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.
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?
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.
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.