a four-candidate race, Robert McIntosh won’t be student body president next year after a student elections official accused his campaign of voter fraud and failing to properly account for a handful of glowsticks seen in a promotional video.

The voter fraud alleged: volunteers from the campaign asked passersby if they could walk and talk with them about voting for McIntosh, which could be construed as intimidating, which could in turn be considered fraud.

Student Election Commissioner Rachel Keathley decided that the anonymous and obviously coordinated complaints were proof of voter fraud, which is defined in student government rules as “anything … deemed to be voting fraud by the Election Commissioner.” Her witness at a hearing was from a rival campaign.

Keathley’s determination was rejected by a student court, but the six members of the court upheld her glowstick charge based on their own inability to comprehend standard written English.

Though the stakes are low here, the incident shines a light on the dangers of campaign finance law and the sort of people who enforce it.

Back to Perry:

Now, Brooks’ presidency is being treated as a victory for “diversity.” It is difficult to escape the perception that this quest for “diversity” is the real reason the election outcome was overturned. Does the principle of “diversity” override and supersede all other values of our Aggie Honor Code?

Every Aggie ought to ask themselves: How would they act and feel if the victim was different? What if McIntosh had been a minority student instead of a white male? What if Brooks had been the candidate disqualified? Would the administration and the student body have allowed the first gay student body president to be voided for using charity glow sticks? Would the student body have allowed a black student body president to be disqualified on anonymous charges of voter intimidation?

We all know that the administration, the SGA and student body would not have permitted such a thing to happen. The outcome would have been different if the victim was different.

Election Commissioner Rachel Keathley must explain why she chose to overturn a fairly won election and disqualify thousands of votes on the basis of anonymous complaints and flimsy technicalities. Chief Justice Shelby James must explain why she treated these cases as annoyances rather than with respect. The administration must explain why it stood passive while equal treatment was mocked in the name of diversity, and why officials did not brief the Board of Regents.

Campus diversity is something every school and student should strive to consistently improve. But it must be done the right way. The quality of diversity on a campus depends on fair treatment, rather than preferred outcomes or engineered results. McIntosh’s treatment suggests that A&M is choosing preferred outcomes over equal treatment: that the ends justify the means, and that not every student is deserving of the same treatment.

That is precisely opposite from the values that I learned as an A&M cadet.

Robert McIntosh was not treated the same as his competitors.

If we do not serve him and the voting majority of students, then we fail every student at our beloved university – and tarnish the ring that our alumni wear with pride.

And there it is. The ring.

 

When each of the four candidates for student body president was asked by the student newspaper, The Battalion, to name their favorite tradition, it was McIntosh who answered, “the Aggie ring, because you can’t go to any airport in the world without seeing a ring, and it’s an instant connection because you make a ton of new friends just by asking what class year they were.”

.

The favorite traditions of the other three candidates were two musters (including Brooks) and a Howdy!

I hope that the current unpleasantness which, for better or worse, Rick Perry, class of 1972, has now laid bare for all the world, doesn’t shroud the Howdy.

From the student newspaper last night.

McIntosh, who is a university studies senior, said he was unaware of Perry’s plans to write a op-ed and appreciates the Secretary’s comments, which he feels gives validity to his cause.

“I’m thankful for Secretary Perry’s support of fairness in the Houston Chronicle today. I did not at all expect his editorial and I’m humbled to have his support,” McIntosh said. “He made a compelling case which I fully support and continue to fight for. Our campaign team won the election and was subsequently disqualified unfairly. Diversity, at its heart, is equal treatment of all, and we hope this situation is resolved in a way that ensures a fair and more transparent process now and in future elections.”

So, it looks like GlowStickGate has a lot of life left in it.

But wait.

There must be something that can lift us out of this moment.

Of course, it’s our …

 

When the four candidate for student government president were asked by The Batt, to name their favorite yell, McIntosh went with The locomotive.

Rah, rah, rah, rah. I think it’s a crowd favorite and I like the way it gains steam the more you get into the yell.

 

 

Kilian Bresnahan also went with The Locomotive.

 

Rah, rah, rah, rah. I love it.

 

Ben Ikwuagwu chose Beat the Hell Outta, though he just referred to it as Beat the Hell, but I assume it’s the same thing.

And what was our (contested) winner Bobby Brooks’ favorite yell?

Drum roll please …

Brooks: I’m gonna have to say the Sit-Down Bus Driver is my favorite yell, as infrequent as we use it. Just watching the other coach get mad, I just love it. Sit Down Bus Driver. It cracks me up. What can I say?

(To see how it’s done, look at this instructional video.)

 

 

 

 

Oh, and the official Aggie reply to Perry’s Op-Ed, from Amy B. Smith, senior vice president, chief marketing and communications officer, Division of Marketing and Communications, Texas A&M University (in other words, spokeswoman):

We appreciate Secretary Perry’s long-term commitment to his alma mater and to the state in general. We were surprised that he weighed in on the university student body election and respectfully disagree with his assessment. These elections are run by the students with advisors from student affairs and issues that arise are adjudicated in accordance with the Student Government constitution and by-laws. 

The disqualification of the leading vote-getter resulted in the certification of Bobby Brooks as the next Student Body President effective April 21, 2017. To suggest that the same decision of disqualification would not have been made if the roles were reversed is to deny the Texas A&M of today where accountability applies to all.

Bobby Brooks, in this role, represents all students of all backgrounds. I know that he takes this responsibility seriously and we look forward to working with him.

 

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