Lupe Valdez talks Latinx activists into backing the White guy for governor

(Photo by Ken Herman)

Good Monday Austin:

As of today, thanks largely to the forces of political inertia, Lupe Valdez remains the favorite to win the May 22 runoff and become the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.

But, steadily, bit by bit, Valdez appears determined to chip away at her lead.

On Sunday it was an appearance, along with rival Andrew White, Miguel Suazo, the Democratic Party’s candidate for land commissioner, and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso,the party’s candidate for U.S. Senate, at a town hall put on by Jolt, a barely year-old organization intended to mobilize younger Latinos as a political force in Texas (note that both Suazo and O’Rourke are both running against Hispanic Republican incumbents in Land Commissioner George P. Bush and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.)

But somehow, on the strength – or weakness – of her performance, Valdez lost the endorsement of a passionate and energized group of Latinx (as I have learned, the gender-neutral term for Latinos/Latinas) Texans to a white man named White who is the son of a white man named Mark White who served as a centrist governor of Texas for one term from 1983 to 1987,  and who is running in 2018 as a centrist Democrat for governor.

(The Valdez campaign issued a statement Monday night in which she apologized for her performance at Jolt.)

Valdez ought to be worried, and if she isn’t, Texas Democrats ought to be worried about the prospect of nominating a candidate for governor on the increasingly questionable premise that her name and identity alone guarantee that she will be the stronger general election candidate or, at any rate, the candidate best able to help draw an increased Hispanic turnout in November, which is the raison d’être of Jolt.

Jolt is relatively new (here is an early story about Jolt from Gus Bova at the Texas Observer), not that well-known and has no electoral track record yet, though it has made an impression with its creative organizing efforts, including the Quinceañera at the Capitol celebration of resistance to SB 4 last year that they said reached 50 million Americans through social media.

Jolt has ambitions, according to its founder and executive director Cristina Tzintzun, of mobilizing 30,000 Hispanic voters who don’t usually vote and bringing them to the polls this year.

And, on Sunday, Jolt’s first endorsement town hall generated newspaper headlines across the state that were bad for Valdez.

There’s my story:

Young Hispanic activists ‘Jolt’ Valdez campaign by backing Andrew White

In a stunner, Jolt, a year-old organization of young Hispanic Texans with ambitions of spurring a surge in turnout this year, endorsed Andrew White over Lupe Valdez for the Democratic nomination for governor Sunday after a town hall at which Valdez failed to effectively answer questions about whether her record as Dallas County sheriff was “anti-immigrant.”

There’s Immigration questions put governor hopeful Lupe Valdez on hot seat at young Latino voters’ forum from James Barragán in the Dallas Morning News.

AUSTIN — A group of young Latino voters has endorsed Andrew White for governor instead of his opponent, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, after she struggled to answer questions about her record on immigration during a forum Sunday.

There’s Latino voting group snubs Lupe Valdez, backs Andrew White for governor by Peggy Fikac in the San Antonio Express-News.

AUSTIN — After expressing dissatisfaction with Lupe Valdez’s answer when she was quizzed about her allegedly “anti-immigrant” policies as Dallas County sheriff, a Latino voting group Sunday instead endorsed Houston businessman Andrew White in the Democratic runoff for governor.

There’s  Austin town hall turns heated for Dems Valdez, White by the Houston Chronicle’s Mike Ward.

AUSTIN – The two Democrats running for Texas governor were confronted Sunday during a town hall forum over their positions involving immigration, putting them on the defensive at an event that was expected to be friendly.

Injecting drama into a race that so far has mostly been a snoozer, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez was questioned about why she cooperated with federal immigration detainers while she was in charge of the Dallas County Jail.

The forum that attracted about 200 people was staged Sunday by Jolt The Vote, a civic-engagement organization working to mobilize Latino millennials in the 2018 elections. Only Democratic statewide candidates appeared.

Later in the day, hours after the forum, Jolt group endorsed White over Valdez, the first Latina to run for Texas governor, saying he had shown his “commitment to improving the lives of Latinos.” The group also endorsed Beto O’Rourke for Texas Senate for the same reason.

And there’s the Texas Tribune story – Democratic statewide candidates get tough questions from Latino youth – from Patrick Svitek:

 Karla Quinoñes did not mince words as she asked the first question to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez.

“Ms. Valdez, you were sheriff of Dallas County for many years, and it seems that your legacy was one of supporting anti-immigrant policies that actually expanded ICE enforcement,” said Quinoñes, a Dallas high school student, posing a series of pointed questions about Valdez’s cooperation with the federal agency and intentions if elected governor. “Why should we trust you today?” 

The less-than-direct answer that followed from Valdez did not appear to satisfy Quinoñes and the group she represents — Jolt Texas, which was created last year to mobilize young Latinos in turning the state blue. And before the end of the afternoon, Valdez had lost another endorsement to her runoff rival, Democrat Andrew White, after coming across as ill-prepared or -informed.

Ay yi yi

As Svitek wrote, the endorsement of White was probably largely due to Valdez’s inability to successfully answer the mutli-pronged question from Quinoñes.

As I wrote:

It was a question from Karla Quiñones, an 18-year-0ld senior at W.T. White High School in Dallas, that crystallized ongoing concerns about Valdez’s record in the Latino activist community, and her inability to offer a crisp and clear response.

“Miss Valdez,” said Quiñones, the daughter of Mexican immigrants who grew up watching Valdez coverage on Univision, the Spanish-language television network, “you were the sheriff of Dallas County for many years, and it seems that your legacy was one of supporting anti-immigrant policies that actually expanded ICE enforcement.”

“Given that, one, the Dallas community walked out of your forum with (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) saying that you turned your backs on them; two, you complied with every ICE request for warrantless ICE detentions even when other counties, like Travis County, were taking a courageous stand against them … why should we trust you today?”

Valdez thanked Quiñones for a “chance to explain.”

“Of course, look at me, I’m going to fight for as much immigration as I can,” Valdez said, detailing her vigorous opposition to Senate Bill 4, the ban on so-called sanctuary cities passed by the Legislature and signed into law last year by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Let’s pause here.

Valdez has taken to introducing folks at her appearances to the “Greg Abbott tracker” in their midst – the young man with the nice earrings who records things she has to say that might find their way into Abbott campaign ads.

It’s a funny, and well-received, when she tells her audience to welcome him. But her generosity of spirit should not extend to giving him what he is looking for.

Of course, look at me, I’m going to fight for as much immigration as I can.

One could fairly hear Abbott strategist Dave Carney’s YEEHAH! echoing from his lair in Hancock, New Hampshire, off Skatutakee Mountain, the 1667 miles to Austin, Texas, above the low hum of Abbott Oompa Loompas working through the night to churn out a new line of 100 percent cotton T-shirts with an image of Lupe Valdez and the words, Of course, look at me, I’m going to fight for as much immigration as I can.

It’s not just that that’s not a policy. It’s that it’s exactly what Texas Republicans think, or their leaders would like them to think, is the actual Democratic thought process on immigration – fight for as much immigration as possible to help turn the state blue over time.

Two weekends ago, the last time I saw Valdez in Austin, she introduced her Abbott tracker to the crowd and then, after brief remarks, had this to say in answer to a question about debates.


Asked by a Democratic activist at a campaign event at North Austin brewpub Black Star Co-op on Friday night if she was going to debate White, Valdez replied, “I’m open to any kind of debate, but my staff are the ones who are going to take care of all of that.”

Pressed for a firmer answer, Valdez said, “You know there’s only certain decisions that they let me make, and most of them have to do with policy. … I can’t even tell you where I’ll be in the next few days. They’ll tell me. So they’re taking care of that.”

Abbott is primed to run against Valdez.

As John Moritz wrote in early April in a piece that appeared in the Caller Times under the headline, Greg Abbott declares Lupe Valdez a winner in the May 22 Democratic runoff for governor. The Democratic runoff for Texas governor is more than a month away, but the Republican incumbent is eager to cast Democrat Lupe Valdez as pro-sanctuary cities.

AUSTIN – Texas Democrats needn’t bother voting in the May 22 runoff because Republican Gov. Greg Abbott already has declared former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez the winner over Houston businessman Andrew White.

“The next 7 months will be a battle between @LupeValdez and me about whether or not Texas will secure our border and protect our sovereignty,” the governor said in a tweet Wednesday night. “It’s about whether sanctuary cities will remain banned or be allowed.”

Abbott, with the power of incumbency running in a solid red state, will be the prohibitive favorite no matter who the Democrats choose next month. But the tweet that came in response to Valdez’s statement castigating President Donald Trump’s plans for troops on the Texas-Mexico border suggests Abbott likes the idea of making sanctuary cities and illegal immigration Topic One for the general election campaign.

Valdez was happy to engage with Abbott on the issue.

The fact that Valdez find herself whipsawed between Abbott’s claims that she is too soft on immigration and the activist’s charges that she is too hard-line, is a dilemma that perhaps cannot be avoided. But she could attempt to make the case that she is charting a reasonable middle ground.

But her responses Sunday fail to reveal a coherent through-line.

Returning to Valdez’s response to Quiñones’ question Sunday, from my story:

She talked about the May 2015 community engagement meeting in Dallas at which immigrant activists confronted Sarah Saldaña, director of ICE, over what crimes constituted just cause for deportation.

“I brought in the director of ICE so they could come and explain the whole situation that was going on, and there were a couple of people who were upset with me because I couldn’t explain what was going on, and they literally got up and turned their backs and walked away,” Valdez said. “The thing that was uncomfortable about that was there were many people there that needed to hear what they needed to do, what they could do, and the director of ICE was standing right there to tell them. But because of that, they weren’t able to hear the direction that could have been given and the paths that they could take.”

OK. So in the course of providing an answer that may have figured importantly in Jolt’s turning its back on her, Valdez explained that back in 2015, there were a couple of people who were upset with me because I couldn’t explain what was going on, and they literally got up and turned their backs and walked away.” 

Things didn’t get any better after the speech when Valdez was confronted by a gaggle of reporters who wanted to follow up on Quiñones’ question.

After the town hall, Valdez was asked about Quiñones’ question suggesting she had an “anti-immigrant” record.

“I think it was one person’s opinion,” Valdez said, recalling her vocal opposition to SB 4.

“As you recall, the governor actually sent me what I call nastygrams because of my decision of defense of the people that were being deported and separated from their parents,” Valdez said.

Valdez was also asked about a 2015 federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Dallas County jail inmates against the county and her as sheriff, claiming they were being illegally detained because of “immigration holds” placed on them for ICE.

Valdez said the lawsuit was “filed against immigration being able to take people from the jail; the lawsuit was against the authority of ICE to be able to deport.”

“The lawsuit is still going on, so I have to be real careful how I discuss that,” Valdez said.

Asked about Quiñones’ question of whether she deserves the trust of the Latino community, Valdez said, “I think there’s a misunderstanding of the track record. I went to fight SB 4 way before anybody else.”

With that, Valdez told the scrum of reporters, “I’ve given you some answers. You wanted some answers, and I’ve given them to you. OK, now let us do what we love to do best and deal with some of the voters and go on to some of the other things we’ve got to do.”

The bad/good news for Valdez was that, from my limited experience, Sunday’s was one of her better performances. She was more lively and animated and had more rhetorical threads than I had seen before.

She certainly has way more endorsements than White, including at least three state senators, 24 state representatives, and U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio.

The Democratic nomination for governor, of course, could have been Joaquín’s or his twin brother, Julián’s for the taking but Joaquín chose to stay in Congress and Julián is exploring a run for president, which is apparently less daunting than running statewide in Texas.

For her fellow Democratic politicians, endorsing Valdez is the safest course, the path-of-least-resistance option.

But, for Jolt, the political calculation is  different.

It brought to mind what Mike Webb, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus told Ken Herman in February about the organization’s decision to endorse White, who is straight, over Valdez, who made history as a lesbian sheriff.


“Let’s be clear: Our members wanted to endorse Valdez,” said Mike Webb, Houston GLBT caucus president. “There’s nothing that would make us more proud than electing a member of our own community. However, we also have an expectation in our community to endorse the person who will do the best job. And our members just thought that Andrew White would do the best job.”

Webb also said, “Our members were convinced he would be best positioned to fight back hard against the aggressive bigotry we are getting from our governor” and that on “questions of deportation of immigrants, (Valdez’s) answers just weren’t very empathetic.”

Jolt’s founder, Tzintzun, who’s mother is Mexican and father is white, is originally from Columbus, Ohio, but moved to Texas when she was 21.

“My parents told me that it had the three things I love the most: year-round sunshine, lots of Mexicans and vegan food,” Tzintzun said.

The last seems a questionable draw, but she lives in Austin.

Before Jolt, Tzintzun spent 12 years building the Workers Defense Project .

Tzintzun is 36. Jolt is intended to mobilize Latinx voters younger than she is.

Founder and Executive Director Cristina Tzintzun said they chose the name Jolt “because when Latinos come out to vote, we are going to be a shock to the political system, not only of Texas but of the entire country.”

For Tzintzun and Jolt, there is little incentive to follow the safer course, the path-of-least-resistance option of endorsing Valdez if they don’t really believe she would best advance their goals.

At 18, Quiñones, grew up with Valdez as a public figure in her hometown.

“It was always good seeing her on TV. Wow, someone who looked like me was in such a high position.”

Energized to get involved in politics by the 2016 election,Quiñones got in touch with Jolt and became the  president of her high school chapter, which meant she would be among 16 leaders of the organization to vote on its endorsement this weekend.

Assigned the task of posing a question to Valdez, Quiñones did her research and delivered her accusatory question in a very even manner. When I spoke to her after the town hall, she said she didn’t think that Valdez had answered her question: “I think she kind of veered off.”


White is making the argument that he is a more capable candidate who will acquit himself better as the party’s nominee for governor, that he will stand the ticket – topped by Beto O’Rourke  and followed by the candidate for governor – in better stead. He is also making the case that, as long a shot as it may be for either of them, he stands a better chance of defeating Abbott than Valdez.

As he told the town hall Sunday, there is a blue wave building and it has already elected a moderate Democrat to the Senate in a special election in Alabama, and a moderate Democrat to Congress in a special election in Pennsylvania.

“And,” White said, “our turn is next.”

Electing a middle-of-the road white guy might not seem to be the most compelling argument to win over Latinx activists in Texas in 2018. But, on Sunday, thanks to Lupe Valdez, it carried the day.






Flash-bang grenades: On Ted Cruz’s incendiary political rhetoric.

Poster by SABO


Good Friday Austin:

The TIME 100 is supposed to be a list of the 100 most influential people of 2018.

Each of the hundred gets a little write-up by some other pretty influential person.

And so our own Texas Sen. Ted Cruz did the blurb for President Trump.

Here is what Cruz wrote:

President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America. The fact that his first year as Commander in Chief disoriented and distressed members of the media and political establishment is not a bug but a feature.

The same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump’s popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump’s achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans. While pundits obsessed over tweets, he worked with Congress to cut taxes for struggling families. While wealthy celebrities announced that they would flee the country, he fought to bring back jobs and industries to our shores. While talking heads predicted Armageddon, President Trump’s strong stand against North Korea put Kim Jong Un back on his heels.

President Trump is doing what he was elected to do: disrupt the status quo. That scares the heck out of those who have controlled Washington for decades, but for millions of Americans, their confusion is great fun to watch.

Cruz is a U.S. Senator from Texas

Well, what could be greater fun than watching the merry mayhem that ensues when a a flash-bang grenade is tossed by some forgotten men and women into a crowd of media and political types in Washington.

Am I right?

Actually, I will confess that, up until a couple of weeks ago I didn’t know what a flash-bang grenade was.

Then I spent some time working on a story on the 25th anniversary of the Branch Davidian siege in Waco that ended the lives of 82 Branch Davidians – including many children – and four agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

At a 1995 Congressional hearing, Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin, who represented David Koresh, the Branch Davidian leader who died amid he fire that consumed Mount Carmel, their communal residence, 25 years ago Thursday, testified that, “I did see some grenades that the ATF had thrown in.”

Chuck Schumer, then a congressman, was outraged by that insinuation.

“What do you mean thrown in?” he asked DeGuerin.

DeGuerin: The ATF threw in grenades in their dynamic entry.

Schumer: They didn’t throw in any grenades as I understand it. They were flash-bangs.

DeGuerin: Did you ever see what a flash-bang can do to somebody? They’re grenades. There’s an explosive charge in it. It’s very dangerous. It can blow your hand off. It can blow your face off. It can kill.

The next day, Schumer returned to the question of flash-bang grenades.

Schumer: And coup de grâce, Mr. DeGeurin says that flash-bangers can kill, injure, maim. Anyone who knows anything knows they can’t.

Thus spake the munitions expert from Brooklyn, though a subsequent witness, ATF Special Agent Jim Cavanaugh, said that, per DeGeurin, flash-bang grenades can be very dangerous.

If this goes off in your hand, they will call you stumpy.

And, form Pro Publica:

Hotter Than Lava
Every day, cops toss dangerous military-style flashbang grenades during raids, with little oversight and horrifying results.
by Julia Angwin and Abbie Nehring, ProPublicaJanuary 12, 2015

Cruz’s encomium to Trump won predictable criticism for all too obvious reasons.

Including from his Democratic rival:

O’Rourke said he would vote to impeach Trump as a member of the House, but couldn’t say whether he would vote to convict if he were a member of the Senate, which would hold a trial if the House were to, in effect, indict the president for high crimes and misdemenanors.

But, that said, Ted Cruz has has said worse things about Donald Trump than Beto O’Rourke ever has. Way worse. Way, way worse.

From May 2016.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This morning, Donald Trump went on national television and attacked my father.

Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK. Now, let’s be clear. This is nuts. This is not a reasonable position. This is just kooky. And while I’m at it, I guess I should go ahead and admit, yes, my dad killed JFK, he is secretly Elvis, and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard.

You know, Donald’s source for this is “The National Enquirer.” “The National Enquirer” is tabloid trash. But it’s run by his good friend David Pecker, the CEO, who has endorsed Donald Trump. And so “The National Enquirer” has become his hit piece that he uses to smear anybody and everybody.

And this is not the first time Donald Trump has used David Pecker’s “National Enquirer” to go after my family. It was also “The National Enquirer” that went after my wife, Heidi, that just spread lies, blatant lies.

But I guess Donald was dismayed, because it was a couple of weeks ago “The Enquirer” wrote this idiotic story about JFK. And Donald was dismayed that the folks in the media weren’t repeating this latest idiocy, so he figured he would have to do it himself. He would have to go on national television and accuse my dad of that.

Listen, my father is has been my hero my whole life. My dad was imprisoned and tortured in Cuba. And when he came to America, he had nothing. He had $100 in his underwear. He washed dishes making 50 cents an hour. You know, he is exactly the kind of person Donald Trump looks down on.

I’m going to do something I haven’t done for the entire campaign. For those of you all who have traveled with me all across the country, I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.

This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.

He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying. And it’s simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist, a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.

Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and goes, dude, what’s your problem? Everything in Donald’s world is about Donald. And he combines being a pathological liar — and I say pathological because I actually think Donald, if you hooked him up to a lie detector test, he could say one thing in the morning, one thing at noon, and one thing in the evening, all contradictory, and he would pass the lie detector test each time.

Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute, he believes it. But the man is utterly amoral.

CRUZ: Let me finish this, please.

The man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him. It’s why he went after Heidi directly and smeared my wife, attacked her. Apparently, she’s not pretty enough for Donald Trump. I may be biased, but I think, if he’s making that allegation, he is also legally blind.

But Donald is a bully. You know, we just visited with fifth-graders. Every one of us knew bullies in elementary school. Bullies don’t come from strength. Bullies come from weakness. Bullies come from a deep, yawning cavern of insecurity. There’s a reason Donald builds giant buildings and puts his name on them everywhere he goes.

And I will say there are millions of people in this country who are angry. They’re angry at Washington. They’re angry at politicians who have lied to them. I understand that anger. I share that anger. And Donald is cynically exploiting that anger. And he is lying to his supporters.

Donald will betray his supporters on every issue. If you care about immigration, Donald is laughing at you. And he’s telling the moneyed elites he doesn’t believe what he’s saying, he’s not going to build a wall. That’s what he told “The New York Times.”

He will betray you on every issue across the board. And his strategy of being a bully in particular is directed as women. Donald has a real problem with women. People who are insecure, people who are insecure about who they are — Donald is terrified by strong women.

He lashes out at them. Remember, this is the same Donald Trump who last week here in Indiana proudly touted the endorsement from Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist who served three years in prison here in Indiana for raping a 17-year-old girl. And in Donald’s world, he said Mike Tyson was a tough guy.

I don’t think rapists are tough guys. I spent a lot of years in law enforcement dealing with rapists. Rapists are weak. They’re cowards and they’re bullies. And anyone that thinks they’re a tough guy, that reveals everything about Donald Trump’s character.

Donald Trump said Bill Clinton was targeted by unattractive women. You know what? I have been blessed to be surrounded by strong women my entire life.

Today’s voting day here in Indiana. The president of the United States has a bully pulpit unlike anybody else. The president of the United States affects our culture. I ask the people of Indiana, think about the next five years if this man were to become president.

Think about the next five years, the boasting, the pathological lying, the picking up “The National Enquirer” and accusing people of killing JFK, the bullying. Think about your kids coming back and emulating this.

For people in Indiana who long for a day when we were nice to each other, when we treated people with respect, when we didn’t engage in sleaze and lies — and I would note one of the lies he engages in, listen, Donald Trump is a serial philanderer, and he boasts about it. This is not a secret. He’s proud of being a serial philanderer.

I want everyone to think about your teenage kids. The president of the United States talks about how great it is to commit adultery, and how proud he is, describes his battles with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam. That’s a quote, by the way, on the Howard Stern show.

Do you want to spend the next five years with your kids bragging about infidelity? Now, what does he do? He does the same projection. Just like a pathological liar, he accuses everyone of lying. Even though he boasts about his infidelity, he plants in David Pecker’s “National Enquirer” a lie about me and my family, attacking my family. He accuses others of doing what he is doing. I will tell you, as the father of two young girls, the idea of our daughters coming home and repeating any word that man says horrifies me.

That is not who America is. And I would say to the Hoosier State, the entire country’s depending on you. The entire country is looking to you right now. It is only Indiana that can pull us back. It is only the good sense and good judgment of Indiana that can pull us back. We are staring at the abyss.

CRUZ: There is a broader dynamic at work, which is network executives have made a decision to get behind Donald Trump. Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes at FOX News have turned FOX News into the Donald Trump network. Rupert Murdoch is used to picking world leaders in Australia and the United Kingdom running tabloids, and we’re seeing it here at home with the consequences for this nation. Media executives are trying to convince Hoosiers, trying to convince Americans the race is decided. You have no choice. You are stuck between Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, either one of which is a horrific choice for this country.

And I will say the cynicism — and Donald is playing on the cynicism. He lets the media echo he cannot be beat. Hoosiers can prove that wrong. The people of Indiana can prove that wrong, and the country is depending on Indiana. If Indiana does not act, this country could well plunge into the abyss. I don’t believe that’s who we are. We are not a proud, boastful, self-centered, mean-spirited, hateful, bullying nation.

If you want to understand Donald Trump, look no further than the interview he did a few months ago in Iowa when he was asked a very simple question — when is the last time you asked god for forgiveness? And Donald Trump said he had never asked God for forgiveness for anything. I want you to think about that. What does that say about a person? I have asked God for forgiveness three times today. Your children, do you want your children coming home and saying, mommy, I don’t need to ask God for forgiveness for anything. Why? Because Donald Trump doesn’t, and he if he doesn’t, and everyone likes him, all the media praises him, I don’t need to either.

I love this nation with all my heart. I love the people of this country. This is not who we are. These are not our values. If anyone has seen the movie “Back to the Future II,” the screenwriter says that he based the character Biff Tannen on Donald Trump. A caricature of a braggadocious, arrogant buffoon who builds giant casinos with giant pictures of him everywhere he looks. We are looking potentially at the Biff Tannen presidency. I don’t think the people of America want that. I don’t think we deserve that. I don’t think Hoosiers want that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, these are some of the strongest words you’ve used against Donald Trump yet. You know I have been with you, I heard you talk about him. Today feels different for you. I’m going to ask you a question and you’re going to say I sound like a broken record —

CRUZ: You sound like a broken record.

CRUZ: Does someone else have a record?

CRUZ: You have asked one already, Hallie.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you support him as the nominee. I don’t understand why you won’t answer the question, Senator. If you say he’s a liar — if you say he’s a pathological liar —

CRUZ: Hallie, you have asked one already.

CRUZ: Go ahead, Jessica.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, when you talk about Midwestern values and the common sense and good judgment, if Hoosiers don’t pick you today, does that mean they consider things a different way when the northeast voted and you could say those are Trump’s neighbors?

CRUZ: There is no doubt this Indiana primary has national significance. The media is trying desperately to convince you it’s over, I’ll tell you if Hoosiers come out and vote, if you pick up the phone and you call your friends, you call your neighbors, if Hoosiers come out today and vote and say no, this is not who we are, this is not America, that will change the entire trajectory of this campaign, of this primary. It will pull us back from the cliff. Indiana can do it. Indiana can pull us back, but it takes Hoosiers showing up and voting today. And the country is looking to Indiana. It’s looking to the judgment of the good men and women of this state.

Heidi and I and Carly, we have traveled the state showing Hoosiers respect, asking for their support, answering their questions, all the while Donald Trump laughs at the people of this state, laughs, bullies, attacks, insults, I don’t believe that’s America, and it is my hope, it is my prayer, that Hoosiers will come out and vote today in record numbers to say to this who we are. We are a people who believe in goodness. We are a people who believe in manners. We are a people who believe in generosity. We are a people who believe in honesty. We are a people who believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is America. That is the America I love. It’s the America my father fled Cuba to come to. We’re fighting for this nation. We’re fighting for who we are for the very soul and character of this nation, and it is quite literally in the hands Hoosiers across this state.

Well, I guess it all depends on who is on the receiving end of the flash-bang.

What will now be Cruz’s timeless TIME 100 flattery of Trump, certainly is an invitation to this, Friday, from Progress Texas’ Humans Against Ted Cruz project.

But, putting aside Cruz’s fulsome act of forgiveness of his former tormentor, what interested me was his use, in a world beset by terror, of the flash-bang metaphor, and what seems to me to be his consistent, and I think unique at his level, delight in using the most vividly  violent metaphors in his political rhetoric.

As I wrote in March 2015:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz roused the hundreds of young people who packed the “Big Government Sucks” reception Thursday night at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference with a typically provocative appeal.

“Each of you has an ability to spread a fire; I am asking you to be an arsonist,” Cruz said. “I encourage you to light fire of liberty in other young people, so it burns and rages and spreads from one young person to another. That is how we turn the country around.”

“Now listen,” Cruz said to his young audience, explaining of his choice of imagery. “This may be a particular predilection because I am the son of a Cuban guerrilla.”

“My dad grew up in Cuba,” said Cruz. “When my dad was 14-years old he began fighting in the Cuban revolution, he began fighting alongside Fidel Castro. Now, he didn’t know Castro was a communist. None of the kids knew.”

But, he said, what they did know was that Batista, the Cuban dictator who Castro was seeking to overthrow, was cruel, oppressive and corrupt, and so, at 14, Cruz’s father “began throwing Molotov cocktails.”

On the campaign trail for president Cruz would describe his political allies – like U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, as political “knife fighter.”

When Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick endorsed Cruz in October 2015, Cruz praised  Patrick as an ally who would  “crawl through broken glass with a knife between his teeth.”

This year he has described the Democratic base as having such a hate for Trump, “They will crawl over broken glass in November to vote.”

Does painting these kind of word-pictures matter?

From LSU political scientist Nathan Kalmoe:

Fueling the Fire: Violent Metaphors, Trait Aggression, and Support for Political Violence
Article in Political Communication 31(4) · October 2014 


The recent concurrence of violent political rhetoric and violence against political targets in the U.S. and abroad has raised public concern about the effects of language on citizens. Building from theoretical foundations in aggression research, I fielded two nationally representative survey experiments and a third local experiment preceding the 2010 midterm elections to investigate support for violence against political authority. Subjects were randomly assigned to view one of two forms of the same political advertisements. Across all three experiments, mild violent metaphors multiply support for political violence among aggressive citizens, especially among young adults. Aggressive personality traits also predict support for political violence in both national studies. This work identifies dynamic roots of violent political orientations and reveals for the first time surprising interactions between this elite discourse and personality traits in citizens.

Here are some graphics from Kalmoe’s dissertation on the subject.


But Kalmoe’s examples of violent language are tepid compared to Cruz’s.

They use the language of war, battle, enemy, crusade.

Cruz uses the far more vivid imagery of flash-bang grenades, molotov cocktails, arson, broken glass and knives.

I’ can’t think of another major American politician who compares.

And, where it may matter is in his contest with O’Rourke, who, rhetorically, comes to the campaign trail in peace.

Cruz is as polarizing a figure as there is in American politics. He knows that, and I assume, he believes, in its ability to rouse the base, this is the way for him to go.

From Jeff Roe on March 17 in the New York Times.

President Trump may not be on the ballot in November, but the election will be a referendum on him, as 2010 was on President Barack Obama and 2006 was on President George W. Bush. We will lose seats. The only question is this: Will these losses be catastrophic or manageable?

That will be determined by a very specific choice: Will the party retreat from its leader or fix bayonets and storm to the front with him?

No one fought Mr. Trump harder and longer than I did, as the campaign manager for Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign for the Republican nomination. I know the maddening brilliance of Mr. Trump. I also know history doesn’t favor the president’s party in midterm elections. With the election of a Democrat in the 18th Congressional District of Pennsylvania — a district Mr. Trump carried by 20 percentage points, but which also has tens of thousands more registered Democrats than Republicans — it has become media gospel that the president is toxic and that Republican candidates will have to distance themselves from him. That narrative is wrong.


While some Republican candidates, in swing seats, may benefit from creating distance from Mr. Trump, a strategic retreat will work only in rare instances. The myth that midterms are decided by swing voters ignores the prevailing reality that large midterm electoral shifts are driven by shifts in base motivation.


It is undoubtedly difficult to differentiate Trump policies from the Trump persona, because the Trump persona dominates news coverage. But Republican candidates for Congress have to try. Tactically, that means being laser-focused on generating local news coverage of policy accomplishments, even when the national cable news fixates on the latest Trump outrage.

And guess what? Despite breathless coverage of the daily outrage generator in the White House, the economy is improving. The tax cuts will, and in fact already are, spurring growth, freeing capital for investment, creating jobs and returning overseas profits to our shores. There is a message to sell. So sell it.

I would go further and argue that it is the Trump persona so vilified in the media that has in fact made bolder, more sweeping reforms possible than would have been conceivable under almost any other Republican who might have been elected.

Would a President Jeb Bush have signed a strong executive order on religious liberty, or would a President Marco Rubio have started construction of a wall? Would President John Kasich have had the intestinal fortitude to execute such a huge reorganization of the Environmental Protection Agency, dismantling the liberal bureaucracy that with its deeply embedded biases harms our economy? Would President Mitt Romney have pushed through such a major tax overhaul? No way. What makes Mr. Trump different is that he just doesn’t care what the bed-wetting caucus says about his policies.

(I think bed-wetting caucus counts as fighting words.)

Meanwhile, Cruz’s contribution last year to last year’s TIME100 was his blurb on “warrior and patriot” Rebekah Mercer:

Rebekah Mercer is a warrior and a patriot. She is the daughter of a brilliant mathematician and tremendously successful investor, and blessed with her own deep intelligence and intuitive insight, and it would have been simple for her to have settled into a life of comfort and ease. But Bekah cares too much about freedom and our nation to do so.

Instead, she and her father, Bob, have invested generously in helping fuel a political revolution. Their approach is multi­faceted. From think tanks to public-policy organizations to online media to path-breaking data analytics, Bekah has helped transform the world of politics. She understands the populist frustration with the bipartisan corruption in Washington, and she is one of the strongest champions of draining the swamp.

And she has helped fund upstart campaigns and underdog candidates, including my own Senate and presidential campaigns. When Donald Trump won the nomination, Bekah played a pivotal role in helping assemble the team and strategy that shocked the world in November.

From Maggie Haberman in the New York Times in July 2016.

In an extraordinary public rebuke, two influential donors who were among the biggest supporters of Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign excoriated Mr. Cruz on Saturday for his decision not to endorse Donald J. Trump at the Republican National Convention.

The remarks from Robert Mercer of Long Island and his daughter Rebekah Mercer suggest widening fallout over Mr. Cruz’s convention speech, in which he did not endorse his former rival and, instead, suggested that Republicans should “vote your conscience” for candidates “up and down the ticket.”

“Last summer and again this year, Senator Ted Cruz pledged to support the candidacy of the nominee of the Republican Party, whomever that nominee might be,” the Mercers, who rarely comment in the news media, said in the statement to The New York Times. “We are profoundly disappointed that on Wednesday night he chose to disregard this pledge.”

The statement continued: “The Democratic Party will soon choose as their nominee a candidate who would repeal both the First and Second Amendments of the Bill of Rights, a nominee who would remake the Supreme Court in her own image. We need ‘all hands on deck’ to ensure that Mr. Trump prevails.”

“Unfortunately,” the statement added, “Senator Cruz has chosen to remain in his bunk below, a decision both regrettable and revealing.”

The Mercers invested at least $11 million in Keep the Promise I, one of a group of interlocked “super PACs” that supported Mr. Cruz in his presidential run. During the contentious primary race, Mr. Cruz had early praise for Mr. Trump on the belief that his candidacy would eventually fade and that Mr. Trump’s voters would move over to the senator’s camp.

Instead, Mr. Trump’s candidacy endured and the race between the men grew increasingly rancorous.

Mr. Cruz is up for re-election in 2018 and is said to be looking at a second campaign for president in 2020, should Mr. Trump lose in November. But, in both cases, he will need his donor base to stay with him.

After Mr. Cruz’s speech at the convention in Cleveland, Sheldon G. Adelson, the casino magnate who was an early admirer of Mr. Cruz in the primaries, blocked him from his suite. (A friend of Mr. Adelson’s, claiming to represent him, insisted after the fact that he was not trying to disrespect the senator.)

The next morning, Mr. Cruz was booed by members of the Texas delegation at a breakfast.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cruz, Catherine Frazier, said on Saturday: “Senator Cruz considers Bob and Rebekah to be patriots ad friends. As Senator Cruz urged in Cleveland, Hillary Clinton would be a disaster for America. Republicans need to unite, and the only way to unite is behind shared principles. His speech laid out a path — vigorously defending freedom and the Constitution — for our nominee to unite the party and for Republicans to win up and down the ticket.”

Mr. Mercer in recent weeks has helped fund a new effort for donors who want to defeat Mrs. Clinton, but who do not want to donate to a group that is openly supporting Mr. Trump. That group is being operated by David Bossie, the president of the group Citizens United.

Kellyanne Conway, who was the president of a pro-Cruz super PAC and now is an adviser to Mr. Trump, said the statement reflects the Mercers’ feelings about defeating Mrs. Clinton in the fall and “how grievously piqued they were to watch Ted’s convention stunt on Wednesday night.”

Ms. Conway added, “They supported Ted because they thought he was a man of his word who, like them, would place love of country over personal feelings or political ambition.”

As for Rebekah Mercer’s “path-breaking data analytics,” here from the New York Times on March 17:
How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions

LONDON — As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.

The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

An examination by The New York Times and The Observer of London reveals how Cambridge Analytica’s drive to bring to market a potentially powerful new weapon put the firm — and wealthy conservative investors seeking to reshape politics — under scrutiny from investigators and lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.


In Britain, Cambridge Analytica is facing intertwined investigations by Parliament and government regulators into allegations that it performed illegal work on the “Brexit” campaign. The country has strict privacy laws, and its information commissioner announced on Saturday that she was looking into whether the Facebook data was “illegally acquired and used.”

In the United States, Mr. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, a board member, Mr. Bannon and Mr. Nix received warnings from their lawyer that it was illegal to employ foreigners in political campaigns, according to company documents and former employees.

From the Texas Tribune on March 20:

“Cambridge Analytica was an outside vendor that the campaign hired to assist in data analysis and online advertising, and they worked for the campaign, pursuant to contract,” Cruz told The Texas Tribune. “Cambridge Analytica represented to the campaign that all data in their possession were legally obtained and that they were in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, and the campaign relied on those representations.”




`So he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin.’ On the deeper purposes of the Cruz jingle.


Good morning Austin:

The Ted Cruz-Beto O’Rourke U.S. Senate race should be a good one.

The general election began just after the polls closed Tuesday, with Cruz firing the opening shot.

Here are the full lyrics of the song, sung to the tune of the Alabama’s “If you’re gonna play in Texas.”

If you’re gonna run in Texas, you can’t be a liberal man

‘Cause liberal thought is not the spirit of a Lone Star man

You gotta be tough as Texas and honest about your plans

If you’re gonna run in Texas, can’t be a liberal man

I remember reading stories, Liberal Robert wanted to fit in

So he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin

Beto wants those open borders and wants to take our guns

Not a chance on Earth he’ll get a vote from millions of Texans

If you’re gonna run in Texas, you can’t be a liberal man

That’s it.

At first it seemed an odd line of attack — going after O’Rourke, given name Robert, for going by the nickname Beto. After all, Chris Cuomo noted on CNN, Ted Cruz’s given name is Rafael Edward Cruz.


Cuomo: You’re 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.


When O’Rourke came on CNN a little while later, CNN reported, “he declined to respond to Cruz’s name-calling.”

Appearing on “New Day” after Cruz, O’Rourke said, “I just don’t think that’s what folks in Texas want us to focus on.”
“We can get into name-calling and talk about why the other person is such an awful guy, or we can focus on the big things we want to do for the future of our country, for the generations that will succeed us,” he said, later adding, “We can focus on the small, mean, petty stuff, or we can be big, bold, courageous, and confident.”

When I talked to O’Rourke later in the day, he said much the same, taking it as a sign that Cruz must be worried to be lighting into him so quickly, and, he said, on such unsubstantial grounds.

I got to tell you I was also encouraged by that. I mean, I think if your opening salvo is to make fun of my first name then, you know, I’ll take that. It’s not even something that I even have to respond to. Folks across Texas are responding to that. They are sick of the small stuff and they want us to be big and I’m going to continue to follow the lead of people who ask us do that.

I don’t know that people want us trading jabs about our nicknames. 

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.

Little Beto, in the photo at the top of First Reading, may look innocent, but, Cruz’s jingle tells us, don’t believe it.

I remember reading stories, Liberal Robert wanted to fit in

So he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin

When I talked to O’Rourke on Wednesday, I went through the story once again, just to be sure.

First Reading: Just so I’ve got it straight, Beto’s been your name since you were small…

Beto O’Rourke: Born. There’s a ton of photographic evidence. On my Instagram, I’ve got a picture of me in a kindergarten or a pre-kindergarten class with my Beto sweater on.

I have a funny, quick story.

I was making my first confession, in second or third grade, and I was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and I was receiving it from the bishop, it may have been Bishop Ochoa at the time, of El Paso, who I had never met, and after I confessed my sins, he called me by my name. He said, “Well, Beto, I want you to say this many Hail Marys and this any Our Fathers,” and I left just blown away, Wow this stuff really works. He knew my name. I never met him. And I’m telling my mom this story on the ride home and she’s like, “Beto, your name is stitched on your shirt, that’s how he knew your name.”

Any second-grade, third-grade, fourth-grade, pre-K classmate of mine will tell you that no one ever knew me as Robert and the only time it ever came up was the first day of class, the teacher reads the role and goes, “Is there a Robert O’Rourke here, and everybody laughs because, everybody calls me Beto.”

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.

I asked if the name was originally bestowed on him by a babysitter or nanny.

O’Rourke: No, it was my folks. 

So who knows, maybe my dad 45 years ago had some secret plan, but that’s where it came from.

So, OK, it seems that the O’Rourke’s weren’t contemplating the use of Beto as the perfect culturally appropriative nickname for a Texas candidate when they started calling him Beto.

Why would Cruz think that?

Well, let’s drop by the Cruz household in mid-adolescence to see what was happening there on the name front.

From Cruz’s book, A Time for Truth.

Midway through junior high school, I decided that I’d had enough of being the unpopular nerd. I remember sitting up one night asking a friend why I wasn’t one of the popular kids. I ended up staying up most of the night thinking about it. “Okay, well, what is it that the popular kids do? I will consciously emulate that.”

First off, I decided that my existing policy of refusing to play sports simply because I wasn’t good at them was not a wise plan if I wanted to be accepted by kids at school. I then decided to join the soccer team, the football team, and the basketball team. I was terrible at all three, but I kept at it. Around that time I got my braces off, I went to a dermatologist and my acne cleared some. I got contacts instead of glasses. I also shot up about six inches.

I started trying to behave differently. I tried to be less cocky. When I received a test exam back, even though I’d probably done well, I would simply put it away. I wouldn’t look at it. It wasn’t rocket science, but it was interesting to see what these sorts of small conscious changes could produce.

Another thing that changed was my name. In Spanish, the diminutive is formed by adding -ito; thus, the diminutive of my full name, Rafael, Was Rafelito, which in turn was shortened to Felito. Until I was thirteen, I was “Felito Cruz.” The problem with that name was that that it seemed to rhyme with every major corn chip on the market. Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos, and Tostitos — a fact that other young children were quite happy to point out.

Well, those were benighted times, before America became so politically correct.

Perhaps if Cruz had grown up in more Cuban-centric environment in Miami, for example, it might have all been different.



Anyway, back to Cruz’s coming-of-age story.

I was tired of being teased. One day I had a conversation with my mother about it and she said, “You know you could change your name.”

“There’s a number of other possibilities,” she said. “And she proceeded to list them:





Edward, Ed. Eddie.

“Or you could go by Ted.” I found that a shocking concept. It had never occurred to me that I had any input on my name.”

“Ted” immediately felt like me. But my father was furious with the decision. He viewed it as a rejection of him and his heritage, which was not my intention.

Imagine, someone thinking about the political implications of their name at the tender age.

(Note the trademark Cruz opening joke. Aspirations? Is that like sweat on my butt?”)

“What do you mean Ted is a nickname for Edward? he snapped at my mother. “Who’s ever heard of that?”

My mother’s response was unfortunate. “Well, there’s Ted Kennedy.”

My father was apoplectic.

He had no love for liberals. In fact, he believed the American far left was trying to turn this country in a dangerously socialist direction, much like the reviled Castro regime. One of the biggest fights he had with my mother was in 1976, when she had voted for Jimmy Carter. (She quickly came to regret that decision when his haplessness became manifest.)

To equate me with Teddy Kennedy was too much. For about two years, he refused to utter my new name.


Things seemed a little more laid back in the O’Rourke household.

“Melissa O’Rourke, a former Republican who now considers herself an independent ..

O’Rourke has always been Beto on the ballot.

O’RourkeYou can just designate yourself.  Everybody has always known me as Beto O’Rourke.

The first time I was ever on a ballot was in 2005 running for the El Paso City Council, District 8. Beto O’Rourke.

I checked with Sam Taylor at the Texas Secretary of State’s Office and he sent me the pertinent section of the state Election Code with a note.

Per 52.031(b)(2) of the Texas Election Code, both names are fine to appear as they are on the ballot, since ‘Beto’ is a contraction of “Robert” and ‘Ted’ is a familiar form of “Edward”:

Sec. 52.031.  FORM OF NAME ON BALLOT.  (a)  A candidate’s name shall be printed on the ballot with the given name or initials first, followed by a nickname, if any, followed by the surname, in accordance with this section.

(b)  In combination with the surname, a candidate may use one or more of the following:

(1)  a given name;

(2)  a contraction or familiar form of a given name by which the candidate is known;  or

(3)  an initial of a given name.

(c)  A nickname of one unhyphenated word of not more than 10 letters by which the candidate has been commonly known for at least three years preceding the election may be used in combination with a candidate’s name.  A nickname that constitutes a slogan or otherwise indicates a political, economic, social, or religious view or affiliation may not be used.  A nickname may not be used unless the candidate executes and files with the application for a place on the ballot an affidavit indicating that the nickname complies with this subsection.

(d)  A suffix such as “Sr.,” “Jr.,” or “2nd” may be used in combination with a candidate’s name.

(e)  A married woman or widow may use in combination with her surname, if the same as her husband’s surname, the given name or initials of her husband with the prefix “Mrs.”

As for the jingle, I asked Cruz campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier, “Who gets credit as the lyricist and the performers on `If you’re gonna run in Texas?’ Also, are Alabama/the songwriters of, `If you’re gonna play in Texas,’ supporters of Sen. Cruz and good with its redeployment?”

Frazier declined comment.

Nashville songwriter Dan Mitchell, the surviving half of the songwriting team of the original, did not respond to an email yesterday.

As for the new lyrics, Stephen Colbert didn’t at all like that they rhymed “man” with “man.”









On the upswing, Beto O’Rourke stays positive

Good Monday Austin:

You can’t quite tell it from this photo, but Ashley McKay of Austin got emotional when she met Beto O’Rourke in person for the first time on Sunday after a rally at Pearl Snap Hall in Georgetown.

“I just cried like a silly person,” McKay said just after the encounter.

“She just cries a lot,” said her husband, Blair, an architect.

“I cry a lot,” she agreed. “He’s just inspiring to me so it was exciting to meet him. We didn’t really talk about much,  except `Thanks.'”

The McKays, who are both from Houston but have lived in Austin – now near Windsor Park – for a dozen years, came to the Georgetown rally with their two young children –  Maisie Jane, who is almost a year old, and Reid, who is almost 4. They both have March birthdays.

“He’s just positive,” Ashley McKay said of O’Rourke. “He’s making no effort to be divisive in his politics and he wants to listen and he cares.”

“I follow him on Facebook. I hear speeches on-line, in videos, but I’ve been waiting for him to come to town,” she said. “He lived up to my expectations and then some. He said things I’ve never heard politicians say. Just talking about things our country has done that may have negatively affected other countries that never get acknowledged or recognized.”

Is it possible that O’Rourke could get elected?

“Yeah, with the way he’s campaigning hard all over the smaller areas and regions that don’t have any other  media or outlets to hear an alternative message to what they’ll hear on AM radio,” said Blair McKay. “I think getting out there and putting  a face to a name early and taking the time to do it well before the election, I think he has a really good chance. He’ll have some reputability before they try to tear him down.”

“He’s a machine,” Ashley said. “He just keeps on going.”

“He’s very eloquent; he has those Obamaesque qualities,” Blair said. “He not only speaks well but can speak on any subject you throw at him, and is very genuine and authentic when he comes across to people. And he lives what he preaches. His kids are going to public school in El Paso. They’re getting the dual language program integrated into the culture of El Paso. And his kids are going to the same school he went to, which is really impressive. He’s a politician, and yet he’s so close to home. He’s very impressive.

O’Rourke rolled into Georgetown – the latest in a succession of rallies drawing large and enthusiastic crowds – coming off very good fundraising numbers.

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has raised nearly three times as much money as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018.

O’Rourke, a third-term Democratic congressman from El Paso, has raised $2.3 million through Feb. 14 toward his U.S. Senate campaign. Cruz, a Houston Republican seeking his second term, raised $800,000.

Asked about O’Rourke’s fundraising momentum at a recent campaign stop in New Braunfels on behalf of Republican congressional candidate Chip Roy, Cruz told reporters he does not underestimate the passion on the left.

“They’re angry, they hate the president,” Cruz said. “We’ve seen all across the country the Democrats’ fundraising numbers are through the roof because their base is so energized.”

“This is a volatile political time,” Cruz said. “That energy on the hard left is dangerous … if conservatives are complacent, if conservatives stay home. I hope that doesn’t happen.”

“There are a lot more conservatives than liberals in the state of Texas, but they have to show up at the polls for their votes to count,” Cruz said.

But the tone in Georgetown was exuberant, upbeat.

I believe that O’Rourke only mentioned Cruz once, and only to indicate that that he remains obstructionist by nature.

O’Rourke also spent very little time on Trump, only mentioning him at the end of a rhetorical thread on the failure of the War on Drugs, and likening it to what O’Rourke considers the president’s unhealthy obsession with a border wall.

Kimberly Owens, a 58-year-old accountant in Georgetown, who grew up in a staunch Republican household and whose husband voted for Trump, shook hands with O’Rourke, just ahead of the McKays.

After becoming aware of O’Rourke and very much liking the first impression, “I did some more research on him and I think he’s great. This is what the country needs. Young people. Get rid of the older people, even though I’m the older people now. It’s time for a change.”

“My mom was a diehard Republican supporter, and so was my dad. She was always pro-life, which – she would have been 100 this year – so that was way back when. But they always told us to vote for the best person, no matter what party.”

Did she vote for Cruz last time?

“No, I cannot stand the man,” Owens said. ” He looks like the guy from the Munsters. He is evil. Everything that comes out of his mouth is so wrong. I’ve never been a fan of Ted Cruz.”

“I’ve almost got my husband convinced, so that’s good,” Owens said. “He’s a real Trump supporter. I think there’s hope.”

“Also, I think the problem, which (O’Rourke’s) addressed, is that we tend to be a non-voting state. And I think that’s where it lies, to get people who always say, “It won’t matter whether I vote,’ to vote for him, because I think it will matter.”

Owens said President Trump should, “quit calling people names, quit bullying people. I work with kids in a Scouting program and everything we teach our children not to do, he does.”

I mentioned to her the political tension among Democrats this year about whether to concentrate on rousing the base, or seek to appeal to the center.

“You need to do both,” she said.

On Saturday I went to a town hall of sorts at the Tamale House East with Democratic political consultant Joe Trippi. Trippi was in Texas to spend a day tagging along with one office clients, Joseph Kopser who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 21st Congressional District, now held by Republican Lamar Smith.

Trippi wasn’t there to talk about the 21st, but to talk more generally about the lessons of Democrat Doug Jones narrow triumph over Judge Roy Moore i  last year’s Alabama special U.S. Senate election. Trippi was Jones’ chief media strategist.

“There are a lot of people who say, if you just get all the Democrats out,” Trippi said. “There were just not enough Democrats in Alabama to win that election. It doesn’t work that way and there are plenty of districts where it doesn’t work that.”

“What we discovered its that the common ground message we wanted to deliver was the  most powerful message in the race,” Trippi said. “This is what’s going on in my view. Trump is fueling two things. He is absolutely fueling the energy among the Democratic base, minority and young voters in particular. To give you an idea, in 2008 for Barack Obama, African-Americans, who are 24 percent of the population, were 27 percent of the vote. In 2017, for Doug Jones, they were 29, 30 percent of the vote. Young people. Obama in 2008 won under-45’s nationwide by 15 percent. Doug Jones won the under-45 group by 28 points.”

Trippi said that Republican women, particularly in the suburbs, and under-25 college educated voters, “they can’t take the chaos,” under Trump.

“They may even like some  the things that he’s doing, but they can’t stand the chaos. They’re exhausted by constantly being on edge, this feeling of chaos and exhaustion they just want it to end. I call it chaos exhaustion,” Trippi said. “They talk in terms of, `I can’t believe I’m saying this but for the first time in my life  I’m actually thinking of voting for a Democrat,’ which is a huge opening, particularly for Republican women who are thinking like that, and what we discovered is finding common ground and ending chaos and division does not chill the Democratic base, the intensity we went up, the more we talked about it.”

Trippi said the critical ad for the Jones campaign was one that drew on the lessons of the Civil War, and made the case that “there’s honor in civility and compromise.”

“The Republican women in our tracking moved immediately. that’s when we close to within one point, 46-45.

That thing had been running for a week, with the theme of common ground, rejecting hostilities, we closed the ap and the next day the Washington Post story came out,” alleging Moore’s history of inappropriate behavior with young women.

“For anybody who thinks, “Oh gosh, Moore’s dead, you’ve got it in the bag,” let me tell everybody, you’re out of your freaking mind. It helped him. Why? Because it’s an attack from the Washington Post, it’s a fake yearbook, people are starting to go to their partisan corners again.”

In places where Democrats cannot win with Democratic votes alone, Democratic candidates have to be careful not to trigger tribal party loyalties.

O’Rourke treads the line well.

He is all about being open to everyone, to reaching out, talking and listening to people regardless of party or ideology, going to places where Democrats seldom if ever go. But he is not a political milquetoast, he takes clear stands on issues and he clearly excites Democratic passions like no candidate in recent Texas history.

I asked him after the rally about walking that line.

“It’s not a line that I’m conscious of, that’s for sure,” he said. “You know somebody who came along just now to say hello, said, `Thank you for being positive and talking about what we’re going to do and what we’re going to achieve and the way we are going to listen to everyone. That’s just the way that I feel.’ And I think that it’s so unusual that it moves all of us.”

“I was just talking to the police officer who said he was, like, scanning the crowd, walking through, and it was so positive,” O’Rourke said. “He was just so shocked because you think at this type of thing people might want to get angry, you may assume people want to get angry and we just want to hate on somebody, but that’s just not where we are and not what excites us and not what this campaign’s about. We’re just following the lead of the people that we’re with and it’s very positive.”

A big part of O’Rourke’s appeal is his persona and openness. He is live streaming almost everything he does.

On Saturday, he began by giving a report from back home in El Paso, relaying a telephone conversation he had just had with his wife about their son, Ulysses.

“He’s 11-years-old. He plays for the El Paso Apes,” O’Rourke said.

“I think today he’s going to play outfield,” O’Rourke said. He also pitches, but, “he’s not the fastest or the strongest pitcher in the roster. In fact he pitches fairly slow compared to most of his other teammates, but there’ just some kind of sneaky spin when he lets go. And they put him in yesterday and he was able to get all of the first three batters he faced out, so we’re really proud of him.”

“Amy took him yesterday to his Destination Imagination competition,” O’Rourke continued. ”I don’t know if any of you have participated in a DI competition locally, but this would be frightening for me. They were supposed to put on a five-minute, one-act play. They were given two minutes to prepare. The are given the props and the scenario and they get two minutes to huddle together, and they have to act this out over the course of five minutes . And Ulysses and his DI team under the guidance of Miss Fernandez of Mesita Elementary, the same public school I went to growing up in El Paso, got first place and they are going on to the state competition.”

“But of all those things,” O’Rourke said, “the baseball game, retiring the first three batters that came up in the last inning, winning the DI competition along with his teammates, the thing that Amy was proudest of – and please don’t share this outside this meeting right here – Ulysses spent 23 minutes on the phone with a girl in his class as they were driving out to the baseball game, and Amy said, he’s never done that before. And  I said, `Well, what were they  talking about,” and she said, “They were just talking about whatever was on their mind and they just had a great conversation.'”

“And I thought that was great and it made me happy how excited Amy was about Ulysses connecting with someone in that special way – 11-years-old. It’s crazy how quickly they grow up.”

“This has just been, outside of family … this campaign, getting to do this with you over the more than 12  or 13 months, has been the most amazing, the most thrilling experience of my life, and I’m just so proud of us, of this state, regardless of party. Right? That does not matter. No importa. Republican, Democrat, Independent. Voter, non-voter. All 28 million of us. All human beings, Americans before we are anything else. We’re standing up and doing what our country needs from us at its most critical moment.”

“And it’s so exciting to be part of it,” O’Rourke said. “And I’ve had the special pleasure this weekend, for the first time in the campaign, of having my, mom, Melissa with me, and Tia Patricia, her sister, Patricia, here with us today here in Georgetown.”

“Nothing beats having your mom as your driver on the campaign trail,” O’Rourke said.

“Bringing your luggage up to your room, having her lay out your clothes for the next day, ironing your shirt, sewing that button back on your suit,” he said. “And eating donuts.”

“We had breakfast today at Jack and Jill Donuts in Lorena, Texas”.

“And we play a game called Donut Roulette, where the person who goes in gets to pick the donuts for everyone else in the van, and if you don’t eat the donut that was picked for you, you lose a point”.

“And even better was my mom drove us to the ice cream parlor last night in Waco at Heritage Creamery, and we had a town hall there that began at 9:30 and ended at 11 p.m., and I was eating ice cream for dinner, which is every child’s fantasy of what adult life will be like. Your mom’s going to be driving you around the state of Texas eating ice cream for dinner and donuts for breakfast, and it just felt right. This is the right way to do this,” O’Rourke said.

“We’re doing this only with people, human beings, no PACs, or corporations or special interest groups involved. Just us.”

There were some slight differences in tone, though not substance, between the afternoon family gathering in Georgetown and the night-time town hall with a mostly Baylor University crowd in Waco.

In Georgetown, there was this.

He talked about this for a few minutes in Georgetown, but in Waco, he went on for longer and at a  higher emotional pitch:

How fucked up is it that PTA meetings are now being conducted to help parents tell their kids that when some guy with an AR-15 walks into their room – and you know what the message is today for those little third-graders and fourth-grades, and fifth graders – and I’m the father of a fifth-grader, a fourth-grader and a first-grader? The message is you’re supposed to create as much chaos as you possibly can. They want you to yell and scream and dance around and throw books and just keep moving. And when the question is asked, how is that going to save my 7-year-old, or my 11-year-old, or my 9-year-old, and they say, it might not, but what it will do is it will buy some more time for other kids in the class. It will take ten seconds if no one does anything and they’re slaughtered like sheep. It will take 20 seconds if there’s movement and activity and chaos in the classroom, and yes, most kids will die, but maybe two or three will be able to escape through an open door in the midst of that chaos.

Why in the world are we in 2018, in the wealthiest, most powerful country, the inspiration for so much of the rest of the world, having these discussions at PTA meetings, in our schools, in our lives, in our communities, here in Texas. What if we decided that no one should be able to buy an AR-15. No matter how fun it is to shoot, it’s only purpose, it was only intended to take lives and we’re taking too many lives with it.

It may not poll well, it may not be popular, it may lose us some votes from some people in this state, but I don’t care because I have to look myself and my kids in the eye and account for what I did when I had the opportunity, when I was in a position of public trust, when we had the power to do the right thing. 

I’ve been in Congress for five years, we have not had one debate on guns, on gun safety, on saving lives. It’s why I don’t take a dime from the NRA.

There was one question in Georgetown that O’Rourke did not directly answer.

Afterward, I asked O’Rourke about that.

“I wish I had just said to her, which I can say to you on the record,” O’Rourke said. “I will not run for president. I want to be the full-time senator for Texas.”

Here is O’Rourke from last night arriving in Austin.

And here holding a running town hall first thing this morning in Austin.

Lastly, here are figures from the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, indicating that, for all O’Rourke’s campaigning across the state, a large swath of the electorate still doesn’t know who he is or have a fix on him.


Beto pulls an all-nighter. `We are absolutely going to ace this.’

Good morning Austin:

I am all about the all-nighter.

I thrive by night.

I dare say there are not that many people on the planet, aside from people who actually get paid to work the night-shift or chronic insomniacs, who have pulled more all-nighters.

And what do I have to show for it?

Rude question.

But I’ll answer it anyway:

  1. A college degree.
  2. Almost every longish story I’ve ever written not on a same-day deadline. So, with 40 years and counting as a reporter … lots.
  3. First Reading. Every time you read a First Reading you are reading the product of an all-nighter, or something perilously close to it.

Why the all-nighter?

Why not just do what I need to do within the conventional confines most people adapt to?

Good question.

Here are a few answers:

  1. Daytime is cluttered with all those other things you could or should be doing.
  2. I am easily distracted and find it hard to get started. Once I get going, stopping is stupid and unproductive.
  3. Nighttime is the right time.

I have a complementary taste for marathons, telethons for almost any cause, but especially those with a single host, like Jerry Lewis, who strains and sweats and loosens his bow-tie and cries, legislative hearings that run till dawn and extra-inning games, the longer the better.

In other words, I don’t like things to end.

I tell you all this to explain why I reacted so positively when I heard that Beto O’Rourke was planning a 24-hour live-stream of a long day of campaigning, beginning at 5:15 Sunday morning in Houston, and culminating in a midnight Sunday rally at his Austin campaign headquarters on Airport Boulevard, and – this is it – a UT Austin All-Nighter with Beto at Kerbey Lane Cafe,  the all-night restaurant right by the campus on Guadalupe, beginning at 1:30 a.m.


It’s a gimmick.

But everyone’s got a gimmick.

The purpose was two-fold: attention and momentum.

O’Rourke’s Senate campaign already live-streams much of what he does.

He’s a natural on camera and wears well.

Against Cruz, they think their ace in the hole is O’Rourke’s likability – his winning personality.

The live-stream is a way to make him totally accessible, answering any questions that come his way, but also to build a very loyal fan base that is sucked into his story.

But, Texas is big and, to succeed, they’ve got to scale up to a bigger and bigger audience, and, like a telethon, they need to give people periodic reasons to pay special attention.

This last live-stream also was a way to build momentum, by showing him gathering large and enthusiastic crowds all along the way.

They got a head start with a big crowd at their town hall in Garland on Friday  night.

And then, they juiced Sunday’s unfolding events with the evening announcement – a few days before the report is due – that they had raised $2.4 million in the last three months of 2017. That’s a good number, and it was made better when the Cruz campaign issued its own numbers, in order to show that it still had a big fundraising advantage. But the numbers indicated that O’Rourke had raised more than Cruz had in the last quarter of 2017, and that they were gaining on them.

From my story:

Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke out-raised Sen. Ted Cruz in the last quarter of 2017, $2.4 million to $1.9 million. But the Republican incumbent maintained a $7.3 million to $4.6 million cash advantage heading into 2018, though the third term Democratic congressman from El Paso has narrowed that gap since the middle of 2017, from a 3.9 million to a $2.7 million deficit.

Here, then, are my tweets off of O’Rourke’s all-day-and-all-nighter.

I first checked in when he was returning to his hotel room after a morning run with supporters.

OK. This next one was by far my most popular tweet of the day.

Why was this so popular? Because it’s sweet and personal.

This led to a riff about how he didn’t used to like Matthew McConaughey, probably because of how much his wife, Amy, liked McConaughey, but he likes him a lot now.

Peterson is really good.

The Statesman has written about him before.

He’s worth another couple photos.


O’Rourke was given a really warm introduction at Kerbey Lane by its CEO, Mason Ayer.

Talking to young woman in charge at Kerbey Lane afterward, she estimated there were 500 to 600 people there. At that time on a Monday morning, they are usually maybe a dozen people there.

At this point, for heightened documentary effect, I switched to black and white photos, or what my iPhone calls silvertone.

O’Rourke spoke, answered questions and then had his photo taken with everyone who wanted one.

Finally, O’Rourke posed for photos with the people who work at Kerbey Lane, then took off to meet and thank some campaign workers, and then headed to the airport.

Throughout the live-stream, he would answer questions and engage the comments from viewers that would scroll across the Facebook page.

And that was it. Except for me, who had an all-nighter to finish.

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


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.


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?


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?


CRUZ: I am happily a conservative.

SANDERS: Conservative, all right.

CRUZ: I am happily conservative.


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…


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

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., 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.

‘We ain’t doing diddly squat,’ Ted Cruz tells fellow Republicans

Good morning Austin:

A week ago Sunday, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn were interviewed by Evan Smith at the Texas Tribune Festival, and despite Smith’s admonition, a small but significant number of audience members here in what Cruz referred to as “the People’s Republic of Travis County,” hissed some of Cruz’s comments.

SEPTEMBER 20, 2014 – US Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the fourth annual Texas Tribune Festival held at the University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, September 20, 2014. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

But Smith need not have worried. If hissing is the sound of air going out of something, for Cruz being hissed is not the least bit deflating. Quite the opposite. It seems to pump him up, to invigorate him.

In fact, one of his virtues as a public figure is how he seems to thrive on negative energy. Recall the tumultuous speech before the Republican National Convention in July 2016 when he exited the podium to a cascade of boos.

But this past weekend, Cruz was on friendlier terrain, appearing on Friday night and Saturday night at two major tea party events.

From Patrick Svitek at the Texas Tribune:

GRAPEVINE — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was ticking through his hopes for Congress this year before a Tea Party group here Saturday when one of his comments drew a sarcastic retort from the audience.

“I believe we will get tax reform done,” Cruz said.

“In my lifetime?” a man blurted out.

Cruz, not missing a beat, responded with his own question: “How old are you?”

It was a lighthearted but revealing moment in a weekend where Cruz, in a pair of appearances before influential conservative groups, sought to explain — and in some cases, distance himself from — congressional Republicans’ dismal track record under President Donald Trump. At times, it felt as if Cruz was discussing an institution of which he hasn’t been a part of for the last four years.

“Am I the only one here frustrated with Congress?” Cruz asked the audience at both events, each time receiving a loud chorus of “no”s in return.

“Look, we got a unique opportunity,” Cruz said Friday night in Tyler, addressing Grassroots America We the People. “We have a Republican Congress, Republican heads of every agency, Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, and we ain’t doing diddly squat.”


In Tyler …. Cruz appeared at a dinner in honor of the Texas Freedom Caucus, the 12-member conservative bloc in the state House that formed earlier this year. Lavishing praise on the legislators, Cruz continued to vent to the audience about Congress, telling them, “I cannot tell you how much I wish we can take the Freedom Caucus and replace the United States Senate.”

I was not at either event, but a video of the NE Tarrant Tea Party appearance was posted on YouTube.

What is striking is that as Cruz approaches a re-election campaign in 2018, in which he is being challenged by U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, he remains, as he was when he ran for Senate in 2012 and for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, a critic not so much of Democrats – that’s a given – but of Washington and especially the Republican leadership in Washington, mostly in Congress but also now in a White House he sees as an uncertain ally, even on an issue as seemingly fundamental to President Donald Trump as immigration.

You can’t see the audience on the video, but you can hear them and especially a few members of the audience who were apparently quite close to the microphone, with their out-loud responses to Cruz’s remarks. In my transcription below of some of what Cruz said, the audience comments are in parentheses. In some cases, Cruz responds to their shouted comments.

I especially like the running audience commentary because it act as a kind of cross between a tea party Greek Chorus and a Peanut Gallery, that captures the restive mood of the crowd.

Ted Cruz with julie White McCarty, president of the NE Tarrant Tea Party.

After opening remarks, Julie McCarty, president of the NE Tarrant Tea Party, posed questions to Cruz that were submitted on Facebook and at the event.

On immigration:

TED CRUZ: So I am – I’m just trying to choose my words carefully. Listen, we had an election where front and center, immigration was in front of the American people. (Still is… It is …No more amnesty.)

Amnesty’s wrong. There were an awful lot of politicians who got elected saying they were opposed to amnesty. I can tell you right now – so the president did something  very good. The president announced that he is ending DACA, the president’s illegal executive order. That was the right thing to do. When Obama issued executive amnesty, it was lawless, it was unconstitutional, it was instructing the federal government to ignore federal immigration law.

And listen, when I was running for president I promised that my first day in office, Jan. 20 , 2016, i would rescind every illegal executive action from Barack Obama. It was the right thing to do to rescind that order. But there are a lot of folks in Congress that are looking to reinstate it to go a lot further.


A lot of Republicans.

(RINOS … What are they afraid of? Who are they afraid of? What are their names?)

You know it’s easier to list those that aren’t. There aren’t many. To be honest, there are a handful of us who are speaking out against amnesty. I’d say myself, Mike Lee, Tom Cotton. You start running out of fingers.

I can tell you what I’ve told my colleagues. If we go through 2017 and 2018 and we haven’t repealed Obamacare, we haven’t done a tax cut, we haven’t done major reg reform, and the only two accomplishments of a Republican Congress are a massive bailout for insurance companies and a massive amnesty package, (What have we accomplished?), we are headed to a bloodbath in 2018. (That’s right …  You better believe it.)

I don’t know if my colleagues believe it or not, but there are a lot of reports publicly that the White House is pushing that. I think it’s a mistake. I don’t think we should reward illegal behavior. And one of the things I will note is a very serious concern about a DACA amnesty, and everyone under DACA can in time get a green card, and then, under present immigration law, use chain migration to bring the families in, you’re talking about 3, 4, 5 million people, and that’s just wrong. It’s not right. (No. No. Democrats)

Look, my view of immigration, and the overwhelming majority of Americans, our views on immigration are very simple. I can sum it up in four words. Legal – good. Illegal – bad.

So that’s an area I’m worried about the direction Congress will go because the Democrats want to go that way and a whole lot of Republicans as well. (They’ll pay for it. They’ll pay for it.)

Julie McCarty: So this might have something to do with that. Mitch McConnell needs to go. What would be a good recommendation to replace him, and what do we need to do as voters make that happen?

Cruz: Listen, leadership needs to lead. We’re not getting an awful lot of that in Washington. (Obviously.)

The frustration is massive. (Drain the swamp.)

If we don’t see leadership now, in 2019, we’re not going to be electing a majority leader. We’re going to be electing a minority leader. (That’s right.) The sad reality is, Republican senators are with him (McConnell). That’s the sad reality. (It’s the entitlement power that’s doing us wrong.) 

It’s frustrating, and I promise you, as frustrated as y’all are, I sit here every day, I’m banging my head into this every day. And the message that I’m trying to convey to whoever the leader is, I don’t really care, is very simple. Let’s do what we say. Let’s get it done. Failure is not an option.

In a discussion about the failed efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, Cruz recalled Arizona Sen. John McCain’s pivotal vote in the middle of the night.

CRUZ: Skinny repeal went down by a single vote, it was at 2:30 in the morning, I’ll tell ya, when that happened I had to turn and leave the Senate floor because if I had stayed on the Senate floor I would have said some things to my colleagues that were not appropriate to say on the Senate floor. (You should have said them anyway … Exactly what we’re thinking …  Say it out loud.)

Cruz said he would be calling together the Republican working group on repealing Obamacare to see if they can yet put together a repeal and replace bill “from the bottom up.”

McCARTY: Border wall funding. It is being delayed by Republicans?

CRUZ: No, it’s being delayed by Democrats and most Republicans are not wiling to fight for it, (Why? Exactly.) Because they are responsive to the donor class and not to the voters, (Here,here,)  and the donor class doesn’t particularly care.

Look, there’s an odd divide in the Republican Party between many of the donors and many of the voters. One of the great challenges of the Republican Party is that the donor world  doesn’t really like the grassroots, and  many of the grassroots doesn’t particularly like the donors. (Absolutely.) 

And to be honest, this is one of the challenges, and I tell both sides, they say can’t we get rid of the other guys, and I go, no, if we actually want to win we have to bring a coalition that brings everyone together.

But here’s the challenge, because the Republican leadership listens to the donor class, so what I’ve suggested to a number of House members, is look, go back to your districts, hold a town hall, set up a white board and just ask your constituents, what should our priorities be, and then shut up and listen, shut up and write down, so building a border wall would be on it for Texas, absolutely. 

So just write down what your constituents say, you come up with a list of 20, 19 of those are nowhere on leadership’s priorities. And then what I suggest to the members is go get the 50 biggest lobbyists in Washington, put them around a table (And shoot them.). And do the same exercise. Set up a white board, ask them their priorities, and you come up with 20,  19 of them will be leadership’s priorities. That’s the disconnect that is so frustrating.

When it comes to a border wall, most Republicans are for it, but they don’t really care that  much about it and they’re not willing to spend political capital and really fight for it, and Democrats are fighting tooth and nail, so you recall Democrats say it’s too expensive – first time in the history of the universe Democrats thought anything was too expensive.

(Democrats say) It’s too expensive. We can’t afford a border wall. Baloney. They oppose a border wall because Democrats support illegal immigration. You know there’s a new politically correct term for illegal immigrants. It is undocumented Democrat. (That’s right)

I think our leadership needs to put these issues to a vote and fight for them, but right now there is very little will in Congress or, for that matter, in the administration, to fight the fight.

(Why is that?)

Because the donors don’t care. It doesn’t matter to them and that’s who they listen to.

McCarty noted that members of Texans for Vaccine Choice were present. They were pleased with legislation in Austin in the last session to protect vaccine choice, but worried about federal interference.

While noting that he vaccinates his children and “we don’t want an epidemic,” Cruz said “parental choice is a fundamental liberty protected in the Constitution” (Amen.)  He said the federal government should stay out of it and  leave it to the states.

Cruz said his thinking on the Senate filibuster had evolved and he would now vote to end it.

McCARTY:  Leaders in our government know exactly who is leading and financing the Antifa movement. Why do we not expose who they are? (George Soros.)

CRUZ: Look, when it comes to George Soros, when it comes to those on the left, they have consistently sought to undermine democracy, to spread violence, and to spread dissent and unrest. (Communism). Yeah that too.

Cruz also said, White supremacists and Nazis and the Klan are ignorant bigots and fools.

McCARTY: Where do you stand on the Texas Land Commissioner’s plan to reimagine the Alamo? (Groans Oooh. Boo.)


CRUZ: Well, I will confess that I know a lot of people are concerned about the Alamo. Now look, the Alamo is a priceless Texas treasure, and it needs to be preserved for generations to come. (Amen, applause) And I think the people of Texas should be very vocal defending the Alamo. I think that is important.

I confess I haven’t studied the details of the particular plan. I know people have very real concerns, and the wonderful thing about our democratic process is that people have the opportunity to express our concerns and make them clear. I think what is unequivocal is that we should  protect, preserve and treasure the Alamo and treasure our history.

On NAFTA, Cruz said, I’m not sure which direction this administration is going to go on NAFTA. I think there are competing voices within the administration on NAFTA. 

He said he thinks renegotiating NAFTA is a good idea if it’s about opening foreign markets to American good, but not if it is about erecting barriers to foreign products in the American market.

Ultimately, he said, I think that would hurt Texas badly.

McCarty finished up by asking Cruz, “Is there hope?”

CRUZ: Yes. I believe that with all my heart.

Are there aspects that are frustrating?


Are there times you want to yell at the television screen? (All the time. All the time …  I want to shoot it … That’s when I watch The Walking Dead).


Cruz talked bout Harvey and how Texans rose to the occasion.

He ended by talking about his father.

Many of you all know my dad, Rafael Cruz. As you know, my father as a teenager was  in prison, tortured, had his teeth kicked out of his mouth, thought he was going to die. They pulled him front of a firing squad. and he was able to get out of Cuba, escape, come to Texas, and you know,  I’ve thought, if somebody had come to that 18-year-old kid in 1957 in Austin, Texas, washing dishes. He couldn’t speak English. If someone had  told him, fifty years hence your son is going to be sworn into office as a United State senator, that teenage immigrant could nor have imagined that, that would have been beyond any conception he could have seen  and yet, in Jan 2013, when I was standing on the Senate floor with my hand on my father’s Bible, my dad was sitting in the gallery with tears streaming down his face.

That’s America. It’s who we are.

Meanwhile, after the event, McCarty posted this.

Mizani is challenging Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, who was a tea party hero when he was first elected but has since fallen from grace with McCarty and the NE Tarrant Tea party.

From Mizani’s Sept. 20 campaign announcement.

Armin Mizani Launches Campaign for State Representative in House District 98

(Keller, TX) Keller City Councilman Armin Mizani has officially announced his campaign for state representative in House District 98—an area encompassing cities such as Colleyville, Southlake, Keller, Grapevine, Westlake, Haslet, and portions of Fort Worth and Trophy Club.

Armin launched his campaign saying, “Texans face big challenges and deserve leaders who will represent our conservative values. As State Representative, I will bring conservative leadership to the Texas House where we will double down on our efforts to address government spending and rising property taxes, curb illegal immigration, reform our broken school finance system, and protect the sanctity of life.”

He continued, “During my time on the Keller City Council, we successfully fought to reduce the property tax rate each and every year I was in office and introduced the first increase to the homestead exemption in over 30 years. It mis time for us to elect leaders who will stay true to their campaign promises rather than back down to the establishment and political class down in Austin.”  

“In 2012, House District 98 unseated a seven term incumbent because they were tired of conservative legislation being shut down by the Austin political class and special interests. Unfortunately, our current State Representative, someone who I and many others supported, has become part of the same political class he once campaigned against. I have been asked by local leaders across this District to step up and run and I am honored to answer the call.” 

Apart from sharing a photo, Cruz did not endorse Mizani.

“No,” said McCarty in an email. “We didn’t ask.”

Beto Effin’ O’Rourke: On running for Senate with the expletive undeleted

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke campaigns at UT on Friday September 22, 2017, for a seat in the U.S. Senate. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Good Monday Austin:

That’s Hiram Garcia, a UT student who is interning for Beto O’Rourk’e Senate campaign, after an appearance Friday by O’Rourke in the auditorium at the UT Student Activity Center sponsored by the Tejas Club.

Like O’Rourke, Garcia is from El Paso.

El Paso is central to O’Rourke’ identity and his campaign.

And so, soon after he took the stage Friday, he exulted about his hometown.


So I am raising my kiddos in the same place where I was raised, a place that really I took for granted growing up.

I didn’t recognize or understand, because I had no point of comparison just how f*****g amazing El Paso, Texas, is, in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, at an average elevation of about 3,700 hundred feet, at a place where three states – New Mexico, Texas and Chihuahua – all come together, at a point where two nations, two languages, two cultures, two histories come together and form one people in this incredibly  beautiful, important place that should be more of an example for the rest of the country.

You may or may not know this, El Paso is one of the, if not the safest cities in the United State of America today, and I tell my surprised colleagues, Republicans and Democrats alike, in the Congress, that that is not spite of the fact, but in large part because of the fact – and the people in El Paso know this – we are and always have been a community of immigrants.

I asked Garcia about O’Rourke’s language, and he explained that it was evidence of his unscripted authenticity.

It may also have something to do with O’Rourke’s background in Foss, a successful punk band – an experience that, like his upbringing in El Paso, informs his political attitude and the DIY way he is running his campaign.

(Note: Beto’s middle initial is F, but that is not for Effin’ but for Francis, the same as his father and his father’s father.)

From Dan Solomon writing recenlty at Splinter: If This Punk-Rock Democrat Can Win in Texas, Maybe We’re Not Totally Screwed

O’Rourke spent his formative years in the city’s punk rock scene, playing in and watching bands whose members included people like Cedric Bixler-Zavala, who would later be the lead singer of the breakthrough hardcore band At The Drive In and the mid-2000’s arena rock smash The Mars Volta.

O’Rourke and Bixler-Zavala played music together in a band called Foss—O’Rourke on guitar and vocals, Bixler-Zavala on drums—and toured the U.S. and Canada in the summers, while O’Rourke pursued his undergraduate degree at Columbia.

Bixler-Zavala credits O’Rourke with turning him on to punk rock touring. O’Rourke, he says, gave him his first copy of Book Your Own Fucking Life, the DIY touring bible. “He introduced me to that whole subculture—he taught me all the ropes of that,” Bixler-Zavala says. “Yet at the same time, he didn’t even know what he was doing. He was winging it.”

The punk rock thing is a big part of O’Rourke’s story. On the way to Burnet, after we start talking music, a staffer tries to impress him by talking about the drum kit he still has at his mom’s house. O’Rourke played in bands in college, and again when he returned to El Paso in 1998. As he began to enter public life, though, it was harder to remain an underground punk rock dude. When he was just a guy who ran a web design company and a local arts and culture website, that was fine.

When he started to pursue politics—first with the El Paso City Council, to which he was elected in 2005, and then in his congressional run—aspects of his past became a liability. He’d been arrested for burglary after tripping an alarm while jumping a fence at the University of Texas-El Paso in 1995, and again for a DWI three years later. (He wasn’t convicted on either charge.)

But he’s proud of his punk days. In the truck, he brightens immediately when I ask him about Bixler-Zavala. He tells me about being at a birthday party for Bixler-Zavala’s kid with his family. He thumbs through his phone for a minute, looking for a photo of himself with a few At The Drive In guys and their kids. (He can’t find it, but offers to send it to me—“Maybe that’ll be interesting?”) It’s clear, talking to O’Rourke, that until pretty recently—probably until he started raising millions in his bid to unseat Ted Cruz—the fact that he was friends with rock stars before they were famous has been one of the cooler things in his life.

O’Rourke talks about his music career on the stump sometimes. At an event in San Antonio in April, he went on a five-minute riff about how “punk rock, at its best, was just stripping down all the corporate rock I was hearing on the radio in the 1980s and getting down to its most basic roots.” That includes, in addition to not hiring pollsters or consultants, taking a Bernie-like approach to fundraising, rejecting all SuperPAC funds, and focusing exclusively on contributions from individual donors. Between April and July, he raised $2.1 million, $500,000 more than Cruz raised in the same time span.

This all fits neatly into the figure O’Rourke presents.

“We’re connecting with people in a very direct way, booking our own tour,” he says of the trip he’s on right now. “I listened to 70’s FM radio with my dad, and when I came of age, there was something wrong with rock and roll, and I didn’t realize it until someone took me to my first punk rock show. It was, ‘Holy shit!’” He was 15 years old, and he pauses to drop Bixler-Zavala’s name again, talks about watching the future rock star at 13 years old play Misfits covers.

 “I got into punk rock because the corporate stuff didn’t get me going,” he says. “When you look at the DNC or the RNC or national politics, it’s corporate rock and roll. The songs sound familiar, but it’s really glossed and produced, and has very little soul to it. Maybe no soul at all.” It’s felt so good, he says, “to do this in as raw a way as possible.”

After his UT appearance Friday, O’Rourke was interviewed by Daily Texan Editor-in-Chief Laura Hallas, and a little bit past the nine-minute mark, Hallas asks about his history as a punk musician and how it informs and guides his Senate candidacy, and how his role in Foss was less about his musicianship, which he said was minimal, and more about his role in figuring out the logistics of becoming a band, touring and selling themselves in very much the same way he is now going about running for Senate.

On Saturday, I did a 20-minute interview with O’Rourke during the Texas Tribune Festival as a kind of warm-up for his main event interview with the master, Tribune co-founder and CEO Evan Smith.

The interview makes up the last 20 minutes of this livestream from O’Rourke’s Facebook page. I obviously don’t know what I’m doing and am barely audible. But you can mostly hear O’Rourke, and below are a few key passages.

I read back to O’Rourke something he had told the Daily Texans’ Hallas the day before:

If it ever gets too slick, too produced, too corporate rock and roll, then we’ve lost the magic of what we’re doing.

I asked him to explain corporate rock and roll, in the political context.

When I was growing up, interested in music, transitioning from my parents’ Beatles albums to what was on the radio in the early 1980s, there was this disconnect that I couldn’t really explain or understand until somebody took me to my first punk rock show and I saw rock and roll stripped down to its bare bones and essence and people just telling their stories and sharing their songs with other people in the most honest, direct way, and that just changed my life forever, writing my own songs, touring with my own punk band, turning out our own records.

And I feel like politics has gotten like that today, very corporate, it’s literally driven by corporations and special interests funding the major candidates and major parties and there’s a reason why people feel so disconnected and frustrated and anxious with politics and the state of our democracy. It’s no longer honest. There’s no longer a direct connection They no longer feel that those in positions of public trust are accountable and responsive.

So we’ve thrown out the corporate playbook in politics. We’re just trying to make this as open and direct as we possibly can. So, no pollsters, no focus groups, no political action committees, no special interests, no corporations, our fate is 100 percent with the people of Texas, and we will trust the people of Texas to make this decision, but we are going to make sure we get in front of every single person in Texas that we can to ensure they make an informed decision.

That feels like real rock and roll, going from town to town, sharing our story, listening to those in the communities we visit, learning from that. It’s kept us energized, inspired, fueled to make the drive to the next place, and we will continue to do that for the next 14 months.

I noted that as is the case for O’Rourke, the personal is political for rival Ted Cruz as well.

I read to O’Rourke from this account of an interview Cruz did with CBS This Morning  right after he announced for president in March 2015.

 … he “grew up listening to classic rock” but that that soon changed.

“My music taste changed on 9/11,” Cruz said..

“I actually intellectually find this very curious, but on 9/11, I didn’t like how rock music responded,” he said. “And country music, collectively, the way they responded, it resonated with me.”

Cruz’s comments came during a lightning round of interviews the morning after he announced his candidacy for president in 2016 in a John Lennon-inspired, “Imagine”-themed speech.

Cruz did not mention any specific country music that resonated with him or which rock artists did not respond well to the terror attacks.

“I had an emotional reaction that said, ‘These are my people,’” Cruz said. “So ever since 2001, I listen to country music.”

I asked O’Rourke for his reaction.


I respect people’s personal music decisions. As they say, there’s no accounting for taste. There are things that turn us on, that move us, that allow us to connect with something bigger than just ourselves. Music is a great way to do that.

You know I was born and raised on the Beatles, really kind of found my own voice listening to punk rock, love, love Bob Dylan and had a couple of chances to see him when he came to El Paso. Bob Dylan is the essence of punk rock in a lot of ways.


I just love Willie Nelson. I love that Willie Nelson after his shows stays around to meet and greet and shake the hands of everyone that comes out.


I love Waylon Jennings, love Johnny Cash, love the music that has come out of this country because it tells the story of this country. There’s no one form of popular music that does it any better than any other form.

I love punk rock and talk about it a lot because that helped shape me.

O’Rourke talked about being in Rockport after Harvey and hearing stories about how there was this tailer  serving BBQ to first responders and it was only later they learned it had been the Josh Abbott band.


I’m open to all music and happy for Ted Cruz.

But was he offended by rock music’s reaction to 9/11?


I was not offended by rock music’s reaction to 9/11. Thanks for asking.

I asked O’Rourke about his use of profanity on the stump and told him what Hiram Garcia had told me.

I noted that Hillary Clinton now wonders in retrospect whether, when Trump loomed menacingly behind her at one of the presidential debates, she should have turned, looked him in the eye and said, ‘Back up, you creep, get away from me.”

Maybe, I suggested, if Hillary Clinton had turned to Trump and said, “Back up you effin’ creep,” she might be president today.

I asked whether his own use of profanity was a bit of calculated authenticity.


No, it’s a terrible lack of discipline on my part. And, Amy (O’Rourke’s wife) has tried to help me, and friends have tried to help me, gently suggesting that I not swear so much.

I grew up raised by a world-class swearer in my dad, Pat O’Rourke, who made up so many incredible amalgamations of four-letter words that he could string together, and those are part of my consciousness and maybe my DNA, so when I am passionate, if I’m angry, if I’m frustrated, if I’m excited about talking about El Paso, introducing the concept of one of the most amazing places anywhere in the world that most people don’t know enough about, sometimes that will slip out.

And at home, my nine-year-old daughter, Molly, started a program whereby every time I swore I had to put a dollar into a jar and she’s going to be filthy rich by the time this campaign is over because, as hard as I try, , if I’m honest, and I at least want to be hotness  and if I’m direct, and I always try to do that, then I’m just going to tell you what’s on my mind and you’ve seen me enough times to know I don’t have a standard stump speech, there is not a three-point plan that I roll out at every event. I feel like I owe you all at least my candor, my honesty, letting you know exactly what’s on my mind. I remember sitting in the same seats that you’re sitting in, listening to someone like me before, feeling like I was being sold. I just never want you to have that feeling and sometimes a consequence of that is the language gets a little bit colorful.

I asked if he wanted to finish with a Pat O’Rourke riff.


Amy’s shaking her head no. I want you to all use your imagination.

From Tessa Stuart at Rolling Stone earlier this month: Beto O’Rourke: Ted Cruz’s Punk-Rock Problem
How a progressive congressman – and former bassist – from El Paso is threatening to unseat the Senate’s most hated Republican

As we drive away, O’Rourke says the party reminded him of the kind he attended as a kid with his dad, Pat Francis, a beloved Democratic politician in his own right. “We’d be in someone’s backyard watching the Reagan-Mondale debates and everyone is drinking beer,” he says. “I just remember there being this energy and excitement around politics.” Pat, who died in a bicycle accident in 2001, served eight years as an elected official in El Paso, and was Texas co-chair for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign. Today, O’Rourke says of his father, “He just couldn’t give a shit who he pissed off. If he knew it was the right thing to do, he was gonna do it.”

During his interview a little while later with Evan Smith, Evan asked him to talk about his father and he choked up.

Smith also asked O’Rourke about his “youthful indiscretions.”

“You know that somewhere, right now, the Cruz campaign is recruiting actors  on Craig’s List who are tall and have floppy hair to play you in the re-enactment of the breaking and entering,” Smit said.

At around the 42-minute mark, O’Rourke recounts what happened in some detail.

“I absolutely have made mistakes, and some of them are very grave. I think people are owed that story and should make a decision based on the complete story.”

And then, in what was today’s Quote to Note in the Texas Tribune’s The Brief:

I really f***ed up, and I really made a huge mistake, but look at what I’ve been able to do in my life since then.

After his interview with Evan Smith, O’Rourke did On the Media, the NPR newsmagazine hosted by  Brooke Gladstone, along with Rep. Will Hurd, the Helotes Republican with whom O’Rourke, last March, went on a much celebrated and mostly live-streamed bipartisan San Antonio-to-D.C. road trip.

Finally here, are Beto and Amy back on the road post TribFest, listening to KRock 101.7.

It starts off with the tail end of Rush doing Freewill.

You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose freewill

And then it’s Elton John and Rocket Man, which, if things blow up between President Trump and his Rocket Man in North Korea, may end up a rueful requiem for a ruined planet.


Why everybody hates Ted Cruz and why it doesn’t matter.



Good day Austin:

At a little before 4 in the morning Tuesday I became aware that overnight, @tedcruz’s Twitter account had liked a porn video.

I was not pleased.

I had just risen and was behind the eight ball to get that day’s First Reading done – Alex Jones’ 9/11 exclusive: President Trump is being drugged in his Diet Cokes – and didn’t want to be distracted by something so trivial whose progression over the next news cycle or two or three (I’m no longer quite sure what a news cycle is or how long its lasts) was so predictable.

There were, even in the middle of the night, questions of irony and hypocrisy.

I was unimpressed.

A familiar trajectory was already assured: Viral mocking of Cruz, lots of masturbation double entendres and ultimately,  what we wouldn’t see or hear, a phone call from some college student working in Cruz’s office as an intern for the semester to his folks to explain to them that, yes, things had been going great, and Sen. Cruz was terrific and really encouraging and had even given him some responsibility in his social media operation but that, well, something kind of crazy and unfortunate had happened, and well, the senator had put in a good word for him at Tortilla Coast, and assured him that, when it comes right down to it, he’ll learn even more about life and the world by busing tables there until he goes back to school than he would answering constituent mail, and, after all, TC is where the Freedom Caucus sometimes meets, so who knows where busing dishes there may lead.

And then the late-night comedians would each take a whack at Cruz.

And all of this would happen with or without me, and I wanted to stick to the task at hand of writing about how Alex Jones was warning President Trump that his chief of staff was systematically drugging his Diet Cokes.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I’m not above riding the Bruise Cruz for some clicks and yucks.

Four months later, I’m still getting the occasional retweet on this gem from Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s book, Giant of the Senate.

But that, I thought, was actually funny and revealing because here was a senator ready to toss aside any shred of senatorial courtesy to trash a colleague who he felt had earned it.

So, it was amusing and said something about something.

But Cruz-Twitter-account-likes-porn was just icky and, unless you think that Ted Cruz is full on Anthony Weiner weird – which  I don’t – then this episode didn’t really say anything about anything, except as a reminder of how many people really hate Ted Cruz and enjoy reveling in their loathing.

From the 2016 documentary, Weiner.

So I tried to keep my mind on Alex Jones and the drugging of President Trump’s Diet Cokes.

But then, about an hour later, this, from Rick Dunham, former Houston Chronicle Washington bureau chief, now directing a journalism program in China.

Wow. China. The waking world. There seemed to be billions more Cruz haters than I had ever anticipated.

I had Morning Joe on. It is a long-time bastion of Cruz-bashing. They hatedCruz back when they loved, or at least liked, Trump. And they’ve loathed Cruz since they turned against Trump with a vengeance.

But even they just seemed to be going through the motions on this one, unable to rouse themselves to even a credible pretext of why they were talking about this.

Mika: Now the most important story of the day, right?

Joe: What story is that?

Mika: Shortly after midnight last night, the Twitter account of Ted Cruz … 

Joe: Oh come on.

Mika: It’s not that important. But why’d he do this? Did someone else?

Joe: Mike (Barnicle), you read this. I don’t want to know this.

Mika: But why’d he do this?

And with that, they made Mike Barnicle  do it.

Ultimately, Cruz faulted an unnamed staffer.

Meanwhile, ever helpful, Alex Jones wondered whether Cruz was being victimized by a double standard.

The night followed the predictable course.




But it didn’t end there.

The story continued into yesterday.

Then came the nadir of this story’s sad arc.

Let’s look at that a little closer, or at least in bigger print.


OK. Here it is.

BASH: Can you tell me the staffer’s name?

Why? To what end?

And then:

BASH:  I can’t believe I’m going to ask you this, but you’re officially saying Ted Cruz is okay with people buying six toys?

So one minute Cruz is being asked, “Do you appreciate the irony that you defended a Texas law banning sales of sex toys?” And the next minute, after he explains that it was his obligation as solicitor general in Texas, to defend Texas laws in court, no matter how “idiotic” they might be, Bash, who noted that Cruz had come on the show to talk about tax reform,  is aghast that Cruz is now apparently, officially  a defender of the right to bear dildos.

From Leif Reigstag at Texas Monthly: Ted Cruz’s Twitter Account Got Caught ‘Liking’ Porn
It’s the latest addition to a long list of weird social media moments for the junior senator.

This all comes as Cruz continues to work out the kinks in his political career following his failed presidential campaign. Just days before “Milf Hunter”-gate, the New York Times published a story about Cruz as he visited flood-stricken areas in Texas, observing that Cruz’s presidential election defeat seems to have “spawned a kinder, gentler ‘Cruz 2.0.’” That kindness, apparently, extended to complimenting the physique of the people on the ground. As the Times wrote, Cruz “greeted Coast Guard heroes with dazzling torsos. ‘Almost every one of them ripped,’ he marveled on the Senate floor, holding for dramatic pauses pregnant enough to require bed rest. ‘These are guys that know their way around a weight room.’”

I had also noticed that line from Matt Flegenheimer in his story, Ted Cruz 2.0? Senator Adjusts With Trump in Office and Houston Under Water,

Just as I had also noticed Cruz’s odd comment on the Senate floor about the “ripped” Coast Guard heroes.

But Flegenheimer’s description of the line’s delivery as holding for dramatic pauses pregnant enough to require bed rest, seemed itself pregnant with the implication that Ted Cruz was indulging in some repressed homoerotic lust.

Please. No. Stop.

Which brings us to the question of why the extraordinary wellspring of antipathy to Ted Cruz.

There is a rich literature on this.

A small sampling:

From the Telegraph: Why do so many people hate Ted Cruz? Many of those who’ve known him and worked with him claim the Republican presidential candidate is brilliant but arrogant and self-serving

It begins:

It all started when he was a teenager…

From the New Republic on March 4, 2016:

Indeed indeed, I cannot tell, / Though I ponder on it well, / Which were easier to state, / All my love or all my hate. —Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau, it seems, never met Ted Cruz, a man so blissfully easy to hate that loathing for him has become a form of political poetry: “wacko-bird,” “abrasive,” “arrogant,” and “creepy” are some of the kindest adjectives that have been thrown his way. Cruz has alienated about everyone he’s ever encountered in life: high school and college classmates, bosses, law professors, Supreme Court clerks, and especially his Republican colleagues in the Senate. Some detest Cruz the politician because of his grandstanding, but most dislike Cruz the person. In that respect, he’s really not your average politician—after all, most people hate politicians. But everyone hates Ted Cruz. 

Much of the antipathy was provoked by Cruz with calculated purpose and to great effect.

From Molly Ball at the Atlantic in January 2016: Why D.C. Hates Ted Cruz:

Cruz’s fans say it’s because he stands on principle. But his critics say he’s never achieved anything—except burnishing his own brand.In the three years since he arrived in the U.S. Senate, Ted Cruz has become easily the most hated man in Washington—a fact he’s now using to his advantage as a presidential candidate. But why?

From Jack Shafer at Politico Magazine, also in April 2016: Why Ted Cruz Loves to Be Hated.

Last night, former Speaker of the House John Boehner captured the nation’s attention by calling presidential aspirant Ted Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh” in an appearance at Stanford University.

Having established his Satanic theme, Boehner continued. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

 Any other politician would have winced at the characterization, especially coming from a fellow Republican. But given his long-term success at extracting vitriol and bile by the barrel from those who should be his ideological comrades, we can only assume that Cruz craves the hatred and condemnation, and regards Boehner’s Lucifer comment as an endorsement.

That same month, Rolling Stone compiled A Compendium of People Who Hate Ted Cruz’s Guts

“One thing Ted Cruz is really good at: uniting people who otherwise disagree about everything else in a total hatred of Ted Cruz”

It included, of course, Princeton roommate Craig Mazin: “Ted Cruz is a nightmare of a human being. I have plenty of problems with his politics, but truthfully his personality is so awful that 99 percent of why I hate him is just his personality. If he agreed with me on every issue, I would hate him only one percent less.”

Mazin was all over this week’s tweet.

Of course, not everyone hates Ted Cruz.

But for Trump, Cruz might have won the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Back in February 2016, just before Trump’s South Carolina victory, when Cruz was very much in the hunt, I did a First Reading – Why Ted Cruz isn’t Ronald Reagan – looking at Cruz’s likability problem, in which I talked to University of Texas government professor and polling expert Daron Shaw.

This is some of what he said:

I think his likability numbers are really dangerous right now. The tag on him — if Marco Rubio is too callow and inexperienced and Trump’s a bully, Ted is being defined as the guy that nobody likes and Trump has built on that, and that’s really a problem.

It’s not a Senate race. Its a presidential race and people don’t like to vote for somebody they don’t like. And I don’t know how Ted deals with that.

And if I were on Ted’s team, I’d be very concerned with how do you deal with that. I think that at some level you have to be just a little bit likable, and I think Ted’s in danger of losing control of that, and that’s something that probably could hurt him and maybe cost him the nomination and certainly that could cost him in the fall.

You talk about New York values. What New York values means to me is the New York guy really knows how to pick out your weak spot. That’s Trump. It was Ted, it was Marco, it was Jeb. He just picks it and picks it. He’s got a genius for that.

I know Ted from the Texas Lyceum. I worked with him in 2000 on the Bush campaign, and I never thought of him as unlikable.

The media is always looking …whats the hook?  Some are right but some of them are not right. You know Carville used to rail on this that once the media settles on one of these they’ll never back off. They are trying to figure out Ted. They haven’t gotten it right but this unlikable thing is becoming a meme and I think it’s political poison. What do you do, have Ted kiss babies?

Well, it has become a meme. Everybody hates Ted Cruz.

But, as Shaw’s colleague Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, told me yesterday of Cruz, “his negatives are intense. If you don’t like Ted Cruz, you really don’t like Ted Cruz.”

But, Henson said, as long as the anti-Cruz feeling remains confined to those who were never going to vote for him to begin with, the intensity of their loathing is immaterial.

“As we saw in pretty stark terms in the last national election,  you can rise pretty far even though partisans of the other party really intensely dislike you bordering on a kind of mania,” Henson said.

And so, even with a Senate opponent in Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is as likable as Cruz, as the meme would have it, is unlikable, Cruz is the odds-on favorite to win re-election in 2018. The race is his to lose.

Cruz at the eclipse in San Antonio.

Notes from Beto and Will’s livestreamed, bipartisan, Texas-to-D.C. town hall road trip


Good day Austin:

Somewhere, about 12 hours into his excellent adventure with his congressional colleague Will Hurd, Beto O’Rourke reflected yesterday on the prerequisites of a great road trip.

  1. There has to be an element of spontaneity. You can’t be planning it weeks or months in advance.
  2. You’ve got to have good tunes.
  3. You’ve got to have some good food and good snacks.
  4.  You’ve got to run into Chuck Todd and Evan Smith.
  5. You must learn some deeper truths about yourself and humanity.



By their own reckoning, yesterday’s road trip, which had them leaving San Antonio by dawn and arriving at their hotel in Nashville at 2:15 this morning  – a little bit better than halfway to their destination of snowbound D.C.  – was quite successful, though, of course, fulfilling the fifth criterion was mostly in the mind of the beholder.

For example, the dynamic duo did learn that if you park by the University of Texas – even if you are two of 535 members of the U.S. Congress – your Dollar rent-a-car, will be ticketed. And that if your goal is to get out of Texas within, say, eight hours, you really ought to avoid a route that takes you through Waco on I-35.

Like any good road trip – and this really was a good road trip – it was self-referential, spinning its own legend as it went, looking back at what happened a half-hour earlier as mythic, every moment invested with meaning.

It was, O’Rourke said from nearly the outset, the “longest cross-country livestream town hall in the history of the world.” And there didn’t really seem to be any arguing with that.

With the exception of some intermittent service interruptions, the whole thing was livestreamed.


They talked about health care, the border, U.S. Rep. Steve King, drug policy, veterans issues, opioid addiction, campaign finance, the budget sequester and on and on.

Their real moment of Zen came early on, at Tantra Coffeehouse in San Marcos, where Adam, while making them their coffee, talked about coffee and the meaning of life.




“Human beings and caffeine have a deep-seated relationship in our consciousness,” said Adam.

“We have spent the last hour talking about health care policy and NATO and Turkey, and this discourse on coffee has gotten more ‘likes’ than anything,” O’Rourke told Adam.

“Let me tie it all together,” Adam replied. And then he did.



The road trip came together as an idea Monday night after Hurd and O’Rourke did a veterans’ event together in San Antonio and Hurd discovered old reliable Southwest wasn’t able to fly into D.C. to get him back for some votes Wednesday evening.

O’Rourke pitched the idea.

Hurd: “He said, `Let’s drive to D.C.” He didn’t think I’d say yes, I said yes.”

They picked up a Dollar rental Chevy Impala in San Antonio predawn and hit the road at around 7.



Politically, the road trip makes perfect sense for both men.

O’Rourke wants to run for the U.S. Senate against Ted Cruz and the road trip was a way to showcase his quirky, outside-the-box persona and his quirky, outside-the-box bipartisanship.

The kind of bipartisanship and interpersonal relationships that were a given among members of Congress for long stretches of American history now seems quaint, maybe even forbidden.


Cruz has proved that he could do filibuster-length talking on the Senate floor, but could he pull off a feat like this, or find a willing companion from the other party?

And Hurd is that rarest birds in Congress – a man who represents a genuinely competitive district, a black Republican with a majority Latino electorate, a Republican member of Congress who never endorsed Donald Trump for president – for whom bipartisanship is not just a nicety but a necessity.

Hurd: “I am in a perpetual race. I am one of the few members of Congress who’s in a 50-50 district.”

Hurd is 39 and O’Rourke is 44.

As in any good buddy movie, the two quickly fell into complementary characters.

O’Rourke, who toured the U.S. with the El Paso band Foss in the early 1990s, is the seasoned road warrior, keeper of the tunes and hard driver who wants to barrel through to their destination.

For Hurd, O’Rourke said, “time is elastic and expansive.” He is the hopeless tourist, eager to pull over at every roadside attraction.

In Austin, talked amicably with a SXSW security guard, who said even the drunks were friendly, and thenthey busted in on Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith and Meet the Press Moderator Chuck Todd just ahead of Smith’s interview of Todd for his KLRU show, Overheard.


Hurd was asked to offer an example of an issue on which he and O’Rourke agree.

“We both agree a border wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” Hurd said.

The two prime-of-life politicians, who represent abutting districts – Hurd’s vast district stretches from San Antonio to the outskirts of O’Rourke’s El Paso – have an easy rapport, which wore well over what amounted to  mostly continuous all-day and all-night talkathon.

Hurd: What is that song you wanted to listen to?

O’Rourke:  It’s called “Alex Chilton” by the Replacements.

Hurd:  You know there’s an artist by the name of Alex Chilton.

O’Rourke: Yeah, the song’s about him. Unfortunately, he recently passed away in the last few years. RIP Alex Chilton.

If he was from Venus, would he feed us with a spoon?
If he was from Mars, wouldn’t that be cool?
Standing right on campus, would he stamp us in a file?
Hangin’ down in Memphis all the while.

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ’round
They sing “I’m in love. What’s that song? I’m in love with that song.”

Cerebral rape and pillage in a village of his choice.
Invisible man who can sing in a visible voice.
Feeling like a hundred bucks, exchanging good lucks face to face.
Checkin’ his stash by the trash at St. Mark’s place.

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ’round
They sing “I’m in love. What’s that song? I’m in love with that song.”

I never travel far, without a little Big Star

Runnin’ ’round the house, Mickey Mouse and the Tarot cards.
Falling asleep with a flop pop video on.
If he was from Venus, would he meet us on the moon?
If he died in Memphis, then that’d be cool, babe.

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ’round
They sing “I’m in love. What’s that song? I’m in love with that song.”

“I’m in love. What’s that song? I’m in love with that song.”

Sandra Sandoval · 4:15 Loving this!
Like · 1 · 1 hr


Fisher Mays
Fisher Mays · 4:07 Great song choice 👌


Seamus Verde
Seamus Verde · 3:51 ya gotta do Marc Cohn’s “Walkin’ in Memphis” 🙂
Like · 2 · 1 hr



Will: “It’s like Carpool Karaoke.”

Lunch was at a Waco Whataburger.


Will: “Yes Miranda, we’re going to pay the same but can we have it in two bags. It will be a little easier for us.”

O’Rourke: “High maintenance customer.”



Hurd: “No pickles. With cheese, yes ma’am. Thank you for asking.”




U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, old enough to be their father, phoned in to make sure there was no distracted driving going on.

Hurd assured him O’Rourke had a firm hand on the wheel.

But Cornyn’s connection wasn’t so good.

O’Rourke: “We lost Sen. Cornyn.”

Massachusetts congressman Joe Kennedy called in.

“I have never driven that far in my life,” Kennedy said.

Hurd talked about how his father, a black man who sold wine and liquor across sometimes hostile Texas, taught him the importance of PMA – a positive mental attitude.



O’Rourke suggested the Bad Brains song, “Attitude.”

Don’t care what they may say
We got that attitude!
Don’t care what you may do
We got that attitude!

Hey, we got that P.M.A.!
Hey, we got the P.M.A.!

Don’t care what you may do
We got that attitude!
I Don’t care what you may say
We got that attitude!

Hey, we got that P.M.A.!
Hey, we got the P.M.A.!

We got that attitude!
We got that attitude!

Hey, we got that attitude!
Hey, we got that attitude!

O’Rourke: “Bad Brains invented hard core.”




O’Rourke suggested “Headin’ for the Texas Border” by Flamin’ Groovies.

That was followed by “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn.




They apparently packed light.

Both were wearing collared shirts over undershirts and, O’Rourke said, “I may wear the same shirt tomorrow without the undershirt.”



Hurd: “Reagan would wear the same shirt twice.”

O’Rourke: “Without washing it?”

Hurd: “Yeah.”

O’Rourke: “We need a fact check in aisle two.”



They both are very into the White Stripes


“First concert,” said Hurd, throwing out a topic.

O’Rourke: “Quiet Riot. ‘Come on Feel the Noize.’ El Paso County Coliseum.”

Hurd: “My first concert was Hootie and the Blowfish.  Austin, Texas.”



A quick dinner heading  toward Memphis presented a challenge.

O’Rourke: “McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Applebee’s?”

Hurd: “None of this is tickling my fancy. … Is there a Whataburger? We could do a two Whataburger day.”

O’Rourke: “We’d love to do a Waffle House, but we don’t have time.”

Hurd: “One of the things I appreciate about Texas, you can get off the highway and get stuff.”

They ended up pulling into a gas station Subway 15 minutes from Graceland, but it was slow going, so Hurd bought a couple of bananas and O’Rourke picked up a couple of packaged sandwiches to share.



Hurd: “Bon appetit. How do you get the bread this dry. What’s the secret?”


Hurd: “The last time I was in Memphis was when I drove from San Antonio to start my job with the CIA.”




O’Rourke: “Name the song in the first 10 seconds or less.”

Hurd: “I can’t do that.”

“You know from a couple of bars?”

O’Rourke: “I can do that.”


Lo and behold, the only folks outside the locked-up Graceland gate when they got there were a family from San Antonio.

The other most fulfilling moment after Tantra Coffeehouse was their stop at Gibson’s Donuts on their way out of Memphis.





O’Rourke: “I don’t eat that many donuts. I just like them. Some people like cigars  or a good bottle of wine. I like donuts.”



There was a little bit of shop talk.

O’Rourke: “You have a comms director and a press secretary?”

Hurd: “Yeah.”

O’Rourke: “That’s out of control.”


Who will play them in the movie version of the road trip?

O’Rourke; “We’ve already decided the Rock is going to play Will Hurd.”

Hurd: “I think Ryan Gosling (for O’Rourke). I don’t know if he’s tall enough.”

O’Rourke: “Will and I would be a really good name for the Hollywood adaptation.”

Hurd: Like Marley and Me?

O’Rourke: Or the King and I.



Occasionally, the sound would fall out.



1:40 a.m., on the road to Nashvile.

O’Rourke: “I like cake. My mom’s a great baker.”

Hurd: “I like cake, but pie is so much more versatile.”

Hurd: “We left out cobbler.”

O’Rourke: “I think of cobbler as pie. If you have a different understanding please let me know.”




O’Rourke: “What your go-to Luby’s desert?”

Hurd: “Chocolate cake. The chocolate pudding cake

O’Rourke: “I always go to the cherry pie. You know its been out there a while so its’ kind of gelatinous, but i still go for it.”

Hurd, checking their Facebook comments: The Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls is getting a lot of love.”




In the dead of night, O’Rourke decides to tell an embarrassing story about his wife, Amy.

“I was born in ’72. Amy was born in ’81.”

It was Halloween.

“I don’t dress up. I don’t know, maybe it’s a character flaw.”

He showed his wife a picture of Kurt Cobain as someone he could dress up as.

“Amy said, `Is this Hard Rock?’ Not only did she not know it was Kurt Cobain and thought it was Kid Rock but she didn’t know that Kid Rock was not Hard Rock. Amy, sorry to tell that story. Youth vs. experience.”



Drivin’ down your freeways
Midnite alleys roam
Cops in cars, the topless bars
Never saw a woman…
So alone, so alone
So alone, so alone

Motel Money Murder Madness
Let’s change the mood from glad to sadness

Hurd: “We had a lot of good discussions, like tacos vs. enchiladas.”

O’Rourke: “I’m sorry about getting crossways with you about cake vs. pie. I wish I could take back some of the things I said.”

O’Rourke: “You know somebody who I really respect? Mac Thornberry.”

Thornberry, a Republican from Clarendon, represents the vast Texas district that encompasses the Texas Panhandle. He chairs the Armed Services Committee on which O’Rourke serves.

O’Rourke said he’d like to make the same trip with Thornberry, but, unlike his current companion, “I’m not sure he’d want to crush a Whataburger or go to a donut shop in Memphis at midnight.”

Hurd:  “Mac’s a quiet professional. A great guy.”

Hurd: “You would like (Michael) McCaul.”

O’Rourke: “I like McCaul.”

Hurd: “He’s a very funny guy. You would be laughing all the way.”

The lights of Nashville glistened ahead.

Hurd: “It’s been 19 hours, if I’m correct.”

O’Rourke: “I’m not good at math.”

Hurd: “Beto’s finally got a positive PMA.”

O’Rourke: “Finally? Come on.”

Neace-Marcus Tammy THIS reminds me of the time MY Daddy and I drove to Ohio from Pasadena Texas IN less than 17 hours 😂😂😂😂 and nodoze to stay awake! Best time with daddy ! Rock on!
Paul Peters
Paul Peters Great to break out of the partisan bubbles for a few hours with yall
Matt Zeller
Matt Zeller Got any Creedence?


Raymond Tomichek
Raymond TomichekI have wanted to relocate to Texas for a very long time. It makes me feel I could have a much better future surrounded by really good Texans like the two of you. It is so great that you would do something like this….. truly working together and truly listening to each other and the people. This is the coolest !!!

At 6:30 this morning, they were checked out of the Fairfield Inn in Nashville and back on the road headed to Knoxville.

Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, called in.

Former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle, a Democrat, and Bill Frist, a Republican, called in together.

O’Rourke asked his staff and Hurd’s staff to send them a list of the Wednesday night votes they were so determined not to miss.

Throughout the trip, O’Rourke had noted that those first votes were most likely inconsequential suspension votes.

But, hey, the purpose of a good road trip is not the destination, it is the journey.

Though, by late morning, and confronting a detour that might keep them from getting to the votes on time, O’Rourke displayed a slight slip in his PMA.

“Shit man,” O’Rourke said. “We are cutting it close.”


As it turned out, fate and traffic smiled on Beto and Will and they arrived at the Capitol with a half hour to spare.



And this morning, the bipartisan buddies were back, appearing first on Fox & Friends, and then on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.