For Ted Cruz, Bernie debate previewed `socialist’ strategy against Beto, and one peril lying in wait

 

Good day Austin:

Just this morning I stumbled upon a First Reading I wrote last October that I had forgotten I had written but that looks pretty good right now. Pretty, pretty good. So much so that I am going to reprise it, untouched and in its entirety. I changed the headline – For Ted Cruz, Bernie debate previews `socialist’ strategy against Beto, and one peril lying in wait – to put it in the past tense.

I will merely add a short preface and postscript.

This from a story on the debate from Todd Gillman at the Dallas Morning News under the headline, Unforced errors: ‘True to form,’ Ted Cruz slaps ‘socialist’ label on Beto O’Rourke.

(Cruz) called O’Rourke a socialist – an epithet circulated routinely among Cruz supporters, but which the senator has been careful to avoid. Before Friday night, Cruz has insinuated it. He’s linked O’Rourke to socialized medicine and Sanders and other self-proclaimed socialists. But his aides have insisted, at times forcefully, that Cruz has never directly applied the label to O’Rourke.

The pretense lifted on Friday night.

“There is a fundamental choice in this election. It’s a choice between – we’re seeing nationally, socialists – like Bernie Sanders, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and indeed, Congressman Beto O’Rourke, advocating for those same policies: full-on socialized medicine.”

O’Rourke loves to say the race isn’t about Republicans and Democrats, that he shuns partisan labels and wants to focus on Texans, on Americans, even on human beings. But labels do matter. They matter to voters. They can turn elections.

And this label, O’Rourke did not deny on Friday night.

His gaffe was one of omission.

OK. Here is the Oct. 23, 2017 First Reading.
Good Monday Austin:

Beto O’Rourke filled Burdine Hall, with a seating capacity of 521, at the University of Texas Sunday afternoon for a high-energy town hall meeting organized by the Indivisible group in Texas’ 25th Congressional District.

Afterward, I asked O’Rourke how he scored the Ted Cruz-Bernie Sanders debate on tax reform Wednesday night on CNN.

O’Rourke:

I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t watch much of it, kind of heard their opening arguments and listened to them answer a few questions. I don’t know if I saw enough to give a score.

Did O’Rourke think that Sanders was giving Cruz a platform and prominence that would prove unhelpful to O’Rourke’s long-shot campaign?

O’Rourke

I would much rather be on the stage and make some of the points I’m hearing at meetings like these about giving tax cuts to the very wealthiest and doing it at the expense of the middle class. I think the estimate is a third of middle class Texans will pay higher taxes. But there is some good that comes out of someone like CNN having a public policy debate. There’s not enough of that so I’m actually glad that they did that. I think Texans deserve to hear the alternative in Texas.

My view is that, overall, Sanders didn’t do O’Rourke any favors by debating Cruz, and that we can expect that, if and when Cruz and O’Rourke debate each other – which I assume they will – Cruz will cite chapter and verse from Wednesday’s debate and force O’Rourke into the no-win situation of either aligning himself with Sanders, or distancing himself.

And yet, there was one dark cloud for Cruz, and silver lining for O’Rourke, in Wednesday’s debate, as Cruz, a skilled debater since his days at Princeton University, displayed once again one of his least attractive qualities, and that is a single-minded focus on scoring debating points even when it involves saying something that is manifestly and provably not true – and saying it with straight-faced certitude.

It might be enough to tempt O”Rourke to reach deep into his  Columbia University English major soul and see if he can locate just enough of his inner Trump to give his Senate rival a withering nickname – like Two-Tongued Ted or, maybe, Prevaricatin’ Cruz.

Cruz, who debated Sanders on Obamacare on CNN in February, clearly enjoys debating Sanders, and why not?

The contrast between the two men, in style and substance, makes for great theater. Both men style themselves as fearless truth-tellers driven by ideas and purpose. Sanders enables Cruz to make his case in the clearest and least ambiguous fashion.

And they both love to talk.

As I wrote in a First Reading in April 2015, when Sanders came to Austin as he was exploring a bid for the presidency:

In 2010, Sanders, conducted an eight-and-a-half hour filibuster against President Obama’s proposed tax cut compromise (he was spelled only briefly by Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu) that, Sanders said, would provide “tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires who don’t need it.” Here’s the last half hour of that filibuster, which he turned into a book, The Speech.

Three years later, Sen. Ted Cruz conducted a 21-hour, 19-minute speech on the Senate floor denouncing Obamacare.

Somewhere in that speech, and I can’t remember whether it came before or after Cruz read Green Eggs and Ham, as a bedtime story to his girls back in Houston, Cruz quoted the writer Ayn Rand: “There are two sides to every issue. One side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice.”

Or, as Cruz put it: “I would far prefer a Senate with 10 Bernie Sanders and 10 Mike Lees to a Senate where the views, the actual commitments, are blurred by obfuscation.”

Lee, a Utah Republican, is Cruz’s closest ally in the Senate.

In that same First Reading I noted that Sanders is “an avowed socialist, unlike most Democrats, who are only accused socialists.”

Cruz partisans were delighted with Wednesday’s performance

From The Blaze: Ted Cruz mops the floor with Bernie Sanders at CNN town hall debate

Cruz, or rather his office, tweeted throughout the debate all the blows he landed against Sanders.

(Of, course, Bernie partisans saw it differently. From Salon8 times Bernie Sanders made a total fool of Ted Cruz during their town hall debate/The Vermont senator was in vintage form Wednesday night)

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Cruz, in the thick of his 2016 presidential campaign, called a liar on the Senate floor, cheered Cruz on.

For Cruz, this was the money moment.

Here from the debate transcript:

CRUZ: Now, one of the things I like about debating Bernie is he’s honest. When he ran in Vermont, he ran as a socialist, an unabashed socialist.

SANDERS: No, I didn’t. No, I ran as an independent. Longest serving independent in the history of the United States Congress.

CRUZ: Are you a socialist or not?

SANDERS: I am a democratic socialist…

CRUZ: OK. Good.

SANDERS: But don’t tell them — I didn’t run as a socialist. I ran as an independent.

CRUZ: You told people you were a socialist. Fine, fine.

SANDERS: You didn’t run as a right-winger. You ran as a Republican, right?

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ: I am happily a conservative.

SANDERS: Conservative, all right.

CRUZ: I am happily conservative.

(APPLAUSE)

So Bernie ran telling the voters he was a socialist, and then in this last election he ran in the Democratic Party. He almost won the Democratic Party’s nomination. And if you didn’t have superdelegates and the corruption of the DNC, you probably would have been your party’s nominee.

SANDERS: Are you looking for a job as my campaign manager?

CRUZ: You know…

(LAUGHTER)

But I’ll say it was interesting. Right before the campaign — right before the commercial break, when I said Bernie and the Democrats want to cut defense, cut the Army and the Navy and the Air Force and Marines, Bernie reacted and said, no, no, no, the Democrats don’t, that’s just me, Bernie.

So it’s interesting. Listen, I think today — I think the lesson the Democratic Party took from this election was Hillary Clinton was too moderate, and I think the Democratic Party is the party of you and Elizabeth Warren. But let me just ask, since this is a tax debate, what is the difference between a socialist and a Democrat on taxes?

SANDERS: Well, I don’t know the answer to that, because I don’t know what every Democrat…

CRUZ: I don’t, either.

So, one can expect Cruz to confront O’Rourke at their debate with that exchange, note O’Rourke’s support  – which he expressed with great vigor in front of a friendly crowd at UT Sunday – for Sander’s Medicare-for-all plan, and ask whether, like Sanders, he is a socialist or only a political fellow traveler.

But, on the flip side, there was an exchange Wednesday which may not serve Cruz so well.

It’s better if you watch it in its entirety, because Evan Smith is scrupulous in attempting to exact an answer from Cruz – this is September 2011 and Cruz was then a candidate for the Republican nomination for Senate – and here is Cruz, in front of God and Evan Smith, saying that, yes, Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.

From Gardner Selby at PolitiFact Texas:

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, in a CNN debate on tax policy with Cruz on Wednesday evening, said: “Sen. Cruz, I think you were quoted as saying Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.”

“I’ve never said that,” Cruz replied. “That’s false.”

Sanders initially replied that if Cruz says he didn’t make the Ponzi scheme reference, he accepts that. Later at the event, though, Sanders said: “Go to my Twitter page, and you will hear Ted Cruz say Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.”

So, what gives?

It looks to us like Cruz was comfortable with describing Social Security as a Ponzi scheme in a September 2011 public interview with Evan Smith, CEO of the Texas Tribune.

Cruz, then bidding for the U.S. Senate seat that would be vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison, was asked if he considers Social Security a Ponzi scheme.

Cruz replied: “There is a level at which words have meaning. What does the word ‘Ponzi scheme’ mean? A Ponzi scheme is a system–if you and I cooked up a Ponzi scheme, we would have current people pay into it, we would take the money and we would pay it out to other recipients. That’s the definition of a Ponzi scheme. In the English language, that is exactly how Social Security operates.”

SMITH: “So I am going to take that as a yes, that you believe that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.”

CRUZ: “I think there is an effort to treat that as rhetoric. But there’s no doubt that’s what it is.”

Cruz also called Social Security a “vital bulwark for our society” and “a commitment we’ve made.” He also said he favors saving the program.

See the full Smith-Cruz exchange in the video here.

In Cruz’s office, spokesman Phil Novack responded to a request for comment Thursday by sharing a transcript of the 2011 Smith-Cruz exchange about Social Security.

Novack said by email: “You will note looking at the full transcript,” Cruz “never explicitly called Social Security a ‘Ponzi Scheme’ and he also vigorously defended the importance of the program and of keeping the promises we’ve made to our seniors.”

While running for president, Cruz indicated that he favored shoring up Social Security by raising the retirement age and capping increases in the cost-of-living adjustment. He also advocated allowing workers to save up to $25,000 per year in Universal Savings Accounts (USA).

 And here from Eugene Kiely of FactCheck.org:

Later in the show, Sanders returned to the topic and said he had proof that Cruz did indeed call Social Security a Ponzi scheme, and, again, Cruz denied it.

Sanders: “You said a little while ago that you never said that Social Security was a Ponzi scheme. Go to my Twitter page, and you will hear Ted Cruz say Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. …”

Cruz: “I can’t let what Bernie said go by without responding to. He’s referring to an interview where I was asked about another Republican who made the comment about Ponzi scheme. It wasn’t my comment. It was somebody else’s.”

Sanders’ staff tweeted a clip of Cruz talking about Social Security in a Sept. 9, 2011, interview with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune. Smith asked Cruz: “Yes or no. Is Social Security a Ponzi scheme?” In response, Cruz jokingly asked Smith if NBC’s Brian Williams had written his questions — referring to a question Rick Perry was asked during a Republican debate co-hosted by Williams two days earlier.

In that Sept. 7, 2011, debate, as we wrote at the time, Perry called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. That’s what Cruz meant when he said that Sanders was “referring to an interview where I was asked about another Republican who made the comment about Ponzi scheme. It wasn’t my comment. It was somebody else’s.”

Cruz is right that it was Perry’s comment, but the 2011 interview shows that Cruz clearly agreed with it.

Cruz, Sept. 9, 2011: There is a level at which words have meaning. What does the word Ponzi scheme mean? A Ponzi scheme is a system — if you and I cooked up a Ponzi scheme, we would have current people pay into it. We would take the money and we would pay it out to other recipients. That’s the definition of a Ponzi scheme. In the English language, that is exactly how Social Security operates.

Smith: So, I’m going to take that as a “yes.” That you believe that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.

Cruz: I think there is an effort to treat that as rhetoric, but there’s no doubt that’s what it is.
The full video of the back-and-forth between Smith and Cruz shows that the Texas senator studiously avoided using the term “Ponzi scheme,” saying that Smith was asking a “loaded question.” Smith tried several times to get a yes or no answer, but instead got — as we show above — Cruz’s definition of a “Ponzi scheme” and his opinion that “that is exactly how Social Security operates.”

For the record, we said in 2011 that Perry’s description of Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” is a gross exaggeration.

FactCheck.org, Sept. 8, 2011: The [Social Security] system doesn’t meet the common definition of a “Ponzi,” which is a criminal fraud, relying on deception. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, says a Ponzi is “an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors.” Ponzi schemes draw their name from Charles Ponzi, who in the 1920s promised his victims that he could provide a 50 percent return in 90 days by putting their money into a speculation scheme involving postage stamps. In reality, Ponzi simply paid early “investors” big returns with the money eagerly offered by others who came later — pocketing millions for himself — until the bubble inevitably collapsed. Bernard Madoff’s more recent fraud — while much larger — was another example of a Ponzi scheme. Madoff and Ponzi lied to their victims about where their money was going, while Social Security’s finances — while troubled — are an open book.

We should also note that Cruz in 2011 and again this year described Social Security as an essential part of the security net for Americans. In the CNN debate with Sanders, Cruz described Social Security as a “fundamental bulwark of our society” and criticized “politicians in Washington” for “letting it careen towards insolvency.”

In a 2017 report, the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds project that the Social Security trust funds will be depleted by 2034. Once the trust funds are gone, Social Security can still pay benefits — but not more benefits than it takes in from revenue. The trustees say tax income would be “sufficient to pay about three-quarters of scheduled benefits through the end of the projection period in 2091.”

So, Misleadin’ Ted?

But that seems to understate the audacity of Cruz saying this in 2011:

“There is a level at which words have meaning. What does the word ‘Ponzi scheme’ mean? A Ponzi scheme is a system–if you and I cooked up a Ponzi scheme, we would have current people pay into it, we would take the money and we would pay it out to other recipients. That’s the definition of a Ponzi scheme. In the English language, that is exactly how Social Security operates.”

And then, six years later, when Sanders said: “Sen. Cruz, I think you were quoted as saying Social Security is a Ponzi scheme,” responding:

I’ve never said that. That’s false.

xxxxxxx

Postscript:

From Todd Gillman’s story on Friday’s debate.

The moderators tossed the contenders a softball as the debate came to a close: “We want to end this on a positive note. … Tell us something you admire about your opponent.”

O’Rourke has spent 18 months projecting an upbeat persona. But in his first high-stakes campaign debate, he’d come off as nervous and emotional at times. Cruz needled him enough to get him flustered and put a dent in the image.

This was their first joint appearance, and these two seem to genuinely dislike each other.

But that softball question was a golden opportunity to reclaim the high ground, and O’Rourke did.

“We both have young children. I know how hard he works,” he said. “I know what a sacrifice that is to his family. … I have no question that Senator Cruz wants to do the best for America. He does so at great sacrifice to his family and his kids. I thank you, Senator Cruz, for your public service.”

Then came Cruz’s turn. He lauded O’Rourke for his own sacrifices, but couldn’t resist taking a potshot.

“I think Congressman O’Rourke is passionate, energetic.” Like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “Bernie Sanders believes in what he is fighting for. He believes in socialism. Now, I think what he is fighting for doesn’t work. But I think you are absolutely sincere, like Bernie. You believe in expanding government and high taxes.”

That was Cruz’s gaffe. He couldn’t help himself, and he gave the Democrat the chance to cut him down with that withering “True to form.”

As I wrote in Sunday’s paper:

Everyone knew going in that Cruz would be the more skillful debater. He was a debate champion at Princeton University, debated his way through the 2016 Republican presidential primaries and has debated U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on policy three times since. He misses nothing and leaves no opportunity unexploited, a tendency so irresistible to Cruz that it provided the opening for O’Rourke to deliver the line of the night.

xxxxxx

Those three words (“true to form”), just before their closing statements, did the work of Donald Trump’s repeated references to Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted” in the 2016 presidential debates, and Ronald Reagan’s “there you go again,” to Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential debate, which proved so effective that he redeployed it against Walter Mondale four years later.

And it wasn’t the only example of Cruz overplaying his hand Friday night, as I wrote in yesterday’s First Reading – Hubris: At the first debate, Ted Cruz plays the race card in the name of Lincoln and MLK.

 

Hubris: At the first debate, Ted Cruz plays the race card in the name of Lincoln and MLK

 

Good Monday Austin:

This is the tweet that went out from the Cruz campaign during Friday night’s debate.

Here are “Beto O’Rourke’s own words.”

How can it be, in this day and age, in this very year, in this community, that a young man, African-American, in his own apartment, is shot and killed by a police officer. And when, and when we all want justice, and the facts, and the information to make an informed decision, what is released to the public? That he had a small amount of marijuana in his kitchen. How can that be just in this country? How can we continue to lose the lives of unarmed black men in the United States of America at the hands of white police officers? That is not justice. That is not us. That can and that must change. Are you with me on this?

 

What the Cruz campaign is doing here seems a pretty naked appeal to white racial resentment, to racism.

And it was meant to complement Cruz’s performance at the debate, particularly the first quarter of the debate that focused on race.

And yet, in making the play during the debate, Cruz does it all while claiming the moral high ground on Civil Rights as a member of the party of Lincoln, and even, in the back-and-forth about some NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police violence and racial injustice, suggesting that Martin Luther King would be with him, and not O’Rourke, on an issue that he, out of nowhere, recasts as having something to do with flag-burning.

Here is a transcript of the questions and answers on the recent killing of Botham Jean in Dallas.

Q: Sen. Cruz. This question is to you. This month in Dallas, Officer Amber Guyger shot Botham Jean, a black man, in his own apartment. Why did you caution Rep. O’Rourke and others not to jump to conclusions when the Texas Rangers and the Dallas County District Attorney said she committed manslaughter?

CRUZ: What happened to Mr. Jean was horrific. Nobody should be shot and killed in their home. it was tragic. Now, the officer, as I understand it, has contended that it was a tragic mistake. It was a case where she thought she was in her own apartment, she thought she was shooting an intruder. Right now today, I don’t know what happened that evening. Congressman O’Rourke doesn’t know what happened. He immediately called for firing the officer. I think that’s a mistake. We have a criminal justice system, a system that will determine what happened that night. If she violated the law, if she did that intentionally, she’ll face the consequences. But without knowing the facts, before a trial, before a jury’s heard the evidence, Congressman O’Rourke is ready to convict her, ready to fire her. And I’ll tell you, it’s a troubling pattern. Over and over again, Congressman O’Rourke, when faced with an issue about police and law enforcement, he sides against the police. In the United States Congress he voted against allowing funds to go to body armor for sheriffs.

(Note: PolitiFact Texas rated this claim false.)

When it comes to customs enforcement, he has said he’s open to abolishing that law enforcement agency. Just this week,  Congressman O’Rourke described law enforcement, described police officers as modern-day Jim Crow. Let me say something. I have gotten to know police officers all across the state. That is offensive. Just today, Fort Worth is burying Office Garrett Hull, with his wife Sabrina and his two kids,  who was shot in the head, risking his life. Here today, Officer Brian Graham, an Arlington SWAT officer, was shot in the head. He is here today  Every day police officers risk their lives for us. Office Graham is standing there, his two kids. He took a bullet in the head protecting us. I think it’s offensive to call police officers modern-day Jim Crow. That’s not Texas.

O’Rourke: What Sen. Cruz said is untrue. I did not say all police officers are modern-day Jim Crow. I, as well as Sen. Cruz, mourn the passing of Officer Hull in Fort Worth. My Uncle Raymond was a sheriff’s deputy in El Paso. In fact he was the captain of the El Paso County Jail. He was the one who taught me to shoot and the responsibility and accountability that comes with owning a gun. But he also taught me what it means to serve everyone, to be sworn to protect everyone in the community. With the tragic shooting death of Botham Jean, you have another unarmed black man killed in this country by law enforcement. Now no member of law enforcement wants that to happen. No member of this community wants that to happen We’ve got to do  better than what we’ve been doing so far. If African-Americans represent 13 percent of the population in this country, that they represent one-third of those who are shot by law enforcement,  we have something wrong. If we have the largest prison population on the face of the planet and it is disproportionately comprised of people of color, we have something wrong in this country. Republicans and Democrats should be able to work together with law enforcement and members of the  community for real, lasting, meaningful criminal justice reform.

Q: Quick follow-up to you, Sen. Cruz. Do you agree that police violence against unarmed African-Americans is a problem and if so, how would you fix it?

CRUZ: I believe everyone’s rights should be protected, regardless of your race, regardless or ethnicity. But I’ll tell you something, I’ve been to too many police funerals. I was here in Dallas when five police officers were gunned down because of irresponsible and hateful rhetoric. I was at the funeral in Houston at Second Baptist Church where Deputy Darren Goforth had been shot in the back of the head at a service station because of irresponsible and hateful rhetoric. Just now, Congressman O’Rourke repeated things that aren’t true. He stated, for example, that white police officers are shooting unarmed African-American children. The Washington Post fact-checked that claim and concluded Congressman O”Rourke was wrong.

(Note: the Washington Post fact-checked O’Rourke’s statement that, “Black men, unarmed, black teenagers, unarmed, and black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement without accountability and without justice. It concluded that, There’s little question the black community faces extraordinary levels of violence. But whether O’Rouke’s statement qualifies as Pinocchio or Geppetto-worthy depends on how you hear it. There have been virtually no shootings of unarmed black children by police in the past five years. But hundreds of black children have been homicide victims  Given the varying interpretations of O’Rouke’s statement, we won’t offer a rating.)

CRUZ: But I’ll tell you something, that rhetoric does damage. That rhetoric divides on race. It inflames hatred. We should be bringing people together instead of suggesting – the police are risking their lives to protect all of us, to protect African-Americans, to protect Hispanics and. I think turning people against the police, is profoundly irresponsible.

O”ROURKE: You said something that I did not say.

CRUZ:  What did you not say? What did you not say?

O’ROURKE: I‘m not going to repeat the slander.

CRUZ: You’re not going to say what you did say?

O’ROURKE: No. This is your trick in the trade to confuse and to incite based on fear and not to speak the truth. This is a very serious issue and it warrants the truth and the facts.

Q: Rep. O’Rourke, this question is for you. It’s about the National Anthem protest. Polls show that most Americans don’t think that NFL players should be kneeling during the National Anthem, even if  they believe they have the right to do so. But you have said there’s nothing more American than protesting for your rights. What do you say to people who claim you are out of step?

O’ROURKE: I mentioned, members of law enforcement are not sworn to serve and protect only some people. They are sworn to protect and serve everyone.Those service members who put their lives on the line serving tonight in Afghanistan an Iraq and Syria. They swear not to a man or a group of people in this country. They swore to support  and to defend the Constitution of the United States of America, the Constitution for all of us. The Civil Rights marchers who took their lives in their hands crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, some beaten within an inch of their lives. Those who lost their lives in the Deep South to the racism of America at the time.. Those Freedom Riders who had the audacity to take Greyhound buses in the Deep South using the bathrooms or the water fountains of their choice, knowing full well they would be end up in Mississippi State penitentiary, Parchman, as it did for John Lewis. They marched not just for themselves but for everyone. And when we now have injustice in this country, two sets of criminal justice systems depending on your race, your ethnicity and your color, that prison population that I talked about that is disproportionately comprised of people of color, too many unarmed African-American men losing their lives in this country. To peacefully protest that injustice non-violently and to call attention to that, to prick the conscience of this country so that those in positions of public trust and power in this country will finally do something, standing up not just for your rights but everyone’s rights in the country. There’s nothing more American than that.

CRUZ: You know, Congressman O’Rourke gave a long soliloquy on the Civil Rights Movement. And I’ll tell you, one of the reasons that I’m a Republican, is because  Civil Rights legislation was passed with the overwhelming  support of Republicans, and indeed the Dixiecrats who were imposing Jim Crow, the Dixiecrats who were beating those protesters, were Democrats. And that’s one of the reasons I’m proud to be member of the party of Lincoln, a member that stands for equal rights for everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, every human being is a creation of God that our Constitution protects.

CRUZ: But nowhere in his answer did he address the fact that when you have people during the National Anthem taking a knee, refusing to stand for the National Anthem, that you’re disrespecting the millions of veterans, the millions of soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines that risk and fight and died to protect that flag and to protect our liberty. And to be clear, everyone has a right to protest, you have a right to speak. But you can speak in a way that doesn’t disrespect the flag, that doesn’t disrespect the National Anthem and I’ll tell you, those Civil Rights protesters would be astonished if the protests were manifesting in burning the flag. Dr. King, that’s not something Dr. King stood for. He  stood for justice without disrespecting the men and women who fought for this country.

O’Rourke: You heard Sen. Cruz’s answer. First of all he again tried to mislead you by taking a peaceful protest during the National Anthem to burning a flag. No one here, myself included, has suggested that anyone should be doing that. He also grounded his answer in partisanship, talking about the GOP being better than the Democrats. Listen, I could care less about either party at this moment, at this deeply divided, highly polarized time in our history. This moment calls for all of us, regardless of party or any other difference, whether it’s race, or sexual orientation or how many generations you’ve been here or whether you just came here yesterday, we need to come together for this country that we love so much.

What Cruz misses in his historical analysis is that many of the Republicans who voted for Civil Rights legislation are what he and his allies now call RINOs, to be driven from the party, and that many of he Democrats who opposed Civil Rights switched parties. Goldwater began the Republican takeover of the South by opposing Johnson’s Civil Rights program, securing the first Republican toehold in the region, and the South turned Republican precisely as a result of the white racial reaction that Cruz was appealing to Friday night to rally his base.

The Republicans that Cruz admired were those like Jesse Helms,

Cruz: The very first political contribution I made in my life was to Jesse Helms.

Here Cruz also recalls a story about how, when a young Helms received a campaign donation from John Wayne, Helms reached out to Wayne to ask why. Wayne replied, “‘Oh yeah, you’re that guy saying all those crazy things. We need 100 more like you.”

“The willingness to say all those crazy things is a rare, rare characteristic in this town, and you know what? ” Cruz said. “It’s every bit as true now as it was then. We need a hundred more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.”

Ted Cruz Loves Arch-Racist Jesse Helms

By Lee A. Daniels

NNPA Columnist

Sept 16, 2013

In office just nine months, Ted Cruz, the junior Republican Senator from Texas, has already established himself as that body’s most divisive force since the witch-hunting, 1950s demagogue, Joe McCarthy.

A darling of the most extreme factions of the conservative movement, Cruz exemplifies what was obvious about the GOP’s fortunes since the Tea Party emerged on its right flank two months after President Obama took office in 2009: That it would have to destroy the GOP’s establishment – that is, those Republican officeholders who, though rock-ribbed conservatives, actually believed in the old American win-some-lose-some tradition of political accommodation and pragmatism.

And last week, speaking at an event meant to honor the late Jesse Helms, the longtime segregationist senator from North Carolina, Cruz, Texas’ first Hispanic senator, revealed again for all to see how unbreakable is the connection between conservatism and White racism.

Cruz, who was born in 1970, first briefly spun a tale of how he had idolized Helms, who served in the Senate from 1972 to 2001, since he was 10 – when he had sent Helms a $10 campaign contribution “’cause they were beating up on him, they were coming after him hard and I thought it wasn’t right …”

Then, after a moment, Cruz added, “The willingness [of Helms] to say all those crazy things is a rare, rare characteristic in this town, and you know what? It’s every bit as true now as it was then. We need a hundred more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.”

The bulk of Cruz’s remarks laid out his analysis of Helms’ positions on foreign affairs (an analysis that in fact was laughably wrong). Even the deeply-conservative Heritage – which just months ago was embarrassed by the discovery that one of its Fellows, Jason Richwine, had written a doctoral thesis that recycled bigoted claims about the intelligence and cultural suitability of Hispanic-Americans – wouldn’t want to expose Helms’ domestic attitudes and activities to scrutiny.

But Cruz’s gushing, thankfully, did remind us that for nearly two centuries, the United States Senate was comprised of a substantial number of senators “like Jesse Helms.” That bloc, along with their confederates in the House of Representatives, was responsible for establishing and maintaining Negro slavery and its successor, racial apartheid, in the South into the latter third of the 20th century.

By the time Helms reached the Senate, the legislative victories of the Civil Rights Movement – which Helms staunchly opposed and continued to denigrate throughout his political life – had pared those politicians’ numbers sharply.

But Jesse Helms, provincial and mean-spirited, continued to fight on. In 1983, he was the only Senator to vote against approving Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a federal holiday. In 1990, he waged what many called the most racist political campaign since the civil rights years to fend off a challenge from Harvey Gantt, an African-American Democrat and former mayor of Charlotte. In 1993, he tried to taunt Illinois’ Carol Moseley-Braun, newly-elected as the nation’s first Black female senator, by singing “Dixie” as they rode the Senate elevator one day in order, as he said, to try to make her cry.

Moseley-Braun did not cry, but the act revealed something fundamental about Helms’ character that went hand-in-hand with a vicious bigotry that also targeted gays and lesbians, women and other people of color, including Hispanic Americans.  A few weeks earlier, Moseley-Braun had led a successful charge against Helms’ trying to guide a renewal of a federal patent on the Confederate flag for the United Daughters of the Confederacy. She won the substantive political battle; his response was a juvenile gesture.

In 2001, when Helms announced he would retire from the Senate, the columnist David S. Broder, a widely-respected political centrist, wrote a column in the August 29 issue of the Washington Post that appeared under a headline that was simple and stunning: “Jesse Helms, White Racist.”

In the column, Broder declared “What really sets Jesse Helms apart is that he is the last prominent  unabashed white racist politician in this country … [and] the squeamishness of much of the press in characterizing Helms for what he is suggests an unwillingness to confront the reality of race in our national life.”

Broder continued that “What is unique about Helms – and from my viewpoint, unforgivable – is his willingness to pick at the scab of the great wound of American history, the legacy of slavery and segregation, and to inflame racial resentment against African-Americans.”

Finally, after setting Helms in context of the modern-day segregationist politicians who fought the Civil Rights Movement, Broder concluded:  “That is not a history to be sanitized.”

Ted Cruz tells us Jesse Helms is his political idol. What does that say about Ted Cruz?

Some more on Helms from Chuck Smith writing in the Wall Street Journal on Sept. 4, 2001.

Jesse Helms began his career as a radio newsman, and broke into politics by assisting segregationist Willis Smith in his 1950 Senate campaign. Mr. Helms is credited with inventing the description of UNC, the University of North Carolina, as the “University of Negroes and Communists.” He may have written–and, at a minimum, was certainly aware of as part of the campaign–newspaper ads that asked: “Do you want Negroes working beside you and your wife and daughter eating beside you, sleeping in the same hotels teaching and disciplining your children in school, occupying the same hospital rooms, using your toilet facilities?” Another of Smith’s ads featured a doctored photo of the incumbent’s wife dancing with a black man. Mr. Helms later denied any involvement, but a newspaper advertising manager told Helms biographer Ernest Ferguson that Mr. Helms personally cut up the photos. Mr. Helms was rewarded for his campaign work with a job as an administrative assistant to Smith in Washington.

In the late 1950s, Mr. Helms won a seat on the Raleigh City Council, where he took up the charge of defending segregation, criticizing black student sit-ins attempting to desegregate the luncheon counters in downtown Raleigh. As soon as Mr. Helms was sworn in, he immediately spoke up for Arkansas’s Gov. Orval Faubus’s confrontation with federal troops after the court desegregation. Mr. Helms attacked integration by declaring that many more “race riots” and other such troubles occur in the North.

In 1960, he took a job as a TV commentator, initially hired to counter David Brinkley’s repeated calls for an end to institutionalized racism. He spent the next decade railing against Martin Luther King, “Negro hoodlums” and anyone on welfare. Mr. Helms derided the 1964 Civil Rights Act as “the single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress.”

Long after segregationists like George Wallace and Strom Thurmond began making amends and attempting to court black voters and avoid racially divisive politics, Mr. Helms continued to only raise racial issues when it would possible stoke white resentment. In addition to his election tactics to which Mr. Broder’s piece referred, Sen. Helms consistently opposed every piece of civil-rights legislation. He opposed the Martin Luther King holiday, arguing that Dr. King and his associates had “proven records of communism, socialism and sex perversion” and feeling that the issue was of such grave importance that it warranted a filibuster. In 1983, asked whether his denunciations of Dr. King as a “Marxist-Leninist” might cause difficulties in his re-election bid the following year, Mr. Helms replied, “I’m not going to get any black votes, period.” Mr. Helms continued his crusade to get Dr. King’s, J. Edgar Hoover-created FBI files opened to the public.

With the end of segregation, Mr. Helms could only attempt to preserve segregation abroad. During the 1970s he defended the racist regime in Rhodesia, offering amendments to eliminate economic sanctions. In 1979, two Helms aides showed up in London to monitor negotiations over the independence of Zimbabwe, eliciting a protest from the British government that the senator’s staffers were encouraging the former Rhodesian prime minister, Ian Smith, to hold out longer.

In the 1980s Mr. Helms defended the apartheid regime of South Africa as a friend, describing economic sanctions as a “kick in the teeth” and denouncing the Mandela-led opposition as a communist front. He claimed sanctions would produce violent revolution and tyranny.

Mr. Helms has also made his views on race clear through a series of merely symbolic actions. Soon after a Senate vote on the Confederate flag insignia, Mr. Helms ran into then-Sen. Carol Mosely-Braun of Illinois, who is black, in a Capitol elevator. Mr. Helms turned to his friend, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, and said, “Watch me make her cry. I’m going to make her cry. I’m going to sing ‘Dixie’ until she cries.” He then proceeded to sing the song about the good life during slavery.

One of the most telling commentaries on whether Mr. Helms ever abandoned his racist views was provided by a conservative commentator. Fred Barnes wrote in The Weekly Standard last week that “Helms hasn’t grown at all since his days as a conservative commentator on WRAL-TV in Raleigh in the 1960s and early 1970s. So far as I know, he’s changed his mind on only one issue in three decades, dropping his criticism of Israel and becoming a strong supporter.”

The leading proponent of Cruz’s historical analysis is Dinesh D’Souza, for whom Cruz recently helped secure a pardon from President Donald Trump.

From Christopher Hooks writing in the Texas Observer in August: I Watched Dinesh D’Souza’s New Movie with the Travis County GOP

 

 

In D’Souza’s telling, racism, fascism and authoritarianism have always been left-wing ideas. Preposterously, he cuts directly from footage of people maligning Trump to a re-enactment of Abraham Lincoln walking in a field of wavy grain.

“None of this is new,” he intones. “In 1860, America elected its first Republican president.” Soon after, over footage of a Confederate infantry charge, “to stop Lincoln, Democrats revolted.” After the Civil War, Democrats built up the federal government to replace the system of social control they had exercised over blacks in the South, in which “the [new] plantation master is the president.” The stuff you’ve heard about Republican racism in the last 60 years is all a lie. Trump is Lincoln’s inheritor. The subtitle of the movie, about saving America a second time, refers to the “new” civil war — Trump against his critics.

Every fascist ever was a left-winger, or inspired by the American Democratic party. FDR was “infatuated” by Mussolini, who was himself “a man of the left.” Hitler was initially OK with gay people, before he killed many of them, so “Hitler was no social conservative.” And concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele believed that his work was leading to human progress — in other words, “Mengele saw himself as a progressive.” After the war, scared progressives concocted a “big lie” that fascism was a right-wing phenomenon.

It seems a little bit silly to say that Lincoln, if brought back to life today, would be a member of the party that honors the Confederacy he tried to so hard to crush. Some of the people in the theater with me seemed to agree: When the film talked about Lincoln’s nobility, and the many wonderful things in world history that came from the Union victory, a man behind me loudly interjected, “Oh, come on!”

Meanwhile, from the AP back in February:

Fifty-seven percent of all adults, including more than 8 in 10 blacks, three-quarters of Hispanics and nearly half of whites, said they think Trump is racist. Eighty-five percent of Democrats consider Trump racist, but just 21 percent of Republicans agree.

The results show a stark divide on racial issues gripping the country during the presidency of Trump, who has made divisive comments after a white nationalist rally, called African nations “shitholes,” and promised to build a wall along the Mexican border to prevent immigrants from entering the country illegally.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the poll’s findings. When asked earlier this year what he thinks about people who think he is racist, Trump replied, “No, no. I am not a racist.” He also told reporters: “I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.”

Trump became the favorite of white nationalists in the 2016 campaign. But, were it not for Trump …

U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa was crucial to Cruz’s victory in the Iowa caucuses. He was national co-chair of Cruz’s presidential campaign.

King: “This ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie. I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

King:

We have to do something about the 11 million (undocumented immigrants) and some of them are valedictorians and my answer to that is – and by the way their parents brought them in, it wasn’t their fault – it’s true in some cases. But they are not all valedictorians. They were not all brought in by their parents.

For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.

Which brings us to the question that opened Friday’s debate.

Q: Congressman O’Rourke, you drew the first question. We’re going to start with you. You said last week, representative, you want citizenship for Dreamers today. And yet others who apply to come to America continue to wait. Sen. Cruz said he doesn’t support a path to citizenship for Dreamers, which means they could be sent back to a country they’ve never known. Who’s right, representative?

O’Rourke: My wife, Amy and I were in Booker, Texas – we traveled to each one of the 245 counties in Texas -and one of the reddest communities in the state and we were surprised as we were going door-to-door to hear the number one concern from people in that community was the fate of Dreamers. There are nearly 200,000 in the state of Texas. And the salutatorian from Booker High School had just been deported back to his country of origin and everyone there was concerned about his welfare. But they’re also concerned about the fact that he’d just been sent back to a country whose language he didn’t speak, where he no longer had family connections, where if he was successful against those long odds, he’ be successful there for that place  and not here for Texas. There’s no better people than those of us here in this state – Republicans and Democrats and Independents alike, the defining border experience, the defining immigrant experience – to rewrite our immigration laws in our own image and to ensure that we begin by freeing Dreamers from the fear of deportation, by making them U.S. citizens so they can contribute to their full potential to the success not just of themselves and their families but to this country. The economists who have studied it said we would lose hundreds of billions of dollars to the negative if we deport them. We’ll gain hundreds of billions of dollars to the positive if we keep them. Sen. Cruz has promised to deport each and every single Dreamer. This cannot be how Texas leads on this important issue.

CRUZ: This issue presents a stark divide between Congressman O’Rourke and me. My views on immigration are simple and I’ve summed them up many times in just four words: Legal, good. Illegal, bad. I think the vast majority of Texans agree with that. I think when it comes to immigration, we need to do everything humanly possible to secure the border. That means building a wall, that means technology, that means infrastructure.  That means boots on the ground. And we can do all of that at the same time that are welcoming and celebrating legal immigrants. There’s a right way and a wrong way to come in this country. You wait in line. You follow the rules like my father did in 1957 when he came from Cuba. He fled oppression and he came to Texas. He came seeking freedom. We’re a state and we’re a nation built by immigrants, but it’s striking that Congressman O’Rourke, over and over and over again, his focus seems to be on fighting for illegal immigrants and forgetting the millions of Americans. You know, Americans are dreamers also and granting U.S. citizenship to 12 million people who are here illegally, I think it’s a serious mistake. I think Congressman O’Rourke is out of step with Texas.

O’ROURKE: I’ll tell you about being out of step with Texas. Sen. Cruz has sponsored legislation that would  have this country build a 2000-mile wall, 30-feet high at a cost of $30 billion, and that wall will not be built on the international border between the United States and Mexico, which is the center line of the Rio Grande.  It will be built on someone’s farm, someone’s ranch, someone’s property, someone’s homestead, using the power of eminent domain to take their property at a time of record security and safety on the border. Sen. John Cornyn and I introduced legislation that would invest in our ports of entry where a vast majority of everyone and everything that comes into this country first crosses, knowing who and what come here in makes us safer. It allows us to lead on the issue of immigration reform.

Q – Representative, quick follow-up for you. You’ve addressed the Dreamers. Do you think anyone undocumented living here should have a path to citizenship?

O’ROURKE: There are millions of people in this country who are working the toughest job. When we were in Roscoe at a cotton gin with 24 jobs, every single one of them worked by someone who came to this country. Not a person born in Roscoe or nearby Sweetwater willing to do that work. That’s the story of Texas and of this country. We need to bring people out of the shadows, allow them to get right by law. There should be an earned path to citizenship. The alternative, as Sen. Cruz has proposed, is to deport 11 million people from this country. Imagine the cost. Imagine the stain on our conscience going forward for the generations who look back at his moment.

As always, Cruz cited his father’s experience in explaining his hard-line on illegal immigration.

Here from his 2015 book, A Time for Truth.

My dad, a Cuban immigrant who sometimes seems larger than life, has always been my hero. He has always felt a visceral urgency about politics. Having the right people in office was vitally important to my dad, as if it were a matter of life and death. Because for him, in a very literal sense, it was.

There isn’t a day that goes by that my thoughts don’t turn to boy with jet-black hair, a curious mind, and an instinct for rebellion who was just emerging into manhood. He was born to a middle-class family in Cuba and had earned straight A’s in school. His future was filled with possibility and he might well have progressed under the regime of Fulgencio Batista.

But he and his friends soon realized the cruelty of Batista’s totalitarianism. He watched in horror as military police beat the government’s opponents. Along with other young students, he secretly allied with an underground movement to replace a cruel and oppressive. The movement was led by Fidel Castro, whose own capacity for tyranny and terror was not yet known – at the time he seemed to hold the promise of freedom. That dark-haired boy be came a guerrilla, throwing Molotov cocktails at the buildings of Batista’s regime, whatever the resistance needed.

He describes how his father recruited and formed a unit in the pro-Castro, anti-Batista underground.

Their unit concentrated on propaganda, acquisition and movement of weapons, and acts of sabotage.

His father was captured, but released

(He) returned to Matanzas and resumed control of his rebel unit. He formed a second one, focused on sabotage throughout the province, especially trying to disrupt communications and transportation. 

His father was captured again and this time he was tortured, but again released, with a warning that “if another bomb explodes in this city, we’re coming to get you.”

When he came home, my grandfather was adamant. “They know who you are now,” he told his son, with fear in his eyes. “It’s only a matter of time before they kill you. You’ve got to get out.

Cruz writes his father was visited by a woman from the Castro underground.

My dad asked if he could join Castro in the mountains and keep fighting, but he was told there was no way to  get to the rebels.

And so my dad decided to flee Cuba. He had been a good student in high school, graduating first in his class. So in 1957, he applied for admission to three American universities: the University of Miami, Louisiana State University, and the University of Texas, the first to let him in, which set our family’s roots in the vast and opportunity-rich Lone Star State. With the letter of acceptance from Texas in hand, he went to the U.S. embassy and received a student visa. All he needed now was an exit permit from the Cuban government. That was not easy to get, especially for a young man who had been arrested as a rebel. Fortunately, the Batista regime was nothing if not corrupt. A lawyer friend of the family quietly bribed a Cuban government official, who stamped my father’s passport to let him out

xxxxx

He was headed to America.

It is difficult for many of us to fully comprehend what a beacon of hope this country offers the rest of the world. There is no other place on earth that would have welcome so freely to its shores a man like Rafael Cruz. He was eighteen, penniless, and spoke no English. He own three things: the suit on this back, a slide rule in his pocket, and a hundred dollars that my grandmother had sewn in his underwear.

America, quite simply, saved my father. America gave him a chance.

It’s a powerful story, especially if it’s your father’s story.

From this story, Cruz has drawn the conclusion that today’s Dreamers should be deported.

And yet, imagine putting this hypothetical question on a survey of Texas voters?

A penniless 18-year-old from Latin America with a history of violent anti-government terrorism, who has bribed a government official from his home country to gain an exit permit, is seeking a student visa to study at the University of Texas even though he doesn’t speak a word of English. Should he be admitted to the United States?

How many respondents would say “yes,” and would any of them be voting for Ted Cruz?

 

 

 

 

 

x

Yes he did! Retired game warden Pete Flores poaches Democratic Senate seat!

 

Good day Austin:

Well, at least they didn’t chant, Sí, se puede.

That would have been overkill, gloating, rubbing it in.

But exultant Republicans did spontaneously chant the English version of the United Farmworkers-cum-Barack Obama motto – Yes we can! – at Pete Flores’ victory party last night, because, yes they did, yes he did, with the retired game warden convincingly defeating Pete Gallego, a former state representative and member of Congress, in what for Democrats was a must-win, can’t-lose district, a devastating defeat that serves as a pin prick to what overnight looked like overblown Democratic expectations in Texas for 2018.

This from last night’s Flores’ victory, in every detail, could be the most excruciating seven minutes of video a Texas Democrat could ever have to endure watching.

Dan Patrick: Pete Flores made history. For the first time in history there are 21 Republican senators. For the first time in history we have an Hispanic Republican senator.

Seven weeks from tonight I have a message for the Democrats that Pete Flores and his hard work delivered here. All this talk about a blue wave, well the tide is out.

Patrick: And here’s the message to the Democrats: If you think – and this is a 66 percent Hispanic district – if you think Hispanic Republicans across the state are going to vote for abortion, open borders, to take your guns away, to raise your taxes, well, the message was sent tonight and the answer is “no.”

Patrick introduced Flores and then, at about the 2:15 mark, as Patrick was high-fiving Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey – he’s the one under the Trump (and some, I assume are good people)  sign – the crowd spontaneously began chanting, Yes we can!

From Chuck Lindell’s story:

Casting serious doubt on Democratic hopes for a blue wave in Texas, Republican Pete Flores defeated Democrat Pete Gallego in Tuesday’s runoff election for a vacant seat in the state Senate — a seat that had been safely Democratic in previous years.

Flores will represent Senate District 19 when the Legislature convenes in January, filling the final two years of the term vacated when former Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, resigned in June, shortly before he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in defrauding investors in a Texas oil services company.

With Tuesday’s victory, Republicans will hold 21 of the Texas Senate’s 31 seats, giving Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick an even stronger base of support in the 2019 legislative session.

¡Ay, caramba!

Reading those three paragraphs and you realize this was as important, as consequential an election as is likely to occur in Texas in 2018.

The stakes could not have been higher.

Yup. There it is. Right above ROGER STONE: “I will never roll….

But Democrats, don’t worry. Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa has it covered, issuing the following statement:

Come November, no Democrat can sit on the sidelines and no campaign can take any vote for granted. We need to make sure that every voter understands what’s at stake.

Governor Abbott stole an election, plain and simple. Republicans set a date that would guarantee low voter turnout, then Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Republican special interests poured money into the race, denying the people of West Texas and the U.S. Mexico border representation that shares their values.

This was a hard-fought race, but make no mistake, Texas Democrats will not stop fighting to give every Texan the fair shot they deserve.

Shame on Texas Republicans – using their money and power to win an election.

LBJ is rolling over in his grave.

And it was ultra-sneaky running a candidate who bore such a superficial resemblance to Gallego.

And the same first name.

And, who without any doubt, actually lived in the district.

Christian Archer struck a more somber, realistic note:

From Dylan McGuinness’s story in the Express-News.

Christian Archer, Gallego’s campaign strategist, said he was shocked by the results, adding that they weren’t able to generate as much excitement as the Republicans.

“I don’t have any regrets, but I have a lot of disappointment,” Archer said.

Flores’ win marked an incredible upset in a district that political observers said shouldn’t have been competitive for Republicans. Low turnout in special elections and high-level GOP interests in preserving a Senate supermajority helped push Flores across the line, they said.

“It will provide a completely unexpected gift for Republicans for the next legislative session,” said Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University.

Jones said Flores’ victory all but assured a Republican supermajority next year, which would allow Senate Republicans to bring bills to the floor without any Democratic support

Maybe Gallego lacked a spark.

From yesterday in the thick of Election Day get-out-the-vote efforts, Gallego was the calm in the storm. Or the drizzle.

Before Gallego decided not to run again for his old seat in Congress, now held by U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, whose own already decent re-election prospects against Gina Ortiz Jones, look brighter this morning, I quoted Rick Treviño, who ended up in a runoff for the Democratic nomination against Jones, as saying, of Gallego:  “Sequels are bad, trilogies are worse, and this guy is no Rocky IV.”

 

From Asher Price’s story on the Quinnipiac poll:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has a 9 percentage point lead over challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, according to a poll of likely voters released Tuesday.

The Quinnipiac University poll has Cruz holding a 54 percent to 45 percent lead over O’Rourke. Ninety-three percent of those polled who picked a candidate said their minds were made up on the matter.

As in previous polls, white and male voters tend to favor Cruz; voters of color and women tend to favor O’Rourke.

“The Texas U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and Democratic hopes for an upset win there, have boosted talk of a Senate takeover. These numbers may calm that talk,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said in an analysis accompanying poll results. “Congressman O’Rourke may be drawing big crowds and media attention, but Texas likely voters like Sen. Cruz better.”

From Quinnipiac:

Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz has a 54 – 45 percent likely voter lead over U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, his Democratic challenger, in the Texas Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today.

This is the first survey of likely voters in this race by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll, and can not be compared to earlier surveys of registered voters. Among Texas likely voters who choose a candidate, 93 percent say their mind is made up. That includes 94 percent of Cruz backers and 92 percent of O’Rourke backers.

Women are divided as 50 percent back Cruz and 48 percent back O’Rourke. Men back Cruz 57 – 42 percent. White voters back Cruz 66 – 32 percent. O’Rourke leads 97 – 3 percent among black voters and 54 – 45 percent among Hispanic voters.

Republicans back Cruz 94 – 6 percent, as Democrats go to O’Rourke 94 – 4 percent. Independent voters are divided with 51 percent for O’Rourke and 47 percent for Cruz.

Texas likely voters approve 53 – 44 percent of the job Cruz is doing and give him a 52 – 43 percent favorability rating.

O’Rourke gets a divided 43 – 42 percent favorability rating.

This is not good news for O’Rourke. Cruz has a higher favorability rating. And O”Rourke is not doing nearly as well as he needs do with Hispanics, and Lupe Valdez, the Democratic candidate for governor, may be of marginal help to him on that score.

From Quinnipiac:

There is a wide racial gap in the Texas governor’s race, as Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott leads former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez 58 – 39 percent among likely voters.

Gov. Abbott leads 69 – 28 percent among white voters as Valdez leads 83 – 16 percent among black voters. Hispanic voters are divided with 49 percent for Abbott and 45 percent for Valdez.

But, that’s just one poll.

From Reuters:

Among the bright spots for Democrats: U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas had a 2-percentage-point lead over Cruz among likely voters in the state and U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had a 3-point lead over Republican congresswoman Martha McSally in the race to succeed U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, one of Trump’s most vocal critics from within his own party.

Both leads are within the poll’s 4-percentage-point credibility intervals, a measure of precision, meaning the candidates are drawing about the same level of support.

The finding suggests that O’Rourke has a shot at becoming the first Democrat to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate in a quarter century.

“There’s a possibility it could happen. I’m not saying probable. But it’s possible,” said Larry Sabato, director of the UVA Center for Politics.

Cruz’s feuds with Trump during his unsuccessful 2016 campaign also hurt his standing with some Texas Republicans, Sabato added, saying: “That damaged him with parts of the Texas electorate that he needs for re-election.”

The Reuters/Ipsos/UVA poll was conducted online, in English, from Sept. 5 to 17. It surveyed between 992 and 1,039 people in each of five states including California and weighted the responses according to the latest government population estimates.

So, take your pick.

Beto O’Rourke is no Pete Gallego. Or rather, Pete Gallego is no Beto O’Rourke.

But no Democrat can be cheered by yesterday’s outcome.

As Henson and Blank recently laid out, even if everything breaks O’Rourke’s way, he’s still very unlikely to win, and yesterday’s outcome in Senate District 19, while not a real test of general election mobilization, does nothing to suggest that Texas Democrats are going to be able to expand the electorate – especially with Hispanic voters even in the thick of the Trump presidency – in the dramatic way on which their success in the  2018 midterm election depends – or that Texas Republicans are less motivated or will be caught napping.

THE ODDS AGAINST O’ROURKE: SOME BACK-OF-THE-ENVELOPE VOTE COUNTING IN THE TEXAS SENATE RACE

A series of recent articles focused on Republican concerns over Senator Ted Cruz’s reelection chances has Democrats beaming, and national reporters falling all over themselves to get in front of the possible defeat of Cruz in deep red Texas. The attraction of the storyline for editors and reporters is obvious enough, and poll numbers showing low single-digit leads for Cruz provide a ready rationale for ever more breathless speculation on Beto O’Rourke’s chances of pulling off an upset. But a look at recent election outcomes and some simple back-of-the-envelope math highlight just how unlikely an O’Rourke victory is in Texas.

While “unlikely” doesn’t mean impossible – this is where we usually insert something about a “non-zero probability” – the magnitude of the change in the patterns evident in recent Texas elections would have to be historic. If we consider recent midterm elections since 2010, the average Republican vote total has been 2,798,519 votes, which we can round to 2.8 million for simplicity. The average Democratic vote total in those races has been 1,846,459, which we can round up to 1.9 million (again, for simplicity). This means that Democrats, on average, have to make up approximately 900,000 votes to get in the range of a tie in Texas. What would this take? (The table below also includes presidential results from 2016, just to provide context, though those results are not factored into these averages).

Recent Top of the Ticket Election Outcomes in Texas
Year Race Republican Vote Total Democratic Vote Total Republican Vote Total Advantage Republican Vote Share Advantage
2016 President 4,685,047 3,877,868 807,179 +9
2014 Senator 2,861,531 1,597,387 1,264,144 +27
2014 Governor 2,796,547 1,835,596 960,951 +20
2012 President 4,569,843 3,308,124 1,261,719 +16
2012 Senator 4,440,137 3,194,927 1,245,210 +16
2010 Governor 2,737,481 2,106,395 631,086 +13

This assessment is based on some quick math, rather than finely grained projections, geographic or otherwise, and there are plenty of other ways one might go about this exercise. But simply thinking about vote totals based on previous elections provides a succinct look at what one is talking about when one considers Beto O’Rourke defeating Ted Cruz.

A good starting point is one of the underlying assumption of many assessments of O’Rourke’s chances: the potential migration of votes from the expected GOP vote either to O’Rourke or to the Texas army of the non-voting. The most recently released poll, as of this writing, showed 15 percent of likely Republican voters saying that they’ll cast a vote for O’Rourke. According to a few different analytic approaches using University of Texas / Texas Tribune polling data of registered voters, as well as Texas Lyceum data of registered and likely voters, the size of the poll of potential Republican cross-over voters is probably closer to 6 percent. This estimate is drawn from current polling, which almost certainly reflects a different underlying population than the likely electorate once general election voting begins, so the size and magnitude of the shift in this data may or may not emerge in actual voting. But assuming just for the sake of this exercise that O’Rourke has or will convince 15 percent of Republican voters to cast a vote for him (which would be quite impressive), we can subtract those votes from the average Republican vote total and add them to the average Democratic vote total, resulting in 420,000 votes shifting to the O’Rourke column. This would cut his likely deficit to 480,000 votes.* While this 15 percent estimate seems high given the context (and divergence of) the polling data, it tests the outer limits for one of the clear concerns of Republicans in Texas and elsewhere: the possibility of either a lack of enthusiasm or outright discontent leading to an increase in Republican non-voting among usually reliable midterm voters.

In addition to discontent with Cruz amongst Republicans, O’Rourke would also have to turn out Democrats at significantly higher rates than normal. So let’s assume, again for the sake of argument, that Democratic turnout increases by 20 percent, which would add another 380,000 votes to O’Rourke’s total. Even under this optimistic scenario, combined with the outer-bound estimate of Republican defections, this surge in turnout would only result in a decrease in the overall expected gap between O’Rourke and Cruz to 100,000 votes – a little more than 3.5 percent under our rough turnout assumption – still in Cruz’s favor.

This simple, back-of-the-envelope calculation using incredibly optimistic expectations (if you’re a Democrat) about the electorate shows why, when experts are asked about O’Rourke’s chances at toppling Cruz, they are so cautious in feeding the hype. Even under extremely rosy circumstances, O’Rourke needs BOTH a momentous shift in voter sentiment, AND a momentous shift in Democratic turnout: possible, but still not probable.

In claiming Beto would ban BBQ, Ted Cruz battles a straw man made of tofu

[cmg_anvato video=4483810 autoplay=”true”]

Good Monday Austin:

I went to see Ted Cruz at town hall meetings this weekend. Good crowds and Cruz was in fine form.

The first event was at Baker Boys BBQ in Gonzales. The second was at Schobel’s Restaurant in Columbus.

When I arrived at the Columbus event there were four folks from PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — out in front holding signs. I suppose you could call them protesters or demonstrators, but their demeanor was extraordinarily pleasant and their signs weren’t anti-anything. They were simply pro-tofu.

I knew what was up.

Cruz had recently suggested that out-of-state liberals were pouring money into Beto O’Rourke’s Senate campaign because they want to impose California values — including tofu consumption — on Texas.

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I approached and introduced myself. Dani Alexander, a 31-year-old PETA volunteer from Houston, who was the spokeswoman for the group, said she had a prepared statement, which she read to me.

 

We are here passing out free barbecue tofu samples after Sen. Cruz’s snipe about soy earlier this week. He said some things about tofu being liberal, but tofu’s actually bipartisan. PETA is confident that once Sen. Cruz gets a taste of how delicious tofu can be he will want to see tofu in every Texas pot.

Tofu’s the most versatile food on the planet and it’s grown right here in the Lone Star State. According to the USDA, soy production in the Lone Star State was valued at $61 million last year and as more and more people realize that eating meat is completely unnecessary and with the ever-growing list of vegan-friendly restaurants and businesses, it is no surprise the vegan eating in the U.S. has skyrocketed by 600 percent in the last three years alone.

Sen. Cruz can joke all he wants but life for animals on factory farms is no laughing matter. Cows, pigs, chickens, fish and other animals used for food feel pain just like our dogs and cats yet nearly all of the millions of them killed for food every year in the U.S. are raised on crowded, filthy factory farms where they are subjected to extreme crowding, a terrifying trip to the slaughterhouse and a violent, painful death.

Tofu can be baked, fried, scrambled, marinated or sautéed. And it’s packed with high-quality protein without the artery-clogging cholesterol and saturated fat of meat, eggs and dairy. Americans are horrified to learn that pigs, cows, chickens and other animals are crammed into filthy sheds and tiny cages, routinely mutilated with no painkillers and having their throats slit while fully conscious

We can all help put an end to this cruelty simply by choosing tofu and other healthy, delicious vegan foods. He can visit PETA.org to order a free vegan starter kit and see how easy it is to leave animals off of your plate.

They then cheerfully offered me a little specimen cup of barbecued tofu, which I politely declined, because I don’t really like tofu.

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My daughter is a vegan. I admire vegans and vegetarians. I am an omnivore who recognizes — thanks in part to a report my daughter did in high school on factory farming — that if one wants to continue to eat and enjoy meat, it is best not to interrogate too deeply how a lot of that meat got to your table.

But I also guess I believe that eating other animals is the way of the world and is such a source of pleasure that I’m OK with that being an important part of my diet. And while I generally eschew tofu (it’s edible surrounded by better stuff), I refrain from scorning or mocking those for whom it is integral to a vegetarian or vegan diet.  And I’m assuming Cruz shows the same respect at home, where his wife, who grew up Seventh Day Adventist, maintains the vegetarian diet preferred by church members, even though she now worships with her husband as a Baptist.

As Ellen White, co-founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, put it: “The intellectual, the moral, and the physical powers are depreciated by the habitual use of flesh meats. Meat eating deranges the system, beclouds the intellect, and blunts the moral sensibilities. We say to you, dear brother and sister, your safest course is to let meat alone.”

This is what Cruz had said about tofu precisely a week earlier on Sept. 8 in Katy.

As y’all know, it’s election season. We are 59 days out from election day, and we got a fight on our hands. The extreme left — they’re angry, they’re energized, and they hate the president. And I gotta tell you, that’s dangerous. We underestimate that level of fury and rage — we underestimate that at our peril. It means two things. No. 1, we are seeing tens of millions of dollars flooding into the state of Texas from liberals all over the country who desperately want to turn the state of Texas blue [boos]. They want us to be just like California [boos]. Right down to tofu and silicon and dyed hair. And by the way, I married me a California vegetarian. She’s wonderful, but I brought her to the great state of Texas. [applause].

But the second thing it means is, come election day, come November, we are going to see record-setting Democratic turnout here. Now, here’s the good news. This is Texas, and in Texas there are a whole lot more conservatives than there are liberals [applause]. So politically, our tasks the next 59 days is simple. This election comes down to one word: turnout, turnout, turnout, turnout. Our biggest danger is complacency. Look, I don’t think there’s a great risk that a bunch of Texas conservatives are suddenly going to wake up and vote Democrat, but the danger is too many of us might stay home, that we might feel the economy’s booming, work is going well, we’re focused on our job and our family and our church and going to the ballgame, and you just don’t make it to the polls to vote. That’s how we lose the state of Texas. And I’m here today to tell you, that will not happen, not on our watch. 

In Gonzales and Columbus, Cruz struck the same theme, opening his remarks at each stop with, “God bless Texas.”

In Columbus, he continued:

We welcome everyone. Thank you for coming out. God bless. We’re thrilled to see you.

I got to say, when I got here someone told me that even PETA was protesting and giving out barbecued tofu, so I got to say, they summed up the entire election: If Texas elects a Democrat, they’re going to ban barbecue across the state of Texas.

You want to talk about an issue to mobilize the people, and I’m talking everybody.

So I want to thank PETA and I do want to tell PETA you’re going to have to disclose to the FEC that by coming and protesting and giving away tofu, that you have given an in-kind contribution to my campaign by demonstrating just how bad things can get. (Right, right)

Cruz has a good sense of humor. So I heard this as Cruz having, as he would put it, “some fun” with the PETA protesters, and that he did not necessarily mean to literally suggest that, if Texas elects a Democrat, they’re gong to ban barbecue across the state of Texas.

But then again, the crux of Cruz’s campaign is to present Beto O’Rourke as outside Texas’ political and cultural norms, and I think he knows how to deploy humor in a way that seeks to seriously link Beto with tofu in the listener’s mind, while providing him with his just having some fun deniability.

I did a First Reading back in March about how I thought this was the case with the jingle the Cruz campaign came up with mocking O’Rourke’s use of the nickname Beto.

Cruz was asked about the ad at the time on CNN by Chris Cuomo.

Cuomo: Your name is Rafael. You go by Ted. Your middle name is Edward. That’s an Anglicized version of it. He went the other way and has a more ethnic version of his name. Why go after it? You’re both doing the same thing.

Cruz: Well, you’re absolutely right, my name is Rafael Edward Cruz. I am the son of Rafael Cruz, an immigrant from Cuba who came to Texas with nothing, had a hundred dollars in his underwear, couldn’t speak English, washed dishes making 50 cents an hour, and my dad’s journey of coming to Texas seeking freedom, that’s the American story, that’s who we are.

You know in terms of the jingle, some of it is just to have a sense of humor.

We had some fun with it.

But, as I wrote:

Maybe, but I think that little ditty contains within it everything you will need to know about the Cruz campaign against O’Rourke. This is not based on anything anyone has told me. It is simply my intuition.

Ted Cruz means to do nothing less than crush Beto O’Rourke’s candidacy and do so by destroying his good name, or at least, his first name, by turning BETO into a four-letter word, an epithet to be spit out in anger or, better yet, derision, the telling diminutive of a liberal beguiler, imposter and poseur, who is either an opportunist trying to fool Hispanic voters into thinking he is, at least in part, one of them, or, some kind of deluded, self-hating Anglo (albeit Irish-American Anglo), whose sentimental, fuzzy-headed, liberal notions of bi-nationalism and multiculturalism have robbed him of the most basic understanding that what makes Texas Texas is a strong border and unfettered access to guns.

The jingle, and Cruz’s follow-up comments, send the message to his voters that Cruz — the Hispanic son of an immigrant — is, by taking the name “Ted,” assimilating the way it’s supposed to be done, while O’Rourke, by calling himself Beto, is going weirdly the other way, undermining what made America great.

Talk to supporters at Cruz rallies, or read some of their tweets, and that line of attack on Beto as using the name Beto as some cynical act of opportunistic cultural appropriation has taken hold, even if he’s gone by the name since he was small.

So, just because Cruz is smiling, doesn’t mean he’s kidding, or that his audience is not receiving a message associating O’Rourke with an unTexan, pro-tofu, weirdo vegan, animus toward BBQ. This, even though O’Rourke, as a well-known Whataburger consumer (who Cruz spokeswoman Emily Miller famously referred to as a “triple meat Whataburger who is out of touch with Texas values”) is hardly a poster boy for PETA, whose volunteers were not representing the O’Rourke campaign outside the Columbus eatery, and who were also not saying anything about banning meat.

A straw man, times two.

Nonetheless, yesterday, Cruz again tweeted his joke/not-a-joke.

As did Miller.

Not everyone was laughing.

And Bunni Pounds, Cruz’s pick to succeed Jeb Hensarling in Congress (she lost the GOP nomination to Lance Gooden), seemed to be taking seriously Cruz’s suggestion that PETA’s pro-tofu protest was part of a plot to ban meat.

So, is Cruz’s creating a straw man out of tofu, intended to be taken with a grain of salt?

And if so, should the same grain of salt be applied to Cruz’s assertion that O’Rourke wants to take away their guns, which his audiences do not seem to take as some jokey hyperbole.

In this case, a protestor at a Cruz event — Beto guy — is taken as a credible proxy for Beto himself, and, the straw man established, Cruz proceeds to take him down.

Crowd explodes.

Cruz in Columbus:

On guns. on the Second Amendment — or as Beto calls it, the what? — Beto brags about, he has tweeted out how proud he is that has an F rating from the NRA, not a D-minus, not a D, but an F, and I promptly retweeted it. Look, elections are about choices. If you want a big government, gun-grabbing liberal, well the Democrats are giving you one.

But, just because O’Rourke got an F  from the NRA, doesn’t mean he wants to grab everyone’s guns.

From Jeremy Wallace of the Houston Chronicle back in April:

During a pair of campaign stops in Houston on Thursday, Democrat Beto O’Rourke jumped right into the middle of the gun regulation debate, saying he fully backs a call for universal background checks and a proposal to ban the sale of assault-style weapons.

“There is no reason that weapons of war should be sold to people in this country,” O’Rourke told a rousing round of applause from supporters at a town hall meeting at the University of Houston on Thursday.

Hours earlier, he had a similar message at another town hall in the heart of Houston’s East End. O’Rourke told that crowd that he is a co-sponsor on a bill that would ban the sale of weapons like the AR-15, which 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz used int the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in February. An AR-15 was also used in 2012 in the mass killings of 27 — mostly children — at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

O’Rourke said those weapons are for one purpose — killing other humans as efficiently as possible.

But O’Rourke, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for re-election, was also careful to stress he is not for taking guns away from anyone and believes the Second Amendment of the Constitution needs to be defended. He told both audiences that his uncle, who was a sheriff’s deputy, taught him how to shoot, and his father instilled lessons about proper gun ownership.

Cruz was also asked in Columbus how he plans to “out-Hispanic” O’Rourke.

Here was the question:

I live in San Antonio, I have a family ranch here and I’m concerned about the all the Beto signs I’ve seen in yards. What are you trying to do to try to out-Hispanic him?

Here was Cruz’s reply:

Number one, he asked about all the Beto signs. There are signs everywhere.

You’re right and the reason is they are raising tens of millions of dollars from all over the country so they have invested about $4 million in signs. You want to know why there are signs everywhere?  $4 million buys a heck of a lot of signs. And why don’t we have signs everywhere? We don’t have $4 million to put into signs.

So that differential is driving it and also it’s being driven by the rage and anger on the far left.

Now you have asked what am I doing to out-Hispanic him.

So I have to tell you, the national press is kind of funny. I was doing an interview a couple of weeks ago with CNN, and CNN asked me, this is their question, “Well, don’t you think it would be good for diversity for Beto to win?” I just kind of looked at him and said, “Because we don’t have enough Irishmen in the Senate?” 

This is the world we live in. I told the reporter, “Look I’m the son of a Cuban immigrant, the first Hispanic senator ever to represent the state of Texas, but you’d rather some left-wing socialist for open borders. That’s not Texas.

On returning from Columbus Saturday night, I did some Googling to try to find that CNN interview in which he was asked that lame-brained question. Did the interviewer not know that Cruz is Hispanic and O’Rourke is not. (Must have missed the Cruz campaign’s Beto jingle.) I couldn’t find anything.

I emailed Emily Miller asking for a cite or link. She replied that the interview had never aired.

Meanwhile, as noted, Cruz had warned that out-of-state liberals were trying to make Texas into California by electing O’Rourke, right down to tofu and silicon and dyed hair.

Of this litany, tofu makes the most sense.

If he meant silicon, as in chips, which is how he pronounced it, it makes no sense that Texans would be anti-high technology. And if he meant silicone, as in breasts, well …

And dyed hair also seems an odd place to draw a politically useful line for Cruz.

Last Monday, Abby Hamblin wondered about Cruz’s California litany in the Los Angeles TimesSen. Ted Cruz used ‘tofu, silicon and dyed hair’ to describe California. Wait, what?

Now we well know how Texas and California have been pitted against each other for a number of reasons over the years. The 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers is a prime example, and we’re also well aware that plenty of Californians have moved to Texas in the past decade.

But this description of Californians is raising a lot of questions, especially on the dyed hair and tofu points. After all, Texas is the home of a $61 million soybean crop in 2017. Tofu is, ahem, a soybean product.

Maybe he should have gone with avocados? But who can say a bad thing about avocados?

Who? Ted Cruz. That’s who.

Per a 2013 Q-and-A with the Des Moines Register:

Perhaps the most surprising detail of the interview was the fact that Cruz, whose father emigrated from Cuba, hates avocado — a staple food in the Southwest.

“I despise avocado. It’s the only food I dislike, and I dislike it passionately,” he said. “Which is ironic, because I’m Cuban, and my dad grew up with avocado trees in his backyard. My whole family eats avocados like crazy, but I can’t stand them.”

From Liz Goulding in the Dallas Observer in October 2013: Ted Cruz Admits He Hates Avocados, Is No Longer Fit to Serve Texas

Texans deserves a senator that represents our interests, and Cruz is clearly unfit for such a task because he doesn’t even understand the people he is serving. How can you understand Texas if you don’t enjoy chips and guacamole on a sunny patio every once and awhile, or if you’ve never discovered that perfect mix of avocado, lime juice, and salt at home? There was a time in my life when I didn’t like guacamole, but I was 10 and then I got over it. Now I couldn’t imagine my life without it. It would be like being colorblind but with my mouth. The things we eat literally become part of the cells in our bodies, and Cruz’s cells aren’t made of any guacamole. Which means I can’t trust him. He might as well have been born in Kenya.

Marfa, August 2018

 

The risks of cool: Is Beto skating on thin ice with his old DWI?

Good Friday Austin.

Forty-four years ago, at the age of 20, I drove drunk and got in a minor accident.

I have no memory of what happened.  All I know is I could have killed someone. I could have killed myself.

I was two years into college at Tufts University. I had moved into a house off-campus for the first time with a friend, and we were throwing a party and, well, hardly anyone showed up (I’m not even sure  my housemate came).

In despair and humiliation, I consumed most of what was probably a 750 ml bottle of Jack Daniels, my drink of choice, having outgrown the sicklening sweetness of Southern Comfort. That summer I had made a pilgrimage in my parent’s hand-me-down Dodge Dart to the Jack Daniels distillery on my drive from Somerville, Massachusetts, to visit a college friend in Seguin. (It would also be my first visit to Austin.)

The next morning after my “party” – actually the next afternoon –  I woke up in my bed and realized I couldn’t account for the night before.

I didn’t know where my car was. I walked in circles around the neighborhood and the nearby campus looking for it, sheepishly asking friends if they had seen me the night before. (I didn’t bother to ask why they had not shown up for my party, which would have saved me from the awful dilemma I found myself in.)

Eventually, I got a call from the Somerville police. I had apparently grazed a car with my car and parked it, or nicked the other car while trying to park the Dart. There was not much damage to either car, and there had been no one in the other car, but that was sheerest good fortune.

I went to the police station. I told them what I knew, which was not much, and the officer, who was used to dealing with students from Tufts and other fancy schools in an area teeming with them, told me I had a privileged and lucky place in the world, and not to blow it.

That was it.

I felt embarrassed, ashamed, chastened and enormously privileged and lucky.

I told my family and a few friends about what happened, but have seldom mentioned it since.

To this day, a mere sniff of Jack Daniels makes me retch, though I learned in the last few years that that reaction only applies to Jack Daniels and its inferiors, and not to the many finer whiskeys now so available, which are better savored than swilled.

I am telling you about this experience because it kept coming to mind of late as I thought about how to assess Beto O’Rourke’s DWI twenty years ago, in the early morning hours of Sept. 27, 1998, following on the night of his 26th birthday.

I am back this week after two weeks back East for the wedding of my son last Saturday, and my nephew, the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend.

Just before I headed East, Gardner Selby had done a PolitiFact Texas looking at whether O’Rourke had been arrested for drunk driving back in 1998, as Silvester Reyes, the congressman he unseated in 2012, had charged in a campaign ad that year.

That DWI was not in dispute.

As Selby noted, “Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke of Texas has said that in younger days he was twice arrested in his hometown of El Paso–once, he says, for leaping a campus fence and the other time for driving while intoxicated.”

“The oldest published account of the arrests appears to be an April 2005 El Paso Times news story about O’Rourke’s successful run for a seat on the El Paso City Council. The story, which we found by searching the Nexis news database, quoted the incumbent, Anthony Cobos, stressing O’Rourke’s DWI arrest. Cobos, who later served as county judge before being convicted on embezzlement charges, said at the time: “I think you lead by example and his example speaks for itself.”

According to the story, O’Rourke was arrested on a DWI charge in September 1998 that was dismissed in 1999 after he completed a court-recommended DWI program. “I’ve been open about that since the very beginning. I have owned up to it and I have taken responsibility for it,” O’Rourke told the paper.

But, on the Friday before Labor Day I saw on my phone a tweet about a story revealing new information on the 20-year-old DWI.

The story had originated with Kevin Diaz, a Washington correspondent with the Houston Chronicle.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has long owned up to his drunken driving arrest 20 years ago, describing it in a Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News op-ed piece earlier this week as a “serious mistake for which there is no excuse.”

Although the arrest has been public knowledge, police reports of the September 1998 incident – when the Democratic Senate candidate had just turned 26 – show that it was a more serious threat to public safety than has previously been reported.

State and local police reports obtained by the Chronicle and Express-News show that O’Rourke was driving drunk at what a witness called “a high rate of speed” in a 75 mph zone on Interstate 10 about a mile from the New Mexico border. He lost control and hit a truck, sending his car careening across the center median into oncoming lanes. The witness, who stopped at the scene, later told police that O’Rourke had tried to drive away from the scene.

O’Rourke recorded a 0.136 and 0.134 on police breathalyzers, above a blood-alcohol level of 0.10, the state legal limit at the time. He was arrested at the scene and charged with DWI, but completed a court-approved diversion program and had the charges dismissed.

In a statement Thursday, O’Rourke did not address the witness account of his alleged attempt to flee.

“I drove drunk and was arrested for a DWI in 1998,” O’Rourke said. “As I’ve publicly discussed over the last 20 years, I made a serious mistake for which there is no excuse.”

That and a separate arrest for jumping a fence at a University of Texas-El Paso facility have long been a matter of record in O’Rourke’s public life, both on the El Paso City Council and in Congress. But the unexplained details of the crash and DWI in Anthony, a suburb about 20 miles north of El Paso that borders New Mexico, could now emerge as a potential attack point in his quest to unseat Texas Republican Ted Cruz.

The report (and the reporter referred to in the report, is I believe, simply a reference to a witness, not to a member of my besieged and dwindling craft) paints a far more disturbing picture of the scene than my default assumption that O’Rourke had simply been pulled over for weaving, or the like,  and found to be drunk.

His story doesn’t really add up, except perhaps as the best a drunk suspect could come up with on the fly.

But again, who am I to talk?

O’Rourke told the El Paso Times in 2012 that “he was driving an intoxicated friend home in the fall of 1998 when he was arrested for DWI.”

There is no mention of the other person in the police report.

O’Rourke was never charged with attempting to leave the scene – and it’s not clear from the report how exactly the witness kept him from fleeing. O’Rourke completed a diversion program and the charge was dismissed.

Case closed.

But, when I read the Chronicle story, I assumed it would explode.

O’Rourke had been on a most remarkable run that had made what should be an unwinnable race at least competitive. But, to sustain his momentum, everything needed to continue to break just right, and now here was that unforeseen thing breaking very wrong.

It seemed like the kind of story that could give serious pause to that small but crucial category of Texas voters who don’t usually vote Democratic but were thinking about giving this open and engaging new guy a shot.

From New York Magazine:

It’s true that drunk-driving offenses are nothing new for Texas voters — former governor George W. Bush once pleaded to driving under the influence, an incident that came out in the press just before he won the presidency in 2000, and did not seem to hurt his standing in the eyes of Texans. But O’Rourke came closer to causing death and destruction than Bush. O’Rourke has also positioned himself as a forthright chronicler of his own imperfect past, and the fact that he left out a key part of it may hurt his reputation for candor.

I thought that it certainly meant that every time he was compared to a Kennedy – which is all the time – the underside of that likeness would now kick in.

I thought that myself and other reporters – at fault for not having had the story sooner – might look at O’Rourke at least a little differently.

And I thought that even Betomania might now be tinged with some doubt, that even his supporters might pause for a moment to take it in.

But, I was wrong, at least so far – and I say so far because I am sure the Cruz campaign and/or allied super Pacs, will eventually make great use of it – because the story didn’t blow up and, so far at least, it doesn’t appear to have slowed O’Rourke’s momentum one whit.

The week between my two weddings, O’Rourke appeared on The Ellen Show, after DeGeneres, in awe of his viral tweet on NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, tweeted …

I didn’t watch the show live, but I figured this would be a very safe space for O’Rourke to offer a fuller, more Beto-like explanation of the new facts about his long-ago DWI.

When I looked later, The Ellen Show had cut up his interview into bite-size videos, one of which had the promising title, US Senate Candidate Beto O’Rourke Gets Candid on His DUI.

 Here it is. You can watch it, and then I’ll break it down into even more bite-size morsels.

 

Yes indeedly-doodly, as Ted Cruz might saying doing his best Ned Flanders.

Ellen proceeded cautiously.

 

 

OK Beto, let ‘er rip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was, in and of itself, a good answer, and one that, as someone who benefited from the same privileges twenty years earlier, I wholly subscribe to.

To Beto I say, “Right on my white brother.”

The audience loved it, and I thought, fine, now keep going. Put a little texture, some telling detail, on what happened way back when. Lay a little candor on us. At least tell us that no one showed up at your birthday party and you were drowning your sorrows

But no. That was it.

OK. I understand this isn’t Ellen’s job, but then she shouldn’t present her tropical pink set as  place where candor, and not just canned righteousness, might flourish.

I understand this was not 60 Minutes.

This was not Oprah.

I believe, as Beto told Ellen, that she is force for goodness and kindness.

But, as an interrogator here, she is who she is when she voices Dory.

Somehow – and this is how good he is – O’Rourke had turned an opportunity to come clean about a shameful moment in his past into an opportunity to be further praised and congratulated on national television for his moral virtue.

Wow.

But wait, there’s still half the 2 minutes and 37 seconds left in the Beto O’Rourke Gets Candid on his DUI segment.

There is still time to see him sweat.

And, indeed we do, as Ellen marvels at O’Rourke’s heroic journey across Texas in the dreadful heat of summer.

But Ellen is all about solutions, not just problems.

In this case it’s a custom-designed Beto for Senate fan harness to keep O’Rourke cool on the campaign trail.

 

 

OK.

Having survived Ellen, O’Rourke took his chances this week with a tougher customer – Stephen Colbert.

Colbert gave O’Rourke a lot of time – offering a four-minute  comedy monologue setting up his seven-minute interview with O’Rourke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK.

Texans of every political stripe know there is no shame in a super-cool booking photo.

Poster by Sabo

But O’Rourke’s DWI was dispatched by Colbert as old news that O’Rourke had already apologized for.

Colbert didn’t return to the subject in his interview with O’Rourke, though he did ask a number of other pertinent questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was another charming, bravura performance by the phenom.

But, while O’Rourke is consistently earnest and modest in his presentation, there does lurk the danger of simply being too cool, which can, at some point, invite the jealousy and resentment of the less cool, not to mention the uncool.

Texas Democrats do not want their underdog hero’s campaign to unspool amid the Revenge of the Nerds.

I expect the Cruz campaign to present O’Rourke as an indulged child of out-of-touch privilege who could afford to collect a cool booking photo or two along the way and not pay a price.

O’Rourke is only a year younger than Cruz, but as Colbert noted this week, he appears much younger.

 

That can be an advantage for O’Rourke, if it embodies his fresh energy.

Or it can be a disadvantage if the Cruz campaign is able to persuade voters that O’Rourke is callow, or even hollow.

When it’s all over, the defining image of O’Rourke’s campaign may be him effortlessly gliding by  – looking 20, or 40, or nearly 47 – on a skateboard in the parking lot of a Brownsville Whataburger last month.

He is cool, but the peril of being so cool and beguiling is that he can skate by on things that maybe he shouldn’t skate by on

That may be what it takes to elect a Democrat to statewide office in Texas in 2018. But, with the new details about the old DWI, the way he’s handled it so far, and the opponent he is up against, he may skating on thin ice.

 

Remembering the Alamo … and remembering the rest of Texas history

 

Dan chandler, from Plano, attends a State Board of Education meeting at the William B. Travis Building, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Good day Austin:

Last month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, at a bill signing to make sex trafficking a felony in his state, said, “We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great.”

His audience gasped.

For a politician, it was neither a smart nor a sensible thing to say.

Cuomo is expected to win renomination this week for governor, even though his opponent, Cynthia Nixon, played Miranda Hobbes, who was the smartest and most sensible of the quartet of lead women characters on “Sex and the City,” and even though Election Day is on a Thursday, instead of a Tuesday, so as not to conflict with Rosh Hashanah or the 17th anniversary of 9/11.

But I think President Trump was right in concluding that, as for as any higher ambitions, Cuomo’s remark, which I’m sure didn’t come out quite as he intended, was a career-killer from which there can be no comeback.

Yes, American politicians can get carried away with endless, pious self-congratulation about how great America is. But who wants to live in a country led by someone who doesn’t think the country is all that, or at least, was all that.

I truly believe one can accept that America was founded on the genocide of the continent’s indigenous people and the enslavement of Africans — and still believe this is a great country, maybe even, as is de rigueur among the political class, the greatest ever.

Really.

I also believe that every nation — including the former Republic of Texas — is entitled to its own mythic stories, especially one as good, and heroic as that of the Alamo.

Everybody the world over remembers the Alamo.

So, I do not begrudge the State Board of Education’s disposition Tuesday, under enormous political pressure, to continue to refer to the “heroic defenders of the Alamo” in the state’s curriculum standards.

From Julie Chang’s story for the American-Statesman:

Heeding concerns by conservatives that the State Board of Education is trying to water down how Texas history is taught in middle school, a board-nominated committee has backtracked on a recommendation to remove references to heroes and a letter by William B. Travis in lessons about the Alamo.

More than 60 people signed up to testify before the board Tuesday to express concerns about proposed changes to the state’s social studies curriculum standards, particularly those that address the Alamo, slavery, the civil rights movement and references to Judeo-Christianity in American history.

The curriculum standards serve as the framework for history, government and economics textbooks and lessons for the state’s 5.4 million public school students.

Multiple board-nominated committees, made up mostly of educators, met this year as part of a broader effort to streamline curriculum standards across subject areas. The board is expected to take a preliminary vote Wednesday on whether to accept changes to the social studies curriculum.

Elected officials and others spoke against the recommendation to change the curriculum standard that reads, “explain the issues surrounding significant events of the Texas Revolution, including the Battle of Gonzales, William B. Travis’s letter ‘To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,’ the siege of the Alamo, and all the heroic defenders who gave their lives there.”

One of the board’s committees this spring had recommended removing the reference to the letter as well as heroic defenders.

“These are the most famous words in all of Texas history,” U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Houston, told the board after reading an excerpt from Travis’ letter on Tuesday. “I cannot fathom any possible way that one can teach Texas history without teaching William Barrett Travis’ plea to the people of Texas and all Americans and the world.”

Travis, the commander of the Texian rebels at the Alamo, sent the letter to ask for help as he was being surrounded by Mexican forces. The missive is said to have inspired many of the volunteers who ended up joining the army that Sam Houston later led to defeat Mexican forces.

Stephen Cure, the Texas State Historical Association’s director of education and a member of one of the board committees, said the panel, looking for areas to streamline, thought the language was redundant because it’s impossible to learn about the siege of the Alamo without learning about the letter or its defenders.

Under pressure, a majority of his colleagues on the committee said they would be willing to change its recommendation, Cure said Tuesday.

“The outcry from the people of Texas said that they felt it should be in there and, from the committee’s perspective, we felt that it was better to make a productive recommendation,” Cure said.

The new curriculum standard with the restored language now reads that students must learn about the siege of the Alamo, including Travis’ letter and “the heroism of the diverse defenders who gave their lives there.”

But, as Jerry Patterson, the former land commissioner and as staunch a defender of the Alamo and its heroes as one will find, noted when I talked to him Tuesday night, the controversy was really much ado about almost nothing, affording politicians an opportunity to beat their chests about a threat more imagined than real to the heroic standing of Alamo defenders in the way history is taught in Texas.

Of stripping the Alamo defenders of their “heroic” status, Patterson said, “The state Board of Education was never going to do that. Everybody knew that they weren’t going to do that. And furthermore it wasn’t this huge politically correct, conspiratorial dark cloud. It was just trying to make the language shorter. But nonetheless it created an extremely safe opportunity for politicians to bravely, at great risk— NOT — step out there and try to do something that people might like.”

From Lauren McGaughy’s story in the Dallas Morning News:

“I stand before you today as a member of one of your volunteer workgroups maligned by some of our state’s highest elected officials and respected media outlets,” Stephen Cure, the former director of education with the Texas State Historical Association, told the board. “Let’s set the record straight.”

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But Cure, who helped write the proposed changes, said the volunteers didn’t remove the word “heroic” because they thought the Alamo defenders didn’t deserve the moniker. It was taken out, he insisted, because the group was sure their heroism would be taught even without an explicit requirement to do so.

“You can’t teach the siege of the Alamo without teaching the [Travis] letter and the heroism. As the Declaration of Independence says, it’s ‘self evident,'” Cure said. “Our primary goal, or primary path, was to reduce the amount of content in the standards.”

Cure said the group recommended deleting the entire phrase — first added in 2010 — because it would be impossible for teachers to educate students on each and every person who defended the Alamo. He blasted reporters for not calling the volunteers who wrote the standards but said he didn’t reach out to elected officials who criticized their work

Here is the opinion that Ted Cruz, embroiled in a  re-election contest with U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, posted on Fox News Tuesday:

The Board of Education was holding a hearing in Austin on the proposal Tuesday. Fortunately, according to the San Antonio Express-News, “the board appeared poised to keep the words in the curriculum” when it is scheduled to discuss the issue Wednesday. A final decision is expected in November.

 The advisory group, called “Social Studies TEKS Streamlining Work Group,” even recommended dropping the requirement that students in Texas should be able to explain the importance of a letter from Col. William B. Travis, commander of the rebels at the Alamo. The letter was addressed to “the People of Texas and All Americans in the World” and is known as the “victory or death letter.”

This letter has been considered a vital founding document of Texas history ever since it inspired thousands of men to take up arms in revolution to free Texas from the oppressive regime of General Santa Anna.

Travis wrote in the letter:

“The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken – I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls – I shall never surrender or retreat.”

And go down fighting Travis did – alongside scores of his comrades, from brave Tejanos such as Toribio Losoya and José Gregorio Esparza, to legends of the American frontier like Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett.

The volunteers were outnumbered by at least 7 to 1 by the Mexican Army. They were surely aware of General Santa Anna’s slaughter of civilians in the rebelling state of Zacatecas the previous year, and his Mexican Army’s brutal treatment of prisoners and noncombatants.

But rather than retreat or surrender, the defenders of the Alamo defied the promise of “no quarter” from Santa Anna, and shed their blood so that Texas could be free of his oppressive regime.

Among the politically correct jargon supposedly justifying the proposed changes to the Texas social studies curriculum, one statement stood out: “Heroic is a value-charged word,” and thus it must be purged.

Indeed, “heroic” is very “value-charged.” It is not a term to be used lightly.

But the troubling implication here – in addition to scrubbing patriotism from our schoolbooks – is that our children cannot be taught history with a sense of value and valor. This is an absurd claim.

Who would teach their child about the historical reality of human slavery, and fail to call it evil? That is a true and necessary value-charged word.

Who would teach about the men landing at Normandy on D-Day to free Europe from Hitler’s tyranny, and not call them brave?

Who would tell of Mother Theresa helping the sick and poor, and not call her good?

The classroom is not supposed to be a place without values. It must be a place with the right values.

Somehow, in an age when professional athletes disrespect our flag only to get millions of dollars in advertising deals, and our public forums are increasingly devoted to tearing down our national legacy rather than building it up, it is not surprising that some bureaucrats rewriting schoolbooks should try to eliminate one more source of American pride from our schools.

But that gives Texas families a chance to be a part of history once more.

We are not called to defend the Alamo with muskets and cannon today, but to defend it in our public square, and in our schools. We can preserve the legacy of its defenders, and of all heroes throughout our history who teach us duty and faith and sacrifice.

We can value the things worth valuing.

We can remember.

By all means, remember the Alamo, and even revere the defenders as heroic.

But that does not mean that one must forget all else.

In 2003, University of Texas historian H.W. Brands wrote a piece in Texas Monthly, headlined, “The Alamo Should Never Have Happened: Generations of Texas schoolchildren have been taught that the battle at the center of the Texas revolution was our finest hour. Maybe so— but it was also a military mistake of mythic proportions.”

It closes as follows:

For decades student of Alamo history have refought the battle, debating how many people died there and where they fell. Much less attention has been paid to the larger issue of whether it should have been fought in the first place. Questioning patriotic sacrifice is bad form, especially with the powerful words of the dead commander haunting the collective conscience.

But sacrifice is not synonymous with good judgment, and in truth the defense of the Alamo was woefully misguided. Houston was correct that San Antonio had little significance for the defense of the Texas settlements. Even if Travis and the others had held the Alamo, Santa Anna might easily have left a token force to pin them there and sent the main body of his army after Houston and the rest of the rebels. Nor did the delay caused by Santa Anna’s insistence on taking the Alamo slow his advance appreciably. Santa Anna spent two weeks at Béxar, two weeks in which Houston made scant progress in organizing or training the Texas army. The rebels were no readier for battle in early March than they had been in late February, as Houston’s subsequent forced retreat east demonstrated, and they would have been far readier had their ranks included the men killed at the Alamo. Santa Anna’s losses at Béxar were considerably greater than those of the Texans, but his army was so much larger that he could afford to be wasteful.

The primary result of the Alamo’s fall was precisely what Santa Anna intended: the terrorizing of the Anglo settlements in Texas. As word raced east of the disaster at Béxar, the settlers fled toward Louisiana in what later was called, with relieved levity, the Runaway Scrape. Santa Anna had long since decided that the American colonization of Texas was a mistake, which he intended to rectify by removing the Americans. The destruction of the Alamo, and the refugee flight it precipitated, got the process well under way.

The only thing that saved the revolution (as it really became after the declaration of Texas independence on March 2, 1836) was Santa Anna’s impatience. Hoping to catch the Texas government, which had joined the flight east, he committed a cardinal sin of invading commanders: He divided his army. And then he allowed Houston, who until this point had shown every indication of retreating clear to the Redlands of East Texas, to corner him where Buffalo Bayou joins the San Jacinto River.

Houston’s victory at San Jacinto had nothing to do with the defeat at the Alamo (or the subsequent massacre at Goliad), except that it (and Goliad) furnished a rousing battle cry and an excuse for a slaughter that matched in ferocity and scale anything the Mexicans had committed. And in fact, the victory at San Jacinto, though an enormous morale booster, neither ended the war nor guaranteed Texas’ independence. The captured Santa Anna was overthrown in absentia, and the agreements he negotiated with the Texans were immediately disavowed by the Mexican government. Mexico continued to claim Texas for another decade and in 1842 succeeded twice in reoccupying San Antonio. What finally settled the Texas question was the intervention of the United States, which annexed Texas in 1845 and defeated Mexico in the war of 1846-1848.

By that time the Alamo had entered the mythology of Texas. A prime characteristic of myth is that every sacrifice serves a purpose; the larger the sacrifice, the more profound the purpose. During the Texas Revolution itself, the legitimacy of the rebellion was disparaged by opponents of slavery, who held that the chief purpose of the breakaway was to ensure the future of slavery in Texas (Mexico had outlawed the institution), and by others who judged it a landgrab by armed speculators. The sacrifice of the Alamo afforded an emphatic riposte to the criticism. Would the heroes who died there have done so for the base motives ascribed to them by their critics? Hardly. They must have fought and died to secure democracy and individual rights.

And so they did—at least some of them, and at least the rights of some people. But whether the Alamo was the proper place to do it is another question entirely. It casts no aspersion on the defenders’ courage to assert that they got the answer to this question wrong. If anything, there is a certain sublime nobility in an act that reflects bravery undiluted by good sense. And it is entirely in keeping with everything about the Texas Revolution, and with much that is characteristically Texan, that this military mistake was not the work of ignorant or fatuous commanders, as has typically been the case in history. No Raglan ordered the Alamo garrison to stand against Santa Anna; the defenders’ decision to do so was theirs alone. Texans have long prided themselves on their individuality, including their right to be wrong in their own way. For them, the Alamo is the perfect shrine.

When I talked Tuesday night to Miguel Suazo, the Democrat challenging George P. Bush’s re-election, he said. “I think it’s kind of silly not to refer to the Alamo defenders as heroes for multiple reasons.  If you’re telling Texas history and telling the Texas story, a small group of individuals fighting a major battle against long odds, I think that’s pretty heroic in and of itself, regardless of the imperfections behind some of the men if you want to delve deeper into the history.”

As Brands wrote: “What finally settled the Texas question was the intervention of the United States, which annexed Texas in 1845 and defeated Mexico in the war of 1846-1848.”

And, one need not look to a revisionist historian to get a stark appraisal of the “Texas question” that probably doesn’t and won’t find its way into most Texas classrooms. For that one need only read the extraordinary  “Personal Memoirs of  Ulysses S. Grant,” which Grant wrote as he lay dying.

 

I write this as someone who, brought up in New York, and educated in Long Island public schools, grew up believing that Robert E. Lee was a nobler and wiser figure than Ulysses S. Grant — who, I came to understand, was a drunk and later a corrupt president, or at very least a president negligent to his friends’ corruption.

(Before the Texas Senate race is over, I imagine the Cruz campaign will run ads noting that O’Rourke named one of his sons Ulysses. While O’Rourke, who studied literature at Columbia University, claims this is a nod to the ancients and that he and his wife named their son, Ulysses “because we didn’t have the balls to name him Odysseus,” I am sure it can be made to appear to be the self-loathing, political correctness of a renegade son of the South.)

And, while my sympathies were not with the Confederacy, I recall receiving in school very nearly “Birth of a Nation” instruction on the terrible failure of Reconstruction, focused almost entirely on carpetbaggers and scalawags.

As Sen. Cruz asks in this Fox opinion piece on the importance of values in the classroom, Who would teach their child about the historical reality of human slavery, and fail to call it evil? That is a true and necessary value-charged word.

Carisa Lopez, Political Director at Texas Freedom Network speaks in support of renewing a fight to have the board change the curriculum standards outside the William B. Travis Building during a State Board of Education meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Yes. Of course.

But the question is, amid being taught the heroic story of the Alamo, are Texas schoolchildren also being taught about the insidious role of slavery in the founding story of Texas, and the central role the annexation of the slave-state Texas into the Union and the Mexican-American War played in precipitating the Civil War?

From Grant’s memoir, CHAPTER III: ARMY LIFE—CAUSES OF THE MEXICAN WAR—CAMP SALUBRITY

There was no intimation given that the removal of the 3d and 4th regiments of infantry to the western border of Louisiana was occasioned in any way by the prospective annexation of Texas, but it was generally understood that such was the case. Ostensibly we were intended to prevent filibustering into Texas, but really as a menace to Mexico in case she appeared to contemplate war. Generally the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation was consummated or not; but not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory. Texas was originally a state belonging to the republic of Mexico. It extended from the Sabine River on the east to the Rio Grande on the west, and from the Gulf of Mexico on the south and east to the territory of the United States and New Mexico—another Mexican state at that time—on the north and west. An empire in territory, it had but a very sparse population, until settled by Americans who had received authority from Mexico to colonize. These colonists paid very little attention to the supreme government, and introduced slavery into the state almost from the start, though the constitution of Mexico did not, nor does it now, sanction that institution. Soon they set up an independent government of their own, and war existed, between Texas and Mexico, in name from that time until 1836, when active hostilities very nearly ceased upon the capture of Santa Anna, the Mexican President. Before long, however, the same people—who with permission of Mexico had colonized Texas, and afterwards set up slavery there, and then seceded as soon as they felt strong enough to do so—offered themselves and the State to the United States, and in 1845 their offer was accepted. The occupation, separation and annexation were, from the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American Union.

Even if the annexation itself could be justified, the manner in which the subsequent war was forced upon Mexico cannot. The fact is, annexationists wanted more territory than they could possibly lay any claim to, as part of the new acquisition. Texas, as an independent State, never had exercised jurisdiction over the territory between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Mexico had never recognized the independence of Texas, and maintained that, even if independent, the State had no claim south of the Nueces. I am aware that a treaty, made by the Texans with Santa Anna while he was under duress, ceded all the territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande—, but he was a prisoner of war when the treaty was made, and his life was in jeopardy. He knew, too, that he deserved execution at the hands of the Texans, if they should ever capture him. The Texans, if they had taken his life, would have only followed the example set by Santa Anna himself a few years before, when he executed the entire garrison of the Alamo and the villagers of Goliad.

In taking military possession of Texas after annexation, the army of occupation, under General Taylor, was directed to occupy the disputed territory. The army did not stop at the Nueces and offer to negotiate for a settlement of the boundary question, but went beyond, apparently in order to force Mexico to initiate war. It is to the credit of the American nation, however, that after conquering Mexico, and while practically holding the country in our possession, so that we could have retained the whole of it, or made any terms we chose, we paid a round sum for the additional territory taken; more than it was worth, or was likely to be, to Mexico. To us it was an empire and of incalculable value; but it might have been obtained by other means. The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.

As William S. McFeely, in, “Grant: a Biography,” wrote: “Grant proceeded in his  Memoirs to a brief essay on how wars are begun in America. His point loses no force in the twentieth century, for having been written in the nineteenth.”

From Chapter IV: Corpus Christi—Mexican Smuggling—Spanish Rule in Mexico—Supplying Transportation.

The presence of United States troops on the edge of the disputed territory furthest from the Mexican settlements, was not sufficient to provoke hostilities. We were sent to provoke a fight, but it was essential that Mexico should commence it. It was very doubtful whether Congress would declare war; but if Mexico should attack our troops, the Executive could announce, “Whereas, war exists by the acts of, etc.,” and prosecute the contest with vigor. Once initiated there were but few public men who would have the courage to oppose it. Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupies no enviable place in life or history. Better for him, individually, to advocate “war, pestilence, and famine,” than to act as obstructionist to a war already begun. The history of the defeated rebel will be honorable hereafter, compared with that of the Northern man who aided him by conspiring against his government while protected by it. The most favorable posthumous history the stay-at-home traitor can hope for is—oblivion.

 Mexico showing no willingness to come to the Nueces to drive the invaders from her soil, it became necessary for the “invaders” to approach to within a convenient distance to be struck. Accordingly, preparations were begun for moving the army to the Rio Grande, to a point near Matamoras. It was desirable to occupy a position near the largest centre of population possible to reach, without absolutely invading territory to which we set up no claim whatever.

Finally, and at length, a passage from Grant’s memoir that Ta-Nehisi Coates cited in The Atlantic on Jan. 20, 2011, under the headline, The Literary Heroism Of U.S. Grant.

Coates: “I present the following words from Grant’s memoir. This has always struck me as one of the most eloquent defenses of the Union which I’ve ever seen. I haven’t read enough Jefferson, but I have to believe that Grant is one of the greatest writers to ever occupy the White House. This is the writer enlisting the entire arsenal–literature, legal theory, history and memory all in one.”

CHAPTER XVI: THE COMING CRISIS:

Up to the Mexican war there were a few out-and-out abolitionists, men who carried their hostility to slavery into all elections, from those for a justice of the peace up to the Presidency of the United States. They were noisy but not numerous. But the great majority of people at the North, where slavery did not exist, were opposed to the institution, and looked upon its existence in any part of the country as unfortunate. They did not hold the States where slavery existed responsible for it; and believed that protection should be given to the right of property in slaves until some satisfactory way could be reached to be rid of the institution. Opposition to slavery was not a creed of either political party. In some sections more anti-slavery men belonged to the Democratic party, and in others to the Whigs. But with the inauguration of the Mexican war, in fact with the annexation of Texas, “the inevitable conflict” commenced.

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Doubtless the founders of our government, the majority of them at least, regarded the confederation of the colonies as an experiment. Each colony considered itself a separate government; that the confederation was for mutual protection against a foreign foe, and the prevention of strife and war among themselves. If there had been a desire on the part of any single State to withdraw from the compact at any time while the number of States was limited to the original thirteen, I do not suppose there would have been any to contest the right, no matter how much the determination might have been regretted. The problem changed on the ratification of the Constitution by all the colonies; it changed still more when amendments were added; and if the right of any one State to withdraw continued to exist at all after the ratification of the Constitution, it certainly ceased on the formation of new States, at least so far as the new States themselves were concerned. It was never possessed at all by Florida or the States west of the Mississippi, all of which were purchased by the treasury of the entire nation. Texas and the territory brought into the Union in consequence of annexation, were purchased with both blood and treasure; and Texas, with a domain greater than that of any European state except Russia, was permitted to retain as state property all the public lands within its borders. It would have been ingratitude and injustice of the most flagrant sort for this State to withdraw from the Union after all that had been spent and done to introduce her; yet, if separation had actually occurred, Texas must necessarily have gone with the South, both on account of her institutions and her geographical position. Secession was illogical as well as impracticable; it was revolution.

Now, the right of revolution is an inherent one. When people are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselves of the oppression, if they are strong enough, either by withdrawal from it, or by overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable. But any people or part of a people who resort to this remedy, stake their lives, their property, and every claim for protection given by citizenship—on the issue. Victory, or the conditions imposed by the conqueror—must be the result.

In the case of the war between the States it would have been the exact truth if the South had said,—”We do not want to live with you Northern people any longer; we know our institution of slavery is obnoxious to you, and, as you are growing numerically stronger than we, it may at some time in the future be endangered. So long as you permitted us to control the government, and with the aid of a few friends at the North to enact laws constituting your section a guard against the escape of our property, we were willing to live with you. You have been submissive to our rule heretofore; but it looks now as if you did not intend to continue so, and we will remain in the Union no longer.” Instead of this the seceding States cried lustily,—”Let us alone; you have no constitutional power to interfere with us.” Newspapers and people at the North reiterated the cry. Individuals might ignore the constitution; but the Nation itself must not only obey it, but must enforce the strictest construction of that instrument; the construction put upon it by the Southerners themselves. The fact is the constitution did not apply to any such contingency as the one existing from 1861 to 1865. Its framers never dreamed of such a contingency occurring. If they had foreseen it, the probabilities are they would have sanctioned the right of a State or States to withdraw rather than that there should be war between brothers.

The framers were wise in their generation and wanted to do the very best possible to secure their own liberty and independence, and that also of their descendants to the latest days. It is preposterous to suppose that the people of one generation can lay down the best and only rules of government for all who are to come after them, and under unforeseen contingencies. At the time of the framing of our constitution the only physical forces that had been subdued and made to serve man and do his labor, were the currents in the streams and in the air we breathe. Rude machinery, propelled by water power, had been invented; sails to propel ships upon the waters had been set to catch the passing breeze—but the application of stream to propel vessels against both wind and current, and machinery to do all manner of work had not been thought of. The instantaneous transmission of messages around the world by means of electricity would probably at that day have been attributed to witchcraft or a league with the Devil. Immaterial circumstances had changed as greatly as material ones. We could not and ought not to be rigidly bound by the rules laid down under circumstances so different for emergencies so utterly unanticipated. The fathers themselves would have been the first to declare that their prerogatives were not irrevocable. They would surely have resisted secession could they have lived to see the shape it assumed.

I travelled through the Northwest considerably during the winter of 1860-1. We had customers in all the little towns in south-west Wisconsin, south-east Minnesota and north-east Iowa. These generally knew I had been a captain in the regular army and had served through the Mexican war. Consequently wherever I stopped at night, some of the people would come to the public-house where I was, and sit till a late hour discussing the probabilities of the future. My own views at that time were like those officially expressed by Mr. Seward at a later day, that “the war would be over in ninety days.” I continued to entertain these views until after the battle of Shiloh. I believe now that there would have been no more battles at the West after the capture of Fort Donelson if all the troops in that region had been under a single commander who would have followed up that victory.

There is little doubt in my mind now that the prevailing sentiment of the South would have been opposed to secession in 1860 and 1861, if there had been a fair and calm expression of opinion, unbiased by threats, and if the ballot of one legal voter had counted for as much as that of any other. But there was no calm discussion of the question. Demagogues who were too old to enter the army if there should be a war, others who entertained so high an opinion of their own ability that they did not believe they could be spared from the direction of the affairs of state in such an event, declaimed vehemently and unceasingly against the North; against its aggressions upon the South; its interference with Southern rights, etc., etc. They denounced the Northerners as cowards, poltroons, negro-worshippers; claimed that one Southern man was equal to five Northern men in battle; that if the South would stand up for its rights the North would back down. Mr. Jefferson Davis said in a speech, delivered at La Grange, Mississippi, before the secession of that State, that he would agree to drink all the blood spilled south of Mason and Dixon’s line if there should be a war. The young men who would have the fighting to do in case of war, believed all these statements, both in regard to the aggressiveness of the North and its cowardice. They, too, cried out for a separation from such people. The great bulk of the legal voters of the South were men who owned no slaves; their homes were generally in the hills and poor country; their facilities for educating their children, even up to the point of reading and writing, were very limited; their interest in the contest was very meagre—what there was, if they had been capable of seeing it, was with the North; they too needed emancipation. Under the old regime they were looked down upon by those who controlled all the affairs in the interest of slave-owners, as poor white trash who were allowed the ballot so long as they cast it according to direction.

I am aware that this last statement may be disputed and individual testimony perhaps adduced to show that in ante-bellum days the ballot was as untrammelled in the south as in any section of the country; but in the face of any such contradiction I reassert the statement. The shot-gun was not resorted to. Masked men did not ride over the country at night intimidating voters; but there was a firm feeling that a class existed in every State with a sort of divine right to control public affairs. If they could not get this control by one means they must by another. The end justified the means. The coercion, if mild, was complete.

There were two political parties, it is true, in all the States, both strong in numbers and respectability, but both equally loyal to the institution which stood paramount in Southern eyes to all other institutions in state or nation. The slave-owners were the minority, but governed both parties. Had politics ever divided the slave-holders and the non-slave-holders, the majority would have been obliged to yield, or internecine war would have been the consequence. I do not know that the Southern people were to blame for this condition of affairs. There was a time when slavery was not profitable, and the discussion of the merits of the institution was confined almost exclusively to the territory where it existed. The States of Virginia and Kentucky came near abolishing slavery by their own acts, one State defeating the measure by a tie vote and the other only lacking one. But when the institution became profitable, all talk of its abolition ceased where it existed; and naturally, as human nature is constituted, arguments were adduced in its support. The cotton-gin probably had much to do with the justification of slavery.

The winter of 1860-1 will be remembered by middle-aged people of to-day as one of great excitement. South Carolina promptly seceded after the result of the Presidential election was known. Other Southern States proposed to follow. In some of them the Union sentiment was so strong that it had to be suppressed by force. Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri, all Slave States, failed to pass ordinances of secession; but they were all represented in the so-called congress of the so-called Confederate States. The Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of Missouri, in 1861, Jackson and Reynolds, were both supporters of the rebellion and took refuge with the enemy. The governor soon died, and the lieutenant-governor assumed his office; issued proclamations as governor of the State; was recognized as such by the Confederate Government, and continued his pretensions until the collapse of the rebellion. The South claimed the sovereignty of States, but claimed the right to coerce into their confederation such States as they wanted, that is, all the States where slavery existed. They did not seem to think this course inconsistent. The fact is, the Southern slave-owners believed that, in some way, the ownership of slaves conferred a sort of patent of nobility—a right to govern independent of the interest or wishes of those who did not hold such property. They convinced themselves, first, of the divine origin of the institution and, next, that that particular institution was not safe in the hands of any body of legislators but themselves.

Meanwhile the Administration of President Buchanan looked helplessly on and proclaimed that the general government had no power to interfere; that the Nation had no power to save its own life. Mr. Buchanan had in his cabinet two members at least, who were as earnest—to use a mild term—in the cause of secession as Mr. Davis or any Southern statesman. One of them, Floyd, the Secretary of War, scattered the army so that much of it could be captured when hostilities should commence, and distributed the cannon and small arms from Northern arsenals throughout the South so as to be on hand when treason wanted them. The navy was scattered in like manner. The President did not prevent his cabinet preparing for war upon their government, either by destroying its resources or storing them in the South until a de facto government was established with Jefferson Davis as its President, and Montgomery, Alabama, as the Capital. The secessionists had then to leave the cabinet. In their own estimation they were aliens in the country which had given them birth. Loyal men were put into their places. Treason in the executive branch of the government was estopped. But the harm had already been done. The stable door was locked after the horse had been stolen.

During all of the trying winter of 1860-1, when the Southerners were so defiant that they would not allow within their borders the expression of a sentiment hostile to their views, it was a brave man indeed who could stand up and proclaim his loyalty to the Union. On the other hand men at the North—prominent men—proclaimed that the government had no power to coerce the South into submission to the laws of the land; that if the North undertook to raise armies to go south, these armies would have to march over the dead bodies of the speakers. A portion of the press of the North was constantly proclaiming similar views. When the time arrived for the President-elect to go to the capital of the Nation to be sworn into office, it was deemed unsafe for him to travel, not only as a President-elect, but as any private citizen should be allowed to do. Instead of going in a special car, receiving the good wishes of his constituents at all the stations along the road, he was obliged to stop on the way and to be smuggled into the capital. He disappeared from public view on his journey, and the next the country knew, his arrival was announced at the capital. There is little doubt that he would have been assassinated if he had attempted to travel openly throughout his journey.

State Board of Education member Marisa B. Perez-Diaz, D-District 3, speaks in support of Texas Freedom Network renewing their fight to have the board change the curriculum standards outside the William B. Travis Building during a State Board of Education meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Political designs: How Beto’s basic black and white and Ocasio-Cortez’s revolutionary look defined their candidacies

 

Good day Austin:

Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at the end of June won a Democratic primary for a congressional seat in New York City against one of the most powerful politicians in the city, soaring into the national political consciousness, have a few things in common.

Both project an upbeat, youthful vigor — or, more properly vigah, because O’Rourke is a virtual Kennedy and Ocasio-Cortez cut her political teeth working as an intern in U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy’s office while going to school at Boston University.

Of course Ocasio-Cortez is very young — at 28, a generation younger than the 45-year–old O’Rourke (she’s a Millennial, he’s Generation X).

Both also are masters of political virality, not to be mistaken for political virility, though maybe they are, these days, one and the same.

And both Ocasio-Cortez and O’Rourke have benefited from campaigns with very distinctive and effective graphic design that have gone a long way toward branding them in ways that complement their strengths.

From n+1 magazine on June 30:

The democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking victory in this week’s Democratic primary in New York’s 14th congressional district has rightly provoked enthusiastic commentary and analysis. If she beats her Republican opponent in November, as seems assured, Ocasio-Cortez will be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Her grassroots campaign against the business-friendly incumbent Joe Crowley, who until Tuesday was a likely candidate for speaker of the House, sends a significant signal to the Democratic Party. Ocasio-Cortez’s election to Congress would be the clearest sign yet of the electoral viability of the left in the US.

Her campaign also marks a major step forward for graphic design in American politics. Rather than the tired repetition of white letters on blue backgrounds, white letters on red backgrounds, and American flag iconography, energetic diagonals cut across Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign materials in an unexpected yellow and purple. When paired with the instantly iconic photo of the candidate by Jesse Korman, the vibrancy of the system is infectious.

And from Didi Martinez at Politico on July 7:

One of the year’s most distinctive, break-the-mold campaign designs belongs to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the giant-killing New York progressive who recently pulled off the upset of the primary season by defeating veteran Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley.

Using purples and yellows and drawing inspiration from old United Farm Workers of America posters, Ocasio-Cortez’s logo and campaign signs are a dramatic departure from customary practice.

Scott Starrett, who oversaw the creation of Ocasio-Cortez’s posters — which embraced Spanish-inspired inverted exclamation marks to highlight her Puerto Rican heritage — said they could afford to take design risks as they reached for a “bold, revolutionary look” for the campaign.

 


From Aileen Kwun at Fast Company on June 29:

Opting for bold lettering and a flat design treatment that forgoes drop shadows, gradients, American flag motifs, and other visual cliches, the identity intentionally avoids pretentious signifiers to refreshing effect; one might even liken the energetic campaign visuals to a local poster bill. In place of red, white, and blue, Ocasio-Cortez’s color scheme draws upon purple–a symbolic blend of the two-party system’s red and blue, also used by Brand New Congress–and yellow, as its aesthetic complement.

Enlarged, all-caps text–set bilingually in English and Spanish, in equal weighting–frames Ocasio-Cortez’s countenance with similarly angular effect, and her name, proudly flouted with inverted exclamation marks and stars, is emphatically, unapologetically multicultural. It’s an outward display of Ocasio-Cortez’s roots as a third-generation, working-class Bronxite with Puerto Rican heritage.

(Campaign volunteers for Beto O’Rourke, left to right, Canan Yetmen, Debbie Cahoon and Bessie Tassoulas, prepare yard signs at a rally at Mount Sinai Baptist Church on Monday August 27, 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

O’Rourke’s design went the other direction — no photo, no color, just BETO in black and white, in keeping with his stripped-down punk sensibility and perhaps also in subliminal homage to a particular Texas comfort zone – Whataburger.

As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Anna Tinsley wrote on Aug. 9:

What’s black and white and reminds some people of a tasty Texas treat?

Apparently it’s the campaign signs and logo being used by U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat embroiled in a battle with Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for the Senate.

Some are taking to social media to say those campaign messages remind them of the design on the Whataburger spicy ketchup container.

 

On Sunday, I wrote a story about following O’Rourke on a three-day swing through South Texas the previous weekend.

The last rally was in Brownsville, emceed by the local state Rep. Eddie Lucio III.

From the story:

Was O’Rourke getting a late start in the Rio Grande Valley?

“I don’t think so,” Lucio said. “You’ve got to peak at the right time. You’ve got to conserve your energy. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and I think he’s peaking and moving and gaining speed right when he needs to.”

But O’Rourke, 17 months into a relentless Senate campaign that has already taken him to all 254 Texas counties, is running the marathon as a sprint. Last weekend’s stops in Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville, drawing raucous crowds amid the campaign’s fecund fundraising and with poll after poll showing a competitive race — combined with his uncanny ability to draw national attention with viral video clips, most recently showing him skateboarding in a Brownsville Whataburger parking lot and another in which he explained his support for professional football players kneeling for the national anthem — suggested a campaign on a roll.

Following a candidate on the campaign trail is a time-honored way of reporting on politics. There were several other reporters following O’Rourke on his border swing.

It is, in fact, the next best thing to not being there if you are interested in what really matters — which is what’s going on on social media — Facebook, Twitter, likes, retweets, clicks, etc. The demands of the road can only distract from a disciplined attention to these coordinates.

Case in point, this viral tweet from Josh Billinson, the editor of the Independent Journal Review and a very talented tweeter, based in Washington, D.C., who I don’t believe was in Texas at all, but rather was, I assume, observing O’Rourke via his campaign’s  Facebook live stream of virtually everything he does on the road.

Up until Billinson’s tweet, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the skateboarding story, if that’s what this was.

I had asked O’Rourke about his newly acquired board as he clutched it at a gaggle with reporters between his Saturday evening rally in Brownsville and his dinner at a Brownsville Whataburger with some 32 El Pasoans who had come by bus to Brownsville with Veronica Escobar, the Democratic candidate to replace O’Rourke representing El Paso in Congress, to help rally support for their hometown hero.

O’Rourke was in a punk band — Foss — as a young man and I asked about his skateboarding background.

O’Rourke:

My dad bought me a skateboard when I was in the sixth grade for my birthday, so I must have turned 12.  I met the guy who sold my dad that skateboard. He now lives in San Antonio. So I skated in elementary and little bit in high school and then my kids have a skateboard and I’ll jump on that. They have a long board. This is the opposite of a long board but it’s got these nylon wheels, really good wheels.

Filling out the profile of a punk skateboarder, I asked O’Rourke if there was any graffiti he wanted to cop to. Beto would be a great tag, after all, and I’m sure the Cruz campaign is scouring freight trains and overpasses in and around El Paso for incriminating evidence.

O’Rourke: No, no, no, no, no.

I didn’t follow O’Rourke to the Whataburger that night because, while I heard the El Paso crew was headed there, I didn’t know he would be joining them — though I should have assumed he would be. And frankly, I had a Whataburger for dinner the previous evening while waiting to get a new tire in San Antonio to replace one of the two new tires I had purchased the previous day in Austin that went flat on my way from an afternoon O’Rourke rally in San Antonio, to one that evening in Laredo.

Worse still, in order to get the quarters needed to turn on the air to see if I could revive the flat tire at the gas station where I had pulled over about 20 minutes outside San Antonio,  I had to make a purchase, so I grabbed the first thing at hand, an orange package of Trident gum, though I don’t generally chew gum. But as the tire hissed air as quickly as I added it, and without a full-sized spare, I called AAA for a tow, sought comfort in my pack of orange Trident, and began chewing, quickly dislodging a crown.

I shoved the crown back where it belonged — where it remains to this day — got the tow to San Antonio, and while I waited for a new tire I repaired to a close-by Whataburger to do some research.

From Tinsley’s story on the resemblance between the Beto logo and the Whataburger spicy ketchup package:

Cruz’s campaign responded to the likeness.

“Unlike the spicy ketchup, when Texans unwrap the O’Rourke packaging, they are definitely not going to like what they see underneath,” Cruz campaign spokeswoman Emily Miller said. “He’s like a Triple Meat Whataburger liberal who is out of touch with Texas values.”

This was apparently not a good riposte.

https://twitter.com/MMove101/status/1027669546042372097

I confess in the my five-plus years in Texas I have only had a couple of Whataburgers, all via drive-through. The experience was fine but not life-altering, though I acknowledge and admire the fierce devotion of Texans to the chain. Like for HEB, only that one I actually live and feel.

In any case, unaccustomed to being inside a Whataburger, I looked around for the spicy ketchup package, and before I ordered my basic burger, I asked the guy at the counter how to secure a spicy ketchup in the Beto-like container. He looked at me as a bit of a security risk. I didn’t realize that a young woman would come around, when I received my order, with a condiment tray, like a cigarette girl in a 1940s nightclub.

Very classy.

 

The burger was pretty good. A single meat Whataburger was hefty. I doubted a triple-meat Whataburger was ever a good idea. And, at first glance, the resemblance between the ketchup package design and the Beto logo didn’t seem to me to be all that extraordinary.

But let us pause here to consider Ocasio-Cortez’s eye-catching design and how, there but for a former Austinite’s search for an acceptable taco in New York City, it might never have come off the way it did.

From that n+1 piece:

We were curious about how such a complex and impressive visual schema emerged, so we sought out the designers responsible for it: Scott Starrett, cofounder of Tandem (along with Shaun Gillen), and Maria Arenas, lead designer on the campaign. (Tandem’s Carlos Dominguez also assisted the campaign.) We spoke by phone on Friday, June 29, three days after Ocasio Cortez’s victory.

—Rachel Ossip and Mark Krotov

MARK KROTOV I first saw your campaign poster months ago, in a storefront on Queens Boulevard, in Sunnyside. At first I wasn’t sure if I was even looking at a campaign poster, but whatever it was, I knew I’d never seen anything quite like it. That poster was the first I’d heard of Ocasio-Cortez, and she more or less had my vote right at that moment. I was trying to remember when it was that I had that first encounter, and it feels like a long time ago—long before the articles began to be written. How did the process of working with Ocasio-Cortez and her campaign begin?

SCOTT STARRETT We’ve known Sandy [Ocasio-Cortez] for some time. We started talking politics before she began her bid for Congress—we even lent her our GoPro when she went to Standing Rock. But the seed of the campaign identity came from the fact that our whole studio really loves Sandy. That was a big part of why the design turned out so well.

MARIA ARENAS We really knew Sandy well, and we knew we had her complete trust. She trusted us to represent the campaign authentically.

RACHEL OSSIP How did the identity for the campaign evolve?

SS We’re in a revolutionary moment, so we went straight to the history of grassroots, civil rights, and social justice movements in search of a common language we could participate in. One that Sandy could participate in and that she belongs in. The most inspiring figures to us were Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, the cofounders of the National Farmworkers Association. They had a positive, uplifting message about bringing power to the people. It resonated so deeply with who Sandy the person was, and who Sandy the candidate became, that it was a good fit.

We also researched revolutionary posters, union badges, et cetera. But the National Farmworkers Association inspired us a great deal. We looked to a lot of low-fidelity activist materials bred from necessity, and we knew we couldn’t have too much polish. We wanted the identity to have a populist look, in the sense that it was simple enough that it could have been cut out of construction paper or made by hand in some way. But it also had to have a modern bent, with a nod to the visual culture of subway posters.

I’ve worked in politics for years. I had my first political clients in Austin almost seven years ago. The cultural and visual language there is so different. Had we run Ocasio’s identity in Texas, I don’t think it would have resonated to the same extent. In the Bronx and Queens, people speak and understand a different visual language. So when they saw it—and when you yourself saw it, Mark—they and you recognized that it kind of spoke to the visual language of New York and New York street advertising. People are advertised to differently in the subways than they are in, say, the Midwest or Texas.

Aha. Austin. I spoke to Scott Starrett back in early July.

Starrett, 34, moved to Austin from Lawrence, Kansas, where he was the director of marketing for the University of Kansas Memorial Unions, when he was 27. He was hired by Katie Naranjo at GNI Communications where his clients included state Sen. Kirk Watson, Mayor Steve Adler and Hugh Fitzsimons, who finished out of the money in a three-way race against Jim Hogan and Kinky Friedman for the Democratic nomination for agriculture commissioner four years ago. Despite that fact that Starrett did this beautiful map of Texas for his campaign.

Fitzsimons campaign effectively ended the day he filed his paperwork to be on the ballot.

Starrett: It meant a lot to him, it was meaningful and he asked he go in alone to put his name on the ballot because it was sentimental. He put his name on the ballot as Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III. He came out and showed us that and we were all like, “What have you done to us?”

Starrett subsequently moved to New York and co-founded Tandem.

I asked him about his comment that he didn’t think the Ocasio-Cortez design would have worked in Texas.

STARRETT: New Yorkers “are exposed to so much in their visual culture that — I don’t want to use the word sophistication, because that’s condescending to you guys — but (in New York) you are bombarded by the different visual languages and meeting that visual culture halfway we found to be a really positive thing and it may have been too much for Texas, and that also sounds condescending.

The Ocasio-Cortez design, he said, “borders on sentimental and dramatic, right? Like the ethos is excessive on some level and Sandy’s a bombastic candidate. She’s a firebrand, so when you hear her talk, you instantly go, ‘Oh, Ok, the poster fits, so it works.'”

“It might have been a little high-falutin’ for Texas.”

 

Originally, he said, the campaign “wanted a ton of inspirational text packed on there and we tried and we tried and at first we said, `I don’t think it’s going to work, it just doesn’t work, it was overbearing.’ They said, `Make it work.'”

“Some campaigns force you to do things that won’t work,” he said. But, ultimately the Ocasio-Cortez campaign relented.

Why?

“Not only was Sandy our friend, but she trusted us and believed in us.”

And they came up with a selection of buttons that each emphasized an issue.

Starrett and his partner became friends with Sandy because of Starrett’s yearning for tacos like the ones he’d grown to love in Austin.

“Oh man, I miss all the tacos, but Pueblo Viejo, that was my taco lunch,” said Starrett of the taco truck in the parking lot next to the GNI office on Brushy Street (it’s since moved inside the North Door).

(Note that the Pueblo Viejo color palette is to the Ocasio-Cortez campaign what the Whataburger spicy ketchup black and white is to O’Rourke’s look.)

STARRETT: New York does not always have the best tacos. Our office is in Union Square. So I was roaming around looking for something to eat and this new restaurant had just opened. I think I walked in on the second day and, I said, `OK, this could work out. You know there’s a taco joint less than a block from our office. This is a good thing. I could see good things happening for us.

“It’s called Flats Fix. It’s attached to the Coffee Shop,” a Union Square institution known as a hangout for models, he said.

It turned out that the bartender/waitress at Flats Fix was Ocasio-Cortez.

As she explains in a clip from Knock Down the House — a documentary being made about four women candidates for Congress, including Ocasio-Crotez — “I started waitressing after the financial crisis because we were about to lose our house.”

STARRETT: We’re fairly down-to-earth people. Over time my business partner, Shaun Gillen, and I,  we gravitated solely toward lunching and having business meetings at Flats Fix.

We’re pretty much always talking business so we made friends with the staff and they could see we were up to something and so that, along with politics — everyone in New York was talking politics in 2016 leading up to the race — so we really hit it off being politically inclined folks and when Sandy went to Standing Rock and she went to Detroit (Flint), we let her borrow our office studio’s GoPro to help document her trip and then later, as things started heating up, she got me in touch with … and we started working for Brand New Congress and justice Democrats (both groups supporting Ocasio-Cortez’s candidacy) and then I let her borrow my car to drive upstate to attend endorsement meetings.

She calls us out on Twitter as her Day One Brothers. So we were there from the start just encouraging her, telling her we thought she had it in her, just encouraging her every step of the way.

She is fierce now in a way that I think has impressed and surprised all of us but she’s always been gregarious and intellectual and kind.

Starrett said she worked at Flats Fix until about 10 months ago. (Her image, working the bar, continued to adorn the Flats Fix website after her election, but is now gone.)

She apparently previously worked at the Coffee Shop, which had a different clientele but the same ownership.

“The owners are clearly not fans of her politics — they are wealthy and they want to keep as much of their wealth as they can,” said Starrett. And, indeed, since our conversation they announced they are closing the Coffee Shop, blaming increases in the minimum wage, though they are keeping Flats Fix open.

Before heading down to South Texas, I spoke with Tony Casas in El Paso who designed the Beto logo.

Casas is a partner and part owner of Stanton Street, a web design and development company and digital marketing firm founded and formerly owned by O’Rourke, who hired Casas as a junior designer in 2008. O’Rourke turned the firm over his wife, Amy, when he was elected to Congress, and she in turn sold it just before O’Rourke announced for the Senate to Casas and Brian Wancho, the president and CEO.

He really took a chance on me and I’m glad that it worked out,” Casas said of O’Rourke.

I told him what Starrett said about the Ocasio-Cortez campaign being too bold a look for Texas. I wondered whether the O’Rourke campaigns choice of black and white confirmed that assessment.

Casas said that what guided O’Rourke to like the spare black and white design was his punk sensibility.

“Beto was real big on black and white to begin with,” Casas said. “It goes back to his punk rock roots, which are very black and white.”

Cases who, at 36, is a decade younger than O’Rourke, also grew up in the El Paso punk scene, designing posters and flyers for groups appearing locally.

CASAS: A lot of his campaign is based off of transparency and honesty and being straightforward about who he is and no sham about that, and the black and white more appealed to that and I think he just identified more with the black and white than the color, and it was less about what Texas was going to think.

He didn’t want the smoke and mirrors that everybody else has. He wanted it to be as bold and straightforward as he possibly could.

“I am punk rock at heart too so I knew about his band,” Casas said.

Had he ever seen him perform?

“I’m pretty sure I have, I know I’ve seen him on fliers,” Casas said. ” I did all the punk rock posters for bands after he was already out of the scene but I’m almost positive that I have (seen him) but I just don’t recall off-hand because it wasn’t as significant as it would become — who would ever have thought.”

Casas also designed the retro RFK Beto buttons in a more traditional red, white and blue.

CASAS: That was mine. A lot of people kept on making that comparison early that he looked a lot like Robert Kennedy and we were talking about it and I’m, “That’s an awesome statement for people to make the comparison.” I was, “we’re already working on some retro designs,  let’s play off that,” and we created those buttons and passed them out during the launch.

Casas said the punk palette is black, white and bright pink.

I asked where the pink was in O’Rourke’s campaign and he said Veronica Escobar, the Democrat running for Beto’s seat, was using it in her campaign, which is being designed by another El Paso outfit.

Having said all that, Casas’ original design for the Beto logo was in color, and that’s what he presented to O’Rourke and the campaign team. But, because it didn’t feel quite right to him, he had also prepared a black-and-white version that was not part of the presentation.

CASAS: They didn’t hate them but at the same they had the same feeling, they’re good but, uh, oh i don’t know. I said, “Let me show you one other thing. I made the same logo in black and white. Let me know what you guys think.” And the second I showed it to them, Beto was the first, “That’s it, that’s what I’m going for,” and everyone else was, “Yeah, that’s more or less what we wanted,” and then we tweaked it until we got it right.

His whole campaign has been, “This is me and this is what I’m doing, transparency and honesty and what  better way to do that than simple black-and-white signs saying Beto’s running for Senate.”

Prospective first-time voters at San Antonio rally.

 

Casas said it’s the black and white that most draws comparison to the Whataburger spicy ketchup package. That and the lines on either side of Spicy, on the ketchup lid, and For Senate on the Beto logo.

CASAS: At one time the lines from the E were extended all the way through to the end of the logo and that looked weird to me, so I cut the lines off and left them there, and then centered the “For Senate”, and then added the lines to the other side. so those lines are just the extension of the E and then when I did that it was, OK, it looks symmetrical, it looks a lot better like that.

When he showed the final version to O’Rourke, Casas said, “I was talking to people in the office and it hit me, you know this feels very Whataburger, but at the same time, the consensus was, that could work, you know, it’s OK. It’s not like we copied it, but I mean it could work. It’s Texas. People love Whataburger and I’m included, and one of the funniest things, the very first time I sat down to talk to Beto about the logo, I kid you not, the entire campaign was there (in the campaign office) eating Whataburgers, and I think back to that now, and it was a sign from the beginning.”

After he finished the final design, Casas said, “I didn’t want to look at it.”

CASAS: I knew this was potentially going to get national attention and I didn’t want to read the comments. I know what the comments are like on social media and I don’t want to be a part of it. I know how mean social media can be. Up until maybe the last week I have never felt proud of it, not because it wasn’t good but just because I was scared. Now that people are embracing him and embracing it and sticking up for a logo they had nothing to do with, it’s empowering. It feels great.

Not leaving well enough alone, I asked Casas the ultimate question — is Whataburger objectively good or just a home state favorite.

CASAS: I don’t know. Whataburger is always just a thing for us. My wife and I have been friends since we were 13 years old and her loyalties are always Whataburger. She says, “I like the taste more than anything.” She orders a plain Whataburger, no cheese, no nothing on it,  just a burger and bun and she says it has the best meat of anybody.

Either we were raised to like it or it’s plain good.

Indeed, Casas recalls how his father, who used to work at Wendy’s, would bring Whataburger home for the family.

Which brings us to the 1984 Democratic presidential campaign and the popular Wendy’s ad that Walter Mondale used to truly devastating effect against Gary Hart, when it appeared Hart had Mondale, who had seemed a prohibitive front-runner, on the ropes.

 

Four years later, New York Times political correspondent R.W. Apple wrote that, “Walter F. Mondale’s memorable ‘`Where’s the beef?” response to Gary Hart’s ‘new ideas’ …  may have enabled the former Vice President to wrest the Democratic presidential nomination from Mr. Hart in a very close race.”

Now, 34 years later, comes a Cruz spokesman suggesting that O’Rourke has too much beef, albeit of the liberal variety, with O’Rourke and company offering a playful reminder of the miscue by ordering triple meat Whataburgers in Brownsville after O’Rourke worked up an appetite with a block walk in Laredo, town halls in McAllen and Brownsville, and the quick skate seen ’round the world in the Whataburger parking lot.

I stayed at the same hotel that night as O’Rourke and the next morning saw him in the breakfast area.

I quickly recounted for him my conversation with Casas and my earlier conversation with Starrett about Ocasio-Cortez’s design.

I asked if he had met Ocasio-Cortez and he said he hadn’t. I said I thought she had been at the Father’s Day march he led on the immigration detention center in Tornillo to protest the separation of families at the border, but it turned out she was there a week later on the eve of her primary.

“I would love to meet her and I should probably  get her phone number and just reach out to her and talk to her,” O’Rourke said. “I am just really impressed, not just by her victory, but she is on the march. How old is she? 32? Is she that old?”

I asked about Casas and the decision to go back and white with the Beto logo.

“I just remember having a conversation with him — I don’t want flags, I don’t flames of liberty,” O’Rourke said.

“I don’t want the stuff you see all the time in logos. Just make it as plain as you can, and then I remember, he was showing us the color version and I said, `Just black and white… Beto.”

“It’s turned out well and I don’t know what we sold in t-shirts and what we’ve sold in yard signs and bumper stickers for 3 bucks. That’s actually been a big part of what we’ve raised, people wanting to buy that gear or the signs. So Tony did good.”

And, O’Rourke said of Casas, “He’s a skater, actually.”

“In his free time,” his company bio says, “Tony pops crook grinds, trey flips, and back tails at the local skateparks.”

With that, I checked out of the hotel and as I put my stuff in the car to follow O’Rourke’s pickup to the block walk, he rolled by me.

 

On Tele-Town Hall, civil Will Hurd is uncivil about President Trump’s servility to Vladimir Putin

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, speaks wn hall the South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in San Antonio. As the first black Republican House member from Texas since Reconstruction, the national GOP is grooming the 37-year-old for political stardom.(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Good day, Austin:

A week ago, U.S. Reps. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, and Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, won the seventh annual Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life “for their bipartisan road trip’ last year, when the two congressmen from opposing parties livestreamed collegial discussions on the divisive issues of the day over a 1,600-mile drive from Texas to the Capitol.”

The 2017 winners were Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and, posthumously, Justice Antonin Scalia.

In 2016 it was Joe Biden and John McCain.

In 2015, when the award looked for historical examples, Wendell Wilkie won an honorable mention.

But these are, of course, times that test the limits, or even the wisdom or moral appropriateness, of civility.

On the very day they shared the Allegheny College award, the civility bros were saying some uncivil things about President Donald Trump for what I supposed could be construed as the president’s being inappropriately civil/servile to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

 

Last night, I received an automated call from Hurd’s congressional office inviting me to join a telephone town hall. It seems I get one of these calls every couple of weeks, and this time I decided to listen in.

It was interesting.

It consisted of Hurd taking questions from among those people who had punched a certain number on their telephone key pad to get into a queue.

Here are a few of the exchanges.

HURD: The first question I would like to go to John. John how are you?

There was no response, so Hurd tried again.

HURD: Steve. Hey Steve, sorry about that. How are you?

STEVE: Good, how are you?

HURD:  Good. I’m up here in D.C. It’s a little bit cooler than it is in Texas right now but I’m glad to be talking to y’all.

Thanks for joining us tonight and do you have a question?

STEVE: Well, my question, and I know that this is not politically correct, but it’s what in the world is wrong with Washington, D.C., today?

We all hate the other side. And I’m old enough that I remember the old days when Democrats and Republicans joked and teased each other, had fun with each other, made fun of each other and laughed about it.

I heard somebody say not that long ago, Bobby Kennedy, he was a great Democrat, unfortunately he was assassinated, he had a Republican as the godfather of his first-born as the godfather of his first-born child.

That made me curious. Kennedy had a lot of children but I did not recall there being a Wendell Wilkie Kennedy.

I looked to see who that Republican godfather might have been.

I was soon sorry I did.

From the Evan Thomas biography of Kennedy.

 

So, Joe McCarthy was either godfather to Robert Kennedy’s first-born, or Robert Kennedy boasted that he was as an act of belligerence.

Returning to the Tele-Town Hall and Steve.

STEVE: What Democrat would have a Republican as the godfather or godmother of their children today? What’s wrong.

HURD: Steve. Thank you for the question and the comment.

I actually would agree with a majority of what you’re saying.

The only way we get big things done up here in Washington, D.C., is if we do it together, and I’ve gotten, I think the number is now at 15 or 16 bills signed into law, that’s under a Democratic president and a Republican president, and the only way you do that, is you work together.

And one of the things that was shocking to me when I first got up here is that when the cameras are off, the relationship between members is fairly warm across the aisle. I’ve learned that as I’ve criss-crossed the district, the 23rd District of Texas, and one of the things that makes the 23rd unique is that it’s 50-50. Fifty percent Republican , 50 percent Democrat, and guess what, most people care about the same things.

Food on their table , a roof over their head, and that the people that they care about are healthy and happy, and these are some of the issues that I’ve been trying to work on. Issues like immigration, and this is a very partisan issue but I’ve been able to work with folks like Pete Aguilar, he’s as a Democrat from California, and someone we’ve worked closely together on this issue. When it comes to some of the IT issues that I work on and cybersecurity,  Robin Kelley, a Democrat from Illinois.  We have a great working relationship. And Steve, what I’ve learned, as I’ve crisscrossed these 29 counties is far more unites us than divides us as a country and we can disagree without being disagreeable.

And that is something that we have to remember.  And guess what? If we can’t do this, if we can’t disagree without being disagreeable, if we can’t be civil and reintroduce some civility into our lives, then our kids won’t be able to do it and our grandkids won’t be able to do it.

So Steve, I’m glad you asked the question, and I’m sure you’re trying to be an example and I’m trying to be and I hope everybody that’s listening on this call believes it too. So thanks for the call Steve.

Congressman Will Hurd speaks with Alysa Wheeler at a Dairy Queen in Dilley, TX on Aug. 11, 2017 during a week-long Dairy Queen town hall tour of his district. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

HURD: Next we have John from San Antonio.

John. How are you?

JOHN: Yes sir. I just wanted to let you know that I’m a strong believer in you. I voted for you three times.

My question and my worry is what are you going to do or say to keep people like me – conservatives – not me, but people like me, because you’ve got my vote, but I worry about you swinging to the middle and to the left by the statement you made about Trump being manipulated by Putin, instead of siding with him, even though he did sidestep and make some errors. I do worry about you losing some votes by trying to get independent and Dem votes by making that statement.

But I wished you could clarify and try to get other people back on board . You’ve got my vote.

Here is what Hurd wrote in the New York Times — The New York Times! — on July 19, to considerable national notice.

Trump Is Being Manipulated by Putin. What Should We Do?
Lawmakers must keep the American people informed of the current danger, writes a Republican congressman from Texas.

By Will Hurd

Mr. Hurd, a former C.I.A. officer, is a congressman from the 23rd District of Texas

Over the course of my career as an undercover officer in the C.I.A., I saw Russian intelligence manipulate many people. I never thought I would see the day when an American president would be one of them.

The president’s failure to defend the United States intelligence community’s unanimous conclusions of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and condemn Russian covert counterinfluence campaigns and his standing idle on the world stage while a Russian dictator spouted lies confused many but should concern all Americans. By playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends and foes abroad.

As a member of Congress, a coequal branch of government designed by our founders to provide checks and balances on the executive branch, I believe that lawmakers must fulfill our oversight duty as well as keep the American people informed of the current danger.

Somehow many Americans have forgotten that Russia is our adversary, not our ally, and the reasons for today’s tensions go back much farther than the 2016 election. For more than a decade, Russia has meddled in elections around the world, supported brutal dictators and invaded sovereign nations — all to the detriment of United States interests. Mitt Romney had it right in 2012 when he told President Barack Obama that Russia was “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

Our intelligence community has concluded with high confidence that President Putin personally ordered his security services to undertake an influence campaign aimed at undermining confidence in American democracy to sow chaos in our electoral system. Russia’s efforts to hack political organizations and state election boards are well documented, as are the Russian disinformation campaigns on social media platforms.

Russia is an adversary not just of the United States but of freedom-loving people everywhere. Disinformation and chaos is a Russian art form developed during the Soviet era that Russia has now updated using modern tools. The result has been Russian disinformation spreading like a virus throughout the Western world. From elections in Britain, France and Montenegro to invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Moscow has pursued an aggressive foreign policy aimed at spreading disorder and expanding Russian influence in states formerly under the heel of Soviet Communism. These efforts weaken our allies and strengthen those who seek to undermine the democratic order that has helped prevent another world war in Europe since 1945.

Moreover, the threat of Russian meddling in United States elections is not behind us. Just last week, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, cautioned that “the warning lights are blinking red” that Russia and other adversaries will undertake further cyberattacks on our digital infrastructure. This includes many of the energy companies in my home district in South and West Texas.

Make no mistake, Russian disinformation campaigns are working.

It goes on like that.

Of course, as President Trump put it in his opening remarks with Putin, in his view, getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing

Back to the Tele-Town Hall, and John’s question.

HURD:  Well John thanks for the question and thanks for your support.

For me, my statement was very simple. It wasn’t for the left or the middle or the right. It was a statement that was based on nine-and-a-half years as an undercover officer and, for those that don’t know, I made a statement about the Helsinki press conference between President Trump and President Vladimir Putin and  my concern with that press conference is that it was a form of disinformation that was being used by Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Putin said some things that were pretty outrageous and said them next to the leader of the free world.

And when the leader of the free world is standing there shaking his head about thing like on the Ukraine — if Russia wanted to change its relationship with the United States or the West it would leave Ukraine.

The Russians invaded Ukraine. Period. End of story.

And the Russian are trying to say this was a separatist movement that was happening in the Ukraine and that they were trying to help this separatist movement. It wasn’t. It was an invasion.  

So when you see Vladimir Putin make comments saying that, “the Ukrainians are being unreasonable,” and that is not rebuked, that has longterm ramification with our allies and even with our adversaries.

So for me, I spent nine-and-a-half years as an undercover officer in the CIA. I was the guy in the back alleys collecting intelligence on threats to our homeland. I did two years of training in D.C., two years in India, two years in Pakistan, two years in New York City doing interagency work a year and half in Afghanistan, where I managed all of our undercover operations. I chased terrorists. I chased Russian intelligence officers. I put nuclear weapons proliferators out of jobs.

And for me it was important to let the world  know that this disinformation was going on and to speak up and so, my dad always said, “Be honest,” so that’s what I did in my comments on the press conference and I will continue to be honest and I think that’s something that folks in the 23rd Congressional District have come to expect from me and to use my background as a leader in national security to provide context for such important issues. But John, I really appreciate the comment and you bringing that up to today.

The next caller in the queue said he was just there to “spectate,” so Hurd launched into a vigorous defense of NAFTA, another Trump bugaboo.

At this point, Hurd offered one of several poll questions he asked during the call.

HURD: Do you believe Russia is an enemy or friend of the United States Press one if you think Russia is an an enemy Press two if you you think Russia is a friend of the United States. Press 3 if you do not know. 

In this Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016 photo, first-term Republican Rep. Will Hurd, right, of Texas, poses for a photo with a supporter at a campaign office, in San Antonio. Many House Republican incumbents worry that blowback from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s anti-Hispanic rhetoric and promises to build a towering wall the length of the U.S.-Mexico border could hurt their re-election chances, a problem especially acute for those in heavily Latino districts like that of Hurd, whose territory encompasses 820 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

HURD: Now we’re going to go to Mary from San Antonio. Mary, how are you?

MARY:  I’m fine, how are you sir?

HURD: I’m doing fantastic. Thanks for calling.

MARY: Absolutely.

First of all I think you’re doing a fabulous job. I’ve been with you since you first ran and I think you’re just one of the few honest ones up there. I hate to sound so critical but its’ just getting ridiculous up in Washington. You know we Texans like people that tell the truth and just stick to the issues.

My question is, the one thing I kind of break with you on lately is the immigration issue. My husband was career Air Force as was my father and grandfather. And I’ve lived all over the world, like you have. I haven’t been in back alleys. I have lived in areas such as Turkey and all across Europe.

My question is why are you not agreeing with a wall, a boundary for our country, to stop illegal immigration. I’ve seen the boundaries in Europe and I’ve seen them, even in Turkey, the Air Force would put up big fences and walls around us to keep us safe, and this was back in the ’70s even.  And it worked.

I agree with you on the drones and the IT situation that you’ve sponsored and we’re already using. It does help but it’s not stopping them.

I mean you see all of them coming across the border. And with the situation in Nicaragua, I’m really concerned that you don’t think adding something extra, like a boundary wall of some type would not help. I’m confused about that.

HURD: Well, Mary, one, thank you for the service of your family; two, I appreciate you joining (the call), and three, I appreciate your question.

I believe that building a 30-foot tall concrete structure from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security. I do believe we should protect our borders.

It’s 2018 and we don’t have operational control of our border. I think at any moment, the head of Border Patrol should be able to say, “Pull up Mile Marker 18,” and we should be able to know what’s happening at Mile Marker 18. We don’t have that capability right now.

And one of the reasons I have a problem using a Fourth Century tool for a 21st Century  problem is that the response time from Border Patrol to problems at a wall is oftentimes measured in hours if not days. If the response time is measured in hours to days, then that wall is not a physical barrier. And when I was in embassies, yes in embassies we had fences and walls around them, but you had Marines there to respond immediately to somebody who was at that fence or at that wall or jumped over it.

At some areas in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is in my district west of San Antonio, the response time of the Border Patrol was measured in days.

So I believe that we should be using all of our tools within our toolkit to the most effective way possible. The technology exists today to determine the difference between a bunny rabbit and a person coming across the border. We can deploy a small drone to track that person until the most important resource we have, the men and the women of the Border Patrol, can deploy and do the interdiction.

And that’s why I call it the smart wall, it’s utilizing that technology, because you know you’re right, it’s not just Nicaragua, it’s El Salvador, it’s Guatemala, that is fueling the illegal immigration that’s coming up here.

You also have the drug trafficking organizations in Mexico and the rest of Central and South America making $66 billion dollars a year on selling drugs in the United States. There are more people who die of drug poisoning in the United States than they do in the global war on terrorism.

We’re starting to see fentanyl coming in in high numbers into the United States. Fentanyl is similar to heroin but with a main difference  — 0.2 grams of heroin can kill somebody; 0.002 grams of fentanyl can kill somebody. Eleven pounds of fentanyl could kill about three million people. The only way we can stop this from coming into our country is utilizing technology and making sure we have more men and women in the Border Patrol.

Right now the Border Patrol has trouble retaining people because oftentimes, if they have to move from Arizona to Texas, they have to pay for their own move. That’s outrageous. And only DHS would think that would be OK. We’re not hiring enough people and retaining enough people in the Border Patrol. So we should use every tool in our toolkit, and in some places a barrier makes sense but for all 2,000 miles of the border it does not.

So I’m about being smart. I’m about dealing with the problem of illegal immigration. And oh and, by the way, we also need to be addressing and working with those countries to address the root cause of immigration coming out of Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, and these are some of the areas we’re working, and also we need to be increasing the number of immigration judges, once people are apprehended, to get them through the judicial process.

So that’s my take on the wall and I really, I really appreciate calling in and thanks for your service and your family’s service.

Congressman Will Hurd speaks to constituents at a Dairy Queen in Dilley, TX on Aug. 11, 2017 during a week-long Dairy Queen town hall tour of his district. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

HURD: Next, we’ve got Freddie, Freddie, how are you ma’am. Is it hot down in Eagle Pass?

FREDDIE: Lets just say I’ve been campaigning for a special election outside from 8 in the morning to 5 at night and it’s been 100 degree by the time I”m up at 6:45 a.m.

HURD: Well, that’s crazy. 100 degrees by 6 a.m. Well, thanks for calling in, I’m sure you have a question.

FREDDIE: Yeah, I was wondering how were you over the president handling the situation with Russia because, the one thing I’ve always liked about you is you play tough with tough guys and you play nice with nice guys, and I don’t think Putin’s very nice. So I’m wondering how you would want him to handle the situation with your background in national security and what have you?

HURD: I appreciate the question, Freddie, and you’re absolutely right.

When I was in the CIA, be nice with nice guys and tough with tough guys and there’s not a tougher guy out there than Vladimir Putin.

And I would agree with folks that say having a better relationship with Russia would be a good thing for everyone, however, there have to be some pre-conditions to show that Russia is interested in changing the nature of its relationship with the United States.

Every president since the fall of the Berlin Wall has thought they were going to have the opportunity to reset the U.S.’ relationship with Russia and they have failed to do that because ultimately Russia, and Vladimir Putin specifically, are interested in one thing and one thing alone. He is interested in re-establishing the territorial integrity of the USSR.

Vladimir Putin has said the worst thing that has happened in the last century was the fall of the Soviet Union, and he is the one trying to re-establish that, so what I would like to see is some continued support for sanctions against Russia for a number of reasons.

They invaded Ukraine. In their invasion, they manipulated the utility grid of the Ukrainians. They’ve tried to do that in  Estonia. Even the UN hs said that doing something with someone’s utility grid electricity is an act of war, so there have been sanctions against Russia for doing that.

They have invaded Ukraine, so they should leave, they should take their troops and their tanks and they should leave Ukraine, plain and simple.

They should stop supporting Iran, especially when it comes to Syria. They should make sure that these Iranian irregular units stop killing American forces, and they should be pushing Bashar al-Assad, the leader of Syria, to come to the negotiation table in order to have a political and military solution to he issue in Syria.

These are all things that I’d like to see our president stand up to Vladimir Putin on and use as, when those things get resolved, a pre-condition to continue to trying to improve a bilateral relationship. Republican presidents and Democratic presidents have gotten Vladimir Putin wrong and he’s proven himself to only care about one thing and that one thing only and that’s the USSR and re-establishing that.

So thanks for the question Freddie.

There were some other questions. Hurd talked about bipartisan efforts to restore national parks. He answered questions about community health centers and mental health services for veterans. He talked about small businesses in the district.

Altogether, in tone, it was a very civil and substantive telephone town hall.

Hurd’s differences with President Trump were very apparent and he did nothing to obscure them. On the contrary.

It’s a tricky business in a district in which most of his votes will have to come from Trump supporters, but victory will likely depend on drawing some voters appalled by the president.

There are very few districts like the 23rd in all of America.

Hurd is a skillful politician, not to be underestimated

And so far, he has also been lucky.

President Trump, it seems, wasn’t listening in on Hurd’s telephone town hall, or become personally exercised about Hurd’s New York Times op-ed.

Or, at any rate, if he was, he hasn’t tweeted about it.

And that’s remarkably, uncharacteristically, civil of him.

U.S. Reps. Will Hurd, left, and Beto O’Rourke on their road trip from San Antonio to Wasington D.C. on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.l

 

 

 

 

Run Hard: Blue Action Democrats rally against `naysayers’ and `conventional wisdom’

Good Monday Austin:

While other people yesterday were doing whatever people do on a summer Sunday afternoon in Austin, I spent several hours with a couple of hundred Democrats at a fundraiser for Blue Action Democrats, a relatively new club in Southwest Travis County.

My favorite moment was Austinite Julie Oliver, the Democratic candidate challenging U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, invoking Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

Oliver:

Naysayers. Have any of y’all come across any of them?

So,  I’m going to reference a movie: Walk Hard: The Dewy Cox Story.

“I do believe in you. I just ruthnow you’re going to fail.”

If y’all haven’t seen it, there’s a really funny scene where John C. Reilly, he is playing this Johnny Cash figure, he’s young, he’s about to hit the road on his very first musical tour and his wife is played by Kristen Wiig, and as she’s saying goodbye to him, kissing him, seeing him to the door, she’s like, You’re never gonna make it,” and smiling and waving and singing out the window and it’ really funny.

This is not the exact scene. Couldn’t find that. But close.

Oliver:

So I see that because I hear it sometimes, but when I hear that something clicks inside and I never thought of myself as competitive, but since I’ve been hearing that lately I’ve been game on. Game on.

Because, honestly all these race are winnable. We have to believe that. That’s the very first step is believing. Because when you believe that these races are competitive and winnable, that informs your reality. You know what happens from there. Action is stirred. 

“Well it looks like I got some proving myself to do.”

Walk hard, hard
When they say, “You’re all done”
Walk bold, hard
Though they say, “You’re not the one”

Even if you’ve been told time and time again
That you’re always gonna lose and you’re never gonna win
Gotta keep that vision in your mind’s eye
When you’re standing on top of a mountain high

You know when I was a boy, folks used to say to me
“Slow down Dewey, don’t walk so hard”
And I used to tell them, “Life’s a race and I’m in it to win it
And I’ll walk as damn hard as I please
How do I walk boys?”

“I’m casting my vote for Julie because we got cut five blocks out of our own district,”  said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, who, thanks to gerrymandering lives outside his district. ” I have never seen a more dangerous time for our country. Our democracy is under direct threat from someone who daily tells us that he admires every third world thug that he salutes and praises.”

Doggett told his mostly white audience that while talk in Democratic circles is getting the Hispanic or black vote out, “What we really need is our next-door neighbor, the person across the street.”

(See Ken Herman’s column on this from last week.)

The key races where we can win are right here in theses precincts – electing Vikki Goodwin  to serve in the state House. We know gerrymandering divided up our city in the way that we’re the largest city in America that does not control a congressional district. It’s wrong, but it’s obvious that the Supreme Court will provide no remedy for that. The remedy is in our hands, not at the courthouse but at the ballot box.

This is an election in which we either resist and stand up and provide a genuine check and balance to all of the hatred and bigotry of Donald Trump or we let our country continue to sink and decline.

One of the nice touches of the Blue Action Democrats event was that the runners-up in the contested races were invited as well and given a chance to speak.

All three of U.S. Rep. Joseph Kopser’s three rivals for the Democratic nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, in the 21st Congressional District, were on hand.

Mary Wilson, who is back in the pulpit full-time at the Church of the Savior in Cedar Park, talked about a recent mission delivering supplies to Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries on the border.

Next up was Derrick Crowe, who is moving with his wife to D.C., where his wife just landed a good job with Ballou High School.

Crowe:

Raise your hand if you know what the Dunning-Krueger Effect is?

For folks that don’t know it’s a phenomenon that’s been well documented. There are two types of people that are absolutely sure that they are great at the thing that they are doing. The first group of people are the experts. And the second group of people are the people that are too dim  to know they are not good at it. I am convinced that the Trump administration are the best example of the Dunning -Krueger Effect that we’ve ever had in an American administration. 

I think if psychologists would look they would find a very similar effect in terms of empathy. That there are people that are so lacking in empathy that they think they are great it.

xxxxxx

And you mentioned the folks that are loath to speak out against Donald Trump unless they’re retiring. We call that ring and run where I come from. And the solution to a ring and run Republican is a knock-and-drag Democrat.

It is absolutely essential that we take these congressional seats. Do everything you can to put Joseph Kopser and Julie Oliver in Congress this year.

Then it was Elliott McFadden’s turn.

On vacation last week, I read a book called the Storm Before the Storm. It’s about the generation before Julius Caesar the led to the end of the Roman Republican, and we are that generation in our country.

(OK. so this is Elliott McFadden’s idea of beach reading? Was he on Martha’s Vineyard shunning Alan Dershowitz?)

From the book description:

The Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of civilization. Beginning as a small city-state in central Italy, Rome gradually expanded into a wider world filled with petty tyrants, barbarian chieftains and despotic kings. Through the centuries, Rome’s model of cooperative and participatory government remained remarkably durable. The Romans commitment to regular elections and peaceful transfers of power was unmatched in the history of the ancient world.

In 146 BC, Rome finally emerged as the strongest power in the Mediterranean. But the very success of the Republic proved to be its undoing. The republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome now ruled. Rising economic inequality disrupted traditional ways of life. Endemic social and ethnic prejudice led to clashes over citizenship and voting rights. Rampant corruption and ruthless ambition among the elite sparked violent political clashes that cracked the once indestructible foundations of the Republic.

Chronicling the years 146-78 BC, The Storm Before the Storm dives headlong into the first generation to face the treacherous new political environment made possible by Rome’s triumphant success. Abandoning the ancient principles of their forbearers, men like Marius, Sulla, and the Gracchi Brothers set dangerous new precedents that would start the Republic on the road to destruction—a stark warning for modern readers about what happens to a civilization that has lost its way. This was the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic.

Yikes.

McFadden:

Congressman Doggett said it today. Our Republic is at stake in this election. If you don’t believe it, look at those children being ripped from the families. Watch a Supreme Court that is hanging in the balance which  can roll back Roe v. Wade. 

This is the election of our generation That is why I am supporting Joseph Kopser so he can go to Congress with Julie Oliver and hold this president accountable.

Kopser said that the primary had made him a much better candidate, which I think is true.

I talked with Steve Kling of Dripping Springs, who is taking on state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels.

I asked Kling a question prompted by some recent tweets, and his answer was a variation on Oliver’s rap on naysayers.

Kling:

When we started this 16 months ago we were considered a long-shot race. We’ve been upgraded by various pundits to a tough-but-winnable scenario. If we’re looking at some of the trends we’re seeing precinct-by-precinct across this district, if we can just get the level of turnout we get in a presidential – that’s saying a lot – but if we can get that, we can win this.

And it’s organizations like Blue Action Democrats that have a template of producing really strong turnout. If we can replicate that in just northern Bexar County alone, just that part of my district, we’ll actually win this, despite whatever happens in Comal or Kendall. 

I think we can actually win this by two or three points if we do that.

I asked, per the tweets, whether the felt he was getting the kind of support he needs or expects from Democratic Senate incumbents in adjoining districts?

 

Kling:

I really wish I could say that I was.

Unfortunately, that is a long string of unreturned phone calls, unresponsive. I’m surrounded by  Democratic state senators. We tried to set up meetings with them. I don’t know why they decided to stay on the sidelines. I don’t really know how to interpret that. They either don’t understand how important 2018 is or they don’t care. I don’t know which is worse.

We have an opportunity to break the (Republican) supermajority. 

If we turn two Senate seats we will be in a Senate where they won’t be able to do a vote without at least one member of our caucus.

I have been running this for 16 months and I have said the enemy is conventional wisdom. Getting the number that we’re seeing from our primary, getting the numbers we are getting from growth and talking to groups like Progress Texas and seeing the demographics that are moving into this area, the fastest growing area of this country.

This is a very winnable district. And really there’s an outcome if we get the help from the Democratic Party and the incumbents, and there’s one without, and they may be very different, and so trying to get an audience with my fellow Democrats that can really help make a difference in this race has been really important. We just haven’t been able to get the traction, and I don’t really know why.

The one Democratic senator I sat down with, who will remain nameless, has told me that one of the reasons that, at least from his perspective, that we are not getting traction, is they are frightened by the vindictiveness of Dan Patrick, which to me, that’s a vote of no-confidence for my friend Mike Collier (the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor).

The most important race right now is Mike Collier’s race. Even if I win, I’m really relegated to banging my head against the brick wall of Dan Patrick for four years. We’ve got to get Mike Collier in there and he’s the one who really needs the support from Democratic incumbents and, to my knowledge, he isn’t getting it either.

To be fair, the Senate Democratic Caucus, headed by Sen. (José ) Rodríguez, has  been as helpful as they can be. They have contributed to our campaign. Sen. Rodriguez has been an outspoken advocate of Democratic challengers. The adjacent. 

Of the Democratic incumbents who have been less forthcoming, Kling said, “If they want to make Dan Patrick happy, they can switch parties and let us know where they really stand.”

Yikes.

We conclude our coverage of yesterday’s event talking to Will Simpson, who is writing a book about his losing campaign for the Democratic nomination to challenge state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, in House District 47, which was ultimately won, in a runoff, by Vikki Goodwin.

From the Texas Tribune:

C’mon Trib, give the guy a break.

That’s better.

Simpson:

I have very thick skin. I spent a lot of time with (Austin City Council Member) Jimmy Flanagan who helped me try to get an idea of what it was going to be like. And he prepared me –  `You’re a first-time candidate, you’re probably going to lose, no matter what.”  

And we never believe that.

I probably will run again.

Simpson said he hopes to have a E-book out before Election Day.

Even if I don’t run again, somebody else may be able to learn something from my story.

Or maybe not.

I’m anal with note-keeping so I was able to reconstruct an outline of a book really fast.

I want to tell the story. I want somebody else to read the story of what it’s like.

I’m calling it Blue Wave.

His campaign slogan – a good one – was, ‘Where there’s a Will there’s a way.”

He lost his father during the campaign. That was tough.

:

We knew it was a rough district. Western Travis County is not blue Travis County. The south end is, the north end, where I live really is not. I live in Leander. the Travis County part of Leander. I’m a native. I was born in Austin.  I knew what I was getting into, but there was a ton that I didn’t know.

Like …

What I thought was a good candidate was way, way, way, way apart from what the masses were looking for. I’m very critical thinking and `can they win’ is part of the equation. Average person is emotion-driven, especially right now.

I didn’t focus enough on hard-core fundraising up front. I put in a lot of my own money, which is now gone. It really is a marketing campaign.

One of the things that almost kept me from running is that I believed I had too much integrity to be a national Democrat. I tend to tell it like it is too much. And that can hurt you in a campaign. I may not ever be a good candidate. A candidate needs to be a marketer first. I don’t like that, but that’s a very true statement.

At the end of the day a lot of what I had to offer wasn’t actually good for what a lot of the voters in the Democratic Party wanted by the time it came to the primary in March.

They wanted someone more progressive and they wanted someone who was female. And I understand why they wanted that because I can see it and I agree.

One of the things I may do, because I still do want to serve and make a difference, I may actually go and try to run in Wilco where those Democrats that you can find are different. And so I’m closer to them, I’m an old white guy like them. People want someone they feel they can relate to.

Did he find the loss emotionally wrenching?

Not for me. I’m a COO by nature. I am the wet blanket. I don’t tend to live in the emotional world. My wife, who is my better three-quarters, is, so it was harder on her and the family, even though we talked about it. That was hard on me.

Me losing? I live to take risks.

Simpson is the chief operating officer of a technology recruiting firm.

Simpson:

I’m fully supporting Vikki. It’s going to be damn close. She has 13,000 votes to switch out of 100,000, that’s a big margin to turn, and the blue wave isn’t going to hit. HD-47 is in the top ten districts in voter turnout, period, so it’s already a high-voting district.

What?  No blue wave?

Not in Texas there won’t be.

So why is his book going to be called Blue Wave?

That title is meant to be ironic. I don’t know what I’m going to put underneath it (as a subtitle.)  Overall in the nation, we are going to have a better midterm then we’ve had in a long time.

But, Simpson said:

I believe in math. It is going to be very hard in Texas. God love Beto, I am out writing checks and helping him every chance I get. He is not going to win. I don’t believe it. I’ve got his yard sign in my yard.

I think Julie has a shot. Personally I’m not a big fan, but I do think she has a shot, so that’s good for us.

Kopser?

I think Kopser has the money, he has the ground troops. Mathematically, it is a harder one to win. But he is more attractive to those kinds of people, so I think it’s a tossup.

And MJ Hegar, who is challenging U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, in CD31?

I don’t like her at all. But the Travis County Democratic Party should hang its head in shame to see how effective and how hard Wilco works relative to Travis County.  (He thinks John Bucy has a good shot at ousting state Rep. Tony Dale in House District 136.) MJ has very good ground game going and lot of money and national recognition. When Guy Kawasaki posts your video …

She will get traction. I think she’ll actually kick it open. I think she’ll turn it. We’ll know in the next 60 days how fired up the other side is. If 100 percent turns out, the Democrat loses. Period.

So there you have it.

Political curmudgeon and forthcoming memoirist Will Simpson says there is no blue wave coming, that if everyone turns out, Democrats lose, that Beto O’Rourke, the great blue hope, God love him, can’t win, but that Julie Oliver and MJ Hegar, neither of whom he particularly cares for, could pull upsets.

Wet blanket? Sure. But naysayer? Apparently not.

A little while later, Lynn Kurth, who was emceeing the Blue Action Democrats program, called out for Simpson.

“We have something for you.”

But Simpson had already left.

I asked Kurth later what she had for Simpson.

“Will was going to get one of the Get Shit Done Club pins. I’ll mail Will his pin.”

 

 

At Maverick PAC he founded, Ted Cruz finds himself amid a younger Hurd’s herd of less polarizing politicians

Good Monday Austin:

I spent Friday and Saturday night at the Maverick PAC Mavericks Conference.

Traveling back from Dallas, I arrived just in time Friday night.

There were protesters outside Brazos Hall who had marched up from a rally at Republic Square protesting the separation of immigrant families at the border.

Maverick PAC appeared well-heeled. They had Brazos Hall Friday night and the Moody Theater at Austin City Limits. There was food. There was an open bar.

And the protesters – or at any rate their presence outside – got shout-outs from the stage, a kind of satisfied recognition that their gathering was significant enough to merit pickets.

This was not a Texas tea party audience. The several hundred attendants were generally young, successful businesspeople from around country who, collectively, contribute about a quarter million dollars through the PAC to help other young Republican candidates like themselves win election to Congress.

While now national, Maverick PAC got its start 15 years ago with young alumni of the George W. Bush presidential campaign in Texas, starting with Cruz and George P. Bush, now Texas land commissioner, way before either of them had run for anything.

On Friday night, Cruz and Maverick co-chairs Morgan Outages and Fritz Brogan answered a few questions from reporters, including Stephanie Hamill of the Daily Caller in D.C.

Hamill asked Cruz about the importance of MavPAC.

I wanted to follow-up on what Cruz had told Patrick Svitek earlier in the day, during an appearance in Cedar Park, about his role in the pardon of Dinesh D’Souza – Dartmouth’s answer to Joe Arpaio.

And then, like a Russian nesting doll of credit-claiming, there is this.

ALEX JONES (HOST): ​You know, we really pushed it to Trump. He didn’t even know that [former sheriff Joe] Arpaio had been “convicted” by a judge of contempt and was facing a year in prison. And I know a lot of folks pushed [Dinesh] D’Souza. In fact, I personally pushed [Roger] Stone — I’m just bragging, this is true, I know other people did it, other people did as well — D’Souza, D’Souza, D’Souza, D’Souza, D’Souza. Because that will bring all that up and show the hypocrisy. I know for a fact Stone brought that up to Trump because he told me he did.

 

I asked about Cruz to review his role in the Dinesh D’Souza pardon.

CRUZ: I’m very glad the president chose to pardon Dinesh D’Souza because I think the Obama administration’s prosecution of him was incredibly unfair. It was political persecution is what it is. The crime he was charged of was an offense that typically is handled with a civil fine and it’s typically handled with a slap on the wrist but because he was a such a prominent  critic of Barack Obama, the Obama administration targeted him and charged him with a felony.

It was an abuse of power. It was abuse of power when it happened. I spoke out against it then and in fact it was right about the same time you may recall, when the Obama administration targeted a filmmaker right after the Benghazi attack happened, and they tried to blame the Benghazi attack on a filmmaker. Turned out that was not true but they went back and put that filmmaker in jail, a year in jail on unrelated charges.

Listen, I don’t think we should countenance the administration of justice being used for political and partisan ends. That’s what was done under the Obama administration.

So I had the opportunity to raise the issue with President Trump, I encouraged him to pardon Dinesh D’Souza and I’m very grateful the president made the decision to do so.

I asked Sen. Cruz if he considered D’Souza a friend and an ideological soul mate.

CRUZ:  Dinesh and I are friends.

CRUZ:  I think he has been very effective tearing down many of the lies of the far left.

CRUZ: You know it’s interesting. You see liberals on Twitter  going crazy that they’re so upset he was pardoned.

What’s interesting  is, just a few weeks ago we saw revelations that Rosie O’Donnell  apparently committed the same offense five times, five times, when she broke the identical law that Dinesh was prosecuted for.  I don’t recall any of those liberal activists on Twitter calling for Rose O’Donnell to be prosecuted.

The Department of Justice and the criminal justice system should not be used as a partisan tool and the Obama administration far too often put politics ahead of the rule of law so I am glad that President Trump made the decision  to issue the pardon.

I think the pardon furthers justice because criminal prosecutions shouldn’t be used to score partisan ends.

I asked if Sen. Cruz thought Trump was sending a message about his use of the pardon.

CRUZ: I  think the message of the pardon is very simple, which is that justice should be served and political prosecutions are not just and that’s exactly  what happened with Dinesh D’Souza.

And by the way, none of the people who are decrying – I read some of the editorials saying how terrible it was  he was pardoned – no one takes issue with the fact that his prosecution and his sentence were grossly disproportionate to  just about anybody else who had committed the exact same offense.

Imagine the reaction Jonathan,  during he Bush years, imagine if the George W. Bush  Justice Department had gone out there and  prosecuted Michael Moore or Alec Baldwin or any of the other liberals in Hollywood who criticize the president. That would have ben obviously wrong.  The press would have been completely against it.

And yet when the Obama administration targeted a conservative filmmaker, you didn’t get the same outcry. I’m glad the president stood up and stood for the principles of juice by pardoning what aw an unfair political prosecution.

For an alternative view, here is Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times.

During Barack Obama’s administration, the conservative author and activist Dinesh D’Souza wrote a book, “Obama’s America,” full of gross speculations about the sex life of the president’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, who was a pioneering anthropologist. “Ann’s sexual adventuring may seem a little surprising in view of the fact that she was a large woman who kept getting larger,” wrote D’Souza. He described her as a “playgirl” who used “her American background and economic and social power to purchase the romantic attention of third-world men.”

D’Souza’s insinuations had little to do with his ostensible thesis, which was that Obama sought to undermine America. It was simply a timeworn insult — calling someone’s mom fat and promiscuous — that tells us nothing about Obama’s family, but a lot about D’Souza’s character.

Besides being a huckster and a sexist weasel, D’Souza is a felon who, in 2014, pleaded guilty to routing illegal campaign donations through a woman he was having an affair with, and the woman’s husband. (At the time, D’Souza was married and serving as president of the evangelical King’s College. His ex-wife would later accuse him of physical abuse.) For his crime, he spent eight months in a halfway house. On Thursday, Donald Trump gave him a full pardon, tweeting that D’Souza had been “treated very unfairly by our government.”

Trump’s action, a clear abuse of his pardoning power for political ends, serves several purposes. Most seriously, the D’Souza pardon, like those of the former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and the former Dick Cheney aide Scooter Libby, is a message to Trump confederates facing legal trouble. It says that if they stay strong, he’ll take care of them. As a former federal prosecutor, Joyce Alene, pointed out on Twitter, D’Souza was convicted of one of the same crimes, a campaign finance violation, that Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen is now being investigated for.

The pardon is also a culture war smoke bomb, distracting from manifold other scandals and disasters: the study estimating that around 4,600 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria; outrage over migrant children ripped from their parents’ arms at the border; and an incipient trade war with our allies. Adding to the diversionary spectacle, on Thursday, Trump told reporters that he was considering commuting the sentence of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, a onetime contestant on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” and pardoning Martha Stewart, who hosted a “Celebrity Apprentice” spinoff.

D’Souza, who made his name in the 1990s fighting campus political correctness, once had a reputation as a middlebrow conservative provocateur, but he’s really more gutter-dwelling troll. His 1995 book “The End of Racism” argued, “In summary, the American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well,” and called for the repeal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. D’Souza wrote a bizarre book blaming the “cultural left” for provoking the jihadists who struck America on Sept. 11 and arguing for an alliance of the American right and conservative Muslims in “opposition to American social and cultural depravity.” During the Obama years he, like Trump, became a full-bore conspiracy theorist, accusing the president of spearheading a third-world scheme to subvert America.

In the Trump era, he’s become even worse. He mocked survivors of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting who cried after the Florida Legislature voted down an assault weapons ban, tweeting, “Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs.” (He later apologized.)

He described Rosa Parks as an “overrated” Democrat. He played a major role in spreading the lie — which Barr tweeted on Tuesday — that the billionaire financier George Soros, who was a Jewish child in Nazi-occupied Hungary, was really a Nazi collaborator.

And now Trump has singled this man out for grace. One former White House official, speaking to BuzzFeed News, denied that there was “any grand strategic reasoning” behind the pardon, which may well be true. But even if Trump was acting out of instinct rather than calculation, he has an intuitive ability to speak to his supporters’ dark impulses, and an insatiable need to smash boundaries that constrained his predecessors.

The fact that D’Souza is utterly undeserving of a pardon might be part of the point; it signals that fealty to the president transcends all other values. In his new book “The Road to Unfreedom,” the historian Timothy Snyder quotes the Russian fascist philosopher Ivan Ilyin, who is beloved by Putin’s circle. Fascism, Ilyin wrote approvingly, is “a redemptive excess of patriotic arbitrariness.” Trump has almost certainly never read this line, but he understands it.

Not all critics of the pardon are on the left.

Back to the MAVPAC press gaggle Friday night with Cruz:

Stephanie Hamill: Your opponent. His real name is Robert, correct, not Beto, and you released an ad and you highlighted the absurdity of a white man using the nickname Beto. As  Latina and a daughter of an immigrant, I’m kind of in the same boat as you, so when I hear somebody using that name, and to me I find that pandering for votes.

What’s you reaction to the criticism of  left over the ad that you put out.

Cruz: Well, we had some fun, I actually think in campaigning, it’s important to have some fun.

In it included a line, “Lberal Robert wanted to fit in so he changed his name to Beto and did it with a grin.”

That was done to be light, to have fun. But I’ve got to say the reaction of some Democrats, the reaction of some folks in the media was predictable. They stamped their feet they were so upset. How dare you point out that his name is Robert Francis.

And was also quite amusing  to see som of the Democrats explain,  “No, no,no, you don’t understand, Congressman O”Rourke is Robert Francs, he’s not Hispanic.. He just has  an Hispanic nickname. Whereas Cruz ….  his name is Rafael, he is he son of a Cuban immigrant, he’s Hispanics, but he uses the nickname Ted, aha, we got you.”

Well, I don’t know if this counts as stamping my feet, but when the ad came out I did a First Reading in which I wrote:

I think that little ditty contains within it everything you will need to know about the Cruz campaign against O’Rourke. This is not based on anything anyone has told me. It is simply my intuition.

Ted Cruz means to do nothing less than crush Beto O’Rourke’s candidacy and do so by destroying his good name, or at least, his first name, by turning BETO into a four-letter word, an epithet to be spit out in anger or, better yet, derision, the telling diminutive of a liberal beguiler, imposter and poseur, who is either an opportunist trying to fool Hispanic voters into thinking he is, at least in part, one of them, or, some kind of deluded, self-hating Anglo (albeit Irish-American Anglo), whose sentimental, fuzzy-headed, liberal notions of bi-nationalism and multiculturalism have robbed him of the most basic understanding that what makes Texas Texas is a strong border and unfettered access to guns.

The jingle, and Cruz’s follow-up comments, send the message to his voters that Cruz — the Hispanic son of an immigrant — is, by taking the name “Ted,” assimilating the way it’s supposed to be done, while O’Rourke, by calling himself Beto, is going weirdly the other way, undermining what made America great.

Little Beto, in the photo at the top of First Reading, may look innocent, but, Cruz’s jingle tells us, don’t believe it.

And, one would think, if O”Rourke’s parents were planning a pander knowing that he would one day be running for Senate on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert Francis Kennedy – that Irish Catholic Democrat with famous appeal to Hispanic voters and who, in hair and teeth and general affect, O’Rourke is already frequently likened to – they would have stitched Robert Francis on his pre-school sweater.

For the record, here is what O’Rourke told me about his the derivation of his nickname.

My grandfather, Robert V. Williams, who passed away when I was 4 years old, but when I was little, my mom tells me, that since there were two Roberts around, so such a little guy, look, we weren’t going to also call you Robert, because that was confusing, and in El Paso, if you’re not Robert, you’re Beto, if you’re not Albert, you’re Beto, if you’re not Umberto, you’re Beto. Beto is as common in El Paso as Bob might be in Dallas. There’s Beto’s Tacos. Wood Floors by Beto. Beto, your mailman. Beto, your congressman.

But, back to Hamill’s give-and-take with Cruz on whether O’Rourke is Beto-worthy”

HAMILL:  Yeah, but you’re bicultural, aren’t you? So you can technically go either way, but it’s absolutely absurd  for a white man to use the nickname Beto.

Cruz: Well he’s entitled to call himself anything he wants but I will say that  we had poll just this week a Quinnipiac Poll, and I don’t put a lot of stock in good polls or bad polls,  but the thing that was interesting, this poll showed me beating congressman O’Rourke among Hispanic voters in Texas. I think the reason is our values are commonsense conservative values.

 

CRUZ:  If  you look at what Hispanics want – we want jobs, we want opportunities. What resonates in our community is faith, family, patriotism, hard work, the American dream. Those are the values of Texas Republicans and those  are the values of most Hispanics voters in Texas.

HAMILL: He’s promoting illegal immigration, people that are in this country illegally, 

Immigrants from Mexico, from everywhere else, they want the border wall, they want border security.

I saw signs downstairs (of the protesters outside the window) that said “No borders,” “Love,” all these things … they said, “Defund ICE, CBP.”

It’s an outrage.”

 

CRUZ: Usually, in a general election in Texas a Democrat runs to the middle, at least pretends to.  Congressman O’Rourke isn’t doing that.

He is running hard left, just like Bernie Sanders. He is running on rising your taxes and  repealing the tax cuts.  He is running on more job-killing regulations. He is running on expanding Obamacare and socialized medicine.

You’re right. On immigration, he is running on defending sanctuary cities, not only opposing a wall, he says there are too many walls, too many fences, tear down what we have.

And he’s running also on aggressive gun control, and impeaching Donald Trump.

Now those are great campaign issues if he were running to be the senator from the state of Massachusetts People running Elizabeth Warren might have a problem with  Congressman O’Rourke attacking from her left flank.

But those aren’t the values in Texas  – low taxes, low regulation, more jobs,  border security. We want the rule of law respected … legal immigrants like my father when he came from Cuba in 1957 right here to Austin, he came with a student visa … It’s legal immigrants who find their jobs are lost and wages are driven down by illegal immigrants.

j

CRUZ: You know if you want to know what someone’s values are see what they stand for.

The State of the Union, every member of Congress gets to invite one guest. The last State of the Union, Congressman O’Rourke chose to invite an illegal immigrant. That’s what he wants to highlight – that he’s fighting for illegal immigrants.

On the other hand, at the State of the Union, I joined with Congressman Henry Cuellar, a Democrat, and the two of us together invited  Stephen and Pamela Willeford.

Stephen was the hero of Sutherland Springs who risked his life saving people and you know I think  between Congressman O’Rourke’s invitation and mine we illustrated  who it is we are fighting for every day.  He chose,  his number one priority according  to the State of the Union is illegal immigrants. My number one priority is standing up and fighting for Texas and defending our Constitution.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

Official blog of the US Representative for El Paso, TX
Jan 29

My Guest For Tomorrow’s State of the Union

Meet Daisy Arvizu, my guest to this year’s State of the Union Address. I first met Daisy in 2016 at a Dreamers town hall we held in El Paso that brought together Dreamers in our community and those who support them.

Daisy was brought to this country at the tender age of one year and eight months. She grew up in our community; she works two jobs; she’s a student at the El Paso Community College; and she’s hoping to continue on to UTEP. In every way that’s meaningful, Daisy is every bit as American as my three kids. We need to do right by Daisy and the 800,000 Dreamers in Texas and across the country who are contributing so much to our communities — making us stronger and safer and more successful every day.

I’m grateful that Daisy is able to join me for the State of the Union, and I’m going to keep doing everything I can to ensure that she and Dreamers across the country can continue contributing their full potential to the only country they’ve ever known — as citizens.
 

Daisy Arvizu after the State of the Union

On Saturday night, in addition to panels that included George P. Bush Gov. Greg Abbott Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison, there was also a panel of young Republican members Congress, the oldest of whom, at 40, was Rep. Will Hurd, who is seeking a third term in the swing 23rd Congressional District, that stretches from San Antonio to the outskirts of El Paso.

The next morning, Hurd was interviewed by Margaret Brennan on Face the Nation.

BRENNAN: We turn now to Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. He sits on Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees. And he joins us live from San Antonio.

Congressman, good morning to you.

I want to quickly ask you this “New York Times”-obtained letter from the president’s attorneys laying out their arguments, saying, he as president has complete control over federal investigations, cannot be compelled to testify, and could not have obstructed the FBI’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Sitting on House Intelligence, as do you, what do you make of this argument?

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: Well, this is going to be something that is going to be sorted out through the judicial system.

And I’m not a lawyer. But one of the things I have learned is, if you are innocent, act like you’re innocent. And Bob Mueller should be allowed to continue his investigation and turn over any stone and pursue any lead.

BRENNAN: Should the president be compelled to testify to Bob Mueller, the special counsel?

HURD: Again, I think this is going to be a judicial issue that — to figure out what is, what can he be compelled to do?

Again, if you don’t have anything to hide, why wouldn’t you testify? Because I think that would help get — close this investigation quicker, which I think that is something this administration wants to see.

But one of the things that I’m focused on is on issues that is firmly in the responsibility of Congress. And that’s trade, that’s immigration, and these are big issues that are going to be coming to the forefront over the next few days and weeks.

BRENNAN: And I do want to ask you about trade, but just to button this up, the president’s attorney said this morning the president probably has the power to pardon himself, though doing so would be unthinkable.

What would happen in the House if the president tried to do that? What would the political ramification be?

HURD: Look, I think that would be a terrible move. I think people would erupt.

I think even thinking about trying to fire Mueller is a bad move politically. So, I hope we don’t have to get to that point. And it’s hard to predict what would happen. But that would — that would be — that would create outrage on both sides of the political aisle.

BRENNAN: But let’s get to that issue of trade you brought up there.

Would there be support in the House, where you sit, for legislation that would require the president to get congressional approval before putting on tariffs? There’s talk in the Senate about doing it. Would you support something in the House?

HURD: Absolutely.

The Congress has shared our responsibility when it comes to trade with the executive branch over the last couple of decades. And I think that is something that we need to reevaluate. One of the things that — as you know, Margaret, I spent nine-and-a-half years as an undercover officer in the CIA.

I was the dude in the back alleys at 4:00 in the morning. One of the things I learned is, be nice with nice guys and tough with tough guys. Make sure your allies know you have their back.

BRENNAN: So, Canada, Mexico and European Union are not national security threats, from your point of view, which is the authority the president used here?

HURD: No, they’re not. No, we are lucky to have Canada and Mexico as our neighbors.

Imagine what some of our other allies have to deal with. A sound foreign policy, sound trade policy does not mean penalizing your allies while you’re rescuing a Chinese company that firmly and clearly violated U.S. sanctions. And I’m speaking about ZTE.

So, let’s address the real problem. China is dumping steel on the world markets. Let’s address that. China is stealing intellectual property. Let’s address that. Let’s not help one Chinese company continue to sell their widgets all around the world, while we’re going to ultimately impact the American consumer.

Why should my fellow Americans compare about this? Here in South Texas, it’s hot. And if you like a drink, a cold beer on a hot day, it’s going to be more expensive. If you have got to fill up your car with gasoline, it’s going to be more expensive.

If you have to buy clothes, it’s going to be more expensive. If you buy food in a grocery store, it’s going to be more expensive. And so this makes absolutely no sense. And to say that this is going to create jobs in the United States of America, we are celebrating 3.8 percent unemployment.

That is the best it’s ever been in almost half-a-century. So where — what jobs is this going to be bringing back? It’s only going to impact jobs. And so that’s why most of us, a lot of us in Congress thinks this is not the way you handle trade, this is not the way you deal with your allies.

BRENNAN: On the issue of immigration, the majority of Americans polled seem to support some kind of protection for dreamers, so-called DACA recipients.

But your bosses in Congress have tried to block a vote on this. Do you have a surefire way to force a vote in the House and get a bill to the president’s desk?

HURD: Margaret, let me correct you for a second. They’re not my bosses. My bosses are the 800,000 people that I represent in the 23rd Congressional District of Texas.

And that’s why I’m working on this issue with friends like Jeff Denham from California, Carlos Curbelo from Florida, Elise Stefanik from New York, in order to force this vote.

This is this discharge petition, where it’s saying, hey, we’re going to bring multiple bills to the floor on immigration and have that vote. I hope teachers are still teaching in school that having a public conversation and discourse is still important to keeping democracy alive and thriving in the United States of America. And that’s what we’re trying to push.

BRENNAN: Well, Speaker Ryan — Speaker Ryan and his whip and everyone with him are trying to block this vote from happening.

Do you have the votes to force this to the floor?

HURD: We do. And we’re adding votes every single day.

We’re engaged in conversations to figure out, is there another path? I don’t believe that there is. And the time has come. It’s 2018. We don’t have operational control of our border. We have a million-plus young men and women who have only known the United States of America as their home that are in this uncertainty period. They don’t know about their future.

Now is the time to solve this problem and do it once and for all.

And guess what?

BRENNAN: You expect that vote this month?

HURD: Yes, this month of June.

BRENNAN: All right, Congressman, thank you very much.

HURD: Always a pleasure.

Hurd, 40, Curbelo, 38, U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsoin, is 34, and Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress in 2014, is 33, were all on a panel together moderated by Hamill. (Cruz is 46, and O’Rourke is 45.)

Here is something about the members of the panel.

Stefanik Selected as Co-Chair of Republican Tuesday Group

January 11, 2017

Press Release

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) has been selected as Co-Chair of the House Republican Tuesday Group, a policy caucus within the House Republican Conference.

“I am honored to be selected by my Tuesday Group colleagues for this important opportunity,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “The Tuesday Group is comprised of Members who are willing to work across the aisle to advance policy solutions for their constituents, and I look forward to working on critical issues facing our nation in this important role.”

“Representative Stefanik is an outstandingly talented and dedicated member of the Republican Conference,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA-15), Co-Chair of the Tuesday Group. “As a millennial, Elise brings a fresh perspective to a number of issues. The Tuesday Group is fortunate to have her in a leadership role as one of our co-chairs.”

And Carlos Curbelo.

A Miami Republican makes enemies in Washington
By Alex Daugherty
November 26, 2017
WASHINGTON Carlos Curbelo is picking fights.

He attacked the NRA for opposing his bill to ban a firearm accessory that allows semi-automatic rifles to fire like automatics. He attacked the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, currently made up of all Democrats, for denying his membership application.

And he is attacking the Trump administration and fellow Republicans who oppose efforts to combat climate change.

These spats give the second-term Republican congressman from Miami ground to criticize both sides of the political spectrum for unyielding partisanship, and they allow Curbelo to deliver a message to his constituents and voters that the right and the left are both responsible for Washington’s dysfunction

 

According to Bipartisan Index ranking of bipartisanship in the last Congress, Curbelo ranked 11, Stefanik, 31, O’Rourke, 77,  and Hurd 112.

In 2017, Curbelo ranked 4, Stefanik, 27, Hurd, 49, and O’Rourke, 93.

In the Senate, Cruz ranked 85, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the number two Republican in the Senate, was 30. Bernie Sanders was last. In the last Congress, Cruz was next to last, ahead only of Sanders.

Oh, and there’s this, a press release from Curbelo’s office.

South Florida DACA Recipient To Join Curbelo at State of the Union

Washington, D.C., January 26, 2018 | Joanna Rodriguez (202-225-2778) | 0comments
On Tuesday, South Florida DACA recipient Adrian Escarate will join Representative Carlos Curbelo (FL-26) at the State of the Union.

“I’m honored to have Adrian be my guest for the State of the Union,” Curbelo said. “One of my chief legislative priorities this Congress and the last has been to forge a compromise on immigration that delivers a fair, permanent solution for young immigrants like him. I was encouraged by the immigration outline the White House released yesterday, and look forward to working with colleagues from both sides of the aisle next week to make sure Congress fully recognizes America’s Children – young men and women like Adrian who are contributing greatly to our country.”

Escarate was born in Santiago, Chile and was brought to the United States when he was 3 years old. Initially, his parents had only intended to live in Miami for five years, but after assimiliating, South Florida became their permanent home. Growing up, Adrian played competitive tennis while also achieving great academic accolades during his primary schooling. Adrian was also able to attend the University of North Florida and St. Thomas University as a student-athlete by playing on the men’s tennis team at both universities. Although undocumented, he was able to attend school with private scholarships and graduated Cum Laude from St. Thomas University in 2011 with a Degree in Communications Arts and a minor in Psychology. It was a great accomplishment, but unfortunately he could not exercise his degree because of his undocumented status. When Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) went into effect, Adrian was able to acquire a work permit, social security number, and a Florida Driver’s License.

Curbelo first met Escarate when he was advocating for a DACA solution in Washington. Since then, they’ve met on several occasions in Washington and in South Florida.

Curbelo and Escarate are available for interviews together from Washington, D.C. Tuesday and Wednesday.

BACKGROUND

One of the key players in congressional negotiations on immigration, Curbelo has consistently made Dreamers a priority. Curbelo introduced the bipartisan Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act, which would provide three paths to legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, last year and in the 114th Congress. The RAC Act was the first permanent legislative solution for the DACA population introduced in this Congress and the only one introduced in the 114th Congress.

According to a Niskanen Center report,  passage of the RAC Act would increase gross domestic product (GDP) by $79 billion over ten years and create 115,000 new jobs. 

Curbelo has stated he would support any legislation that offers a permanent solution for the DACA population.

And, finally, Mike Gallagher.

How to make it as a maverick from Trump country
By Katie Glueck at McClatchy:

April 01, 2018 

He had barely been in Congress four months, but already, Mike Gallagher was being discussed as presidential ticket material.

“The Republican ticket in 2020 will be: Trump-Pence, Pence-Haley, Kasich-Martinez, Sasse-Gallagher,” read a Twitter poll posted by prominent conservative Bill Kristol one morning last May.

It was a lighthearted survey and the Gallagher option, paired with Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, came in last. But it was an early sign that the freshman congressman was on the radar of high-profile Beltway Republicans.

 Nearly one year later, Gallagher, of Wisconsin, has cemented his image as a rising star — one with an unusually independent reputation in today’s Republican Party.

In an era of intense political tribalism, Gallagher is the rare House member from a strongly pro-Trump district who has broken sharply with the White House over a range of issues, including the firing of ex-FBI Director James Comey and the Russia-related investigations.

Even more rare: he has done it—so far—without sparking crippling conservative backlash.

“All Americans should want the president to be successful, right? If he’s successful, the country’s successful,” Gallagher told McClatchy in an interview in his Capitol Hill office last month.

But, he said, “It’s not my job to just salute everything the White House does.”

“He’s done a very, very good job of navigating the Trump rapids,” said Kristol, the editor at large of the Weekly Standard and a Trump critic. “Of not picking unnecessary fights with Trump and Trump supporters, but not in any way bending over backwards, as so many other Republicans have, to give up principles or…be obsequious to Trump.”

Gallagher, 34, is a Princeton- and Georgetown-educated Marine veteran with a Ph.D., and an acolyte of former Trump National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. He delights in policy wonkery, which offers some cover when he breaks with Trump: party leaders, referencing his resume, suggest that Gallagher has earned “the right to his own opinion.”

His Marine discipline shapes his personal life, too: Gallagher, one of Congress’s youngest members, sleeps in his office, works long hours and has health nut tendencies.

“Let’s get some vegetables and some protein!” he said one recent morning, unsatisfied with the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “heavily salted almond” offerings. “Let’s also install pull-up bars…if you have to endure the pain of raising money, at least you can knock out a set of pull-ups in frustration.”

Republican donors and operatives see the freshman workaholic as the next sterling-credentialed member with a maverick streak who could shape the future of their deeply divided party—if he can outlast the turbulence and tribalism of the moment.

xxxx

Gallagher presents as breezy and self-deprecating. But he is, clearly, intensely driven.

Rep. Seth Moulton, another Ivy League-educated Marine veteran who has traveled with Gallagher, called him “witty, fun, engaging,” but also “very intellectual, likes to read a lot, he tends to go to bed early, sometimes you have to work a little to get him to stay out.”

Like Gallagher, Moulton—a Democrat—is often mentioned as a future leader of his party.

“My deep hope is people like Seth and Mike…become the next generation of John Kerry and John McCain,” said McKnight, Gallagher’s friend from Iraq who also knows Moulton. “Does that mean he stays in the House for forever, becomes a senator, goes into the administration? Those people I referred to initially did all of those things.”

They also both ran for president.

“Everyone’s looking to see who the young rising stars of the party are and whether they will stick through the current turmoil and, if they do, whether they will survive and be successful,” said Jamil Jaffer, former chief counsel on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he became friends with Gallagher.

“The answer,” he said, “is absolutely yes.”

The Mavericks Conference panel were not Hamill’s usual Daily Caller interviewees.

But she gamely sought to draw them into her worldview.

HAMILL: As a young Republican I see everything were surrounded by. We’ve got the legacy fake news media  attacking us 24/7, and then not only do we have that but we have liberal Hollywood just shoving propaganda down our throats in their movies and their late-night comedy, and our education system which has basically turned into a liberal indoctrination center.

She then segued into a truly weird person-in-the-street interview she had just done in Washington, D.C.

Now, none of this would have thrown Ted Cruz off his game. He would have offered Hamill something on the order of what she was looking for.

But the Hurd Herd simply stared at Hamill, and, then, one by one, offered what amounted to a rejoinder.

Stefanik: So, I think one of our biggest generational challenges is people are unwilling to hear or listen to people they don’t agree with. I think that is going to be a challenge for policy-makers in this country and the media exacerbates that. You don’t hear stories about bipartisan victories when the media covers what Congress is doing. The reality is 80 percent of our bills are actually bipartisan. You don’t hear about those significant legislative victories. I think the onus is on individuals to really stand up and be strong messengers about collaborative policymaking.

Curbelo: One of our flaws as a movement, as a party, as Republicans, is that we have forfeited on many issues over the decades – an agenda that helps people rise out of poverty, whether it means the environment, immigration, something that we’re trying to change now by actually having a  debate in the Congress, and be able to engage on all these issues and show a younger generation of Americans who have real concerns that we have solutions or at least are willing to listen to them and consider some of their ideas and solutions. So I would stay, stop forfeiting on ideas, engage on every issue. We have an agenda that is loyal to the founding principles of this party but also can respond to the concerns and the fears and the anxieties that a lot of people feel about the future with the new economy, with issues like sea level rise in the 26th Congressional District where everyone lives near the sea or at sea level.

HURD: If the Republican Party in Texas does not look like Texas, there will be not be a Republican Party in Texas. So we have to engage in places where most Republicans have never been. And I consider myself the vanguard of this because I’m in communities, they’ve never seen a Republican before.

GALLAGHER: At the risk of being a buzz kill, I do think we need to look at our own house. I understand that the tactics and the disinformation of the left can be frustrating at times, but they certainly don’t have a monopoly on it. I was at a Lincoln Day Dinner recently, and this has happened a thousand times and I am the least experienced member of this panel.  A lady came up to me and said, “Congressman Gallagher, you need to do something for me. There are Democrats who won’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. They’re sitting down and their protesting and they’re disrespecting our country.”

And I’m like, “I’ve never seen that,” and she said, “I’ve got proof,” and she pulled out a whole email thread chain and there’s pictures of people that look like legislators and they have names and they were sitting down and they were at desks, though, and in the House of Representatives, we don’t have desks.

“This is not the House of Representatives, we don’t have desks. Maybe it’s the Senate.”

“Oh, it’s the Senate. I think it’s the Senate. It’s the Senate.”

And I look at the names and I go, “Ma’am, I don’t know all the names of all the members of the Senate off the top of my head, but these are not the names of any U.S. Senators.”

“This could be some weird other country where they’re sitting down, but it’s not the United States of America.”

And I left there thinking just how much of this misinformation is out there, you know. And social media has made it worse. 

And I tend to think most people value honesty, and they don’t expect you to agree with them on everything, but if they just have some sense you are being honest with them and real with them, they’re willing to put up with a lot. So I just do think there’s an element of this where we can’t allow the same thing in our own party.

HURD: We all know not to get in a car with a stranger – asterisk, an Uber or Lyft driver – so why are we sharing things from people we don’t know who they are or where that information from?

As a professional intelligence officer, it really drives me crazy.

After the conference, I talked with Gallagher and with MAVPAC co-chair Fritz Brogan, who worked for Florida Gov. Jeb bush as a young man, worked in the George W. Bush White House (with Stefanik), interviewed George P. Bush at the conference Saturday night, and is now restaurateur in Washington D.C.

(Maverick PAC national co-chair Fritz Brogan and U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, at ACL Saturday night.)

I told Gallagher that I thought it admirable that he had straightened that woman out at the Lincoln Day Dinner and that he retold the story at the conference.

“It kind of reminded when McCain was running,” said Brogan, recalling that famous moment in the 2008 presidential campaign when John McCain corrected a woman at one of his rallies who said she didn’t trust Obama because he was an “Arab.”

Gallagher: There’s not common field of intellectual combat where we can keep track. What does the evidence say? What are the facts?

But, for many Republicans in our Year of Trump 2018, McCain is nothing but a throwback, a memory, and not a good one.

Cruz’s views on immigration and Dreamers are a lot harder line than those of George W. Bush or Rick Perry were.

Returning home from MAVPAC, Friday night I turned on Bill Maher who was describing the Republican Party as the conspiracy-minded, conspiracy-guided party not just of Donald Trump but Alex Jones.

And the newly-pardoned Dineh D’Souza.