`Because we need a warm splinter of good news in these gun-riddled days.’ The columns of Rob Hiaasen.

Rob Hiaasen. Capital Gazette

Good Friday Austin:

Rob Hiaasen was one of five victims of the shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Md., yesterday.

I did not know him, but he was a friend and former colleague of friends.

He was an editor and columnist.

His columns were rarely on the news, or about the news.

But they are the kind of columns that make a newspaper essential.

Here are five of his columns from the last couple of years.

Thank you Stephen Colbert 

February 16, 2016

Learning to love the bomb.

Last summer, there was an avalanche of press about Stephen Colbert taking over as host of “The Late Show.” In a profile for GQ, he talked about the plane crash on Sept. 11, 1974 that took his father’s and two older brother’s lives along with 70 others.

The Eastern Airlines flight carrying them went down in a foggy North Carolina cornfield due to pilot error. The NTSB found the flight crew engaged in unnecessary and “impertinent” conversation during approach (the crew talked about politics and used cars). The accident spurred the “Sterile Cockpit Rule,” an FAA regulation requiring pilots to refrain from non-essential activities during critical phases of flight.

Perhaps a distant consolation for a younger brother.

“You’ve got to learn to love the bomb,” Colbert told GQ. “Boy, did I have a bomb go off when I was 10.”

Learning to love the bomb might have informed his comedy — performances fueled by improvisation where loss can be converted into humor. But deconstructing comedy or tragedy is like holding water in a nervous hand; it slips through your fingers and evaporates before it hits the ground. I don’t know how Colbert came to accept and even experience gratitude for his loss. It feels like an impossible spiritual leap.

“It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you want it.”

Other interviews where he mentioned the subject included the fact his father and brothers are buried in the Annapolis National Cemetery.

Annapolis, of all places.

I went to the cemetery late last year, went there twice. I am among those drawn to cemeteries, to gingerly step among their rows, to eavesdrop on their living histories. It’s not out of sense of morbidity but out of a sense of an inexplicable comfort and connection. OK, maybe it is a bit morbid.

The groomed cemetery off West Street — one of 14 President Lincoln established to keep Civil War casualties — is lined with uniform small markers honoring veterans from a cross-section of wars. In a section toward the back of the cemetery, a large, relatively new memorial towers over the other grave sites. The inscription reads: “Colbert.” You can’t miss if you’re looking for it.

There lies the comedian’s father (James Colbert, a U.S. Army veteran) and his two sons lost when Eastern Airlines Flight 212 went down as pilots chatted about used cars: Peter, 18; Paul, 15. Their mother, Lorna Colbert, was laid to rest here in 2013.

It’s a curious, uneasy thing to want to visit another family’s grave site. I’ve yet to see Colbert’s “Late Show” since I don’t stay up late, but I’ve seen where his family members are buried. It’s a personal invasion of a public person. It’s none of my business. I didn’t want to visit, but I did. Twice.

And I read everything I could on this moment in the life of a man I feel distantly connected to.

“What punishments of God are not gifts?” Stephen Colbert also said about his loss.

Forty years ago this week, a bomb went off. My father didn’t die in a plane crash. He died in our family room, marking the birth of a new normal and family narrative. He was 50.

A gift of punishment, a bomb to love.

Athena is Home

February 24, 2018

Editor’s note: Shortly after our column appeared, we heard from Jennifer Brianas and her family. Athena, having left home for two weeks, appeared Sunday, Feb. 11. “She just showed up at the front door,” Jennifer wrote us. (Athena and her brother, Achilles, had been gifts for Jennifer’s twin daughters for their 7th birthday.) The family wanted to give a shout-out to the nonprofit Dogs Finding Dogs, a group that helps people track and find their lost pets.

Athena, dear one, get your tale back to your Annapolis home.

I don’t know you or the people you live with. Hell, I don’t particularly even like cats.

But here’s the thing. Well, a few things.

First, leveled at me have been longstanding accusations that I’m a romantic and sentimentalist (guilty, guilty). So what if I can’t pass a missing cat/but mainly missing dog poster and not blink? So what if I always stop in my tracks and spin stories for missing cats but mainly dogs?

Haven’t we all gone missing at one time or another? Kind of in our DNA this urge to be unkenneled, yes.

Word on the Annapolis street (Southgate, Thompson, etc.) is you’ve been missing since the end of January. By the looks of your wanted poster, I imagine you are lounging and looking just like that somewhere right now. You appear wholly ignorant and unaffected by the early year’s ugly news.

Did you just need to get away and chill? A misunderstanding on the homefront? Tired of the same cat food?

I like to imagine you busted out during last week’s warm burst, but you skipped home well before then. Please tell us you stayed warm and away from traffic. But how would we know?

No one knows the mind of a cat; no sense in trying, either. It’s like trying to figure out why none of our flashlights work. It’s actually nothing like that, but it’s hard to think straight when thinking about cats. They’ll do that to you.

Athena — goddess of war and wisdom, subject of the final good Who song — get your tale home.

Because we need a warm splinter of good news in these gun-riddled days. I don’t have any answers much less the right questions, so the path of least emotional resistance can beckon: A tiny win on the horizon. A safe homecoming.

Of course, a missing cat is nothing like those Broward County students dead and wounded or that fallen police officer in Prince George’s County.

A missing cat is just a missing cat.

Until our hearts and minds, in shutdown mode, take a brief recess from watching, absorbing and feeling. Then, there, a missing cat sign on a stapled telephone pole on a neighborhood street. There, a sweet-faced distraction lounging, missing.

So, Athena, dearest one, get your tale home.

No questions, recriminations or judgment from us. If you’ve gained a pound of two while you were away, no worries. If you met some kind kids or other cool cats, good for you.

Just come home to tell us your story.

Taking a strange, unexpected and personal walk through our newspaper

April 22, 2017

I was reading my newspaper the other day when an ad headline shook me to my core. My future passed before my eyes and points lower. Whatever self-doubts and setbacks that have dogged me were erased by this:

NEW ALTERNATIVE TO ADULT DIAPERS AND CATHETERS SETS MEN FREE.

Generally, I shy away from all caps (and New Year’s Eve parties and poodles), but the news was so bold it deserved bold typography. Rather than having to wear diapers or use catheters, men can now use a skin-friendly pouch that “attaches to the tip of a man’s anatomy.” This, as my mother would say, is not dinner table talk. But by gosh, we need to talk about things that can set us free.

Believe me, I don’t need “24-hour leak-free security.” I’m not a long-haul truck driver who may or may not need an equivalent method for long-haul relief. I do have a longish commute to work, and I do like my morning coffee, but pouches have not entered into the equation. To recap: I don’t need urological care of this or any magnitude, thank you very much. Psychiatry, sure, who doesn’t? But not this really personal stuff.

Still.

How can you read such a thing and not see yourself down some long-haul, lonesome road from now?

Perhaps this cheery outlook explains a certain shortage of New Year’s Eve parties.

•••

I was reading my newspaper the other day and saw an item about a missing 98-year-old man. Fortunately, the man was found unharmed and was returned to his relieved family. Police reported the man does not have any medical issues, but he sleepwalks from time to time.

No medical issues at 98.

98.

Just sleepwalks away from home sometimes.

I am profoundly jealous of every fact in this story. Setting aside for the moment the worry such a missing invokes, I daydream of the day when I am 98 with no medical issues and slip away in sleep state and am returned unharmed to my loved ones.

Oh, he just walks off sometimes, they will tell police. Better check the water. He tends to wander down to City Dock to look at the water and boats.

And there they will find me. Sleepwalking and daydreaming among all the boats in all the water.

Found smiling, they will report.

•••

I was reading my newspaper the other day about the FBI adding to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list the man suspected of killing his wife at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Hanover two years ago. Police hope the renewed attention will produce fresh leads in the cold case.

The crime video is also back in the news with renewed views — many views. In the store video, the husband and wife are seen walking off-camera to a backroom and the husband emerging alone. For now it’s the last image we have of the fugitive; it’s forever the last image we have of his wife.

I watched the video as if vainly looking for clues. But what I was really watching was simply a woman walking with her husband to the backroom of where they worked. But she never comes back into camera range, no matter how many times I see the popular video. The story never changes.

For the people who knew and loved her, surely they must know countless strangers, such as myself, re-watched the last images of 21-year-old Palek Patel. If they could ask us why we watch, what would we say?

Talking about the Sunday scares on Mother’s Day

May 13, 2018

Sundays were born rough.

Someone called them the “Sunday scaries,” which is perfect. Others just call them the Sunday blues — that diagnosis-defying, fog-like funk that comes in on tiger feet. If you know someone who is wild about Mondays, you can bet they get the Sunday scaries. Mondays are rescue missions.

So, today, another Sunday, another Mother’s Day.

I can’t pick up the phone to call my mother anymore. Poor, selfish me. But Sunday was our day to talk on the phone. She was in Florida; me in Maryland, as was our chronic geography.

We had this running joke on Sundays. “You must have read my mind because I was thinking of you,” she would say. I’d say something back along those lines. We weren’t mind-readers. We were having the Sunday scaries.

The world brims with lousy talkers and lousier listeners. My mother was neither.

Like a neutral biographer, she stowed the chapters of my life in all their messy hope. She logged my job changes, relationship changes, address changes, mood changes, hair color changes — her youngest getting gray at 28?! Well, dear, it looks good on you, she would say.

Why do fibs from mothers sound like Valentines? And because youngest children prefer the camera stay on them, I’d lament my gray-then-white hair through the decades.

If she ever got tired of my whining, she never let on. Took some nerve to complain about hair color to a woman in a wheelchair who needed help in the bathroom. Even then she listened.

I’d like to think she taught me to listen, but I have a long way to go on that front. Without her knowing, she did teach me how to ask questions. Hers were personal but somehow never prying — at least they didn’t feel that way after I left home. In middle and high school, I wanted no part of her questions.

Because of her, I came to believe the only questions worth asking are personal. What a gift for someone to lay low in silence just to hear your answer. It’s how people begin to trust one another. It’s how people fall in love, you know. Might be how we stay in love.

If you’re lucky, you don’t wait too damn long to grow up and appreciate your parents. (She would not have used damn and would have questioned my use of it. So, in her honor, a redo.)

If you’re lucky, you don’t wait too long to grow up and appreciate your parents.

So, she and I talked on the phone Sundays about personal things. As the years ticked off, our conversations dwindled. Then what happened — along with every awful thing that happens with an aging parent — is our talks ended. Too tiring, too much, too hard by the end.

Before that, though, in all those years of talking and listening on those scary Sundays, she was there.

In our make-believe meeting of the minds, I would call, and she would know exactly when I’d be calling. I’d wait to hear that opening invitation, that most personal of questions:

“How are you, son?”

No Joke: Donald Trump is Absolutely Right

August 21, 2016

‘I’m not running against crooked Hillary, I’m running against the crooked media’ Donald Trump

Finally, I agree with Trump.

With poll numbers somewhere between concerning and catastrophic, Trump’s campaign last week labeled the media his true opponent. The corrupt and crooked media.

Unlike with every other occupation, I can speak on the subject of journalism. I’ve worked in newsrooms for some 35 years and have accumulated enough wealth to have to work another 35 years in newsrooms. But I digress into a vat of self-pity.

My point is I find myself agreeing with Donald J. Trump.

Why the other day in our newsroom a reporter returned from covering a meeting of local officials. The un-edited article was accurate, fair and balanced. Horrified, I took the reporter aside to mentor her in the revered journalistic tradition of crooked reporting. Rather than punishment, the incident proved a teachable moment:

Reporter: “You wanted to see me? Did I do something wrong?”

Me (in dulcet editor’s voice): “I just wanted to talk a little about your story.”

“Was there anything wrong with it?”

“I’m just a little disappointed.”

(At this point, young reporter tears are flowing.)

“Did I get a fact wrong? I triple checked everything in the story. Did I misspell someone’s name? Don’t you think the story was fair? I got both sides to talk to me…”

(Young shamed reporter now in fetal position under desk.)

“We talked about this when you interviewed with us. I don’t know what they taught you in journalism school, but the real world of journalism is crooked, and we expect you to act and work accordingly. Frankly, your story failed. By being fair and balanced, you failed me, our readers and our industry.”

“But I thought…”

“You thought? You thought? Don’t think. Just be crooked.”

“I’m sorry. I won’t let it happen again. I won’t let my training, values and professionalism tarnish another story.”

As I helped her crawl out from under her desk, I felt it was yet another victory for my communication skills. (Note: the next story she filed was exceptionally crooked thus earning her a coffee gift card.)

Sometimes we slip up, though. Sometimes a thorough and thoughtful story slips through our rigid crooked standards. It’s embarrassing. And, as long as I’m being honest, sometimes we run community listings, obituaries, box scores, legal notices, honor rolls and “Alley Oop” comic strips that fail to achieve crookedness. Be assured that when this happens, we have business practices to deal with the issue.

First, we convene a series of mandatory newsroom meetings — usually early Saturday mornings or on holidays (mindful of any inconvenience, the meetings are never longer than 4 hours). After my opening remarks, we have break-out re-educational sessions. Three reporters are selected to role play by wearing T-shirts that say FAIR, BALANCED and ACCURATE. The others take turns mocking their colleagues until all participating reporters are reduced to weeping under their desks. Then we break for lunch.

None of us are perfectly crooked, even journalists. All we can do is try our best every day.

 

 

 

 

`That’s how the light gets in.’ Kirk Watson brings Leonard Cohen to the Texas Democratic Convention

Good Monday Austin:

It is not unusual for a politician to take the stage at a Texas political convention to some kind of popular anthem, like Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down, or Alabama’s “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band).”

But when state Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin came to the stage at the Democratic State Convention to the strains of Leonard Cohen’s Anthem Friday, I thought,  Well, that’s different.

It was.

Here are the lyrics to Anthem.

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be
Yeah the wars they will
Be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold
And bought again
The dove is never free
Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in

We asked for signs
The signs were sent
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
Of every government
Signs for all to see
I can’t run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
A thundercloud
And they’re going to hear from me
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
You can add up the parts
You won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
Ring the bells that still can ring (ring the bells that still can ring)
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in

Here is Watson’s speech.

That song you just heard is a Leonard Cohen song called “Anthem” that I really like.

A key lyric, one that resonates with me is:

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

We’re part of a community. We’re all in this together.  We’re called to contribute to each other.

It’s why I’m a Democrat.

None of us is making perfect offerings.  All of us are ringing bells with some cracks.  But each of us is working, working, working to let the light in.

I’m very proud of our efforts.

But today, both in the State Capitol Building and in D.C. there’s a toxic tone and approach in politics that would’ve been unthinkable not so long ago.

The list is long. The seeming normalization of overt racism and demonization of other people.  A disregard for objective truth, facts, science and expertise. A loss of the sense of shared responsibility.

And I’ve been stunned that long-standing democratic norms have been so easily abandoned in the name of party over country.

Right now, that toxicity is epitomized by a government that tears children away from their parents.  It’s astonishingly inhumane.  It’s poisonous.

All of it has made me more angry than I’ve ever been. And I’m not typically an angry guy.

But I find myself getting pretty worked up about the efforts to divide us, the extremism, the unthinking, unblinking partisanship.

Why can’t they hear those who plead for someone to listen? Where’s the love and empathy? How has injustice and intolerance and selfishness prevailed?

“Where’s the light in all of this”?

And we should ask whether we’re doing all we can. We must change things.  We must succeed.

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

I don’t know all the answers.  But I know that we have to continue to ask the questions.

Are we inclusive enough?  Are we limiting success by expecting an outcome, even demanding it, in a certain way?

We must reject what has failed.  We can’t demand our idea of perfection.  And we can’t settle just because it’s the way it’s always been.

And we need to support each other, even as we may not agree all of the time.

I’ve been moved by those who are finding hope in resisting, marching, organizing, donating, tweeting, testifying, wearing hats.

Engaging and ringing bells.

But it’s just an outcry if we don’t turn that enthusiasm, desire and, yes, in some cases, anger into votes.

The resistance must have results.

And the most meaningful results will come with winning elections.

Let’s face it, Democrats.  We’ve been down.  We’ve been discouraged. But we don’t give up.

It’s a part of who I am.  I feel it in my bones that we can’t stop. We must go forward with all of the passion and effort we have.

Because . . .We are the bells.

 Unsure. Imperfect. Broken.

We are the ringing sounds of justice.

We are the cry for equality.

We are the voices of diversity.

The roar for unity.

The song of happiness.

The whisper of love.

We are the clanging noise of hope.

Without us, there is no light.

Without us, it is quiet.

God bless you.

I spoke with Watson last night about how he came to devote his convention speech to Anthem. 

WATSON:

I’m a big Leonard Cohen fan. 

The lyrics that he writes have resonated with me for some time.

This song obviously has.

A few years back, our church (First Baptist Austin) actually used the chorus of Anthem during Lent as a reference point, and I even did a testimony at the church related to my public service and my view of the world and the way things were going.

And for a couple of years now it’s been a part of how I think about how we should be  addressing what’s going on.

I have joked that I would like to teach a political science course or a public policy course on the song, Anthem.

The chorus jump out at you and it serves as a good basis for a less than five-minute speech at a Democratic Convention, but if you let me speak for an hour and a half or all through a semester, I’d like to go through all the lyrics in that song, verse by verse.

And if you read he verses of the song, right now they particularly resonate with me and move me and I thought they would be particularly moving to the folks who are there who I know bow strongly they feel about community and about the need to protect and work for one another and bring their individual skills and talents to the game.

The concept of starting again, and the belief that we don’t need to focus on what’ has already happened – he refers to it as having “passed way” – but instead recognizing that there are things that are going to happen over and over again, and we need to recognize  that there are going to be things that are imperfect, that there are things that have cracks in them, but that’s how the light gets in, and, as I said in my speech, I envision those of us who believe we are here as part of a community, that we are all individuals, that we are all imperfect, that we all have cracks, that we are all unsure, but yet, what we do is bring our individual strengths, desires, hopefulness, passions, talents, to each other.

Admittedly that is also biblical with me and part of how I see how democracy is supposed to be and how I see what government should be, so the song has special meaning to me in that regard.

Particularly with that was happening to the children at the border, I felt it was most important to speak to the fact that we are the bells and without us, there’s not light, and without us, it’s awfully quiet

Watson said the speech was very well received.

Wonderful reaction. Wonderful reaction. Very gratifying.

It has been a very strong response.

I wondered with Watson what President Trump’s favorite Leonard Cohen song might be..

I suggested First We Take Manhattan (then we take Berlin).

Watson likes the REM version

I prefer Cohen’s own version.

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I’d really like to live beside you, baby
I love your body and your spirit and your clothes
But you see that line there moving through the station?
I told you, I told you, told you, I was one of those
Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you’re worried that I just might win
You know the way to stop me, but you don’t have the discipline
How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I don’t like your fashion business mister
And I don’t like these drugs that keep you thin
I don’t like what happened to my sister
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I’d really like to live beside you, baby
And I thank you for those items that you sent me
The monkey and the plywood violin
I practiced every night, now I’m ready
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I am guided
Ah remember me, I used to live for music
Remember me, I brought your groceries in
Well it’s Father’s Day and everybody’s wounded
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

But perhaps Everybody Knows best captures the general despair that crosses partisan lines about the current broken moment.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
Everybody knows
Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful
Ah, give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you’ve been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
And everybody knows that it’s now or never
Everybody knows that it’s me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah, when you’ve done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe’s still pickin’ cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows
And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it’s moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there’s gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows
And everybody knows that you’re in trouble
Everybody knows what you’ve been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it’s coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows

And then there is the mordantly hopeful Democracy.

It’s coming through a hole in the air

From those nights in Tiananmen Square

It’s coming from the feel

That this ain’t exactly real
Or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there

From the wars against disorder

From the sirens night and day

From the fires of the homeless

From the ashes of the gay

Democracy is coming to the USA

It’s coming through a crack in the wall

On a visionary flood of alcohol

From the staggering account

Of the Sermon on the Mount

Which I don’t pretend to understand at all

It’s coming from the silence

On the dock of the bay,

From the brave, the bold, the battered

Heart of Chevrolet

Democracy is coming to the USA

It’s coming from the sorrow in the street

The holy places where the races meet

From the homicidal bitchin’

That goes down in every kitchen

To determine who will serve and who will eat

From the wells of disappointment

Where the women kneel to pray

For the grace of God in the desert here

And the desert far away:

Democracy is coming to the USA

Sail on, sail on

O mighty Ship of State

To the Shores of Need

Past the Reefs of Greed

Through the Squalls of Hate

Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on

It’s coming to America first

The cradle of the best and of the worst

It’s here they got the range

And the machinery for change

And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst

It’s here the family’s broken

And it’s here the lonely say

That the heart has got to open

In a fundamental way

Democracy is coming to the USA

It’s coming from the women and the men

O baby, we’ll be making love again

We’ll be going down so deep

The river’s going to weep,

And the mountain’s going to shout Amen

It’s coming like the tidal flood

Beneath the lunar sway

Imperial, mysterious

In amorous array

Democracy is coming to the USA

Sail on, sail on

I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean

I love the country but I can’t stand the scene

And I’m neither left or right

I’m just staying home tonight

Getting lost in that hopeless little screen

But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags

That Time cannot decay

I’m junk but I’m still holding up

This little wild bouquet

Democracy is coming to the USA

 

 

`I did win, right?’ George P. Bush on being booed at the Republican Convention

Good day Austin:

I headed to the Republican State Convention a week ago Monday, and was there all week. But somehow, I very nearly missed what I now consider my favorite moment, even though I was present for it

It was during George P. Bush’s speech to the convention on Friday afternoon.

Because my laptops’ battery is weak and I need to keep it plugged in most of the time, and because there were precious few outlets in the hall at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, I spent most of the general session seated on the hard cement floor (though on the last day I found a single chair that wasn’t attached to a row of chairs that I could move near an outlet and sit on).

The first day, I was up toward the front of the hall, but by the second day, they day Bush spoke,  the good outlets were taken and, I was seated on the floor pretty far back between the men’s and women’s rooms (or as Republicans refer to them in their platform, biological men and biological women) in an acoustically challenged part of the hall where you could hear the speaker and then also also the speaker’s echo.

I knew Bush’s speech could prove a dramatic moment. How would he be received? Would there be any boos from delegates unhappy with his supervision of the Alamo. At some point during his speech I moved into one of the empty seats in the back of the hall to get a better look at Bush as he spoke.

But, even then, when the dramatic moment arrived, I somehow missed the best part.

After recounting his support for President Trump, and amid his trumpeting his successes as the “most conservative” land commissioner in Texas history, Bush bragged about his stewardship of the Alamo.

Bush: And despite the fake news you may have been reading in the liberal media we’ve been busy saving and strengthening the Alamo for generations to come.

This was met with some boos and jeers from the crowd.

Bush smiled and let loose with a classic response, which amid the boos and jeers and the bad acoustics, I missed but which is beautifully clear in the livestream of the convention, which I watched for the first time last night.

Here it is:

Bush: I did win, right?

How great is that?

Before his speech, Bush met with reporters at the convention center.

Miguel Suazo, Bush’s Democratic opponent was spending a few hours next door to the convention in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Hotel talking to reporters. I asked Bush about Suazo’s position that the Alamo Cenotaph, the big memorial statue that dominates the plaza in front of the Alamo, should remain right where it is, and that the General Land Office should negotiate a new deal with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who had managed the Alamo until Bush became commissioner, so the Daughters could return to that role.


Bush: 

Well, I think if you look at the track record over the last four years the average observer would see nothing but  success on the grounds of the Alamo, an historical appropriation from the state of Texas, buy-in from the city of San Antonio, a $5 million master plan that’s been completed, a roadshow that incorporated 40 public feedback. forums.

We are on the precipice for the first time in Alamo history to bring it back to the origins of 1836.

So, I’m excited by the track record, looking forward to a vigorous campaign where we’ll discuss the differences of opinion. It’s in safe hands with the GLO and we look forward to an even brighter 300 years.

And the Cenotaph?

Bush:

So as part of the process, we are in the middle of the public feedback component, so the fourth of five steps that were agreed to by the city of San Antonio, the board and the General Land Office. 

So we just released last week the designs that show more deference to the site. There’s different concepts within it to either keep the Cenotaph as it is or move it just about 100 yards south of the south gate, which was the entry to the Alamo, but would actually dignify the Cenotaph more than where it currently is and restore the original battlefield of 1836.

As part of that process we still have 20 public town hall forums that we’ll be hosting here in San Antonio and throughout the state, then a recommendation comes to the working committee, and then the final decision is made by me and the mayor.

Patrick Svitek asked if he had any regrets about the way he and his campaign characterized a leaked draft report of an internal audit that I had written about in February.

From my May 31 story:

The Texas General Land Office released an internal audit Thursday critical of accounting practices at the Alamo that is consistent with a draft report from September that the American-Statesman had obtained and written about in February but which Land Commissioner George P. Bush had described as “doctored.”

The document, which questions the use of a nonprofit to manage the Alamo, was characterized by the agency as a “proactive internal audit of the Alamo’s accounting and financial management — the first of its kind in Alamo history — undertaken by the Texas General Land Office to modernize and reinforce oversight and accountability.”

“Many of the recommendations have already been implemented while others are being fulfilled through the implementation of a new Alamo management contract with the Alamo Trust,” Bush said in the statement.

The audit begins with the internal auditors’ “overall conclusions,” which are presented in language identical to the draft report quoted by the Statesman in February and which agency spokeswoman Brittany Eck said then had been “altered,” but would not say how.

At the time, Bush was being challenged in the Republican primary by his predecessor, Jerry Patterson, and two other candidates, who made his management of the state’s most hallowed site a central issue in the campaign. Eck said then that the audit would be made public in the spring. In the meantime, Bush’s campaign labeled the Statesman story “fake news,” and Bush won the March 6 primary, with 58 percent of the vote to 30 percent for Patterson and 12 percent for the two other candidates, Davey Edwards and Rick Range.

In answer to Svitek:

Bush: No regrets. I think what is lost in the discussion is that this about the public trust. We had an employee in the middle of a campaign release a document that wasn’t finalized. This was an internal work product and for anybody who serves in city government, county governments, state government, you know that until the product is finished .. you have to wait.

Here is what his campaign said at the time.

 

Back to the convention press conference.

Bush: I never disagreed with the conclusions and the  recommendations.  That’s why we proactively held the audit in the first place and  been working on it since then to rectify those recommendations The problem is that whe  an employee who has a disagreement with the boss who happens to be an elected official in the middle of a campaign, releases a document. that’s problematic and that was the concern.

Is there an ongoing investigation on the release of the audit?

There is. I was recently briefed that he Texas Rangers are still investigating it so we will report back if there is a conclusion or if there is a resolution to that.

We  have rectified and have responses  to all the recommendations that are in the audit. We have improved oversight  in my opinion form a finance standpoint by putting in GLO full-time employee as the CFO along with several other FTE’s to have a little more direct oversight on the financial picture.

How was the draft audit “doctored?”

BUSH: It wasn’t complete and that it was changed  and it was altered,  not in the recommendations and I think theres’ where the  clarification exists, the recommendations I never said were changed, there were responses in the appendix in the back part of the memo, if you red-lined what was leaked and what we just released, you’ll see some changes and some differences and our focus at the GLO is taking security very seriously.  We live in a world were cyber attacks occur daily. We maintain personally identifiable information as defined by the federal Privacy Act and so we take it very seriously. So we are proactive about it, we made changes and  I think that’s what people want out of their  leadership.

What happened to the leaker?

BUSH: That individual was let go and I can’t go into deeper specifics beyond that. We are continuing the investigation at the advice  of the Texas Rangers and we’ll brief you as to the resolution or outcome of the full investigation.

R.G Ratcliffe of Texas Monthly asked about the convention’s Alamo platform plank “that doesn’t mention you but is aimed at you.”

The Alamo plank was shepherded by Ray Myers, the head of the Kaufman County Tea Party, who chaired the state affairs subcommittee of the convention’s Platform Committee. He is seen here, at right, at a Save the Cenotaph rally last year with Rick Range, one of three candidates to run against Bush in  the Republican primary in March.

In the next session, Myers is looking to enlist legislators to move the Alamo from the jurisdiction of the GLO to Parks and Wildlife to get it out from under Bush’s control.

RATCLIFFE: What will your feelings be if the delegates show displeasure?

BUSH: I think its going to be a positive reception. We won with – we doubled up the gentleman who held the office the second-longest in Texas behind Garry Mauro who’s been in politics since the 90s. We also had two other challengers and we avoided a runoff. So I think it was a strong showing.

This is about us coming together as a party after some difficult primaries and difficult choices and difficult stances that we’ve all had to take but then aiming fire at the … Democratic Party but then also reaching out and expanding the tent, reaching out to moderates and Independents and Democrats. That’s how I won with more than votes any other candidate but for Sen. Cornyn in 2014.

Ratcliffe asked Bush what he thought about the family separations at the border.

BUSH: To me its reflective of the failure of DC politics.  This an issue that is all too familiar to folks on the border, to folks in Texas.

And separating arents and children?

BUSH: Well I don’t want to dive into specifics, but I know that we’re having difficulty triaging between legitimate asylum cases … and other cases which are folks that are trying to get here illegally.  There are legitimate claims that can be made for political intimidation and violent threats in other jurisdictions but our resources from all ends of the spectrum are spread thin.

This was on Friday in what is a very fast-moving story.

Three days later, Bush’s father made his feelings plain

It proved to be a politically costly tweet for his son.

From Asher Price in today’s paper.

Donald Trump Jr. is canceling an appearance at a New York fundraiser for Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush next week, according to The Associated Press, citing anonymous sources.

The move comes after George P. Bush’s father, former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, tweeted on Monday that “children shouldn’t be used as a negotiating tool” and that President Donald Trump should end his “heartless policy” of family separation.

On Sunday, George P. Bush’s aunt, former first lady Laura Bush, also criticized family separations on the border in a Washington Post opinion piece.

According to an invitation to the event posted on the website of the New York GOP, the event in New York City on June 25 has a suggested contribution of $5,000 for admittance to a private reception and $1,000 for admittance to a general reception. The “young professional” rate is $250.

Donald Trump, Jr. is listed as a “special guest” — the only speaker other than George P. Bush listed on the invite.

Asked Tuesday by the American-Statesman whether George P. Bush has made any public pronouncements about the family separations at the border, General Land Office spokeswoman Brittany Eck said, “this is an issue area for the campaign.” George P. Bush appears to have remained silent on the issue on Twitter and his office did not make him available for an interview.

Messages left by the Statesman with Donald Trump Jr., the Trump Organization and the George P. Bush campaign were not returned on Tuesday.

From Jonathan Swann and Alayna Treene at Axios.

The backdrop: During the 2016 presidential campaign, George P. broke with his family to support Trump — a move that signaled he’d decided to adapt to, rather than the resist, the new direction of the GOP. His support earned him not only the backing of Don Jr, but also an endorsement from the president in February.

How things unraveled: Sources close to Don Jr. say that Jeb Bush’s tweet was the final straw in what he sees as repeated attacks from the Bush family.

-Don Jr. was furious after Jeb Bush said in March that, despite losing the 2016 election, at least he goes home to children “who still love me,” which Don Jr. perceived as a swipe at Trump.

-Don Jr. reached out to George P., who was apologetic, according to the sources close to the president’s son. And when Don Jr. fired back at Jeb on Twitter, he purposefully left George P. out of it.

– Earlier this month, Jeb Bush also told CNBC that he “can’t imagine having to attack” his rivals in the way President Trump does to “make himself look strong.”

– Don Jr. called George P. again, and George P. “apologized profusely,” according to the sources, telling Don Jr. that he had already talked to his father and that it would not happen again. 

– After that, Don Jr. said he could no longer help George P. if his dad continued to attack the president.

The bottom line: The sources tell us that Don likes George P. and that canceling the event isn’t personal. He considers George P. “collateral damage.”

Oh man.

You’d think that Donald Trump Jr. would have more sympathy for someone who can’t control his father’s tweeting.

Unless of course, Bush secretly agrees with his father on this one.

After I found a chair at the Republican State Convention. (Creating fake news is not as glamorous as it sounds.)

Did Jimmy Kimmel set the shot clock for Ted Cruz to act on family separations at the border?

 

Good day Austin:

Until just about five-to-five yesterday, Ted Cruz was the ultimate, tougher-than Trump, immigration hardliner.

From Sahil Kapur at Bloomberg in January

Senator Ted Cruz blasted the idea of giving young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, a day after President Donald Trump said he was open to the idea as part of immigration legislation being negotiated in Congress.

“I do not believe we should be granting a path to citizenship to anybody here illegally,” the Texas Republican said in the Capitol. “Doing so is inconsistent with the promises we made to the men and women who elected us.”

Cruz didn’t mention the president in his remarks, but they resurfaced some of the bitterness still left over from the presidential campaign. Trump fought Cruz for the Republican nomination and won with a hardline immigration stance that rejected “amnesty” for anyone in the country illegally. During the primaries, Cruz also took a strong stance on immigration and came out firmly against legalizing undocumented immigrants.

But on Wednesday, with negotiations on immigration legislation in Congress moving slowly, Trump indicated he was willing to be flexible.

“It’s gonna happen at some point in the future, over a period of 10-12 years,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I think it’s a nice thing to have the incentive of after a period of years being able to become a citizen.”

Cruz said that President Barack Obama’s 2012 creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which included temporary work permits and deportation relief for young people that met certain criteria, didn’t provide a path to citizenship.

“For some reason that to me is utterly inexplicable, we see Republicans falling all over themselves to gallop to the left of Obama in a way that is contrary to the promises made to the voters who elected us,” Cruz said. “We need to honor the promises we made. And that is what I am energetically urging my colleagues to do.”

And here was Cruz from an interview with KERA for the June 11 edition of the show, Think.

On separating detained parents from their children …

Cruz: “There’s a reason why under the Obama administration that often didn’t happen. Because when they apprehended people here illegally, they just let them go. And when you let them go, you didn’t separate children from parents. You know, you think about it, if someone gets arrested for a crime – let’s say an American citizen … you’re separated from your children – you’re put in prison. If you’re the only caregiver for that child, then you’ve got to find alternative care for those children. … This is an issue that I think the media has largely constructed, because what’s shifted is that the Trump administration is endeavoring when people cross illegally to arrest them, not to let them go. And so if they have kids, you know there’s actually a court order that prevents keeping the kids with the parents when you put the parents in jail. So when you see reporters, when you see Democrats saying, ‘Don’t separate kids from their parent,’ what they’re really saying is, ‘Don’t arrest illegal aliens’.”

But by Friday he had this to say to KTSA:

Texas Senator Ted Cruz tells KTSA News he is horrified by the images of children being separated from their parents who are suspected of being illegal immigrants.

“One of the tragic consequences of illegal immigration is that often it is children who pay the biggest prices,” Cruz told KTSA in an exclusive interview Friday night.  “I would like to see an outcome where we endeavor to keep family units together — to keep mom and dad with their kids.”

The Texas Republican — who is up for reelection against Rep. Beto O’Rourke — said illegal immigration usually does not end well for children.

On one hand, Cruz said they are often abused on their journey to the U.S., sometimes caught up in drug cartels that exploit them. On the other, the end up getting split up from their parents when they get to the U.S.

The biggest thing the nation needs to do, he said, is secure the border to stop illegal immigration and help families looking to come here do so legally.  But until then, the processing for migrants needs to improve.

“What I think makes a lot more sense is that we need a lot more funding for immigration judges so that if a family comes with a credible claim of asylum, rather than having them wait weeks or months for that to be heard, that should be heard immediately,” Cruz said.  He added that those without a credible claim would be sent back sooner, keeping families out of detention facilities.

On Saturday, Cruz addressed the Republican State Convention, which did not appear to be torn up about the images at the border. As he always does, Cruz identified his rival, Beto O’Rourke, as an out-of-touch supporter of open borders.

Cruz left the convention early to participate in a charity basketball game with talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, which was all really a fairly clever maneuver by Cruz to humanize himself.

Kimmel: It’s been my ambition since I was a little boy to play basketball against the least popular member of the United States Senate.

It proved successful.

But I think it might not have been, that the effort at humanization would have curdled, if Cruz had not done something a few hours before the show aired that enabled him to answer the critical question Kimmel posed early in their encounter.

Kimmel: The ref is having mercy on this. See this is a good lesson for you and those kids in that detention center.

The juxtaposition of Cruz clowning with Kimmel Saturday and O’Rourke leading a march Sunday morning on the border to protest separating children from their parents was not a good one.

But, at five minutes to five yesterday, just hours before the show as to air, Cruz’s office released this statement.

Sen. Cruz Introducing Emergency Legislation to Keep Illegal Immigrant Families Together

WILL CREATE NEW TEMPORARY SHELTERS – KEEPING FAMILIES INTACT – FUND NEW IMMIGRATION JUDGES, GUARANTEE REVIEW BY AN IMMIGRATION JUDGE WITHIN 72 HOURS, AND RETURN THOSE DENIED ASYLUM TO THEIR HOME COUNTRIES WITHIN 14 DAYS

June 18, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), issued the following statement:

“All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers. This must stop. Now. We can end this crisis by passing the legislation I am introducing this week.

“Repeatedly, I have visited detention facilities tragically housing young children.  For far too long, children have been the greatest victims of our broken immigration system, with tens of thousands of children who were detained under the Obama Administration and continuing through today, and with far too many of those children facing horrific physical or sexual assault from criminal human traffickers. 

“The answer is not what congressional Democrats are proposing: simply releasing illegal aliens and returning to the failed policy of ‘catch and release.’ Rather, we should fix the backlog in immigration cases, remove the legal barriers to swift processing, and resolve asylum cases on an expedited basis.

“While these cases are pending, families should stay together. Children belong with their mothers and fathers. Once their cases have been adjudicated – under my legislation, in no longer than 14 days – those who meet the legal standard should be granted asylum and those who don’t should be immediately returned to their home country.

“We can fix this. If my Democratic colleagues will join me, not play politics but work to solve the problem, we can start to end family separation this week. And, we can honor the rule of law.”

This week, Sen. Cruz is introducing the Protect Kids and Parents Act, which will: 

  • Double the number of federal immigration judges, from roughly 375 to 750.
  • Authorize new temporary shelters, with accommodations to keep families together.
  • Mandate that illegal immigrant families must be kept together, absent aggravated criminal conduct or threat of harm to the children.
  • Provide for expedited processing and review of asylum cases, so that—within 14 days—those who meet the legal standards will be granted asylum, and those who do not will be immediately returned to their home countries.

Cruz could have announced his plan in his speech at the state convention. But reaction there would have been uncertain.

From Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman  The New York Time

WASHINGTON — As Republicans try to keep their midterm election strategy focused on the economy, tax cuts and falling unemployment, President Trump sent his clearest signal yet on Monday that he intends to make divisive, racially charged issues like immigration central going into the campaign season.

Facing bipartisan criticism over his administration’s family separation practice on the border, Mr. Trump renewed the sort of bald and demagogic attacks on undocumented immigrants that worked well for him politically in his 2016 presidential campaign. He inveighed against “the death and destruction that’s been caused by people coming into this country” and vowed that “the United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility.”

Republicans typically handle immigration gingerly in an election year, as they try to appeal to Hispanic voters, independents and moderates across divergent districts. But with more Americans still opposing the tax measure than supporting it, Mr. Trump’s allies believe that trying to link Democrats to crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and gangs like MS-13 will do more to galvanize Republican voters and get them to the polls in November than emphasizing economic issues.

“People don’t turn out to say thank you,” said Corey Lewandowski, one of the president’s top political advisers. “If you want to get people motivated, you’ve got to give them a reason to vote. Saying ‘build the wall and stop illegals from coming in and killing American citizens’ gives them an important issue.”

xxxxxx

Further, some in the party believe that by pursuing a hard-line approach to families at the border — a policy that is deeply unpopular among independent voters, according to polls — Mr. Trump is handing Democrats the high ground on immigration instead of making them defend their support for less popular immigrant protections like sanctuary cities.

“Somehow I don’t think that putting kids in cages is likely to go over very well with suburban moms,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster uneasy about running on the culture wars. Mr. Ayres said his party should campaign on “the concrete accomplishments of a Republican-held government.”

“A fabulously strong economy, a record stock market, ISIS defeated and a world without any major wars that are killing lots of Americans on a weekly basis,” he said, laying out the case.

Cruz is going to want to have it both ways – to maintain a hardline that will allow him, like Trump, to polarize the electorate and, in his case, leave O’Rourke looking weak – while at the same time not appearing simply inhumane.

One will notice that,in his press release about his new legislation, in which he describes being “horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers,” he sticks strictly to the nomenclature of “illegal immigrant families,” and “illegal aliens.”

No humanizing there.

And, if some are suggesting that his plan really is an iron fist in a velvet glove, that may be OK with the Cruz campaign as well.

Some condemnation on the left is most desirable for Cruz.

And, in the meantime, he mostly got exactly the reaction he wanted – that moved by a morally intolerable situation he was bravely standing up to the president and offering a thoughtful and reasonable response.

 

From David French:

Cruz’s bill enjoys the considerable virtue of focus. By banning family separation, it deals with the immediate crisis. By increasing the number of judges, authorizing new shelters, and providing for expedited processing, it can increase comfort for families, reduce the length of their detention, and ease the backlog. There’s a modest fiscal cost, of course, but it’s a price worth paying to end a broken policy.

The primary critique I’m seeing online is aimed at the 14 day asylum processing provision. Constructing a solid asylum case often takes time, and I’d be concerned about that provision as well if it didn’t ultimately allow for generous extensions when good cause is shown. But that seems like a point that can and should be quickly negotiated with input from experienced asylum attorneys.

Yes, it punts on immigration reform, the wall, and other legislative fixes, but Cruz is wise to do so. Each additional substantive provision increases controversy and complexity. Let’s save the grand bargains for another day.

Right now, the public debate is dominated by finger-pointing. Members of Congress are calling on Trump to make immediate, unilateral changes. Trump is demanding that Congress act, but with a bill that meets his requirements. Yet he doesn’t have to be (and given the conflicting and often trollish messages coming from the White House, shouldn’t be) in charge of this process. One of the many beauties of our constitutional system is that the branch closest to the people — the legislature — can override the president. It’s time to send exactly that message. Cruz’s legislation is a solid start.

All that and beating Jimmy Kimmel one-on-one.

On Hawaiian family vacation, Alex Jones proves he is always Alex Jones

Good morning Austin:

The most frequent question I get about Alex Jones is, “Does he really mean what he says or is it an act?’

Ultimately, the answer to this question is unknowable.

The more pertinent question is whether there is any separation between the public Alex Jones and the private Alex Jones.

From April 16, 2017: In Travis County custody case, jury will search for real Alex Jones.

At a recent pretrial hearing, attorney Randall Wilhite told state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo that using his client Alex Jones’ on-air Infowars persona to evaluate Alex Jones as a father would be like judging Jack Nicholson in a custody dispute based on his performance as the Joker in “Batman.”

“He’s playing a character,” Wilhite said of Jones. “He is a performance artist.”

But in emotional testimony at the hearing, Kelly Jones, who is seeking to gain sole or joint custody of her three children with Alex Jones, portrayed the volcanic public figure as the real Alex Jones.

“He’s not a stable person,” she said of the of the man with whom her 14-year-old son and 9- and 12-year-old daughters have lived since her 2015 divorce. “He says he wants to break Alec Baldwin’s neck. He wants J-Lo to get raped.

“I’m concerned that he is engaged in felonious behavior, threatening a member of Congress,” she said, referring to his recent comments about California Democrat Adam Schiff. “He broadcasts from home. The children are there, watching him broadcast.”

Beginning Monday, a jury will be selected at the Travis County Courthouse that in the next two weeks will be asked to sort out whether there is a difference between the public and private Alex Jones, and whether, when it comes to his fitness as a parent, it matters.

For Naranjo, who has been the presiding judge of the 419th District Court since January 2006, it is about keeping her eyes, and the jury’s eyes, on the children.

“This case is not about Infowars, and I don’t want it to be about Infowars,” Naranjo told the top-shelf legal talent enlisted in Jones v. Jones at the last pretrial hearing Wednesday. “I am in control of this court, not your clients.”

Kelly Jones ostensibly won that case before a jury, becoming the primary parent in their continued joint conservatorship of the children, but, as it has played out, not so much.

Today, Alex and Kelly Jones were to be back in Naranjo’s courtroom because he is seeking a modification of the arrangement that would restore him as primary parent.

But before court began, Kelly Jones’ attorney, Brandi Stokes, filed a motion seeking Naranjo’s refusal from the case, and the hearing was canceled.

A living and beautiful thing to be sure, but I had rushed over to the courthouse the moment I hit send on First Reading and had paid for a full day of parking before I arrived to find out it was all over for the day.

Oh well.

Kelly Jones at Travis county Courthouse Monday.

As it happens, Jones, his three children from his marriage to Kelly, his new wife, and their baby, are just back from a family vacation in Hawaii that, based simply on watching Infowars, demonstrates rather conclusively that there is precious little separation between Infowars Alex Jones, and vacationing dad and husband Alex Jones.

The vacation begins with the Joneses running into Bernie Sanders during a layover at LAX.

 

AJ: Well if it isn’t old Bernie Sanders.

Sanders aide: Dude, no, come one, not right now.

Bernie Sanders (to his aide): Who’s this?

AJ: Why’d you say white people didn’t know what it was like to be poor?

The Infowars video now goes to a clip of Sanders at a debate with Hillary Clinton in which he says, “When you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to live in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”

AJ: Ladies and gentlemen, we just got off our plane at LAX and Bernie Sanders, the living embodiment of communist and socialist evil and failure was here.

A living museum piece of Mao Zedong or Josef Stalin or V.I. Lenin.

In fact with the death of Hugo Chavez, he passed on the mantle.

 But, of course, his little handlers wouldn’t let him to talk to some proletariat slave like me.

Yes, of course, why wouldn’t Bernie Sanders want to talk to Alex Jones?

Indeed, why wouldn’t any traveler not savor the opportunity to be harassed by an aggressive stranger (because Sanders really doesn’t seem to know who Alex Jones is) thrusting a camera in your face and asking hostile questions?

So naturally, Jones had to chase after Sanders.

AJ: You guys aren’t flying first class, are you? If you guys are flying first class you shouldn’t be. They don’t do that in Venezuela.

Why’s he running?

To be clear, Sanders is not running. He is walking very, very slowly, and is not reacting at all to Jones’ provocations.

AJ: Hey Bernie, why’re you running? Karl Rove didn’t run like this.

He said white people don’t know what it’s like to be poor. I thought that was a really racist thing to say.

You guys have fun. Got to be around the general public. Kind of a bad thing. You’re in the proletariat like that. You’re a ruling class commie.

AJ: The truth is the left is the most vicious, evil ideology the planet has ever seen. It’s an historical fact.

They always lecture us how we’re violent, we’re bad. They’re the ones that want to abort all the babies. They’re the ones who wanted to block Trump from being able to have all the experimental treatments and cures given to people that were terminal.

They’re the people who love the culture of death, just like Bernie supported Black Lives Matter. Just like he wouldn’t denounce cop-killers when they killed cops. That’s the kind of monster, cold-blooded person that Sanders is. He wants to overthrow this country via conquest

Bernie Sanders is a monster.

Monster. Conquest. Culture of Death.

But, if you think that bizarre tirade is the end of it, you would be wrong.

AJ: Why do you think socialism is better than capitalism and then why do you live in a capitalist country?

AJ: I don’t know why you’re running from me.

Sanders aide: Are you going to apologize to the Sandy Hook families, Alex?

AJ: Well, the media misrepresents that.

Well, Jones is being sued for by several Sandy Hook parents who think otherwise and, and six more Sandy Hook parents have joined the suit, which may ultimately leave to a Travis County jury, the questions of whether Jones is on the hook for damages.

AJ: You apologized for all the wars you guys launched, Democrats? All the millions you guys killed?

This is an odd line of attack on Sanders. I’m not sure which if any recent wars Sanders, an Independent in the Senate, supported, let alone launched.

OK, this next sequence is key, with Rex Jones, in the green shirt, getting into the vacation swing of things by joining dad in the chase and hectoring of Sanders.

 

REX JONES:  Do you enjoy living in your million-dollar vacation homes, Bernie, or do you want to give those to the poor?

AJ: Your $100,000 Audis?

What?

From Jason Torchinsky at Jalopnik, 4/1/16..

Over the past day or so, a picture that’s allegedly of Bernie Sanders driving a roughly $160,000 Audi R8 has been circulating online, along with the allegations that he purchased the car with donor money. Is any of this even remotely true?

Um, no. I know it’s astounding that something that shows up on 4Chan might not be 100 percent absolutely, verifiably true, but there’s roughly zero evidence that Sanders has used campaign contributions for anything like this, or even if that guy in the R8 is Bernie Sanders at all.

AJ: Anyways, anyways, anyways, anyways, you guys have fun.

Good luck when Google gets broken up.

Sanders aide: Apologize to the Sandy Hook families, Alex.

AJ: You guys need to. You made those places disarmament zones and then advertised it.

REX JONES: What do you think about the fact that 98 percent of shootings occur in gun-free zones, you want to get rid of those?

Then, a most remarkable thing happens.

A bystander seeing what is happening approaches Jones, gets in his face and, in a minute or two, owns Alex Jones.

And this guy appears to be having a great time.

BYSTANDER: Why don’t you stop being an idiot for a second?

AJ: It’s OK.

BYSTANDER:  I know it’s OK.

AJ: Are you mad that Hillary stole the election from you?

BYSTANDER:  I’m mad that you’re a Sandy Hook denier.

AJ: You’re that guy…

BYSTANDER:  What guy am I?

AJ: You like Hillary.

BYSTANDER: Did I bring up Hillary? You deny Sandy Hook and you’re giving him a hard time?

AJ: Hillary edited tapes of that.

BYSTANDER: Oh. Hillary edited tapes of Sandy Hook?

AJ: That’s right.

BYSTANDER: You’re an idiot. You win.

AJ: Why don’t you talk about all the wars that’ve killed millions of people. 

He launches into Benghazi, food shortages in Venezuela, Harvey Weinstein.

Confronted by some guy at the airport, the Alex Jones’ mumbo-jumbotron appears to be short-circuiting and Jones decides to beat a strategic retreat.

AJ: Anyway, you guys have a great day. I’ve got to catch my plane.

BYSTANDER: Please, one less idiot in LA is a good thing.

REX JONES: Well, LA’s kind of hit their idiot max, I’m not sure we’re one of them.

Alex Jones offers one last parting shot at Sanders, bringing his rhetorical harassment full circle.

AJ: Hey Bernie, why did you say white people didn’t know what it’s like to be poor? Why are you such a racist?

AJ: Why don’t you move to Venezuela Bernie, you’ll like it.

The video ends with Jones offering some concluding thoughts, summing up what we have just seen in a manner that anyone who has watched want went before knows is preposterous.

AJ: So over and over again, they want to change the subject from communism and socialism destroying hundreds of countries and killing 200 million people, they want to change the subject to myself and others asking questions about big public events that are used to blame the Second Amendment.

This is incredible. But as long as they can’t guilt you into their mind control they’ve failed. They are sociopath sand psychopaths. Leftists and globalists are there to manipulate those of us who have feelings.

So again ladies and gentlemen, Bernie Sanders, checked off the bucket list, chased like a cowardly rat into a sewer away from serious questions.

What is remarkable to me is that Jones had complete control over what happened here and how it was produced and presented to the world and I’ve got to think that to all but the most devoted Infowarriors he comes across as ridiculous, as a ludicrous parody of himself.

As for what is says about his parenting of Rex, well maybe next year he’ll take his son to the Running of the Jew in Kazakhstan.

Rex’s involvement in Infowars has grown in recent months.

From a  March 30 First ReadingAlex Jones turns to his 15-year-old son to defend him from `bullying’ by David Hogg

It has been almost a year since the Alex Jones-Kelly Jones  child custody trial in the Travis County courtroom of District Judge Orlinda Naranjo.

I, like other reporters, never identified the names of the Jones’ three children.

But that now seems a quaint precaution when it comes to their oldest child, their now 15-year-old son, who his father yesterday pushed into a very public place on InfoWars before his huge audience in a manner that appears to make a mockery of Naranjo’s insistence throughout the trial that Alex Jones’ day job had nothing to do with how he parents his children and was of no concern to the court.

Alex Jones seems determined to make his son a celebrity, to make Rex Jones the next Alex Jones.

It’s not hard to understand why Rex Jones, at 15, still in braces, wouldn’t want to go into the hugely lucrative and unfathomably ego-affirming family business. And, I suppose, why not blame David Hogg, who, of late, has become a more hated and demonized target of the American right than Hillary Clinton or George Soros.

I will admit that I find Hogg’s arrogance off-putting and unsettling.

But I don’t think Alex Jones thrusting his son into the spotlight is either helpful or model parenting. It is just more narcissism from a narcissist, intended to wring every drop of juice he can out of attacking Hogg while grooming his Mini-Me.

Here’s some other scenes from Alex Jones’ Hawaiian family vacation.

 

AJ: Alex Jones here form the Central Pacific Ocean reporting on a really exciting development…I have made the point that if we really want to take down the globalists, their Achilles’ heel is sex-trafficking …

AJ: Pizzagate was a distraction.

I”m not blaming folks. We halfway bought into it as well.

Right. Halfway.

Next.

AJ: Alex Jones, reporting live on historic events from the Central Pacific Ocean.

AJ: There is literally an ocean of people who are awake and know what’s happening. There are also an ocean of people who aren’t awake but they are becoming disillusioned as they realize they have been lied to and as they realize the economy is turning around.

Next up Anthony Bourdain, who, according to Jones, was about to go MAGA when he supposedly committed suicide.

Here, he literally talks into the sunset.

 

Then continues under a tiki torch.

AJ: You know what, I’m going to join the liberal team. I think it’s totally reasonable.

I’m going to identify as an eighth-grade girl and I am going to make them let me on the local eighth-grade girls team in Austin and I am going to wrestle eighth-grade little girls, and if they don’t let me, I’m going to sue them.

AJ: John was here with his children, I was here with my children, we’re here in the middle of Pacific Ocean, we’re here in the newest land on Earth, last touched by God, the real Garden of Eden, and I ran into this guy, he’s a very humble guy but very well-spoken, very charismatic, very passionate, and so I  wanted him, from another angle, to get into the current state right now, how we are witnessing prophecy right now, and what an amazing time we’re in ...

Then this dispatch while snorkeling.

Of course, there was lao report on the disruption by Infowars of Bill Clinton’s book tour appearance at Bass Concert Hall in Austin.

AJ: I’m here on a workcation with my family in Hawaii, but I tell you, I wish I was there in Austin with you.

And then, of course, there is a report on his decision to do what many men do, and grow a beard on vacation.

Apparently Alex Jones said he wouldn’t grow a beard until the “tide has turned against the globalists,” which, he said, it now has and that is why he started growing a beard while in Hawaii, and stole a few precious minutes away from his family time to tell us about it.

 

 

Asche is to ashes, but is James Dickey a man the Texas GOP can trust?

 

Good day Austin and San Antonio:

About two hours into yesterday’s afternoon session of the Texas Republican Convention, in the lead-up to the vote for chairman, the battle between James Dickey, the current chairman, and Cindy Asche, his rival, was truly joined.

The outcome, based on Senate caucus votes in the morning, was already clear. Dickey would prevail by a large margin but the Asche camp was persisting with some tactical maneuvers, though it was unclear to what end.

At which point, Amy Clark, the outgoing vice chair of the party, who was presiding over the session, recognized Toni Ann Dashiell, the state’s national committeewoman and a leader of the Asche forces, to speak.

DASHIELL: I have a very important announcement and I would like to yield my time to Jennifer …

JENNIFER STONER: I’m Jennifer Stoner, Republican Party accounting director … for eight years, and I have resigned my position as accounting director …

Amy Clark: Ma’am. I’m advised this is out of order.

Having cut off Stoner, Clark went called on delegate Terry Holcomb.

Terry Holcomb, Senate District 3, I am speaking in heavy opposition to this. I never thought I would say this at a Republican Party State Convention in Texas, but don’t California my Texas. What are we really talking about here? They say they don’t concur with the will of the voter.

This sounds like something Hillary Clinton would do when Trump beat her. We heard speech after speech about unity and here we are doing the most divisive thing possible. We want to burn the party down so she can be queen of the ashes.

I encourage you to vote “no” and let’s join together behind Chairman James Dickey.

Before the vote, Dickey and Asch each got five last minutes to speak to the delegates.

Dickey strode to the stage access;pained a score of well-known figures in the Texas conservative firmament.

Dickey:

This has been a challenging year.

It was challenging being the third chairman of the Republican Party in two years.

It was challenging standing up strongly for what we believed in and having donors and elected officials and everybody else not know what we really meant by that and not knowing that was going to be a positive things and to turn it around and have it result in growth and benefit and this amazing unity that you see up here has been so humbling. and I am so grateful that every  one of you who has seen this with your own eyes and felt it with your own heart.

We have lived out leadership over the last year  taking strong stands, doing the hard work that needs to be done and I will tell you there were significant obstacles to that.

When I ran a year ago, I kept getting badgered with, “Will you keep everybody from the old administration that had failed, would you keep all of those things, and, of course my response was, “I have no intention of changing things up, time will tell and what the party needs is the most important thing.”

It has been tough to try to unify the group while there has been a core faction of folks from prior leadership that were disappointed that they were out, and were disappointed that they didn’t win the election, and were trying to do everything they could possibly do to overturn the bodies who had voted and I thank you guys for looking past that, looking over  that, looking through that.

You can look around and judge by your own eyes how things are going. It is so important that we move forward together. We have President Trump. We have the House. We have the Senate. We have the Texas House. We have the Texas Senate. We have city councils, school boards county commissioners and county judges. We are going expand our victories here and we can do that if we unite to win, and we have offered that olive branch and we are consistently offering.

You can decide by your own eyes, which campaign, which candidate has shown an interest in and a commitment to growing this party by being welcoming and open versus tearing it apart. And I ask you, vote for winning, let’s beat the Democrats in November. Let’s support President Trump. And let’s continue to have new donors, new supporters, new voters feel welcome and encouraged and loved so together we grow our majority.

God bless you.

Then it was Asche’s turn to take the stage.

ASCHE:

I know many of you are not happy with me for being here right now. But I hope, I hope you will allow me the opportunity to be heard one last time.

xxxx

This race is not about me. I am not running because I want to hold office.

You deserve to know the truth. You deserve to have leadership that is above reproach, because the only way we can advocate for our party’s principles and our elected officials and candidates is to be known as people of our word.

I have been accused of running a negative race and spreading mistruths, but every piece of information we’ve put out has been backed up overwhelmingly by evidence and support.

In fact, if you missed it just a moment ago, our current accounting director, Jennifer Stoner, submitted her resignation minutes ago. Jennifer has been with the party for eight years. She was hired by Cathie Adams and proudly served under Steve Munisteri. She is known by every one of those state chairmen as a professional  of unquestioned personal and professional integrity.

According to Jennifer, she has resigned because, in her entire time as accounting director, she has never seen the level of dishonesty, manipulation and erroneous reporting that she has seen, that she has seen from this chairman, and her direct quote, her quote was, “He is not trustworthy.”

The crowd, about two-third Dickey supporters, was growing increasingly restive.

Please hear me out.

The information that was disseminated via both RPT email and also on James’ printed campaign literature was not approved or verified by the accounting department or with Jennifer’s consent. Unlike any previous chairman, Mr. Dickey has required  that she submit an Excel spreadsheet instead of a PDF, where the data can easily be moved and manipulated and the numbers simply don’t match up. The way the numbers are communicated by the current chairman are in contrast to the processes that have been used and approved for almost ten years. And this past Wednesday, when directly asked by an SREC member at the SREC meeting if Jennifer had approved the numbers being disseminated, he lied.

She asked him publicly to retract the email and the statement multiple times but, as you know, he has not. She has offered a resignation statement but has promised me that she will return if Mr Dickey is not elected.

Talking amid some tumult not he floor, Asche ran out of time.

ASCHE:

My time has expired because I could not complete it.

I am asking you to vote and I am praying God will give you the wisdom to make the right decision.

It was a gripping scene, and properly seen as Act II of a drama that played out a year ago when Dickey was first elected chairman by the State Republican Executive Committee.

Here are scenes from Act I, trom a June 2, 2017  First Reading: Trump loyalty an issue in Dickey-Figueroa contest for Texas GOP chairmanship

(Candidates to become chairman of the Texas Republican Party James Dickey, the current chair of the Travis County Republican Party, and Rick Figueroa, a Houston-area businessman, recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of a meeting of the Texas State Republican Executive Committee at the Sirloin Stockade in Round Rock June 1. 06/01/17 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The 62 members of the Texas State Republican Executive, meeting at Austin’s Wyndham Garden Hotel, will choose a new Republican State Party Chairman Saturday to replace Tom Mechler of Amarillo who resigned two weeks ago because, when you get right down to it, he would rather “spend time with my 6 children, 16 grandchildren, and my beautiful wife Becky,” than the 62 members of the SREC who are so divided down the middle in all matters Mechler that Amy Clark, the party’s vice chairman and top ranking figure with Mechler’s resignation, might have to break a tie vote to determine his successor.

There are two candidates – Rick Figueroa of Brenham and James Dickey of Austin, the chair of the Travis County Republican Party. (A third candidate, Robert Morrow, tweeted he was running but that’s it so far, and he will not be a factor in the race. See my recent First Reading: Robert Morrow throws his jester’s hat in the ring for Texas GOP chair on an ‘Impeach Trump’ platform;)

On the face of it, Figueroa ought to have he edge.

He is the favored choice of Mechler, who named him ten months ago as co-chair of the Republican Party of Texas’ New Leaders on the Rise Committee, and in recent months has been crisscrossing the state with Figueroa on the Republican Party of Texas Hispanic Engagement Listening Tour.

Figueroa is also in good with President Trump, serving on his Texans for Trump leadership team and on his National Hispanic Advisory  committee and now President Trump’s National Coalition of Hispanic Leaders.

And, maybe it’s me, but wouldn’t the Texas Republican Party benefit from the headlines that it had selected its first Hispanic chairman?

Dickey also comes with a couple, three strikes against him.

  1. He managed to lose the chairmanship of the Travis County Republican Party in the March 2016 primary to the aforementioned Robert Morrow, no mean feat and one that made the Travis County Republican Party an object of intense and sustained national ridicule.
  2. While he says he was never a “Never-Trumper” he was part of a movement to “free the delegates” to stop Trump, until Trump became the nominee, when Dickey climbed on board the Trump train, but for those punching tickets, that was a mite late.
  3. Trump won 27 percent of the vote in Travis County.

Normally, three strikes and you’re out. But in this case, I’m giving the slight edge to Dickey.

Why?

  1. He is a far more familiar figure to the members of the SREC, somebody who knows them, who they know, who knows the rules and seems more likely to follow their lead than lead them where he wants to go, and won’t get too big for his britches. He’s paid his dues.
  2. He is not Mechler’s choice.
  3. While naming an Hispanic chair might seem, symbolically and practically, a good thing to do, this is the Republican Party, which rejects anything that smacks to them of pandering, and are particularly disinclined to choose someone for the symbolic value if that’s the reason they are picking him

Here is a summary of the argument against Dickey from Travis County Republican Bill Crocker, a former Texas national committeeman and former RNC general counsel, in an endorsement letter he wrote this week for Figueroa.

When his county chairman’s seat came up for election in 2016, Dickey spent very limited time and money in the first reporting period campaigning to defend his turf. And in doing so, lost his seat to a conspiracy theorist who made Texas an international laughingstock. When Dickey had the opportunity to make amends for this stinging loss and be a unifier at the 2016 National Convention, he instead chose to attempt to subvert the will of Republican voters all across the nation by being a leader in the “Never Trump” and “Free the Delegates” movement. At the same time, Rick was working to unite the bitterly divided factions of our party. In fact, during one particularly heated moment in our Texas caucus, I am told that a Cruz delegate and Trump delegate were on the verge of a physical fight. Rick approached this altercation to talk with both of them, and by the end of it the three of them were praying together. The mark of true leadership is the ability to lead and find peace in even the most difficult of situations.

Mr. Dickey also has a spotty record of raising funds for the Travis County Republican Party. When he lost his seat to Robert Morrow, the Travis County Republican Party was in rough financial shape. The most important job of the Chairman is to raise funds. During election years, the RPT will need to raise a minimum of 2-3 million dollars, just to ensure we maintain our current seats. A person who struggled to keep money in the bank is not a person with the capability of raising that level of funds.

Finally, Dickey does not have a strong record of success in his current position. In addition to his inability to maintain his own seat, Dickey has failed to hold on to the precious few Republican seats in Travis County. In fact, from my research, of the 56 partisan elected seats in Travis County today, only 2 are held by Republicans. Friends, we cannot let Texas begin to look like Travis County.

Whether it was his temperament or that he thought he had it in the bag. Figueroa did not go for the kill at the forum that night.

From that First Reading,

Afterward, I noted to Figueroa that I thought he had pulled his punches a couple of times during the night, not attacking when he could have.

“You noticed that,” he said. “It was intentional.”

Figueroa said he’d like to win, but if he doesn’t, it will be OK. He has a great life for which he is very grateful.

There was also this moment at that Williamson County forum.

The question addressed this tweet, about those rumors, came up the next night, at an SREC forum on the chairman’s race, the night before the election.

Figueroa were asked by the party’s general counsel, Patrick O’Daniel, who was moderating the discussion, whether he intended to keep the current party officers and committee chairs in place.

Figueroa said he woudn’t make any changes.

Then Dickey answered:

Dickey:

As both Patrick and (RPT Treasurer) Tom (Washington) can confirm, I had conversations with both asking them whether they were willing to stay on if I win election tomorrow. There is a very logical process for making change. You figure out the goals. You figure out the talents and skills needed. You match people with talents and skills needed. Until I’ve got an indication we are not going to meet the goals or we don’t have the necessary talents and skills needed, my bias is to leave things alone and that’s exactly what I’d do and that’s why I extended those invitations to Patrick and Tom.

But, the next day, right after his one-vote victory, Dickey announced that he was replacing almost the entire board, O’Daniel and Washington included.

I spoke some weeks ago about this with Melinda Fredericks, a former vice chairman of the party who represents Senate District 4. She told me that as soon as they broke for lunch that day she approached Dickey.

“I pulled him over to the side of the room and said, `James, you said you were going to keep the officers and you just didn’t.’ And he said, `Wait a minute, wait a minute, Melinda, what I said was I asked the officers if I were to ask you, would you continue serving as an officer?”

But, Fredericks said she told Dickey, “You led us to believe that you were going to keep the officers,” and he replied, `I had to in order to win.’ “

“I said, `Wait James, that is ends justify the means and that is totally unacceptable and you owe us an apology,” she said.

When I asked Dickey about this last Friday (June 8), he said that’s simply wrong.

I have consistently said, including to Melinda, that that is an absurd claim on its face. Not only would I not do such a thing but that the idea that I would do an impression of a Bond villain disclosing my plan to one of my most stalwart opponents is as ridiculous as it sounds,” Dickey said.

Dickey said that, at the forum the day before the election, “It  actually was my intention at that moment to keep them, which is why there is that impression, even though there was no such blanket statement.”

DICKEY: 

The more I thought about Patrick O’Daniel’s conditions upon which he would remain, I both had concern  about the specifics of the conditions and the fact that there were conditions, and so that changed my mind on that.

And Tom Washington, for the first time in his entire service as treasurer, warning the SREC members that the party was in dire financial straits and likely to be out of money by November, his choosing to hide that fact until the night before the election was, in my opinion, a breach of fiduciary duty and unacceptable, and he didn’t do that until ten or eleven o’clock that night.”

Mechler wrote a  post about all this at the Houston politics blog, Big Jolly Times, at the end of May, to which Tom Washington appended his own version of events:

This is an important point. James Dickey would prefer that you pay attention to his point that he never agreed to actually reappoint either Patrick O’Daniel or myself to our former duties. The actual key point here is that James Dickey used deception with the SREC voters to mislead them on his actual intentions in order to gain votes that he would not have gotten otherwise. James Dickey had already lined up his officers in advance and announced them as soon as the election was completed. He had no intention of following through and reappointing Patrick or myself.

James asked me for a meeting during the Friday evening before the election. He asked me if I would serve as Treasurer if he was elected on Saturday. I did not know that he was asking me only to give him a chance at shifting votes in the SREC with people who wanted some stability in the RPT key officers if he was elected State Chair.

I was fine with not being reappointed by James Dickey. I had reservations about serving with James because I had known him for over 15 years. I knew that there would be benefit to the continuation of the financial condition of the Republican Party of Texas if I continued as Treasurer but I had to address my reservations. I knew that James would be under extreme fundraising pressure if he was elected. Any signs of stability that the major donors saw in the party would be helpful.

In fact, before I told him I would serve because of my reservations, I gave James Dickey two conditions that he had to agree to in advance.

Condition #1 was that he retain Jennifer Stoner as RPT Accounting Director. Jennifer does a fine job for the Republican Party of Texas and I had no desire to retrain another person in that role.

Condition #2 was that James not interfere with the Republican Party of Texas keeping true and accurate accounting records and filing true and accurate reports to the FEC and TEC for our political and financial activities. James agreed to both conditions and I agreed to serve if James was elected.

James Dickey did in fact win the election by one vote (after shifting 3 votes with his deception that James intended to reappoint Patrick and myself).

The deception came to light in Chair Dickey’s first comments from the podium after election. James read his list of officers and did not reappoint Patrick O’Daniel or myself to office. He then added for the benefit of the deceived voters that he found that both Patrick and I had insisted on conditions for our service which he, James Dickey, could not accept.

James Dickey then made the first mistake of many that morning. He invited Patrick O’Daniel and me to the podium to give our final officer’s reports. Patrick went first. Prior to giving his report, Patrick clarified that he had made no conditions to his continuing service to the Party. James stated in response that Patrick had insisted on the retention of all of the Assistant General Counsel’s currently serving. Patrick stated again that he made no conditions to his service.

I was up next. I told the SREC that I did have two conditions to my service and I was sorry that they were unacceptable to Chair Dickey per his statement contrary to his acceptance with me on the prior evening. I then told the SREC what the two conditions were. You could hear an audible gasp from the SREC members.

Perhaps some were just becoming acquainted with Chair Dickey’s brand of ethics.
James stood up quickly and clarified that he only had issues with Patrick O’Daniel’s conditions for service (Patrick didn’t make any). James then said from the podium that his issue with me was my lack of transparency in financial reporting to the SREC over my seven years of service to that body.
During my service, I had increased the financial transparency that the SREC had from previous State Treasurer’s. First as Assistant Treasurer and then as State Treasurer, the SREC received a full income statement in detail by fund as well as Cash balances by fund. The new State Treasurer has since eliminated reporting by fund to the SREC.

Two weeks later, James Dickey contacted me to apologize for his conduct and statements to the SREC involving me.

James Dickey’s conduct involving the appointment of new officers for the Republican Party of Texas illustrates James Dickey’s ethics, morals, honesty and integrity in action.

Marvin Clede, a member of the SREC from Senate District 17, also commented at Big Jolly.

The comments to Melinda Fredericks are telling. —Melinda then asked him “why did you mislead us?” He replied “I had to or I would have lost the race because 2 votes would be determined based on my response.”—

I was one of those 2 votes who expected different things from Mr. Dickey. And this does not even address the heavy handed and impolitic way he dealt with the chair of the Auxiliaries and Coalitions Committee who is my colleague on the SREC. At the very least I am concerned about style and character expressed in subsequent actions. There are difficult questions to evaluate in this upcoming election, which to date, has become exceptionally divisive.

Dickey won that election by a single vote.

As I wrote then,

Travis County’s James Dickey was elected Saturday to lead the Texas Republican Party, defeating Rick Figueroa on a 32-31 vote of the State Republican Executive Committee.

Dickey succeeded Tom Mechler, whose sudden resignation two weeks ago left it to the statewide Republican Party leadership in the nation’s largest red state to pick his successor in a previously scheduled meeting at Austin’s Wyndham Garden Hotel.

“I am deeply humbled,” Dickey said, adding that he was only disappointed by the divisions revealed by the razor-thin margin.

For Dickey, chairman of the Travis County GOP, the victory was a stunning success for a campaign that was thrown together and executed in less than two weeks, quickly piling up endorsements from conservative activist groups.

Dickey’s victory signaled the strength of grass-roots tea party leaders, who felt Mechler was insufficiently aggressive in pushing the state party’s platform at the Capitol. Texas Right to Life also backed Dickey.

won

After Saturday’s vote, Mechler said he was “shocked and disappointed” with the result.

The next state convention in June 2018 will decide whether to ratify Saturday’s choice or select someone else as chairman.

Figueroa said he had no intention of challenging Dickey for chairman in 2018.

“It’s not who I am,” he said.

Ultimately, Mechler couldn’t impose his choice on an executive committee that was divided down the middle between what are described, broadly speaking, as establishment and tea party wings.

Mechler’s abrupt resignation two weeks before the executive committee’s meeting might have been intended to improve Figueroa’s chances, but it didn’t work, and there was some resentment on the committee that the chairman was trying to force his choice on them.

Yesterday, Bill Crocker nominated his daughter, Cindy Asche, for state party chair. Mechler was her most prominent supporter.

Dickey prevailed, and this time it wasn’t close.

From today’s story.

The final vote was 5,680 votes, or 65.4 percent for Dickey, a former Travis County Republican Party chairman, and 3,009 votes, or 34.6 percent for Asche, a nurse from Frisco who serves as chaplain of the Texas Federation of Republican Women and whose father, Bill Crocker, is an Austin attorney who formerly served as the Republican national committeeman from Texas and general counsel of the Republican National Committee.

After the tally was announced, a relieved and smiling Dickey briefly took the stage to offer his thanks to strains of the Beatles “Come Together,” and to ask those who voted for him and those who didn’t to “come together” to beat the Democrats in November.

As for Asche’s exit music, well, there wasn’t any, but if there were, the choice is obvious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texas GOP: Abolish abortion, property taxes, taxpayer-funded lobbying and gun licensing requirements

Good Friday Austin:

The Texas Republican Convention’s Platform and Resolutions Committee and the Legislative Priorities Committee finished their work late last night with some drama.

The submission of the platform was accompanied by the submission of a far shorter minority report, signed by nine members of the committee and intended to be something the public beyond the 10,000 hard-core Republicans in attendance at the biennial convention San Antonio are likely to read.

The Legislative Priorities Committee, led by Amy Clark, the vice chair of the state party, is a new innovation this convention.

Here, in no particular order, are the five issues it recommends that the full convention identify as the five top issues the party should set as its goals for the next session of the Texas Legislature.

The plank that packed the most emotional wallop, and was attended by the most angst, was on abortion.

As I  wrote about in a First Reading earlier in the week, this was a tug of war between the abortion abolitionists, who want Texas to abolish abortion and ignore and resist Roe v. Wade, and what Texas Right to Life describes as the “prudent incrementalist” approach of chipping away, with an aim to ultimately undoing Roe through legislation and the courts.

The 2016 platform adopted the radical abolitionist approach as its priority, and the new language recommended by the new committee, is a hybrid, which leaders on both sides considered mixing “oil and water,” but which the abolitionists especially found distasteful.

In his closing remarks in favor of the compromise plan, Terry Holcomb from San Jacinto County, representing Senate District 3, said that people needed to realize just how radical the implications of at the undiluted abolitionist plank are.

Holcomb:

So obviously I’m going to speak in favor but I am going to try to educate this bunch, I mean. I’m the one who wrote the original language, so forth and so one, but when someone says, “All we have to do is ignore Roe,” that shows the literal lack of understanding of the impact this would have, because you wouldn’t just have to ignore Roe, you’d have to arrest DA’s, you’d have to arrest doctors, you might even have to arrest governors and lieutenant governors and all these other people, and the magnitude is something that we need to get our arms around because if we ever decided we had the backbone to abolish abortion, this is what we’d have to do.

It has nothing to do with the federal government, it has to do with what we would do right here in Texas. And that is going to require more than people can possibly imagine. Blood. Tears, Treasure. The whole thing.

While the language they settled on had the support of most of the members of the committee, Melissa Bodenger of Austin, representing Senate District 14, was overcome with emotion with passage of what she considered to be a dangerous and destructive recommendation when Clark called the question.

Bodenger:

This is lunacy. No legislator is going to walk out of his office with this. And I’m sorry, but who here signed up to start defying the Constitution? I mean, seriously? Seriously, you’re going to do that? My God, how selfish. 

On adjournment, Bodenger was still trembling.

Bodenger:

This is the Constitution.

States cannot nullify decisions of the federal courts

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.

They’re going to defy the federal government on purpose.

Why are we blowing a hole in the Constitution? That is what the left does.

From Holcomb after adjournment:

This is compromise language, stating we want to abolish abortion but, until we get there, it offers incremental steps.

He said that the rank-and-file delegates who endorsed the purely abolitionist priority two years ago – and wanted to see it simply reiterated in this platform – really didn’t fully comprehend the implications of  what they were saying.

They do not understand the magnitude. They don’t understand what it is actually saying.

It was a more of a political, emotional position without ever really truly looking to understand the reality and the impact.

This is not over. the abolitionist guys are going to be there, first thing out, guaranteed, to try to change it from the floor. This is not final.

Here is the platform and minority report.

The 30-page platform has 331 planks and one resolution – the censure of Rep. Byron Cook.

There is also a seven-page minority report with 81 planks.

It was submitted by nine members of the committee led by Steven Armbruster of Round Rock. It was signed by:

Steven Armbruster, SD5
Henry Peyton Inge, SD12
Todd Gallaher, SD18
Brandey Batey, SD20
Brian Hill, SD21
Stephen Broden, SD23
Beth Cubriel, SD25
Morgan Graham, SD27
Mark Dunham, SD2
The preface explains its premise:

Our platform planks should be strong, clear assertions of the contemporary principles of our party membership. They should unite our membership under shared ideals rather than divide the membership with fractious detail. These assertions should be tailored for brevity, clarity, unity, and to distinguish our positions from those of our opponents.

This platform has planks that define the principles of the Republican Party. In addition to this platform we have included specific action items that would help implement principles in our platform.

The minority report was mostly the handiwork of Armbruster.

Armbruster:

I’ve been working on the platform for the last ten years and the number one complaint that I have gotten in the last four years is that the platform is too long, too unruly, too contradictory of its own self and that the average voter doesn’t read it.

The delegates read it because they gave up a weekend, or, in my case, a week of my life to come play politics. But the people I know at church, the people that I know through work and my friends, they’ve never read the platform. It’s so long, they pick it up and thumb through it and say, “I’m not gong to read this.”

It becomes an exercise to produce a document that, once we leave here, nobody reads. The only people who actually use it are the political activists.

My whole point behind this – and I told the members of the committee – this is a one-time deal. I’ll not do this again. I won’t bring a simplified platform again. We get one shot at doing this, and we’re done, but I want the 8,000 delegates to have their voice heard.

Ambruster said he was elected by his Senate District with the explicit promise to do what he’s doing.

My people have sent me here to produce a simplified document.

The major debate comes down to this one point. What is a platform? Is a platform what it historically has always been, which is a statement of beliefs and principles which the members of an organization all agree on or, is it a laundry list of items which you want to see acted on.

I’ll be honest, I call our platform a Christmas tree. We built a Christmas tree and then every special interest group and every individual that has their pet project comes along and hangs it on there and, since 2006, our platform has done nothing but get larger.

 

 

Getting interesting late: GOP Platform Committee restores Cook censure, doubles down against homosexuality

 

Good day Austin (and San Antonio):

A little before 9 last night, I left my dual posting at the side-by-side ballrooms where the Texas GOP Convention Platform/Resolutions and the Legislative Priorities committees were meeting until they were kicked out of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center at midnight, in order to walk down the hall a ways to cadge some coffee from the urn in the back of the room where the Rules Committee was meeting.

I had written a story a few hours before about how the Platform and Resolutions Committee had, on a voice vote, dismissed resolutions to censure U.S. Sen John Cornyn and three North Texas members of Congress, mostly for some budget votes, and also, by the narrowest margin, rejected a resolution to censure state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana.

Another censure resolution, directed at state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, failed by a single vote Wednesday. Cook is a top Straus lieutenant who, as chairman of the State Affairs Committee, enforced their shared priorities. Like Straus, he is retiring from the House.

Critics of the censures warned the party was forming a “circular firing squad.”

But Stephen Broden of Senate District 23 responded, to audience applause: “I understand the need for unity, but sometimes we have to excise those who are disruptive to that unity.” He cited Benedict Arnold, the most famous traitor in American history, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who in 1951 were convicted of espionage for the Soviet Union and put to death.

From the back of the room I saw Amy Hedtke doing what she does – live-streaming a public meeting – in this case the Rules Committee, which was of special interest because of the possibility that it might revise Rule 44, which enabled the local censure resolutions against Cornyn, the three congressmen, Cook and, earlier this year, the successful censure of House Speaker Joe Straus by the State Republican Executive Committee (which Hedtke live streamed.)

The Rules Committee resisted each and every attempt to water down Rule 44.

Hedtke is a unique individual.

Last May I devoted a First Reading to her –  Some like it hot: How Amy Hedtke went from Scout mom to anarchist Republican and James O’Keefe heroine.

But that was a long way back in Hedtke time, quite a few adventures, a Beto-quantity of livestreams and a spell or two in jail ago.

Hedtke would have liked to have been a delegate to the convention, but Ellis County Republicans denied her that honor, holding her ill-concealed anarchism against her, so, she’s here concentrating on her live-streaming.

After grabbing a cup of coffee – actually two – I went over to tease Hedtke about Cook surviving the censure resolution, in which she provided a significant whereas.

This is Hedtke being arrested after a disagreement with Cook about whether she was within her rights to livestream a hearing of the State Affairs Committee he chaired and she attended out of her interest in abortion abolition.

This landed her in jail, and then in court ,where she fared well in pressing her claim that she was within her rights to livestream at the hearing: 3RD COA DISMISSES AMY HEDTKE: “YOU WON – NOW GET OFF OUR LAWN!”

When I asked what Hedtke made of Cook beating the censure rap, she gave me an “it isn’t over for Cook,” shrug.

“At conventions,” Hedtke said, “you get three bites of the apple.”

Indeed, neither she or I knew that at just about that very moment, the Platform and Resolutions Committee was reversing its position on the Cook censure.

This puzzled me, especially coming from Madden, a veteran former state representative from Richardson.

Madden had spoken against the censures of Cook, who he formerly served with, and of John Cornyn and three North Texas Republican members of Congress.

Why would he have thought better of his opposition to the Cook censure?

During a break in the Platform Committee’s deliberations, I approached Madden and asked what had changed.

“I was hearing back from people in my district, “`Gee, you really need to do that,'” he said, referring to backing the Cook censure. “I said, `OK.'”

Why, I asked, were his folks so exercised about Cook and Madden’s failure to support the censure?

“Because they’ve been exercised about him because that’s basically Ken Paxton’s home district, and the suit,” Madden said. “I didn’t think about that.”

Neither had I, and, oh, yes, of course. How obvious.

Look back at this Chuck Lindell story from July 2016: Ken Paxton: Is his legal trouble motivated by politics?

Facing possible prison time over accusations that he defrauded investors in 2011, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton insists that he is the victim of a politically motivated witch hunt because he dares to run his powerful agency based on conservative Christian values.

Paxton places most of the blame for his legal troubles on a vendetta by a friend-turned-adversary, with some cutthroat politics in Collin County, where the criminal charges originated, thrown into the mix.

Prosecutor Brian Wice isn’t buying it, calling the assertion “as predictable as it is untrue.

Let’s skip down a few grafs.

Paxton blamed much of his legal problems on a Republican rift between conservatives like him and moderates like those who supported former state Rep. Dan Branch, his GOP primary opponent in the 2014 attorney general’s race. Then he singled out one GOP legislator.

“It’s not a coincidence that the chief witness against me in these charges is a political adversary of mine,” Paxton said in the video.

That witness/adversary is state Rep. Byron Cook, a Corsicana Republican who endorsed Branch in 2014 and who the grand jury named as a victim of Paxton’s allegedly fraudulent representation of Servergy. Cook also was known as “Investor 1” in the SEC lawsuit against Paxton.

Cook and Paxton both started in the Texas House in 2003 and became friends, with Paxton living in Cook’s Austin apartment, and later a house Cook purchased in Austin, during their first two legislative sessions.

They also belonged to the same investment club, and Paxton supporters say that Paxton brought Cook, an experienced investor, into several lucrative deals before approaching Cook about investing in Servergy in the summer of 2011.

Cook, who can expect to be called as a witness if the criminal and civil cases against Paxton go to trial, declined to answer questions about his dealings with Paxton, who went on to the Texas Senate in 2013 and became attorney general in 2015.

Those who know Cook say the Servergy deal fractured his friendship with Paxton.

Paxton’s supporters, however, say the friendship had already been strained as Cook established himself as a leading moderate and Paxton as a conservative — culminating in Paxton’s unsuccessful bid to unseat House Speaker Joe Straus, a Cook ally, in 2011.

Paxton supporters question why Cook waited four years to air his grievances about the Servergy deal, suggesting it was payback by GOP moderates who strove to marginalize Paxton in the Legislature — particularly after he challenged Straus — and were unhappy he became attorney general over Branch.

Wice disagrees, saying the Texas Rangers began by investigating whether Paxton broke state law by failing to register with the State Securities Board — a third-degree felony for which he was later indicted. Allegations of fraud were uncovered later, he said.

“The Rangers followed the evidence wherever it led them,” Wice said. “It eventually led them to Byron Cook, and not the other way around.”

‘I will get to work’

Whatever the genesis, Cook’s allegations play a large role in the criminal and civil cases against Paxton.

For a Paxton partisan, censuring Cook is always a good idea.

Senate District 8 is Ken Paxton’s former seat, and, in all likelihood, his wife, Angela’s future seat.

“Double Paxton,” I said.

“Double Paxton,” Madden said.

More from Madden and his original thinking about the Cook censure.

“Byron. I knew him, I knew him well. He’s not running again. He’s not up. The electorate has spoken. Let it go. That’s what I did the first time (the committee voted on the censure). No big deal.”

But, on reflection, “I’ve got to take care of the people who are here. To me it was not the most important thing going on. And we beat the censure motions they had on the congressman and Sen. Cornyn bad. That was more consequential.”

The Platform and Resolutions Committee, which has a representative from each the state’s 31 Senate Districts, is actually the temporary committee. Today, each Senate district caucus met and selected  who they want to represent them on the permanent Platform and Resolutions Committee, which will meet this afternoon and approve the final version of the platform that will be voted on by the convention on Saturday.

If Madden had not switched sides on the Cook censure, he could have been replaced on the Platform and Resolutions Committee. As it is, he presented his report to the caucus on the work of the committee, and was named its representative on the permanent committee by acclamation.

But, the censure switch wasn’t the only, or even latest change the committee made in the platform last night.

It was Marco Roberts of Houston, a leader of the Log Cabin Republicans serving on the committee, who sought to strike the new language, written by Pastor Stephen Broden (see Cook/Benedict Arnold/Julius and Ethel Rosenberg analogy above.)

Here’s a little about Robert’s GOP bona fides from his Facebook page.

Believer in the fundamental rights of the First Amendment and the right to property.
Secretary/Board Member at Log Cabin Republicans of Texas
President at Log Cabin Republicans of Houston
Precinct Chair 0154 at Republican Party of Texas
Studied Political science at Texas A&M University
Went to American School Foundation
Lives in Houston, Texas
From Mexico City, Mexico
Manages Log Cabin Republicans of Texas, Log Cabin Republicans of Houston and Freedom First Republicans

Roberts:

I reject the idea that anyone is a bigot just because they have a religious view. I don’t support that and I don’t call anybody that because I do understand that people have sincere values in this area. 

The  last two years I’ve been doing everything I can to defend our religious freedom in many different ways. I wrote an Op-Ed Friday in the Houston Chronicle defending the Supreme Court decision …

From the Houston Chronicle:

Same-sex wedding cake ruling shows how we can all just get along

By Susanna Dokupil and Marco Roberts

June 8, 2018

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Monday in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission that compelling a baker to create a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding was unconstitutional under the Free Exercise Clause. While religious liberty advocates won a legal victory, both sides — indeed, all Americans, religious or not — won a victory for freedom of conscience and mutual tolerance.

Jack Phillips, the baker, told a same-sex couple that he would sell them any products in his shop. However, he refused to create a cake for their wedding because he would not use his artistic self-expression to participate in a ritual that conflicted with his faith. The couple claimed unlawful discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission agreed.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, got seven votes with only Justices Ginsberg and Sotomayor dissenting. In other words, all the conservatives and the moderates agreed on the result. The importance of that consensus cannot be overstated.

But what is really going on in this opinion? The majority focuses heavily on a key fact: Members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission expressed open hostility to Phillips and dismissed the validity of his religious views in the process of ruling against him. Meanwhile, the opinion never suggests that Jack Phillips behaved in an impolite or disrespectful manner. Rather, it goes into great detail to explain that the applicable civil rights laws were not clear, and Phillips may reasonably have believed he acted legally.

Motive matters in First Amendment religious liberty cases. Even strikingly similar cases can reach opposite results based on the court’s assessment of a party’s intent to follow or flout the law. In 2005, the court decided two landmark cases involving Ten Commandments displays on the same day. In one, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott successfully argued that a Ten Commandments monument on the Texas state capitol grounds was constitutional because it was presented in the context of other monuments and displays. In the other, Kentucky’s county courthouse displays failed the test of constitutionality because the court found that their intent was to promote religion.

Seven Justices agreed that government-sponsored hostility toward religious beliefs is unacceptable: “[T]he government, if it is to respect the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise, cannot impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs of affected citizens, and cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices.” A seven-vote majority for this statement is a huge victory for religious liberty.

At the same time, seven Justices agreed with the opinion’s closing words: “[T]hese disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.” The Court absolutely refused to make a sweeping ruling that either side is always right. Rather like parents settling disputes between children, the majority seems inclined to consider not only who has rights, but also who has played well with others.

Roberts, on Broden’s amendment.

I can live with what you wrote here if you take out that one sentence.

Rolando Garcia from SD 15 in Harris County offered words of support for Roberts’ effort to remove the offending sentence.

I think Marco’s amendment acknowledges that all of us are willing to adopt any language that affirms marriage between man and a woman as God-ordained, that affirms we respect people who believe that.

The only question is the attack on homosexuals. That is the language this committee rejected  …. and a few people are determined to put back in.

The real point of contention is that language. It is just not necessary and it does us harm and it does not do anything to advance the protection of traditional marriage.

Broden:

This section is titled, Homosexual Behavior, and the sentence that Marco is attempting to remove is the one sentence that addresses homosexual behavior. The title of the platform is Homosexual Behavior and the one sentence that Marco is recommending that we remove addresses  homosexual behavior.

(Broden repeated himself for emphasis, so I did as well.)

Not in a negative way, in terms of disparaging people. It is addressing why it is and why we’re against it. I don’t see it as strident or caustic or an attack as Rolando has identified it as an attack. It is not an attack.

And I’ll just read it again.

Homosexual behavior, which is part of the title, homosexual behavior is contrary – contrary is not an attack, it’s a statement of an observation or truth – is contrary, it’s contrary to the fundamental truth that has been ordained by God in the Bible.

I don’t see that as an attack. 

I believe it’s addressing the title of the platform, which was Homosexual Behavior. What it is and what do we say about it. If we remove that, nothing is said about homosexual behavior, nothing at all.

And I would say to this committee, if it’s saying nothing about it, then why is it titled Homosexual Behavior?

Robert’s motion to delete the sentence was defeated on a voice vote.

Committee chair Mark Ramsey: I will remind members, we have probably spent an hour today on just this one plank.

The came the debate on Broden’s complete amendment with the sentence intact.

William Lan Lutz, a member of the committee from Austin:

The words we choose on this issue matter, especially to younger people.

I believe in the traditional values that are found in the Holy Bible, and that is a book that is filled with love from Genesis 1, Chapter 1 to the end of Revelation.

Love is all throughout the Bible.

And so the question is how do we impart biblical truths beginning with Genesis and say that we believe but do it in a way – and I think Pastor Broden and others on this committee are trying to figure out and are struggling because it’s hard, it’s not easy, to strike the right balance between affirming that we believe in God’s biblical truths while at the same time respecting people as human beings.

It’s the old, criticize the sin but love the sinner. 

So how do we come up with a message that we as Republicans love people?

Roberts said that Republican condemnation of homosexuality was increasingly on the wrong side of an issue politically, especially with younger voters.

In every state on these issues for the last two or three years, every time you’ve lost.

I have succeeded in getting the Young Republicans, the Log Cabin Republicans to agree on religious freedom. How? By advocating the idea that everyone is entitled to the same religious freedom as everyone else. 

What I hear Pastor Broden is, “I don’t see it this way. I don’t see it this way.”

Well I get that, but what about other people?

So what I am asking for is a plank that while still affirming all the things you want, still takes into consideration the rest of us in the party that you may not hear from sometimes.

I am not asking you to deny anything. I am just asking you to affirm what you think is good and then leave it at that. You don’t have to single out what you don’t like about some of us.

I just ask, you know, Roger Williams said 400 year ago, a Christian evangelist who started this small idea about freedom of the church, he said, “To compel worship stinks in the nostrils of God.”

And so what I ask for you guys is to think about that and start affirming what you want and stop with the condemnation.

Allison Winter from SD 4 spoke in favor the plank.

I’m speaking in favor of this. It has the language of God in here, which was taken out of the other one.

The Republican Party, the majority of us, do have faith in God and want that to be in there.

This speaks of what we’re for, marriage between a man and a woman, a biological man and a biological woman, these are two important words.

The other thing is that even as we say what we are for we have to say what we are opposed to also, and that is really important to take stand.

We should not be afraid to take a stand for what is in our hearts.

Broden:

I hear Marco, I want that to be understood. I hear Marco and I hear the passion of what he is saying. 

And I hear (William Lan Lutz.)

And the implication of both of them is that this is negative, that it is an attack.

And I think they are saying that, and I’m not sure, is because of the word, “homosexual.”

Certainly the sentence is not an attack, it’s a  statement: “Homosexual behavior is contrary to…”

That’s not an attack, that’s a statement or an observation. You can agree with it or not. I understand that. But it is not an attack.

If it’s about the word, the plank itself, the title of the plank has the word.

And if you’re suggesting that the word is an attack, then it seems to me that you are having a problem with the plank and the label of the plank, and in Marco’s presentation the word “homosexual” shows up, in his words, so if you are having a problem with the word, why are we having a problem or not having a problem with the word being in Marco’s presentation of the plank, Homosexual Behavior?

I’d like to call the question, because we can a debate on this forever.

Ramsey: We do get another crack at this tomorrow afternoon for those who do choose to come back.

We have 21 for, do we need to take the negative?

Hearing no objection, the amendment passes by a vote of 21 for.

 

Texas GOP to choose between abolishing abortion and `prudent pro-life incrementalism’

Good morning Austin:

I am in San Antonio for the Texas Republican Convention. The general sessions don’t begin until Thursday, but, since Monday, the Platform, Rules and Legislative Priorities committees have been meeting at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center.

Two years ago, the Republican convention set five legislative priorities.

We, the delegates of the 2016 Republican Party of Texas State Convention, call upon the 85th Texas Legislature to:

1. Pass constitutional carry while maintaining licensing as optional for reciprocity purposes.

2. Abolish abortion by enacting legislation to stop the murder of unborn children; and to ignore and refuse to enforce any and all federal statutes, regulations, executive orders, and court rulings, which would deprive an unborn child of the right to life.

3. Prioritize the allocation of funds to effectively secure the border through whatever means necessary, including but not limited to barriers, personnel, and technology over land, sea, and air, because the federal government refuses to secure the southern border of Texas.

4. Call for a limited Article V convention of states for the specific purpose of restricting the power of the federal government, including the implementation of term limits, and balanced budget amendment. Any proposed amendments must be ratified by ¾ of the states.

5. And to replace the property tax system with an alternative other than the income tax and require voter approval to increase the overall tax burden.

The Legislature obliged on priorities 3, funding for border security, and 4, calling for a limited Article V convention of states.

Not so on 1, constitutional carry, which means the Second Amendment should be all the license any American needs to carry a gun, or on 5, replacing the property tax, or on 2, the abolition of abortion.

This last is a really quite radical position for a the dominant and dominating political party in the state of Texas. It calls on the state to ignore the Supreme Court and completely outlaw abortion.

It would criminalize women who have abortions and doctors who perform abortions.

It didn’t get very far in the Legislature, but Arlington Rep. Tony Tinderholt did introduce it as House Bill 948.

From the Texas Observer in January 2017

The Republican lawmaker behind a controversial bill — which could make it legal to charge women and providers with murder for an abortion — defended the proposal by saying completely removing access to the procedure would “force” women to be “more personally responsible” with sex.

State Representative Tony Tinderholt, of Arlington, said in an interview with the Observer that, if passed, the bill would reduce the number of pregnancies “when they know that there’s repercussions.”

“Right now, it’s real easy. Right now, they don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion.’ Now, we both know that consenting adults don’t always think smartly sometimes. But consenting adults need to also consider the repercussions of the sexual relationship that they’re gonna have, which is a child,” Tinderholt said.

House Bill 948 would ban and criminalize abortions at any stage, direct state officials to ignore “any conflicting federal” laws, and would no longer exempt pregnancies as a result of rape, incest or fetal abnormalities. The bill would remove the exception for abortion in the state’s penal code for criminal homicide, meaning that women and providers could face charges as serious as murder for the procedure.

The abortion abolitionists – who fashion themselves in the tradition of the anti-slavery abolitionists – want to keep the language in the platform, which shouldn’t be a problem, and also to keep it as one of the party’s top legislative priorities, which is more contentious, and is opposed by Texas Right to Life.

Texas Right to Life wants to continue to pursue a course of what it describes as “prudent pro-life incrementalism” that they believe has weakened and could eventually lead to overturning Roe v. Wade.

It is akin to the decades-long strategy of civil rights groups to overcome legal segregation.

The abolitionists hold as their model a movement whose victory came as a consequence of the Civil War.

Here in Texas and elsewhere, the abolitionists hold the traditional pro-life groups with a certain contempt.

Enough with the pro-life platitudes. Enough with the empty pro-life promises.

Forty-four years of regulated child sacrifice is enough. We are done congratulating these compromised officials for their half-hearted efforts. We are done celebrating their so-called victories.

Children are being torn apart on their watch, on our watch.

It’s time we demand the abolition of abortion.

They may not be the obvious enemy.

That’s the face of the pro-choice movement and it’s very clear that that’s wicked, that’ s evil up front and not hiding at all.

But the pro-lifers are also an enemy, more insidious in their own way.

From abolishhumanabortion.com>

“Abolitionist” is not a synonym for “pro-lifer.”

Pro-life is the expression of a moral opinion. Abolition is the expression of a moral action. When you call yourself “pro-life” you are letting people know what you think about abortion. When you call yourself an abolitionist, you are telling them what you aim to do about it.

Pro-lifers prefer gradual, over immediate, abolition.

Abolitionism has historically been wed to the doctrine of immediatism.  The history of the pro-life movement has been one of gradualistic means and measures, incremental legislation, ameliorative programs, and the inclusion of exceptions to abortion along the way to its eventual total abolition. Abolitionists reject the idea that you can effectively fight evil by allowing it in some cases or do away with it by planned out incremental steps which preserve it along the way. Abolitionists reject the notion that you can ever commit evil in order that good may come. Abolitionists cry NO COMPROMISE!!! Pro-lifers cry “get the best that you can get when you can get it,” and consistently support the “lesser of two evils.”

You can be a secular pro-lifer. You cannot be a secular abolitionist.

To be an abolitionist you must believe in a higher law. One does not need to believe in a higher law or deity to embrace an adverse opinion regarding abortion. But to argue that abortion is evil and ought to be abolished regardless of whether 99.99999% of the rest of the human population agrees with you requires the existence of a binding moral law which has its reference point outside of humanity.

Pro-lifers prefer common ground. Abolitionists prefer to proclaim the gospel.

A majority of pro-life leaders and organizations argue that one need not convince a person that God exists or that abortion is sin, in order to convert them to the pro-life position. While this may be true, abolitionists never choose to remove God or the gospel from the conversation. Abolitionists believe that abortion exists because men  deny that God does. The pro-life movement argues that we should talk less about sin and more about science. Less about salvation and more about “saving the babies.”

Central to the work abolition is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Bringing abortion and its justifications into conflict with the Gospel is the primary mechanism of Abolition. Abolitionist understand our work as being part of the Great Commission. Abolitionists adopt these Five Tenets of Abolition and practice these  Two Modes of Abolitionism

THE PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT ARGUES THAT WE SHOULD FOCUS ON SAVING THE BABIES. THE ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT ARGUES THAT WE SHOULD FOCUS ON CONVERTING THE CULTURE. ABOLITIONISTS BELIEVE THAT SAVING SOULS HOLDS THE KEY TO SAVING BABIES. ABOLITIONISTS BELIEVE THAT A CONVERT TO CHRIST IS A CONVERT TO THE CAUSE OF ABOLITION.

On Tuesday, the convention’s Legislative Priorities Committee, which will recommend to the convention what the priorities should be for the next legislative session, heard from John Seago, the legislative director of Texas Right to Life, Bradley Pierce, who leads Abolish Abortion Texas, and Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life.

Pojman talked about Texas’ long and continuing record of pro-life legislation that has made it one of the most restrictive for abortion in the nation.

Joe Polman

I will focus on Seago and Pierce, because it is their two views that are competing for primacy at the convention. Each wants their view of where the anti-abortion movement should direct its energy to emerge from the convention as one of the Texas Republican Party’s legislative priorities for the session that begins in January.

John Seago, Texas Right to Life.

What follows are excerpts from what Seago told the committee.

The Legislature is built to kill bills.

We have to practice prudence.

We have to be very selective about our priorities. We have three criterion.

Will this bill save lives?

Talking about what we will do with the body of a baby after he or she is murdered does not save lives. Yes, it’s good public policy. Yes, it shows our respect for life. But we’re talking about after the abortion.

It wasn’t a legislative priority for our organization, because we want to save lives.

Does this bill move the cultural conversation to the right topics?

The two things I want to have a conversation with my pro-choice neighbor about is the humanity of the pre-born child and the inhumanity of elective abortion.

When we talk about clinic regulation, well, what’s the debate around clinic regulation? It’s about how long it takes to drive to an abortion clinic. It’s about how wide the hallways are in an abortion clinic. Those are not culture-changing conversations.

But when we talk about dismemberment abortions, when we talk about the ugliness of the violence of elective abortions, that’s the conversation I want to have with my pro-choice neighbor. So if we pass a bill prohibiting dismemberment abortions, as we did in 2017, I get to explain to my pro-choice friends, or even just my apathetic Republican friends, why abortion is injustice, why it’s an act of violence.

The third criterion, is, does this bill work to undermine Roe v. Wade? 

We live in the shadow of Roe v. Wade. There’s no denying it.

We are not afraid, our organization is not afraid of the courts. In fact, we feel we have to use the federal courts to undermine the legal foundation of Roe v. Wade.

Attempts to circumvent the court ruling, or simply ignore the Supreme Court (won’t work.)

Our organization is convinced we have to use the courts, but not just in an arbitrary way.

The last ten years there have been successes and the legal foundation of Roe is shaking.

What we will be seeking to pass in 2019 is going to be a pro-life PreNDA legislation.

Here is Plank 88 from the 2016 platform”

88:  Right to Life – All innocent human life must be respected and safeguarded from fertilization to natural death;  therefore, the unborn, the aged, and the physically or mentally challenged have a fundamental individual right to life, which cannot be infringed.

Seago:

Texas law doesn’t live up to that principle. Texas law has dangerous loopholes in it right now.

We say we are going to protect pre-born children at 20 weeks because that’s when they have the capacity to feel pain, except for children who are expected to have a disability.

We say for those children we are going to give you less protection. We say we are going to allow you to be aborted after 20 weeks.

That is a disgrace to Texas. That is a black mark on our pro-life record. Usually in Texas and in U.S. law we provide more protections for individuals with disabilities or individuals with diseases. We give more legal protection, not less. But what Texas law does is the opposite.

So, what PreNDA seeks to do is fill that loophole and provide non-discrimination language to Texas law. So saying that we see certain abortions as discriminatory and we want to prohibit those.

Also PreNDA legislation doesn’t just say no to abortion, it says yes to life. We want to expand these mothers’ access to perinatal care, palliative care and other social and medical services.

We can talk to our pro-choice neighbors. We can talk to Democrats. 

It’s a very dynamic legal attack.

We don’t think ignoring a court and having a federal-state standoff is a legitimate strategy.

We have a reputation for being stubborn. But we do take into consideration what’s possible.

We think prudent incrementalism is the right strategy to adopt.

Seago was followed by Pierce.

From HeritageDefense.org.

Bradley Pierce is a co-founding attorney of Heritage Defense, where he helps defend the parental rights of Christian homeschooling families around the country against threats by social services. After being homeschooled in the late 80′s through graduation, Bradley earned a degree in History and English from Baylor University while serving as student body vice president, then went on to earn a Juris Doctor degree from Baylor Law School. He and his wife Cindy have seven children.

Here are excepts from Pierce:

I’m a Christian, I’m a husband, a father, an attorney. I’m a loyal Republican. I’m here from Williamson County, SD 5. I’m an abolitionist. I’m here on behalf of Abolish Abortion Texas.

I’m here to talk about a legislative priority that is already a legislative priority

Our legislative priority that we’re pushing is our name. Abolish Abortion Texas.

The Abolish Abortion plank from the 2016 platform: We call upon the Texas Legislature to enact legislation stopping the murder of unborn children; and to ignore and refuse to enforce any and all federal statutes, regulations, executive orders, and court rulings, which would deprive an unborn child of the right to life.

Pierce:

It got the most top votes in the committee when it was considered. It was adopted by nearly 90 percent of delegates in 2016. It led to HB 948 being filed in our legislative session with 12 co-authors. It got the support of over 68 percent of Republican primary voters three moths ago on our Republican primary ballot.

Why ignore Roe?

There’s two ways to approach Roe. Change the court or ignore the court.

Well, here’s what 45 years of trying to change the court looks like, just a little bit of history here.

Pierce recounted how a succession of Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican presidents have affirmed Roe.

Even if we had President Ronald Reagans now into infinity Roe would not be overturned at this rate. 55,000 plus babies are murdered in Texas every year. I don’t call that success.

Some people say Roe is the law of the land.

No it isn’t. 

This Constitution will be law of the land. Roe is unconstitutional so it’s not the law of the land.

Nowhere in the Constitution is there a right to an abortion, either expressed or implied

Where the court has ignored the Constitution, we must ignore the court.

And some may say, Bradley, that’s lawlessness. No lawlessness is what we live in right now. Lawlessness is 55,000 babies a year being murdered.

The Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being. God is.

Not only can we resist it. We must resist it.

If we don’t ignore Roe there is no end in sight to the Nile River of blood that is flowing through our land.

This is a legislative priority in our platform and we need to defend legislative priorities. If we put on a legislative priority and then our Legislature substantially ignores that and then we rip that legislative priority off, you’ve just sent a signal.

Dear Republican legislators: You can ignore the grassroots of your party and our response to that is we’ll give up. We’re sending them a signal that we’re giving up.

People say this is not very specific. Specific? We’re saying outlaw abortion. How much more specific does it need to be?

The legislators are complaining. “We don’t like this.” Good, that means we’re having an effect.

We’re not here to pass things they are going to do anyway. We’re here to tell them what conservative Texans want.

This has not become less important. 110,000 estimated have died since this became a legislative priority. This has gotten more important every single day.

 The 2016 platform includes both abolition and incrementalist planks.

The same is likely to be true of the 2018 platform.

“It’s contradictory, but that’s where our party is right now,” Seago said. “You could have both in the platform. Once you go into the Legislature, we are not advocating for abolition because we don’t think it’s an effective legal strategy. We’re saying PreNDA is something the Legislature will do, it’s something that will get us a step closer. instead of asking them to do something the Legislature has already shown they are not interested in doing.”

Seago acknowledges that there is power to the abolitionist argument that it will appear the party is softening its stand on abortion if it steps back from identifying abolition as a top legislative priority.

“They messed up,” Seago said of the 2016 convention. “They shouldn’t have put abolition in in the first place. There are a lot of committee members who were supportive of it last time who see that that’s not a prudent decision.”

But, Seago said of the abolitionist stance, “It’s pretty popular for conservative Republicans.”

“It’s a family discussion,” he said. “It’s just about strategy.”

But, in testimony later in the day before the Platform Committee’s State Affair Subcommittee, Pierce framed the issue in typically starker terms.

To end abortion, he said, “I think we should be willing to lay down our own lives.”

As it finished its business Tuesday evening, the State Affairs Subcommittee voted without disagreement to recommend that the abolitionist plank remain a legislative priority for the Texas Republican Party for the coming session.