The political rhetoric of Donald Trump and Alex Jones: On fake news and weaponized communications

 

“Again you’re in trouble for saying the sky is blue.” Alex Jones to Donald Trump, December 2015.

Good day Austin:

I was at Revival, a nice cafe on East 7th Street, working on this First Reading late yesterday afternoon about a discussion I will be moderating at the Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday morning.

PARTNER PROGRAMMING

9:00am-9:30am
The Political Rhetoric of Donald Trump and Alex Jones: On Fake News and Weaponized Communications
Charlie Warzel, senior technology writer at BuzzFeed and Jennifer Mercieca, historian of American political discourse and author of the forthcoming book, “Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Brilliance of Donald Trump,” will speak with Austin American-Statesman chief political writer Jonathan Tilove about the limits of fake news in the age of Trump.

This event is part of Open Congress, a free, open-to-the-public street festival held on Austin’s historic Congress Ave. on Saturday, Sept. 29. RSVP to attend Open Congress here.

Presented by the Austin American-Statesman
Walmart Partner Tent, Open Congress

At some point, I paused to check Twitter and saw this.

What?

Huh?

So, while I’m sitting there trying to figure out the best way to describe weaponized communication and what Jennifer, Charlie and I will talk about Saturday morning, President Trump was strafing America, the world, with some freshly weaponized communication.

Thank you, Mr. President.

 

The best way to understand Donald Trump’s presidency and Donald Trump’s election as president, is to study his  rhetoric – his rhetorical brilliance – because it is that, and not his policy chops, his negotiating skills or anything else, that best explains how he gained power and maintains it, unless and until he is impeached by the House, convicted by the Senate and removed from office (either that or removed a la the Rod Rosenstein conspiracy – or not – via the 25th  Amendment) – which seems far less likely to happen than his being elected to a second term.

TRUMP: They’ll use anything they can! They’re not in love with me. They’re not going to beat me in the election. They know that. They’re not going to beat me. The people that I’m looking at are total light weights. I dream of running against those people. Maybe they’ll come up with somebody that’s not. They’re not going to beat me. I’m against what they want to I’m in favor of law enforcement. I’m in favor of safety and security and low taxes. I want low taxes. I want borders. We’re getting another $1.6 billion in borders. I want borders. We’ve spent 3.2, and we’re getting another 1.6. And then eventually we’re getting the whole thing and we’ll complete the wall.

They don’t want that. They don’t want that. They don’t want the things that I have. Now, I must say. I know many of the Democrats. They’ll say things and then wink at me. And, again, it’s the same old story. They’ll say things, they don’t mean it, it’s politics. The reason they don’t want me is because they want to run the show. They want it. It’s power, it’s whatever you want to call it.

But what they have done here is a disgrace. A total disgrace. And what they do — I know it’s interesting. In one case, they say, he’s a fascist, he’s taking over the government, he’s the most powerful president ever. He’s a horrible human being. He wants to take over the entire government and he’s going to do it. We can’t stop him. That didn’t work. The next week, he said, uh, he’s incompetent. I said, wait a minute, in one case I’m taking over the world. And in the other case, he’s they tried that for a week. That didn’t work. Look, these are very dishonest people. These are con artists. And the press knows it. But the press doesn’t write it. That’s a lot of hands. That’s a lot — Steve, go ahead. Here’s a very high-quality person, this man. But he’ll probably hit me with a bad one. Go ahead, give it to me, Steve.

From Julie Hirschfeld Davis at the New York Times:

President Trump complained on Wednesday that “evil people,” including women in search of fame and fortune, routinely fabricate sexual assault charges against powerful men, and argued that his own experience with such allegations makes him more skeptical of the accusations threatening to bring down Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, his nominee for the Supreme Court.

In a remarkable and rambling 83-minute news conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Trump was by turns combative, humorous and boastful. He defended Judge Kavanaugh and railed against what he called the “big, fat con job” that he said Democrats were perpetrating to derail the nomination, even as he suggested he could still jettison his pick depending on the outcome of a high-profile hearing on Thursday

Or a genius.

From David Graham at the Atlantic:

At a rambling, often self-contradictory press conference Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump baselessly claimed a vast conspiracy to concoct sexual-misconduct charges against him and offered a surprisingly weak defense of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee who has been accused by three women of sexual misconduct.

 “I’ve had numerous accusations about me … They made false statements about me knowing they were false,” Trump said. When a reporter asked why the president always seemed to give the benefit of the doubt to men accused of sexual misconduct, he acknowledged that the allegations against him colored his response to the claims made against Kavanaugh. “It does impact my opinion … because I’ve had a lot of false charges made at me.”

More broadly, Trump offered a broad critique of the #MeToo movement and the growing calls for accountability in cases of sexual misconduct, implying they had gone too far.

“This is beyond Supreme Court. This has everything to do with our country,” Trump said. “When you are guilty until proven innocent, it is just not supposed to be that way … In this case you are guilty until proven innocent. I think that is a very, very dangerous standard for our country.”
 
Trump attacked Democrats and others for bringing forth the allegations.

“They’re actually con artists, because they know how quality this man is, and they’ve destroyed a man’s reputation,” the president said. “They know it’s a big, fat con job. And they go into a room and I guarantee you they laugh like hell at what they’ve pulled off on you and on the public.”

Yet Trump refused to rule out withdrawing Kavanaugh’s nomination, and speculated about nominating a woman in Kavanaugh’s stead, even as the White House and Kavanaugh himself have spent the past 48 hours staunchly insisting that they will forge forward.

 “I can’t tell you. I have to watch tomorrow,” he said. “I’m gonna see what happens tomorrow. I’m gonna be watching … I’m gonna see what’s said.”

REPORTER: Are you at all concerned at the message that is being sent to the women who are watching this when you use language like con job? Allegations —

TRUMP: That’s probably the nicest phrase I’ve ever used. Con job. It is. It’s a con job. You know, confidence. It’s a confidence job. But they — it’s a con job by the Democrats. They know it.

REPORTER: What about the message that’s being sent to women —

TRUMP: The same with the Russia investigation. They tried to convince people that I had something to do with Russia. There was no collusion. Think of it. I’m in Wisconsin. I’m in Michigan. I say, gee, we’re not doing well. I won both those states. I’m not doing well. Let me call the Russians to does anybody really believe that? It’s a con job. And I watch these guys, little Adam Schiff and all of the guys. He takes a call from a Russian who turned out to be a faker. You know, he was a comedian or something. This is so-and-so calling for — he took the call. Why is he taking a call from a Russian? Senator [Mark] Warner took a call from a Russian. He was a comedian or something. But he said, we have pictures of President Trump — where can I get them? If we ever did that, it would be a big deal. Yeah, it’s a con job, and it’s not a bad term. It’s not a bad term at all.

REPORTER: Are you worried —

TRUMP: I’ll tell you one thing I can say. I have had a lot of people talking about this to me with respect to what’s happening. Because it’s a horrible I’m going to have to get other judges and other supreme court judges, possibly. I could have a lot of supreme court judges, more than two. And when I called up Brett Kavanaugh, spoke to him and his family and told them that I chose them, they were so happy and so honored. It was as though — I mean, the about biggest thing that’s ever happened. And I understand that. US Supreme court. I don’t want to be in a position where people say “No, thanks. No, thanks. I don’t want to. You know, I spoke to somebody 38 years ago, and it may not be good.”

We have a country to run. We want the best talent in the world. But I’ll tell you this. The people that have complained to me about it the most, about what’s happening, are women. Women are very angry. You know, I got 52% with women. Everyone said this couldn’t happen. 52%.

Women are so angry. And I, frankly, think that — I think they like what the Republicans are doing. But I think they would have liked to have seen it go a lot faster. But give them their day in court. Let her have her day in court. Let somebody else have a day in court. But the ones that I find — I mean, I have men that don’t like it. But I have women that are incensed at what’s going on. I’ve always said, women are smarter than men. I’ve said that a lot. And I mean it. But women are incensed at what’s going on. Yes, go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead in the back. Who are you, where are you from?

REPORTER: Me?

TRUMP: No, you. That guy looks like he’s shocked. This is going to be not good.

REPORTER: It’s going to be good, sir.

TRUMP: The guy looks totally stunned. Have you ever been picked before for a question?

REPORTER: Yes, sir, but not from the president of the United States.

TRUMP: Go ahead. Give me your question.

REPORTER: Thank you very much. I I want to ask you, you always talk about —

TRUMP: Excuse me, you said from where?

REPORTER: Iraq. I’m a Kurd.

TRUMP: Great people. Are you a Kurd? Good. Great people. Great fighters. I like them a lot. Let’s go. I like this question so far.

And there was this:

TRUMP: I want to watch. I want to see. I hope I can watch. I’m meeting with a lot of countries tomorrow. But I will certainly in some form be able to watch. And I’ll also rely on some very fair and talented Republican senators who — look, if we brought George Washington here and we said, we have George Washington, the Democrats would vote against him. Just so you understand. And he may have had a bad past, who knows, you know? He may have had some — I think accusations made. Didn’t he have a couple of things in his past?

George Washington would be voted against 100 percent by Schumer and the con artists. 100 percent. So it really doesn’t matter from their standpoint. That’s why when John asked about the FBI, if the FBI did the most thorough investigation in the history of the FBI, and they found him to be 100 percent perfect, he would lose every single vote.

Anything you’d like to add here Jennifer?

And when did Jones and Trump have this conversation? In their one and only public dialogue, when, in a rendezvous arranged by Roger Stone, Trump, at Trump Tower, appeared remotely on InfoWars with Jones in December 2015, during which the two masters of their craft lavished praise upon one another.

Trump: My favorite president in the more or less modern era would be Ronald Reagan. I’ve always liked him. And by the way, he was a Democrat. Lot of people don’t know. A liberal Democrat Alex as you know. And he became a somewhat conservative, I wouldn’t say the most conservative, but a somewhat conservative Republican. But he wanted to make America great. And he really did.  He wanted to make it. He had actually, “Let’s make America great,” that was his, and mine is, “Make America great again.” So there’s a little bit of a difference.

Alex Jones: My son finally sold me on being a bigger supporter of yours. I mean I liked you, love America, you’re pure Americana. I’m still, you know, was, but my 13-year-old son is really smart, he has done a lot of research. He watches all the debates. He just really loves you. He is on cloud nine that you’re here –  Rex Jones – and it was his question, you know which president was your favorite. But all time, all time who is your favorite?

Trump: Well, all time I’d say Ronald Reagan, shorter term. I would say,well you know, you look at Lincoln, you look at Washington. You have to go with, they are the classics. Right Alex? You know you think in terms of the great classics, you have to go with the Lincolns and the Washingtons.

Alex Jones: I agree, he was a man’s man. George Washington was a badass.

Trump: Yeah that’s what they say. I mean that’s what they said. they say he never told a lie. Let’s hope that’s true, okay.

But George Washington was pretty good. Look we had some great presidents. So we had some good presidents on the other side too in all fairness. But we will hopefully be right at the top of that list.

Here was how the Alex Jones December 2015 interview with Trump starts out.

Alex Jones: Well we had Matt Drudge about a month ago in studio, only does interview every 3, 4 years, and I thought that got me excited. But I’m telling  you, Donald Trump is our guests ladies and gentlemen for the next 30 minutes or so. And obviously he is a maverick, he’s an original, he tells it like it is. He doesn’t read off a teleprompter, neither do I. He’s self-made. This whole media operation that reaches million people a week worldwide, conservatively, self-made.

That’s why I’m so excited. And he joins us from Trump Tower in New York City. He is the leading 2016 Republican presidential contender. Donald Trump again joins us. And I’ve got so many questions but first off, Donald thank you for joining us.

Donald Trump: Thank you Alex, great,  great to be with you.

Alex Jones: I’ve got so many questions but you are vindicated, this has got to be the 50th time the last six months, on the radical Muslims celebrating not just  in New Jersey, but New York, Palestine all over. What do you have to say?  They’re still attacking you, though we’ve got Dan Rather on video, we’ve got New York Post, we’ve got Washington Post, we’ve got, I mean what’s going on here?

Donald Trump: Well I took a lot of heat and I was very strong on it and I held my line and then all of a sudden, you know, hundreds of people were calling up my office. I was the other day in Sarasota, Florida, and people are in line and we had 12,000 people, which is fantastic. And the people were saying, many of the people from New Jersey, 4 or 5 people, said Mr. Trump I saw it myself, I was there

They talked about Patterson. But they said, “I saw it myself, Mr. Trump. I was there.” So many people have called in and on Twitter, @realdonaldtrump,they were all tweeting.

So I know what happened and I held my line and people wanted me to apologize, and we can’t do that. People like you and I can’t do that so easily. Now we can do it if we’re wrong Alex. You apologize. I’d apologize if I was wrong. But they were celebrating and they were celebrating the fall of the World Trade Center.

I think that’s disgraceful.

Disgraceful. And also not true.

From Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post Fact Checker:

The Pinocchio Test
This appears to be another case of Trump’s overactive imagination, much like his baseless claim that the George W. Bush White House tried to “silence” his Iraq war opposition in 2003. We looked and looked — and could find absolutely no evidence to support his claim.

But that was merely a matter of self-aggrandizement, whereas now Trump has defamed the Muslim communities of New Jersey. He cannot simply assert something so damning; he must provide some real evidence or else issue an apology.

Update: Despite Trump’s efforts to throw up a lot of smoke, such as snippets from news clips, he continues to fail to demonstrate that his claim that he saw “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheering on TV has any basis in reality. The Four Pinocchios continue to stand.

Four Pinocchio

Kessler: He must provide some evidence or else issue an apology.

Ha!

As Trump told Jones, “You apologize. I’d apologize if I was wrong.”

And, in fact, Jones, under threat of lawsuit, has apologized and backtracked on occasion and is receding from public view amid bans by social media platforms.

Alex Jones: I am the most banned person in the 21st Century. There is no doubt that I am the most demonized and attacked person in the world today.

While Trump, president of the United States, bigger and better than ever, said he would only apologize if he was wrong, which, so far, he never has been, so he never has apologized for anything and, as president of the United States, no one can make him.

He is, said Mercieca, the “uncontrollable leader” which, she said, “is another word for a demagogue.”

Forget Pinocchios. The better measure is Alex Jone’s blue sky test.

As he told Trump a couple of times during his December 2016 interview: Again, you are in trouble for saying the sky is blue.

Meanwhile, Trump nemesis Michael Avenatti will be at the TribFest on Friday.

And we’ll see what happens today.

(Which one is up for re-election?)

And maybe I’ll see some of you Saturday.

 

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

 

Good day Austin:

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

I will merely add a short preface and postscript.

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

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

The pretense lifted on Friday night.

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

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

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

His gaffe was one of omission.

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

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

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

O’Rourke:

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

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

O’Rourke

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

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

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

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

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

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

And they both love to talk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cruz partisans were delighted with Wednesday’s performance

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

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

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

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

For Cruz, this was the money moment.

Here from the debate transcript:

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

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

CRUZ: Are you a socialist or not?

SANDERS: I am a democratic socialist…

CRUZ: OK. Good.

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

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

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

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ: I am happily a conservative.

SANDERS: Conservative, all right.

CRUZ: I am happily conservative.

(APPLAUSE)

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

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

CRUZ: You know…

(LAUGHTER)

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

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

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

CRUZ: I don’t, either.

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

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

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

From Gardner Selby at PolitiFact Texas:

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

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

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

So, what gives?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 And here from Eugene Kiely of FactCheck.org:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, Misleadin’ Ted?

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

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

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

I’ve never said that. That’s false.

xxxxxxx

Postscript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I wrote in Sunday’s paper:

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

xxxxxx

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

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

 

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

 

Good Monday Austin:

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

Here are “Beto O’Rourke’s own words.”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Note: PolitiFact Texas rated this claim false.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Republicans that Cruz admired were those like Jesse Helms,

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

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

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

Ted Cruz Loves Arch-Racist Jesse Helms

By Lee A. Daniels

NNPA Columnist

Sept 16, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, from the AP back in February:

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

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

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

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

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

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

King:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here from his 2015 book, A Time for Truth.

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

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

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

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

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

His father was captured, but released

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

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

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

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

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

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

xxxxx

He was headed to America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

x

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

 

Good day Austin:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Chuck Lindell’s story:

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

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

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

¡Ay, caramba!

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

The stakes could not have been higher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

LBJ is rolling over in his grave.

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

And the same first name.

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

Christian Archer struck a more somber, realistic note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe Gallego lacked a spark.

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

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

 

From Asher Price’s story on the Quinnipiac poll:

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

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

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

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

From Quinnipiac:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Quinnipiac:

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

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

But, that’s just one poll.

From Reuters:

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, take your pick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Friday Austin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That DWI was not in dispute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But again, who am I to talk?

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

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

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

Case closed.

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

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

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

From New York Magazine:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Ellen proceeded cautiously.

 

 

OK Beto, let ‘er rip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

But no. That was it.

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

I understand this was not 60 Minutes.

This was not Oprah.

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

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

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

Wow.

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

There is still time to see him sweat.

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

But Ellen is all about solutions, not just problems.

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

 

 

OK.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK.

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

Poster by Sabo

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was another charming, bravura performance by the phenom.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Remembering the Alamo … and remembering the rest of Texas history

 

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

Good day Austin:

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

His audience gasped.

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

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

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

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

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

Really.

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

Everybody the world over remembers the Alamo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travis wrote in the letter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can value the things worth valuing.

We can remember.

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

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

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

It closes as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. Of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER XVI: THE COMING CRISIS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Big Tech’s war on Alex Jones left First Reading pockmarked with Orwellian dead zones

 

Good day Austin:

I’ve been in Austin five-and-a-half years. For the last couple of years I’ve had an obsessive interest in Alex Jones. This is important work, I tell myself.

But I know the way other people look at me.

I read the snide comments.

I have been formally recognized for my obsession.

I was named a Best of Austin by the Austin Chronicle last year, thanks to my coverage of Jones, but, as grateful as I was for the distinction, I knew that it was more in the nature of being humored than honored.

I went to the Best of Austin event, but before the actual program got underway, I got an email from Roger Stone, who had brokered the political marriage between Alex Jones and Donald Trump that, perhaps as much and probably more any Russian collusion, elected Donald Trump, and who has since become part of the InfoWars broadcast team.

The message from Roger:

Yo: I am in Austin – headed to – you guessed it. Russia House!

Give me a call.

I had introduced Roger to the Russian House the previous June – are you listening Mueller (oh, but you already knew that).

On Tango Tuesday  no less.

I split the Chronicle event when I got Roger’s message and headed to the Russian House. We had a drink and I took him to Licha’s Cantina where we had dinner on the porch.

Paul Manafort, Stone’s former partner at Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly, had just been indicted by Robert Mueller. Stone said Manafort told him he wasn’t worried.

Stone, who also serves as the Daily Caller’s Men’s Fashion Editor, and compiles an annual Best and Worst Dressed List, noted that Manafort had spent an enormous amount of money on ill-fitting suits that he thought looked good on him.

The man, it seems, had more money than fashion sense.

Manafort didn’t make Stone’s 2017 list, though Steve Bannon, his successor at the helm of the Trump campaign, did rank as among the worst dressed: Not meant to be confrontational. In all seriousness: Lose the three button down shirts on top of each other.

It’s an eclectic bunch that included, among the best dressed, Mark McKinnon  (His trademarks are hats and scarfs, which he pulls off in almost any climate or setting with aplomb.)  and Anthony Scaramucci (During his short stint at the White House, he showed America how a well-built man of medium stature should properly tailor his suits.)

Among the worst dressed were Harvey Weinstein (For a slovenly and blobby man, he relies far too heavily on white dress shirts… is he trying to showcase his grease stains from the KFC bucket he downed in the limo before hitting the red carpet?), and Mark Zuckerberg ….

Mark Zuckerberg: All the money in the world and he still can’t dress. In 2017, we saw a lot more attempts to dress up his look, but it just has not worked. Zuckerberg at least looked confident in himself when schlepping around in t-shirts and hoodies — looking like the control-freak coder that he really is. When he puts on a suit, it is horribly tailored and looks like he got it off the rack at a red-dot sale. Instead of concocting new ways to censor Facebook users, Zuckerberg should swing by Saville Row. This is his first year on the WORST DRESSED list.

Ah yes, Mark Zuckerberg – the man who reminds you every day that someone you know is celebrating a birthday, even friends who have already died, and then has the ghastly Big Brother nerve to prepare anniversary albums with you and whoever – living or dead – recollecting the good times.

Which brings us back to Alex Jones.

A week ago Saturday Ted Cruz was at Erick Erickson’s Resurgent Gathering in Austin, where, in a gaggle with reporters, he expanded on his tweet criticizing Facebook’s suspending Alex Jones’ personal account.

From Cruz:

When I sent the tweet on Alex Jones it was striking how all – I did not see any liberals saying, “Like Cruz, I don’t like Jones either, but  I do believe in free speech and we shouldn’t be censoring speech we don’t agree with,” and it’s worrisome that the left, so much of the left, and for that matter, so many in the media – look there were reporters who took a lot of shots at me for that.

There used to be a time when reporters were big supporters of the First Amendment. And you know as the poem goes, ‘First they came for Alex Jones…

I stayed up most of that night Sunday night writing a First Reading about it.

While Cruz notes that he is rising to Jones’ defense even though he says Jones spread the story about Cruz’s father and Oswald, that canard, as I note, was more the handiwork of Trump and Stone (who insists it’s true.)

I predicted that Cruz could reap political rewards by standing with Jones amid a Big Tech crackdown on InfoWars:

Which will give Cruz more reason to press his, “I don’t like what Alex Jones says but I will fight to the death defending his right to say it,” which will be well good enough for Jones, who will tout Cruz’s stout defense of him against the Big Tech/Deep State to his legion of listeners who in 2016 proved they could help elect a president,and in 2018 could help re-elect a Texas senator.

I had to get that First Reading done by Monday morning so I could set off with my daughter, who was visiting from Brooklyn, on a one-week tour of such West Texas landmarks as Marfa, the McDonald Observatory, Big Bend, Boquillas del Carmen and the Chinati Hot Springs outside Ruidosa, all first-time visits for me and precaution in case my tenure at the Statesman should come to an abrupt end and I find  myself back where I came from with only my memories of Texas.

I had already devoted much of the previous two weeks to Alex Jones – one week preparing a story about all the defamation lawsuits being filed against Alex Jones, then a couple of days the next week covering efforts by Jones’ lawyers to dismiss two of those cases in Travis County District Court.

I was already being temperate in my Jones coverage – neglecting to be in the courtroom two other days that week when Kelly Jones, his ex-wife, pressed cases against him.

Enough. I had a yurt to pitch in Mara. (I know, it was already pitched.)

El Cosmico, Marfa

But, of course, Mark Zuckerberg knew of my plans, based on Facebook’s surreptitious but perfectly obvious surveillance of my searches and purchases, and still he plotted down to the final moment to ruin things for me and my daughter.

From Kevin Roose’s Aug. 10 story in the New York Times: Facebook banned InfoWars. Now what?

Late on Sunday, after returning to his hotel room on a trip away from home, Mark Zuckerberg made a decision he had hoped to avoid.

For weeks, the Facebook chief executive and his colleagues had debated what to do about Infowars, the notorious far-right news site, and Alex Jones, Infowars’ choleric founder, who became famous for his spittle-flecked rants and far-fetched conspiracies, including the idea that the Sandy Hook massacre was an elaborate hoax promoted by gun-control supporters.

Mr. Jones is just one Facebook user out of 2.2 billion, but he had become symbolic of tech platforms’ inconsistency and reluctance to engage in a misinformation war.The pressure on Facebook to do something about him had intensified after executives gave a series of vague and confusing answers to lawmakers and reporters about the company’s policies. Misinformation was allowed to stay on the platform, they said, but hate speech wasn’t. So users dug up and reported old Infowars posts, asking for their removal on the grounds that they glorified violence and contained dehumanizing language against Muslims, immigrants, and transgender people.

These posts clearly violated Facebook’s hate speech rules. And in a normal situation, a low-level content moderator might have reviewed them, found that they qualified, and taken them down.

But Mr. Jones was no typical internet crank. He has millions of followers, a popular video show, and the ear of President Trump — who once told the provocateur that his reputation was “amazing.” Banning such a prominent activist would lead to political blowback, no matter how justified the action was.

The situation was volatile enough that Mr. Zuckerberg got personally engaged, according to two people involved in Facebook’s handling of the accounts. He discussed Infowars at length with other executives, and mused privately about whether Mr. Jones — who once called Mr. Zuckerberg a “genetic-engineered psychopath” in a video — was purposefully trying to get kicked off the platform to gain attention, they said.

The pressure on Facebook to do something about him had intensified after executives gave a series of vague and confusing answers to lawmakers.

And there was the peer pressure.

Back to the New York Times story:

Late Sunday, Apple — which has often tried to stake out moral high ground on contentious debates — removed Infowars podcasts from iTunes. After seeing the news, Mr. Zuckerberg sent a note to his team confirming his own decision: the strikes against Infowars and Mr. Jones would count individually, and the pages would come down. The announcement arrived at 3 a.m. Pacific time.

In the days that followed, other platforms — YouTube, Pinterest, MailChimp, and more — said they, too, were banning Infowars. The notable exception was Twitter, which decided not to ban the site or Mr. Jones. The company’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, tweeted a veiled shot at the way his rivals handled the situation.

“We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short-term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories,” he said.

Now, cut off from most of his audience, Mr. Jones will have to chart a new course. He has already stepped enthusiastically into a role as a free-speech martyr. (After the ban took effect, Infowars slapped a “censored” label on its videos and launched a “forbidden information” marketing campaign.) And conservatives — and even some free-speech advocates on the left — worried that social media companies may be entering a new, censorious era. Senator Ted Cruz, the Republican from Texas, paraphrased the famous Martin Niemöller poem about German accommodation of Nazism: “First, they came for Alex Jones.”

By Monday morning my obsessive interest had become the nation’s obsessive interest, but  my yurt beckoned.

So, a few hours late, my daughter and I embarked on our 1,647-mile journey, leaving behind Alex Jones and, for the first time since we’d met, my Macbook (at the Apple Store no less,  where it was to get a new battery and a better listening device, I suppose.).

As Sebastian Herrera and Nicole Cobler wrote Friday in the Statesman ,in the short-term at least, the crackdown on Jones resulted in a surge in his audience.

For once in his life, Jones seemed to be at the center of a genuine conspiracy against him, and whatever the ultimate financial cost, if there is one, for now and for some time to come Jones was in a kind of InfoWarrior Nirvana.

 

So, if this social media crackdown on Jones is not hurting Jones, who is it hurting?

Oh, I can answer that one: Me.

It’s not so much Facebook cutting off Jones that’s done me in. It’s YouTube.

For the last two years, I have written First Reading after First Reading about Jones, about his rising influence, about how he is to be taken, about what he represents, and an indispensable element has been posting YouTubes of various rants and interviews, along with screen shots and my transcriptions of the pertinent moments. But the YouTubes let the readers see it all for themselves.

And now, whether its my recent First Reading about Jones’ working (i.e. hectoring Bernie Sanders at LAX and the like) family vacation in Hawaii, or Roger Stone’s last tango in Austin, my hand-crafted blog is pockmarked with these ugly, dark Orwellian dead zones.

It is hideous. And hurtful.

What’s more, YouTube was the most effective way for me to keep up with what Jones was up to.

He’s on about three hours a day, or more. With YouTube I could return to the show, scroll through to get the good stuff, transcribe what I wanted and grab the most evocative screenshots.

But now, from my first experience with the new world order yesterday, it seems the only way to really follow what’s going on is to actually listen to it live. Yes, you can go back and listen to the radio show again, but a rant is only half a rant without the visual.

Maybe there is a way to do what I used to do without YouTube, but in the meantime, I simply can’t do as good a job of keeping track of what Jones is saying as I did when I earned that Best of Austin encomium.

As for the public good, I don’t know.

It is a mistake to simply conflate the defamation suits with the social media restrictions.

The lawsuits are built around the argument that Jones pretends to be a journalist on the air, but then retreats behind the legal argument that he is merely an opinionated blowhard protected by the First Amendment when he defames someone.

And I am not at all comfortable with Mark Zuckerberg in his footie pajamas making some unilateral, 3-in-the morning decision about what speech is permissible and what is not on his ubiquitous platform.

As Matt Taibi wrote in Rolling Stone, under the headline, Censorship Does Not End Well: How America learned to stop worrying and put Mark Zuckerberg in charge of everything

Jones is the media equivalent of a trench-coated stalker who jumps out from from behind a mailbox and starts whacking it in an intersection. His “speech” is on that level: less an idea than a gross physical provocation. InfoWars defines everything reporters are taught not to do.

Were I Alex Jones, I would think Alex Jones was a false-flag operation, cooked up to discredit the idea of a free press.

xxxxxx

Moreover, Jones probably does violate all of those platforms’ Terms of Service. I personally don’t believe his Sandy Hook rants — in which he accused grieving parents of being actors in an anti-gun conspiracy — are protected speech, at least not according to current libel and defamation law. Even some conservative speech activists seem to agree.

And yet: I didn’t celebrate when Jones was banned. Collectively, all these stories represent a revolutionary moment in media. Jones is an incidental player in a much larger narrative.

xxxxxxx

In about 10 minutes, someone will start arguing that Alex Jones is not so different from, say, millennial conservative Ben Shapiro, and demand his removal. That will be followed by calls from furious conservatives to wipe out the Torch Network or Anti-Fascist News, with Jacobin on the way.

We’ve already seen Facebook overcompensate when faced with complaints of anti-conservative bias. Assuming this continues, “community standards” will turn into a ceaseless parody of Cold War spy trades: one of ours for one of yours.

This is the nuance people are missing. It’s not that people like Jones shouldn’t be punished; it’s the means of punishment that has changed radically.

For more than half a century, we had an effective, if slow, litigation-based remedy for speech violations. The standards laid out in cases like New York Times v. Sullivan were designed to protect legitimate reporting while directly remunerating people harmed by bad speech. Sooner or later, people like Alex Jones would always crash under crippling settlements. Meanwhile, young reporters learned to steer clear of libel and defamation. Knowing exactly what we could and could not get away with empowered us to do our jobs, confident that the law had our backs.

If the line of defense had not been a judge and jury but a giant transnational corporation working with the state, journalists taking on banks or tech companies or the wrong politicians would have been playing intellectual Russian roulette. In my own career, I’d have thought twice before taking on a company like Goldman Sachs. Any reporter would.

Now the line is gone. Depending on the platform, one can be banned for “glorifying violence,” “sowing division,” “hateful conduct” or even “low quality,” with those terms defined by nameless, unaccountable executives, working with God Knows Whom.

These are difficult things to sort out and I don’t understand the workings of social media well enough to know exactly what I think about all this, and I may never.

In the middle of last week, my daughter and I went to the Lost Horse Saloon in Marfa, which was recognizable by its neon sign.

As I sat a small table with my daughter drinking a beer, two guys at the bar – they turned out to be brothers – were having a loud and lively conversation about Alex Jones. l couldn’t help myself. I listened intently, I looked over at them and then, when one of them noted my interest, I joined their conversation.

They enjoyed listening to Jones, but thought he could be destructive, even dangerous, and yet didn’t think any form of censorship was the way to go.

The  brothers brought up Jim Bakker, a natural enough association. Now selling huge buckets of food on TV to survivalists with his mesmerizing rap (and Trump love), Bakker is an Alex Jones forerunner

I used to watch Jim Bakker with his wife, Tammy Faye, before he went to prison.

The brothers, a lot younger than I am, watch the post-prison Jim Bakker and his new wife, Lori. (Here, courtesy Vic Berger. )

InfoWars ran on on-line poll yesterday.

As of this morning, Drudge was edging out Breitbart.

But, as of this morning, Drudge is still going strong.

There in the lower left was a link to InfoWars’ latest.

But leading the page was Roger Stone.

It links to a Daily Caller column by Stone: The Witch Hunt Continues.

Under his byline, Stone is identified as the Daily Caller’s Men’s Fashion Editor.

 

InfoWars depends on sales of its nutraceuticals, t-shirts and what-not.

Stone yet again yesterday was swearing by Brain Force Plus to get him through some very long days.

And yesterday Jones was, as usual, high on adversity.

This is bad folks. What’s the big event? We all know they are going to try to overthrow Trump. Economically, they’re trying to crash things, they admit it. They are trying to start big wars.

We’re living in an incredibly volatile time so I’m getting excited knowing I’m over the target. But at the same time I’ve got to think, they wouldn’t be pulling this unless they’ve got something big planned.

They wouldn’t be doing all this  all this unless they didn’t want us in the public square when they launch this big thing.

`The blue wave has a physics all its own.’ On electoralizing the Indivisible resistance.

Good Monday Austin:

Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg, the married couple, co-founders and co-executive directors of Indivisible, the network of grassroots organization founded to resist the Trump presidency in the immediate aftermath of his election as president, returned this weekend to Levin’s hometown of Austin, where the idea of Indivisible was born over drinks at DrinkWell, 100 days out from the election where the success of their efforts to electoralize the resistance will be tested.

I first wrote about Indivisible on Jan. 18, 2017, two days before Trump’s inauguration as president. Here’s the top of the story:

WASHINGTON, DC – When the history of grass-roots resistance to President Donald Trump is written, it might be recorded that the movement was born in Austin – prefigured at the Randalls supermarket on Brodie Lane in the summer of 2009, conceived at a North Loop neighborhood bar over Thanksgiving weekend 2016, and crafted in great part by battle-tested veterans of the office of U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

It was at Randalls in the first summer of the Obama administration that Doggett, the longtime Austin Democrat, was besieged by tea party protesters chanting “Just Say No” to the health care reform that would come to be known as Obamacare. It was a jarring scene that set the tone for what would be a dreadful August recess for Democratic members of Congress at bitterly contentious town hall meetings across the country and presaged an Obama presidency to which the tea party and Republican Party just said “no.”

Seven years later, in the aftermath of Trump’s election, Ezra Levin, who grew up in Austin and Buda and worked for Doggett in Washington from 2008 to 2011, was back in Austin for the Thanksgiving holiday with his wife, Leah Greenberg, another Capitol Hill veteran. They got together at Drink.Well. on East 53rd Street with an old friend who was leading a new progressive group in Austin, to talk about how to channel their mutual despair and knowledge of congressional politics into effectively doing to the Trump presidency what the tea party did to the Obama presidency.

“We knew how Congress works and we knew how a pretty darn small group relative to the total population came together and implemented a very thoughtful strategy with very specific concrete tactics to resist an administration and a Congress that they didn’t agree with, and that was the tea party,” Levin said. They left Drink.Well. with a plan to draft a manual to replicate the tea party strategy — stripped, of course, of what they considered its noxious ideology and mean streak.

Three weeks later, on the evening of Dec. 15, Levin, 31, tweeted out a link to a Google Doc: “Indivisible: A practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda. Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.”

“The tea party implemented a two-pronged strategy, and that was very locally focused, focused on their members of the Senate and their one member of Congress, and then they consciously chose to be defensive and almost exclusively defensive,” said Levin, who now lives in Washington.

“And they also understood that they weren’t setting the agenda, that at that time Democrats controlled the House and the Senate and the presidency, so what they could do is simply respond to it,” he said. “And they did that in a few concrete, not rocket science kinds of way. They showed up in person at public events, at town halls, at district offices and then called in response to whatever new thing President Obama or the Congress was trying to do.”

“We started out writing a practical guide for progressives who find themselves in kind of the same situation now, with a president we believe is illegitimate and is looking to destroy some key tenets of American democracy, and who controls the Senate and the House,” he said.

The response from across the country was swift and overwhelming: high-profile coverage in mainstream and progressive magazines, two segments on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show,” an op-ed in The New York Times, and a tsunami of grass-roots interest.

I spoke with Levin and Greenberg, who are 33 and 32 respectively, just before they spoke to a phone bank training attended by about 40 folks in a room at the Austin History Center on Guadalupe Street.

“We are at 100 days until the election. Literally it’s 99 days and nine hours,” Levin said. “This was the weekend of action pivoting directly into electoral activity.”

“Indivisible began as an advocacy, talking about how to pressure their member of Congress, whoever that was, and then whoever their elected officials were at the local and state level,” he said. “That’s a great strategy in off years. When an election is coming up, a great way to build power is to change who that member of Congress is, or to change who the senator is, or change who the state rep or state senator it.”

“What we’ve been doing at the national level, is preparing to pivot folks in that direction.”

“n the same way that we provided call scripts on Trumpcare in Ohio or national days of action to do sit-ins or die-ins at congressional offices against Trumpcare, we’re trying to help the groups now register voters, endorse  candidates, get out the vote, phone bank, text, all the nuts and bolts of electoral politics, is where we have the most power now.

“What we’ve seen over the last 16, 17, 18 months is in the special elections, in the primary elections, in the off-year elections, they don’t get won on Election Day,  they get won by boots on the ground doing the work, day in, day out leading up tot that.  So we’re building the blue wave. That’s what the groups  are doing.”

Why spend pivot weekend in Texas, which still seems an uphill climb for electorialization?

“I think the story of the last 18 months has been surprises. We’ve seen 3, 6, 9, 12-point swings against Trump in competitive races, places that traditionally political prognosticators in Washington, D.C., say, “Oh they’re not winnable.

“But then we win in rural Virginia. We win an Alabama Senate race. We win special elections w. we win a plus-Republican district in Pennsylvania, Conor Lamb. ”

“The blue wave has a physics all its own and it’s going to come crashing down in places that traditionally don’t see this kind of progressive power. So Texas is fertile ground for that because the powers-that-be in Texas, for instance, have used redistricting to gerrymander themselves a whole bunch of districts that are gerrymandered for traditional election years, not for wave election years.”

“And when you have a candidate that’s  as hated as Ted Cruz going for re-election you even have a shot of going statewide, even tough Democrats haven’t won a statewide election since the mid-90s. This year could be different.”

” A year ago the question was, is it even possible we could take the House back,” Greenberg said. “We were very optimistic because of what we were seeing on the ground level. Already people were doing the work at the ground level in places where nobody was expecting a victory.”

“We’ve actually focused on Texas,” Greenberg said. : We have a statewide organizer for Texas in part because we think there is real potential here.”

Let us pause here for a moment, and fast forward a few hours to the latest in a series of Walk the Lines events organized by Justin Nelson’s campaign for attorney general against Ken Paxton as a critique of gerrymandering, which is nowhere more obvious than in Austin, which has been carved up into six congressional districts leaving Austin votes the master of none of those districts and leaving Austin the largest city in the country without a congressional district to call its own.

From a June 15 story by Chuck Lindell on how Nelson and Paxton are on opposite sides of the gerrymandering debate:

Before they became election foes, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Democratic challenger Justin Nelson landed on opposite sides of a U.S. Supreme Court fight over the ability of politicians to gerrymander political districts to give one party a distinct advantage in future elections.

In one of this term’s most eagerly awaited cases at the high court, Paxton came down on the side of Wisconsin Republicans who are defending state Assembly districts that were ruled unconstitutional for giving the GOP a disproportionate advantage at the polls.

Because redrawing political districts after each census is an inherently partisan task, Paxton told the Supreme Court in an August brief joined by 15 other Republican-led states, there is nothing “invidious or irrational” about having a partisan political purpose in preparing new maps.

Paxton also warned about letting judges decide when the quest for partisan advantage goes too ggfar, saying it would create legal standards so vague that every state would be exposed to lawsuits, giving the losing political party a “plausible chance” of overriding the will of a majority of lawmakers.

Nelson, on the other hand, argued that allowing the party in power to gain an outsized electoral advantage undermines democracy and improperly dilutes votes.

“The foundation of American democracy rests on ‘the consent of the governed.’ When lawmakers engage in partisan gerrymandering, they corrode this consent by punishing groups on the basis of their political beliefs in an effort to deprive them of equal representation,” Nelson wrote as the lead lawyer for a Supreme Court brief on behalf of two voter advocacy groups, FairVote and One Nation One Vote.

Here’s some of what went on last night, at an event attended by Nelson and four of the six Democratic candidates representing pieces and shards of Austin: Longtime gerrymander survivor Lloyd Doggett, the only incumbent in the bunch; Julie Oliver, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, and would count Dogged as a constituent if she is elected; Joseph Kopser, who is facing Republican Chip Roy in the campaign to succeed U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, who is retiring, and Mike Siegel. Siegel is challenging U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who, living with his family at the intersection of great wealth and bad pipes, consumes more water than any other family in the city of Austin.

Here’s a litte of what they had to say at the event, held upstairs at Antone’s, a classy venue, albeit the Home of the Blues, and not House of the Blue Wave.

Also in attendance last night were the Lafairs, who have created a gerrymandering board game, Mapmaker.

Becca Lafair, left, Josh Lafair, her younger, taller brother, and Louis Lafair, Becca’s twin.

Louis just graduated from Stanford University, and Becca is entering her fifth year at Northeastern University in Boston (a school where the normal course of study is five years, as students alternate academic and real world experience.) Josh is a senior in high school.

Josh: “We grew up in a gerrymandered district in Austin.” They were formerly represented by Doggett, now represented by McCaul.

The Lafairs took moral umbrage at this.

“Voters should be choosing their politicians, but what’s happening is politicians are choosing their voters, and that’s just not right.”

And, Louis said, “we’ve always loved playing board games with each other.”

“I invented a board game when I was 11, that was my first board game,” said Louis.

Well, that explains Stanford.

What was that?

“I was called Pathwayz, spelled with a z, because I was 11.”

“It was published eight years later.”

More Louis: “We researched it. There weren’t any other gerrymandering games out there.:

The goal of the game is to win the most districts.

Louis: “The real reason we’re doing this is to start a conversation about gerrymandering.”

In other words, the goal is to win, but feel bad about it.

Louis: “We have a proclamation inside every box – gerrymandering is not a game.”

But Louis said, “We spent a lot of time making sure it was a really fun game. There’s the whole anti-gerrrymandering community and there’s the whole board game community.”

In the meantime, the game, which will be available shortly is  being sent to the Supreme Court, governors and others, and has been endorsed by notables like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lawrence Lessig and Doggett.

Back to Levin and Greenberg.

I wondered why they chose to spend pivot weekend Texas, not necessarily the ripest for victory.

“I think the story of the last 18 months has been surprises. We’ve 3, 6, 9, 12-point swings against Trump in competitive races, places that traditionally political prognosticators in Washington, D.C., say, “Oh they’re not winnable.'”

I asked them how they would counsel Democratic candidates to talk about impeachment.

This was apropos a recent back-and-forth on impeachment between the O’Rourke and Cruz campaigns via Gardner Selby at PolitiFact Texas.

Cruz’s campaign said in a July 17, 2018, press release that O’Rourke “continued today his reckless and radical Senate campaign based on impeaching Pres. Donald Trump. He is the only candidate to the U.S. Senate to call for impeachment,” the release said.

We wondered: Is O’Rourke alone among Senate hopefuls in advocating the Republican president’s impeachment?

Not so, we found, though it looks like he’s the only Senate nominee to date to say he’d vote to launch impeachment proceedings.

xxxx

Our search of the Nexis news database showed that as early as August 2017, O’Rourke said he’d vote for Trump’s impeachment. Most recently, the Dallas Morning News quoted O’Rourke saying in July 2018 that Trump merited impeachment for his performance in the just-completed summit with Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin.

O’Rourke responded to a News reporter: “Standing on stage in another country with the leader of another country who wants to and has sought to undermine this country, and to side with him over the United States — if I were asked to vote on this I would vote to impeach the president. Impeachment, much like an indictment, shows that there is enough there for the case to proceed and at this point there is certainly enough there for the case to proceed.”

Then again, O’Rourke in December 2017 was among 364 House members to vote for tabling a proposal by Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, to impeach Trump, records show. Before that vote, Democratic leaders released a statement referring to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry that said impeachment wasn’t timely.

When we asked Cruz’s campaign how the senator determined that O’Rourke was alone among Senate candidates calling for impeachment, spokeswoman Catherine Frazier pointed out by email that the News story noting O’Rourke’s willingness to vote for impeachment quoted Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, leveling a more limited claim. Roe called O’Rourke “the only major-party candidate in America to call for impeachment.”

Another Cruz contact, Emily Miller, emailed us a web link to a November 2017 Reuters news story describing O’Rourke saying that Trump’s racially charged rhetoric and divisive governing style had led O’Rourke to support impeachment. O’Rourke was quoted saying: “I’m now convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that Donald Trump is unfit for that office.”

O’Rourke spokesman says he’s not ‘called’ for impeaching Trump

When we reached out to O’Rourke about Cruz calling him the only Senate candidate to call for impeachment, campaign spokesman Chris Evans said by email: “Beto has never called for the impeachment of President Trump.”

Evans maintained that O’Rourke’s responses to reporters and voters about voting in favor of impeachment weren’t the same as the candidate calling for impeachment. Evans elaborated that O’Rourke hasn’t brought up impeachment “at town halls or rallies, has not sent fundraising or petition emails on it, has not posted social media advocating for it, and has not used his current position of public trust to do so through floor speeches, letters or resolutions.”

Evans also pointed out an interview we’d missed. For an episode of Showtime’s “The Circus,” posted online in May 2018, O’Rourke replied that as a member of the House, he’d vote right then to impeach Trump. Asked if he’d vote as a senator to convict Trump, O’Rourke replied: “Until I’m in that position and am able to hear the case made by each side, all the facts laid out, I can’t give you an answer on that–nor would you want me to.”

xxxxx

Our ruling

Cruz said O’Rourke is “the only candidate to the U.S. Senate to call for” impeaching Trump.

Since August 2017, O’Rourke has been saying that he’d vote to impeach Trump, which would start with a vote in the House, where he serves. O’Rourke might be the only Senate nominee to say as much. However, Democratic Senate contenders in Minnesota and California also have talked up Trump’s impeachment.

We rate this claim about O’Rourke’s uniqueness False.

“Our network got involved in response to Trump. They want to resist the Trump agenda. So this is something that animates them,” Levin said. “I will say that impeachment is a political process. It’s something where you need not just vote to impeach in the House but convict in the Senate. You need Republican votes, by definition. You are not going to get two-thirds of the Senate just from Democratic hands, so you need Republican votes. So, it’s a process.

“On the first day of Congress, if we take the House or the Senate, we can get Donald Trump’s tax returns, we can launch investigations, we can get more information, we can get the smoking gun that is out there. To say you will vote for impeachment right now – it is a fine line to walk when folks are not putting it front and center, or when they’re saying they’ll re-evaluate – that’s actually the right move. We need more information, we need investigations.

“And the things that Texans care about when we talk to them in Wimberley, is they care about the state of democracy, they care about democratic institutions, like voting, like redistricting, like money in politics. They worry that it’s being taken over by a small segment of society. They care about health care. They care about families being detained and separated and put in cages along the border and elsewhere. These are the things that we see getting a lot of folks out.

“And I think it’s smart for candidates like Beto and others to be talking about those issues. We will get to the questions of what is going on in the Trump campaign and this administration, and the only way we will get there is if we retake the majority and force them to give reveal that information.”

“We were both congressional staffers, we both worked for Democratic members of Congress,” Levin said. “I didn’t have a super high opinion of Republican members of Congress, but I would not have accused them of doing essentially what they’ve done, which is turn a complete blind eye to what this administration does. They have proven again and again and again that they are not willing to act as a check on this administration, which is their constitutional duty, so the only answer in this moment is,we need to retake power so that we can start having a Congress that acts as a check on this administration.

“And then what comes from that, will come from that.

“We are in favor of impeachment proceedings, but the way impeachment works is to start investigations and you get information, and it’s worth noting that the Senate doesn’t vote to impeach, the Senate votes to convict, so that is going to be the question put before Sen. O’Rourke, and that will come after a long series of investigations that reveal exactly what’s going on.”

(*in the realm of phone banking on a summer Sunday in Austin, ginormous is defined as around 40.)

“The only question we get asked again and again is, “Yeah but, can the resistance be electoralized, can you actually win elections?” Levin said. “The rule of the last 20 months has been surprise wins by anti-Trump forces all over the country. Is it a sure thing? A Democrat hasn’t won statewide in Texas in over 20 years. And yet we  were out in freakin’ Beaumont Texas on a Friday night and there were 15 people phone-banking for Beto O’Rourke.

“This is everywhere.

“It’s going to be won if people put in the work day after day from now until Election Day, and so far we’re seeing the energy out there.”

 

 

xxx

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

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

Good day, Austin:

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

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

In 2016 it was Joe Biden and John McCain.

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

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

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

 

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

It was interesting.

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

Here are a few of the exchanges.

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

There was no response, so Hurd tried again.

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

STEVE: Good, how are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was soon sorry I did.

From the Evan Thomas biography of Kennedy.

 

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

Returning to the Tele-Town Hall and Steve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HURD: Next we have John from San Antonio.

John. How are you?

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

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

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

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

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

By Will Hurd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make no mistake, Russian disinformation campaigns are working.

It goes on like that.

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

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

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

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

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

The Russians invaded Ukraine. Period. End of story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MARY:  I’m fine, how are you sir?

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

MARY: Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So thanks for the question Freddie.

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

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

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

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

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

Hurd is a skillful politician, not to be underestimated

And so far, he has also been lucky.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Hey, RNC. Forget holding the convention in Charlotte. Why not Moscow 2020?

 

Good Friday Austin:

The Republican National Committee, meeting in Austin this morning, is expected to choose Charlotte, N.C., as the place where the party will renominate Donald Trump for president.

From Katy Friel at Culture Map Austin:

The Republican National Committee quietly convened in Austin on July 18 to begin planning for the 2020 Republican National Convention. Members of the RNC are hosting closed-door sessions inside the Fairmont Austin to decide details about the event, including the host city for the next convention — the site of Donald Trump’s likely renomination for president.

It’s unclear why Republicans chose Austin in the middle of summer to host their meeting, and a rep for the Fairmont said they “are not able to comment on or confirm whether a particular individual or group is a guest within our hotel.”

Host cities for 2020 have been narrowed down to Charlotte, North Carolina, and Las Vegas, though it’s been a contentious battle. On July 16, the Charlotte City Council faced protestors and heard from more than 100 citizens speaking out against the event, mostly in regards to safety concerns. The Charlotte City Council narrowly approved the measure 6-5, with four Democrats joining two Republicans in the decision.

Charlotte?

Come on. That’s an old-school, hopelessly conventional, Deep State choice.

Las Vegas would be better, but still.

The big, bold, Trumpian choice should be obvious by now.

The Republican Party should hold its 2020 convention in Moscow.

Just look at the numbers.

From Numbeo.com:

You would need around 284,572.04руб (4,482.90$) in Charlotte, NC to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with руб in Moscow (assuming you rent in both cities). This calculation uses our Cost of Living Plus Rent Index to compare cost of living. This assumes net earnings (after income tax).

 

Indices Difference Info
Consumer Prices in Charlotte, NC are 65.68% higher than in Moscow
Consumer Prices Including Rent in Charlotte, NC are 58.10% higher than in Moscow
Rent Prices in Charlotte, NC are 45.09% higher than in Moscow
Restaurant Prices in Charlotte, NC are 57.58% higher than in Moscow
Groceries Prices in Charlotte, NC are 108.95% higher than in Moscow

Restaurants Moscow Charlotte
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant 600.00 руб
(9.45 $)
952.19 руб
(15.00 $)
     +58.70 %
Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course 2,500.00 руб
(39.38 $)
3,808.77 руб
(60.00 $)
     +52.35 %
McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal) 350.00 руб
(5.51 $)
380.88 руб
(6.00 $)
     +8.82 %
Domestic Beer (1 pint draught) 100.00 руб
(1.58 $)
285.66 руб
(4.50 $)
     +185.66 %
Imported Beer (11.2 oz small bottle) 185.22 руб
(2.92 $)
380.88 руб
(6.00 $)
     +105.64 %
Cappuccino (regular) 170.96 руб
(2.69 $)
273.64 руб
(4.31 $)
     +60.06 %
Coke/Pepsi (11.2 oz small bottle) 58.18 руб
(0.92 $)
110.27 руб
(1.74 $)
     +89.53 %
Water (11.2 oz small bottle) 41.29 руб
(0.65 $)
83.99 руб
(1.32 $)
     +103.41 %
Markets Moscow Charlotte
Milk (regular), (1 gallon) 245.44 руб
(3.87 $)
192.70 руб
(3.04 $)
     -21.49 %
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (1 lb) 34.50 руб
(0.54 $)
145.96 руб
(2.30 $)
     +323.11 %
Rice (white), (1 lb) 31.70 руб
(0.50 $)
107.68 руб
(1.70 $)
     +239.69 %
Eggs (regular) (12) 76.70 руб
(1.21 $)
140.92 руб
(2.22 $)
     +83.73 %
Local Cheese (1 lb) 253.87 руб
(4.00 $)
310.34 руб
(4.89 $)
     +22.24 %
Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1 lb) 125.98 руб
(1.98 $)
222.01 руб
(3.50 $)
     +76.22 %
Beef Round (1 lb) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat) 240.93 руб
(3.80 $)
369.83 руб
(5.83 $)
     +53.50 %
Apples (1 lb) 43.07 руб
(0.68 $)
157.36 руб
(2.48 $)
     +265.36 %
Banana (1 lb) 27.72 руб
(0.44 $)
38.41 руб
(0.61 $)
     +38.57 %
Oranges (1 lb) 38.45 руб
(0.61 $)
152.00 руб
(2.39 $)
     +295.32 %
Tomato (1 lb) 70.02 руб
(1.10 $)
132.96 руб
(2.09 $)
     +89.88 %
Potato (1 lb) 16.21 руб
(0.26 $)
81.25 руб
(1.28 $)
     +401.34 %
Onion (1 lb) 13.39 руб
(0.21 $)
92.33 руб
(1.45 $)
     +589.32 %
Lettuce (1 head) 73.84 руб
(1.16 $)
113.08 руб
(1.78 $)
     +53.15 %
Water (1.5 liter bottle) 45.12 руб
(0.71 $)
114.08 руб
(1.80 $)
     +152.82 %
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 600.00 руб
(9.45 $)
666.53 руб
(10.50 $)
     +11.09 %
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle) 65.07 руб
(1.03 $)
196.15 руб
(3.09 $)
     +201.45 %
Imported Beer (11.2 oz small bottle) 126.67 руб
(2.00 $)
272.71 руб
(4.30 $)
     +115.30 %
Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro) 125.00 руб
(1.97 $)
317.40 руб
(5.00 $)
     +153.92 %

 

And can the Spectrum in Charlotte really rival the Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Center.

From Trip Advisor:

Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Center is an international venue for business and leisure. Annually Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Centre hosts over 100 large-scale events – exhibitions, conferences, forums, political.

  • Excellent76%
  • Very good9%
  • Average11%
  • Poor3%
  • Terrible1%

Terrible?

Filthy one percenters.

Don’t worry.

They’re dead. Their families are dead. Their dogs are dead.

 

OK, you say.

That’s ridiculous.

Holding the Republican National Convention in a place where every delegate would need a passport is preposterous.

And Moscow?

Well, yeah, sure, it sounds odd.

But really, no odder than what has happened in the last week, or, at any rate, than what has happened in the last week would have seemed if it hadn’t actually happened and if the Republican Party, by and large, hadn’t shown its capacity to adjust to, accommodate, make its peace with and maybe even embrace, all in a matter of hours and days, the same sequence of acceptance that would follow the daring choice of Moscow for 2020.

Watching Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who is America on Sunday  I wondered yet again how he gets people, real people, members of Congress, to say and do the most outrageous things.

Why in the world would Trent Lott be endorsing a program, peddled by Cohen, made up like Frankenstein as “Col. Erran Morad, anti-terror expert,” to arm toddlers in schools?

Trump, man of the world, is proud of the fact that he saw through Cohen as Ali G.

But, in this case, Trump is Ali G, double negatives, or lack thereof, and all.

Are we being punked?

Is the Republican Party being punked?

Like Sacha Baron Cohen, Trump never breaks character, he is capable of doing something totally outrageous and then double down.

From Mark Landler at the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to invite President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to visit Washington in the fall, the White House said Thursday — an invitation that stunned the nation’s top intelligence official, who said he was still groping for details of what the two leaders had discussed in their encounter this week in Helsinki, Finland.

“Say that again,” the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, replied when Andrea Mitchell of NBC broke the news while interviewing him at a security conference in Aspen, Colo. “O.K.,” Mr. Coats said, taking a deep breath and chuckling awkwardly. “That’s going to be special.”

The announcement came as the White House spent a third day trying to explain statements made by Mr. Trump after the Helsinki meeting, and as uncertainty spread throughout the government about whether he had reached agreements with Mr. Putin on Syria and Ukraine, leaving his military and diplomatic corps in the dark.

Yielding to intense criticism, Mr. Trump rejected a proposal by Mr. Putin for Russia to question American citizens, including a former ambassador to Moscow, Michael A. McFaul, in return for giving the United States access to 12 Russian military intelligence officers indicted on charges of trying to sabotage the 2016 presidential election.

Two hours after the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, issued that reversal, she said on Twitter that Mr. Trump had asked his national security adviser, John R. Bolton, to invite Mr. Putin, framing the decision as part of a dialogue that began in Helsinki and would continue at lower levels until the Russian president comes to Washington.

Beyond saying the meeting would be in the fall, the White House did not announce a date. That means Mr. Trump could meet Mr. Putin again before the midterm elections, giving him a chance to redress the widespread criticism of how he handled the first meeting and possibly injecting further volatility into the campaigns.

Ha. C’mon. Donald Trump,  didn’t get where he is today by redressing the widespread criticism.

That is fake news.

Donald Trump doesn’t know the meaning of the word redress.

That’s if the man we think is Trump is really Trump.

Perhaps Putin insisted they meet alone for two hours so the Russian tech team – or Sacha Baron Cohen or Elon Musk – would have time to check, service and update the circuitry that was installed in Trump, whenever that was. Maybe when he was in Moscow for the Miss USA Pageant in 2013, or maybe during that time Trump said he and Putin shared in the 60 Minutes green room, which never really happened, but, who knows, shades of Hitchcock, maybe it actually did.

Trump’s invitation to Putin to visit the White House in the days leading up to the midterm election is breathtaking. But by then, it won’t even be shocking when Trump announces that he had gratefully accepted Putin’s “incredible offer,” to remain at the White House through the election to guide ballot security efforts.

What a coup. Sharing he Oval Office with Vladimir Putin.

And, after all, who knows more about ballot security than Vladimir Putin?

Even Trump, who noted, yet again, in his appearance with Putin, the enormity of his own electoral triumph in the teeth of an Electoral College that offers prohibitive advantages to the Democrats, would have to acknowledge that Putin’s triumph in March was pretty impressive.

From Wikipedia

Why fight Russian interference when you can embrace it?

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House on Thursday eliminated new funding for states to strengthen election security, drawing protests from Democrats who said Republicans are not doing enough to prevent Russian meddling.

“The Russians attacked our democracy. They will be back, and we are not ready,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill. “The president is unwilling to meet this challenge, but we must be willing to meet the challenge.”

Quigley and other Democrats blasted President Donald Trump for failing to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin at this week’s summit in Helsinki and said Republicans were not taking threats against the integrity of U.S. elections seriously enough. Democratic lawmakers erupted into chants of “USA! USA!” during the debate, which came as Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she has not seen evidence that Moscow had tried to help elect Trump.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party,” Nielsen said Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, adding that Russia is attempting to “cause chaos on both sides.”

Trump has made shifting statements on whether he agrees with the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. When asked Wednesday if Russia is still targeting the United States and its midterm elections, Trump responded “no,” but White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders later said Trump was saying “no” to answering more questions.

Quigley’s election security amendment would have extended funding for a state grant program overseen by the federal Election Assistance Commission. Congress approved $380 million in the current budget for the program, which is intended to help states strengthen election systems from hacking and other cyberattacks.

Democrats want to approve a similar amount through 2019, but Republicans say money from the current program is still available to states and new spending is not needed.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said Congress has already spent more than $3.5 billion on election security since the contested 2000 election. States still have money left from the current $380 million appropriation, and lawmakers have not been made aware of any new requests for more money as the November midterm elections approach, he said.

Sessions called the Democrats’ argument a “shrewd political shenanigan that has no merit to it.”

The amendment was defeated, 182-232, as the House debated a broader spending bill.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said Republicans’ refusal to spend more money on election security “represents nothing less than unilateral disarmament” against Russia, citing the U.S. intelligence community’s finding that Russia intervened in the 2016 election and charges brought by the Justice Department against Russian officials for hacking Democratic groups.

Relax LLoyd.

Listen to Mike.

Huckabee: The fact is we tried to interfere in elections all over the world ourselves.So let’s not be too much patting ourselves on the back about how pure we are.”

Right. And if Putin, who acknowledged at his joint press conference with Trump, that he wanted Trump to be elected, put his thumb on the scale for Trump, so what?

From McKay Coppins at the Atlantic: A New Talking Point From the Pro-Trump Fringe. A new line of punditry is bubbling up among the president’s followers online: It was a positive thing that the Russians hacked the 2016 election.

On Wednesday morning, in the midst of yet another contentious news cycle dominated by coverage of Russian election meddling, I tweeted a kind of thought experiment: “If Trump & co. just pivoted to ‘Aren’t you glad Russia helped us defeat Hillary Clinton?’ would there be any serious blowback from his base?”

 The question was rhetorical. The answers that began trickling in were not.

“No,” said Cassandra Fairbanks, a writer at the right-wing news and conspiracy website Gateway Pundit (and a former Sputnik employee). “I mean, I would be cool with it. I’m already there. If Russia was involved we should thank them.”

 “No,” responded another self-identified Trump voter. “Hillary is a greater threat to our Republic.”

Several people pointed me to Jacob Wohl, a Trump booster with a large Twitter following, who had mused just hours earlier, “If Russia assists MAGA Candidates on the internet in this year’s midterms, that’s not the end of the world.” And others re-upped a C-SPAN clip from the day before in which a caller identified as Mary Lou from Connecticut said, “I’ll try not to sound too awful, but I want to thank the Russians for interfering with our election to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president. That woman has got illusions of grandeur.”

These are anecdotal cases, of course. As Phillip Bump notes in The Washington Post, there hasn’t been much polling data measuring how Americans feel about foreign governments interfering in United States elections; up to now, disapproval has simply been presumed. The polls that are available suggest that most Trump supporters don’t believe there was any Russian election interference, and if there was, it had no effect on the race.

 But as Washington braces for special counsel Robert Mueller to release the findings of his investigation, this new line of punditry bubbling up in the pro-Trump social-media conversation is worth taking seriously.

Bubbling up?

How about full boil.

As usual, we can count on Alex Jones to be just slightly ahead of the curve.

AJ: We have a criminal Deep State in control and if we ever remove these face-suckers, if we we ever get oxygen back in our country, which we’re starting to see. Trump has gotten two tentacles off of our neck. We still have three more over head, laying eggs in our guts and we’ve got to pull the damn thing off and  have emergency surgery and get the embryos out of our stomachs, to use any alien analogy. He has not even got the face-sucker off yet and it’s trying to strangle us.

You leftists. You fools. You scum. Look, coming up I”m going to break it down. From Chicago to Portland to San Francisco, everyone is canceling their conferences. Everyone is leaving. There are piles of feces and trash. People running around. It’s like a demon spirit. Men dressed as women with huge beards with feces running down their legs. This is happening in Austin now too. They worship men with huge beards wearing wigs with feces all over them, and they just run around BLAAHH, BLAAHH!

We are seeing epic history unfold. Just days after the enemy of the American people, the enemy of world peace, the enemy of prosperity, the globalist Chinese-controlled, big mega-bank controlled, big college-controlled, big Hollywood, filth bag-controlled whore media complex said Trump was a traitor for meeting privately with Putin, which every president does with every other major leader.

After lying about what was said and done. After covering up Hillary and all their collusion with the Russians, after all of this he came out and said, “Yes, I accept these conclusions, all these countries meddle in each other’s elections, but Russia’s barely on the Richter scale, a lot of people meddle, hell the U.S. spends billions a year trying to mess with Russia. We want prosperity. We want economic development. Russia’s cutting their defense spending. Let’s not start a new Cold War with them. China’s the big threat. They’re the big enemy.

Jones went on to predict, as he has for some time now, a civil war, really an insurrection to remove Trump, a  coup, beginning in late summer.

AJ:

I“ve been proven 1,000 percent correct in royal flush, in absolute ace of spades every time, because I’ve studied history, I’ve studied globalists. I know how they’ve overthrown other countries and I can read their damn statements, I can read their statements. I can read their actions. I know an enemy when it’s attacking me, I know an enemy when it’s attacking my family. I know an enemy foaming at the mouth to abort as many babies as it can, I know an enemy trying to inject us with deadly vaccines filled with pathogens declassified to brain damages. I know they spike our troops when they leave the military with a final round of shots to debilitate them. That’s declassified. We’ve got a criminal Deep State in control and if we ever remove these face-suckers, if we ever get oxygen back in our country…

Assuming Trump dodges the coup, Moscow 2020 will be way better than Cleveland 2016.

So what if Michael Flynn isn’t there to speak.

Alex Jones will be terrific.