Cruz stakes his claim to the Mormons; Trump kvells for the Jews

Good morning Austin:

It’s primary day in Arizona and Utah.

Donald Trump is heavily favored to win all 58 delegates in winner-take-all Arizona.

Trump won Arizonan’s hearts with his stridency on the border.

Ted Cruz is heavily favored to cross the 50-percent threshold and win all 40 delegates in Utah.

Apparently, Mormons are immune to Trump’s charms.

I think Trump was clearly kidding when he questioned whether Mitt Romney was really a Mormon.

But maybe the Utah ear is not tuned to New York humor.

Or New York values.

For example, Utah is state where this Facebook ad from the anti-Trump super PAC, Make America Awesome (America is Already Great), apparently works as a negative ad.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 5.16.50 AM

Meanwhile, in Washington, some of the Jews and other supporters of Israel gathered 18,000-strong for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee gathering in Washington, laughed at Trump when he told them yesterday that he is the world’s leading authority on the Iran nuclear deal.

But Trump rebounded.

From National Review”

For the first time this cycle, Trump delivered a scripted speech with at least some foreign-policy specifics. Some of his off-script deviations got him into trouble: He said a peace deal was “something that we impose on Israel and Palestine,” a statement that both questioned Israel’s sovereignty and elevated the Palestinian territories to nation status. But most of his improvisations elicited laughter from the audience. He received raucous applause and several standing ovations from a crowd that had cheered Clinton less than eight hours before. He even outshone Ted Cruz, his chief rival for the Republican nomination, whose own speech received a rather tepid response. It was, in short, a pretty good night at AIPAC for Donald Trump.
“I didn’t come here tonight to pander to you about Israel,” Trump began, before proceeding to do just that for the thousands of attendees packed into the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The New York billionaire bragged about his participation as grand marshal in a 2004 pro-Israel parade. “It was a dangerous time for Israel and frankly for anyone supporting Israel,” he said. “Many people turned down the honor. I did not. I took the risk.” Trump warned the audience about the dangers of the Iran deal, adding that he was uniquely qualified to discuss the topic. “I’ve studied this issue in great detail — I would say actually greater, by far, than anybody else,” he said, sparking peals of laughter throughout the audience. Trump smiled and took it all in stride. “Believe me, that is a baad deal,” he said.
And then Trump delivered a most terrific pander:
I’ve received some of my greatest honors from Israel. My father before me. Incredible. My daughter Ivanka is about to have a beautiful Jewish baby. In fact, it could be happening right now which would be very nice as far as I’m concerned.
Why didn’t he just use that line when he was asked to disavow David Duke? The nomination would be a lock by now.

If Cruz slows the Trump train in Utah and it ultimately costs Trump the few precious delegates he needs to clinch the nomination, Trump may regret that Ivanka married a Jew and not a Mormon

Trump had a very busy in day in Washington.
From Ashley Parker and Maggie Haberman in the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump came to Pennsylvania Avenue on Monday and offered a freewheeling, circuslike glimpse of what the nation’s capital might look like if he is successful in his quest to occupy that big, white house on the 1600 block of the street.

Mr. Trump’s whirlwind day in Washington — part of his effort to demonstrate that he is running a serious presidential campaign — took him from an imposing law firm to a news conference at a hotel he is building here to a much-anticipated policy speech before a pro-Israel group, all with the Manhattan businessman’s characteristic mix of panache, policy and showmanship.

His first stop was at The Washington Post, for an editorial board meeting where he unveiled five members of his foreign policy team: Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares and Joseph E. Schmitz. Though Mr. Trump has been promising for months to release the names of his foreign policy advisers, those he presented on Monday have come under fire in the past. But the team will be led by Jeff Sessions, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In addition to introducing his foreign policy hands, Trump also offered a renewed defense of his hands – as in those things at the end of his arms -in his conversation with the Post editorial board.

HIATT: Just back to the campaign. You are smart and you went to a good school. Yet you are up there and talking about your hands and the size of private …


HIATT: … your private parts.

TRUMP: No, no. No, no. I am not doing that.

HIATT: Do you regret having engaged in that?

TRUMP: No, I had to do it. Look, this guy. Here’s my hands. Now I have my hands, I hear, on the New Yorker, a picture of my hands.

MARCUS: You’re on the cover.

TRUMP: A hand with little fingers coming out of a stem. Like, little. Look at my hands. They’re fine. Nobody other than Graydon Carter years ago used to use that. My hands are normal hands. During a debate, he was losing, and he said, “Oh, he has small hands and therefore, you know what that means.” This was not me. This was Rubio that said, “He has small hands and you know what that means.” Okay? So, he started it. So, what I said a couple of days later … and what happened is I was on line shaking hands with supporters, and one of supporters got up and he said, “Mr. Trump, you have strong hands. You have good-sized hands.” And then another one would say, “You have great hands, Mr. Trump, I had no idea.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I thought you were like deformed, and I thought you had small hands.” I had fifty people … Is that a correct statement? I mean people were writing, “How are Mr. Trump’s hands?” My hands are fine. You know, my hands are normal. Slightly large, actually. In fact, I buy a slightly smaller than large glove, okay? No, but I did this because everybody was saying to me, “Oh, your hands are very nice. They are normal.” So Rubio, in a debate, said, because he had nothing else to say … now I was hitting him pretty hard. He wanted to do his Don Rickles stuff and it didn’t work out. Obviously, it didn’t work too well. But one of the things he said was “He has small hands and therefore, you know what that means, he has small something else.” You can look it up. I didn’t say it.

MARCUS: You chose to raise it …

TRUMP: No, I chose to respond.

MARUS: You chose to respond.

TRUMP: I had no choice.

MARCUS: You chose to raise it during a debate. Can you explain why you had no choice?

TRUMP: I don’t want people to go around thinking that I have a problem. I’m telling you, Ruth, I had so many people. I would say 25, 30 people would tell me … every time I’d shake people’s hand, “Oh, you have nice hands.” Why shouldn’t I? And, by the way, by saying that I solved the problem. Nobody questions … I even held up my hands, and said, “Look, take a look at that hand.”

MARCUS: You told us in the debate ….

TRUMP: And by saying that, I solved the problem. Nobody questions. Everyone held my hand. I said look. Take a look at that hand.

MARCUS: You told us in the debate that you guaranteed there was not another problem. Was that presidential? And why did you decide to do that?

TRUMP: I don’t know if it was presidential, honestly, whether it is or not. He said, ‘Donald Trump has small hands and therefore he has small something else.’ I didn’t say that. And all I did is when he failed, when he was failing, when he was, when Christie made him look bad, I gave him the– a little recap and I said,  and I said, and I had this big strong powerful hand ready to grab him, because I thought he was going to faint. And everybody took it fine. Whether it was presidential or not I can’t tell you. I can just say that what he said was a lie. And everybody, they wanted to do stories on my hands; after I said that, they never did. And then I held up the hand, I showed people the hand. You know, when I’ve got a big audience. So yeah, I think it’s not a question of presidential …

MARCUS: He said he regrets …

HIATT: Okay, let’s move on here. Let’s move on.


All five remaining presidential candidates also appeared on CNN last night.

Cruz was asked about Frank Gaffney, who was among the members of Cruz’s national security team announced last week.


WOLF BLITZER (HOST): Let’s talk about your national security advisers. Last week, you released a list of your foreign policy advisers. Frank Gaffney was on that list, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration. Mr. Gaffney has said that President Obama is a Muslim, that the Muslim Brotherhood placed operatives throughout the federal government, that Saddam Hussein probably was behind the Oklahoma City bombing, that Chris Christie may have been complicit in treason by appointing a Muslim-American to New Jersey’s state judiciary. Is this someone whose views you agree with? 

TED CRUZ (R-TX): Wolf, look I recognize that folks in the media get really nervous when you actually call out radical Islamic terrorism. Frank Gaffney is someone I respect. Frank Gaffney is a serious thinker who has been focused on fighting jihadism, fighting jihadism across the globe. And he’s endured attacks from the left, from the media, because he speaks out against radical Islamic terrorism, because he speaks out against, for example, the political correctness of the Obama administration that effectively gets in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization. 

BLITZER: Let’s be precise. When he said back in 2009, “Barack Hussein Obama would have to be considered America’s first Muslim president.” Do you agree with him on that? 

CRUZ: Listen, I don’t know what he said in 2009. 

BLITZER: I just read to you the quote. 

CRUZ: I don’t have the full context. I’m not interested in playing the media “gotcha” game of here’s every quote, every person who’s supporting you has said at any point, do you agree with every statement. That’s silliness. Here’s my view. We need a Commander-in-Chief that defends America, and defending America means defeating radical Islamic terrorism and defeating ISIS. What is completely unreasonable is Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s consistent pattern of refusing even to say the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” When we see a terror attack, but let me finish this point, Wolf. When we see a terror attack in Paris and San Bernardino and President Obama says, gosh, I didn’t realize people were upset, I guess I wasn’t watching the cable news. And then he gives a national TV conference where he doesn’t call out radical Islamic terrorists, but instead he lectures Americans on Islamophobia. We need a Commander-in-Chief keeping us safe, and one of the reasons why we’re going to win in November is people are fed up with this silliness.

BLITZER: Would he be considered your national security adviser if you were president? 

CRUZ: Look, Frank is one of a number of people who is part of the team who are advising me, and I appreciate his good counsel. For example, Frank —

BLITZER: And so these statements —

CRUZ: Frank has been leading the effort to focus on the threat of an EMP, an electromagnetic pulse which would be a nuclear weapon detonated in the atmosphere that would take down our electrical grid. It could kill tens of millions of Americans. And all Iran would have to do is fire one nuke into the atmosphere. They don’t need to hit anything. They just need to get it above the Eastern seaboard, and they could kill tens of millions. That is valuable work focusing on national security. And I’m curious, Wolf, you know when does the media focus on threats like an EMP? 

BLITZER: I think we focus on a lot of those things. But let me just read one other thing, he says there’s some pretty compelling circumstantial evidence of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq being involved with the people who perpetrated the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and even the Oklahoma City bombing. Now you’re a smart guy, have you seen any circumstantial evidence to back that up? 

CRUZ: You know I told you a minute ago I’m not going to play the gotcha game of every quote every adviser may have given 20 years ago. You are welcome to throw them out. 

BLITZER: That was in 2009. 

CRUZ: But I’m actually interested in talking about the problems in this country, and not — This is silliness. Let’s focus on real problems facing America. 

For Cruz to be complaining about the “gotcha game” with Gaffney, is no better than Trump feigning ignorance when asked about David Duke. Are we supposed to believe that Cruz chose Gaffney for his security circle without being aware of his many, many stunning claims? If so, that would be even more disqualifying.

Anywhere, here’s the latest on Gaffney’s creeping influence.

From Bryan Schatz at Mother Jones:

The National Rifle Association’s annual board election is typically a drama-free affair. But this year, things are getting ugly. A faction within the NRA is seeking to oust anti-tax crusader and celebrated Republican strategist Grover Norquist from the gun lobby’s board of directors, where he has served since 2000.

The reasons behind the recall campaign have little to do with the Second Amendment, NRA policy, or Norquist’s position on gun rights. The effort is the latest move in an ongoing crusade to convince conservatives that the founder of Americans for Tax Reform is secretly in cahoots with anti-American Islamists. 

The instigator of the Norquist recall is Stu Weber, a former Green Beret and pastor from Oregon. Last August, a recall petition sponsored by Weber was posted on the website In it, Weber wrote that Norquist “has become a confusing distraction to the NRA’s mission” and that he was “aware of NRA members who are considering leaving the NRA because they have done some serious homework in regard to Mr. Norquist.” While speaking with Glenn Beck last August, Weber described himself as “just a member” of the NRA. He declined to be interviewed for this story. The recall site has been taken down.

While this is the first NRA board recall measure in at least 15 years, it is not necessarily a sign of a major split within the organization. Just 450 signatures from voting members were required to get it on the ballot. Members have until May 1 to cast their votes via ballots that were mailed out in American Rifleman, the NRA’s magazine.

To bolster his case, Weber’s petition linked to Agent of Influence: Grover Norquist and the Assault on the Right, a 100-page dossier that lays out a litany of conspiratorial claims about Norquist and his supposed role “as an agent of influence for assorted Islamic supremacists.” Now in its fourth edition, subtitled “Targeting the NRA,” the booklet questions Norquist’s “fitness to serve in a leadership position of such an important organization” and aims to “encourage and enable the National Rifle Association to end the presence among its leadership of an individual who has long engaged in insidious Islamist influence operations.”

Agent of Influence is published by the Center for Security Policy, an organization headed by Frank Gaffney, a former Pentagon official in the Reagan Administration whom Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz recently named to his national security team. Among the prominent conservatives who have backed Gaffney’s allegations against Norquist are former CIA Director James Woolsey and former Army Lt. General Jerry Boykin, with whom Weber wrote The Warrior Soul: Five Powerful Principles to Make You a Stronger Man of God. Last September, Gaffney joined Cruz, Beck, Donald Trump, and Sarah Palin at an anti-Iran rally co-sponsored by the Center for Security Policy. Gaffney could not be reached for comment.

As noted, Beck, perhaps Cruz’s most fervent supporter, is a part of the campaign to remove Norquist from the NRA board.

Beck, a Mormon convert, has also been making the case in Utah that Cruz’s election would be the fulfillment of The White Horse Prophecy:

From Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch:

Back in 1843, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, supposedly delivered a message known as “The White Horse Prophecy” that declared that one day, when the U.S. Constitution was hanging by a thread, the Mormon people would rise up and save this nation.

This is how Young reportedly explained it in 1854:

Will the Constitution be destroyed? No; it will be held inviolate by this people; and, as Joseph Smith said, “The time will come when the destiny of the nation will hang upon a single thread. At that critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.”

In 2010, the LDS church issued an official statement that “the so-called ‘White Horse Prophecy’ is based on accounts that have not been substantiated by historical research and is not embraced as Church doctrine,” but that didn’t stop Glenn Beck from repeatedly invoking it as he campaigned for Ted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee in Utah over the weekend.

Beck spent all last week declaring that God has spent the last 10 years preparing and sanctifying his audience to rise up at this very moment and save the republic by electing Ted Cruz as president. But when he went to Utah, Beck made it unmistakably clear to his fellow Mormons that God is using them to save America because evangelical Christians “are not listening to their God,” a reference to southern evangelical Republicans who have voted for Donald Trump.

When Beck spoke at a rally for Sen. Lee’s re-election in Draper on Saturday, he explicitly invoked the language of the White Horse Prophecy.

“It’s something that Utah needs to hear,” he said. “The body of the Priesthood is known to stand up when the Constitution hangs by a thread. I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 2000. What attracted me was not only the truth of the message, but also the people like President [Harold] Lee and President [Ezra Taft] Benson, who knew exactly who we were, knew who we were as a country. Many times, what held me through was the prophecy that the Constitution will hang by a thread and this people would remember what our founders did. It is our responsibility to stand for the Constitution!”

Beck echoed that message while campaigning for Cruz in Provo, telling the audience that he had a “special message for the people of Utah.”
“I believe the Book of Mormon,” he said. “I believe it to be true. I believe every word of it … That book spells out in great detail what things look like before the Lord comes back. And He gave us that book so we can protect freedom here. He also gave us that book so we would know what to do at the time. Now you either believe that or you don’t. You either believe that to be true, it’s not just a book; then let the Priesthood lead! Priesthood holders, stand up and take your staff! You are the guardian at the gate.”



While speaking at another Cruz rally in Salt Lake City, Beck said that it was up to the Mormons to save this nation because “the evangelicals are not listening to their God.”

“Let me testify to you now,” he stated. “The Book of Mormon is a book that was given to us for this time in this land and it explains exactly what it’s going to look like when trouble comes … You know what time it is, the Priesthood is supposed to rise up and restore the Constitution. Now is that time!”

“Utah has an incredible opportunity,” he continued. “So many Christians have been standing up, but all throughout the South, the evangelicals are not listening to their God. Let us raise a standard in Utah. Let us do this one thing perfectly right.”


Cruz also denounced in the strongest possible terms President Obama’s trip to Havana, though, the same criticism could have been directed at his mentor, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, for his trade mission to Cuba late last year, about which he remained silent.

From Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia:

The fact is Cuban-American, Canadian-born Ted Cruz will lie, do, and say anything to gain power.

Months ago, Gov. Abbott capitalized on President Obama’s actions to open Cuban markets to American companies. Cruz was suddenly mum. After all, Cruz needed Abbott’s endorsement to hold off the Trump train in Texas.

On Cuba, Abbott is more in sync with Trump.

Blitzer: Would you open up a Trump Hotel in Havana?

Trump: I would, I would, at the right time. When we’re allowed to do it. We aren’t right now. I think Cuba has a lot of potential. I think it’s OK to bring Cuba into the fold.


Meanwhile, last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is chairing the  Cruz campaign in Texas, warned that any backroom machinations to deliver the Republican nomination to anyone other than Trump or Cruz would be illegitimate and would destroy the Republican Party.


Writing about this last week, I noted the following”

In Texas, Republicans at Senate District Conventions on Saturday will elect delegates to the state convention in Dallas in May, which will elect the delegates to the national convention. While Cruz won 104 delegates in the March 1 primary, to 48 for Trump and three for Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race this week, former Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri said he would be “shocked” if all 155 Texas delegates to the national convention weren’t Cruz loyalists, including the 48 delegates who would be bound to vote for Trump on the first ballot, but free to vote for Cruz thereafter.

Those “Trump delegates,” would also be free to vote against Trump’s interest on what could be decisive procedural votes that might ultimately determine the outcome.

Here from friend of Trump Roger Stone.

Trump Must Beware The Trojan Horse Delegates

By Roger Stone

A state party staffer from a large Northeastern state passed the entry codes for a conference call of five Republican Chairmen from significant states this past Saturday. The topic on the table? Stopping Trump. I had to listen in.

These hard-boiled pols know the nomination will be decided not on the first ballot but in a series of procedural votes by the entire convention to adopt the rules of the convention as recommended by the Rules committee and the seating of the delegates as recommended by the Credentials Committee. Those key committees are made up by two members from each state. The bosses have been quietly planting establishment regulars in these spots.

The Trump camp has been inattentive to this process. The party Kingmakers may have the votes to knee-cap Trump in the rules and credentials Committees as they did Congressman Ron Paul in 2012.

Here is what the kingmakers have planned:

Now they party insiders want to make sure they have a working majority on the floor for the passage of their “liscense to steal”. Republican State Chairs are planting Trojan Horse delegates into slots won by Trump on the first ballot to vote with them on procedural votes to pass the Rules and Credentials Reports that will seal the Big Steal. This is going on in Texas, New York, Michigan, Connecticut and North Dakota and other states.

Though these “Trump” delegates will be bound by national and state rules to support Trump through the first ballot at the convention they are free to vote against Trump’s interests on the adoption of Rules and the seating of delegates. It’s entirely plausible that a state could seat delegates pledged to support Donald Trump who have open affiliations with other candidates. In California Cruz and Paulistas are signing up online via CA’s GOP website as Trump delegates.

The RNC’s rules committee tightened the rules governing the allocation of pledged delegates: The proportion of pledged delegates actually sent to the convention must align with the proportion actually won by a candidate in states that don’t give their winners all of their delegates. Republican operatives are secretly working to stack the delegate selection process. They want as many reliable stooges as possible to identify as pledged “Trump” delegates. That way, those men and women can vote to break Trump’s back with hostile rules and by unseating Trump delegates if necessary.

The power-brokers short term game is clear; stall Trump just short of the magic number of delegates needed to be nominated on the first ballot with the knowledge that many delegates bound on the first ballot by Trump primary and caucus victories are ringers who would be unbound on a second ballot. Much in the way the RNC stacked the galleries with anti-Trump partisans in the last two debates, anti-Trump quislings are be planted in various delegations that will be free to betray Trump on procedural matters and subsequent ballots. Kidnapping is real possibility. What happens if a pledged delegate decides not to show up for the first ballot? The alternate replacing them may not be for Trump.

Get ready for Armageddon.

Practically speaking, if Trump arrive in Cleveland shy of the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination, and is denied the nomination, it will most likely be the consequence of maneuvering by the Cruz campaign taking advantage of faithless Trump delegates from Texas and elsewhere across the country.

From Roll Call columnist Patricia Murpy.

Improbably, Ted Cruz is now Mitch McConnell’s best hope for remaining majority leader. If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, the chances of Republicans losing the Senate rise exponentially. But with Trump’s commanding delegate lead, Cruz’s only path to victory is likely a contested convention, complete with all of the cronyism and horse trading that McConnell excels at and that Cruz has said is so awful for so long.

New willingness by Republicans to rally around Cruz is either enlightened self-interest, naked hypocrisy or the shared opinion that a man like Donald Trump would not only be bad for business, he would be truly dangerous as a leader of the country.  Despite all of my cynicism, I’m leaning toward the latter as their motivation, which means we’re all Cruzians now.

Which raises an interesting question – ought Dan Patrick exhort Texas Republicans at their convention in Dallas to send bona fide, though-and-through Trump delegates to the national convention to fill the Trump slots in order to guard against chicanery in Cleveland?

In the meantime, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin wrote in Sunday’s New York Times:

Republican leaders adamantly opposed to Donald J. Trump’s candidacy are preparing a 100-day campaign to deny him the presidential nomination, starting with an aggressive battle in Wisconsin’s April 5 primary and extending into the summer, with a delegate-by-delegate lobbying effort that would cast Mr. Trump as a calamitous choice for the general election.

Recognizing that Mr. Trump has seized a formidable advantage in the race, they say that an effort to block him would rely on an array of desperation measures, the political equivalent of guerrilla fighting.

There is no longer room for error or delay, the anti-Trump forces say, and without a flawlessly executed plan of attack, he could well become unstoppable.

But should that effort falter, leading conservatives are prepared to field an independent candidate in the general election, to defend Republican principles and offer traditional conservatives an alternative to Mr. Trump’s hard-edged populism. They described their plans in interviews after Mr. Trump’s victories last Tuesday in Florida and three other states.

The names of a few well-known conservatives have been offered up in recent days as potential third-party standard-bearers, and William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, has circulated a memo to a small number of conservative allies detailing the process by which an independent candidate could get on general-election ballots across the country.

Among the recruits under discussion are Tom Coburn, a former Oklahoma senator who has told associates that he would be open to running, and Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who was suggested as a possible third-party candidate at a meeting of conservative activists on Thursday in Washington.


Kristol was not doing Perry any favors by invoking his name.

It simply invited ridicule that Perry had done nothing to provoke.

From Anderw Rosenthal in the New York Times:

You know things are going badly when Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas and failed presidential candidate, sounds more sensible than anyone else in the Republican Party.

Mr. Perry responded today through his spokesman, Jeff Miller, to an article in The Times on Sunday that said Mr. Perry had been mentioned as a possible third-party candidate at a recent meeting of so-called conservatives in Washington.

Mr. Miller said on Twitter that Mr. Perry “has no interest in running as a 3rd party candidate.” That’s a good thing, because Mr. Perry also has no interest in being a serious person. He is the one, you will remember, who said in 2011 that he was going to close three cabinet agencies but could not name the third one.

And, from Josh Marshall at Talking Points MemoLetting go of the Rick Perry Unicorn.

The #NeverTrump non-movement has taken a blow, as Rick Perry has apparently taken himself out of contention as the standard bearer of a #NeverTrump third party conservative ticket. A deeper issue is that, remember, Rick Perry was basically drummed out to the 2012 and 2016 elections as something close to a laughing stock. In 2016, he barely rose to the level of a laughingstock since no one was even paying attention. This isn’t meant as ridicule. It was a more a matter of expectations: the million term governor of the biggest red state in the country, couldn’t even make a respectable showing in a run for president. #NeverTrump looks very much like a vehicle with which DC power brokers take the guys they wanted in the first place but couldn’t get through primary process and nominate them by acclamation through what amounts to a GOP in exile.

it should be noted that for lifelong achievement in being consistently wrong in his political instincts, Kristol is unrivaled.

Here he was July 7, 2015, at Newmax:

Republicans should respect, not trash, Donald Trump, despite the billionaire developer’s controversial remarks on Mexican immigrants and his patented lack of political correctness, Bill Kristol, founder and editor of The Weekly Standard, tells Newsmax TV.

“I’m not a Trump fan, I don’t think he should be the Republican nominee, but it’s ridiculous,” Kristol said Tuesday on “The Steve Malzberg Show.”


Kristol believes Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent challenging Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, is more of a problem for the Democrats than Trump is for the Republicans.


“It’s very, very foolish if the Republican establishment or the Republican candidates treat him with disdain instead of saying, you know what, good to have more voices, good to have some unconventional voices in the race.”

Of course, if Trump arrives in Cleveland a little short, he could make a deal with Cruz and make him his running-mate. Asked about that Monday,  Trump said “crazier things happen in politics.”

But, Munisteri notes, if Trump needs Cruz’s delegates, it would probably mean that Cruz was in a position to strike his own deal to win the nomination.

However, if all Trump needs is just a small handful of delegates, there is always Dr. Ben Carson, who has nine pledged delegates.



Here is the email I received yesterday from John Philip Sousa IV of the Carson super PAC.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 9.12.48 PM

Jonathan —

I asked you recently if you wanted The 2016 Committee to push for Ben Carson to be Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate if he wins the Republican presidential nomination or if anyone else is the nominee.

Your response was overwhelming!

92% of the responses we received from volunteers and donors alike said yes, launch a national effort to make Ben Carson the vice presidential nominee of the GOP in 2016.

And, I didn’t just hear from a few of you, thousands and thousands of you responded immediately and emphatically.

Something else happened that I did not expect.

Many of you sent in a contribution to make it happen, even though I did not ask for any support of the effort.

Clearly you are enthusiastically in favor of supporting Ben Carson for Vice President.

You were probably as surprised as I was when Ben Carson endorsed Donald Trump for president.

I didn’t see that coming.

But, because I have so much confidence in the wisdom and intelligence of Dr. Carson I listened to every word he said at the news conference endorsing Donald Trump.

I closely watched the interaction between Donald Trump and Ben Carson and quite frankly I was delighted by the rapport and the admiration between them; two men who have both put their lives on hold to serve our country.

Dr. Carson was as always, honest, forthright, and wise.  He was also very persuasive.

Now that Dr. Carson has endorsed Donald Trump, and Trump won Florida, it’s probably the last nail in the coffin for Cruz and Kasich.

All political prognosticators seem to agree that, barring an unforeseen event, Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president in 2016.

Probably not what many of us would have guessed as the outcome nine or even six months ago.

Donald Trump made it clear that Ben Carson will play a very important policy role in the campaign and very possibly beyond.

And, Ben Carson has also made it clear that he is open to being on the ticket with Donald Trump as his vice presidential nominee.

Don’t you agree that Donald Trump will need the wise counsel and moral compass of Dr. Ben Carson if he is elected president?

Clearly, Donald Trump has great respect for Dr. Carson and it appears that if elected he will lean heavily on the good doctor for advice and counsel on key issues like tax reform, education and health care.

With Donald Trump’s nomination looming as inevitable, it was very wise of Dr. Carson to endorse Mr. Trump so that he can exert a positive influence upon him, his campaign and hopefully his Administration.

And, let’s face reality, whoever the Republican nominee is, he must win the White House.

Can you imagine all the damage the U.S. Supreme Court will do to the Constitution and to the Bill of Rights if Hillary or any other Democrat is elected president?

If we have a Supreme Court with five or more liberal judges it will be open season on the Second Amendment.  Your right to own a firearm will all but disappear.

If you are a Christian, expect your rights to be dramatically circumscribed.

Moral corruption will accelerate and freedom of speech will only be for those espousing liberal viewpoints.

Political correctness and continued appeasement will almost certainly bring more strife around the world.

And, how can we possibly avoid a total financial collapse if Hillary Clinton is elected and the Democrats regain control of Congress and the liberals run amuck at the U.S. Supreme Court?

Here is my big question for you…

Will you join us to continue to help Dr. Ben Carson spread the words of Christ, The Constitution and common sense in Washington, D.C. by joining our effort to strongly encourage Donald Trump to choose Ben Carson as his running mate?

We know exactly how to proceed to maximize the chance that Ben Carson will be selected as the GOP vice presidential choice in 2016 because one of our close advisors was intimately involved in the National Draft Jack Kemp for Vice President effort in 1980 that nearly succeeded.

I’ll explain more in a moment, but let me first ask you…

Who would be a better vice president than Ben Carson?

There are three sound reasons for Dr. Carson to be Donald Trump’s running mate.

1.     Republican Unity.  Ben Carson is key to bringing unity to the GOP and unity is essential for victory.  Dr. Carson is the one man who is universally admired and respected for his wisdom and good judgement.

2.    Republican Victory.  The Republicans have no chance of victory unless they make big inroads into Black and Hispanic voters.  Ben Carson has proven that he can win a substantial percentage of the Black vote and a very large share of the Hispanic vote.

3.    American Harmony.  It’s not enough to just win the election, we must restore harmony and unity to our nation.  Without a nation where all Americans are united, our future will be as bleak as the past seven and a half years have been at home and around the world.

For those three reasons alone, not to mention the wise counsel and advice that Dr. Carson will bring to the ticket, I believe that Ben Carson is the best choice as our vice presidential nominee.

Do you agree, Jonathan?

If you do, you are in agreement with 92% of Ben Carson supporters according to a recent survey we conducted.

Please Clamor Today!





Rand Paul goes Xtranormal to `Audit the Ted;’ Abbott flying Air Adelson to Israel/Davos

Good day Austin:

A week ago today, the Senate blocked Sen. Rand Paul’s bid to enact the Paul family’s signature Audit the Fed legislation. The  Senate voted 53 to 44 to invoke cloture, seven votes shy of the 60 needed to permit an up-or-down vote on Paul’s bill.

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Who were the three senators who didn’t vote?

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Coats, Cruz and Franken.

Wait. Cruz?

Cruz was a co-sponsor of Paul’s bill.

He has talked about that on the campaign trail.

But on Tuesday, he was on the campaign trail instead of voting in the Senate.

From the Hill:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) ripped Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday after the Texas Republican skipped a vote on his “Audit the Fed” proposal.
Paul, who is competing with Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination, said he was “disappointed” Cruz “didn’t show up for work” for a procedural vote on Paul’s legislation.
Cruz missed the vote because he is campaigning in New Hampshire. Even if he had voted in favor of Paul’s bill on Tuesday, the legislation would have still been short of the 60 votes needed to overcome Tuesday’s procedural hurdle. 
Paul has repeatedly criticized Sen. Marco Rubio for skipping Senate votes to campaign for president. The Florida Republican voted in favor of Paul’s legislation. 
According to GovTrack, Cruz has missed 24 percent of Senate roll call votes over the past year, second only to Rubio.
Rubio wasn’t the only presidential candidate who took time away from the campaign trail to vote with Paul. So did Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, and was one of only two non-Republicans to vote to audit the Fed. The other was Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.
Here was what Cruz told Glenn Beck explaining his missed vote:

Unfortunately, it was clear early on that yesterday’s vote wasn’t going to succeed (it fell 7 votes short),” Cruz wrote in an email, which Beck later published on his Facebook profile. “And, at the same time that the vote was scheduled, I had longstanding commitments to be in New Hampshire.”

Cruz went on to write that he was speaking at a Second Amendment rally in the Granite State and was delivering a State of the Union town hall, which the GOP hopeful says was to be attended by 1,500 people.

“If my vote would have made a difference in it passing, I would have cancelled my campaign events to be there,” Cruz reassured Beck. “Because the vote was not going to succeed, I honored my commitments to be with the men and women of New Hampshire.”

Cruz did offer one major conciliation, though, for those who are angry with him for skipping the vote: “As President, I look forward to signing Audit the Fed legislation into law.”

Paul, of course, would rather be the one to sign Audit the Fed legislation, and on Monday, the Paul campaign upped the ante against Cruz with a very clever web ad.

He – Did you hear about audit the Fed.

She – Yes, Rand Paul is trying to audit the out-of-control Fed.

He – Do others support the audit the Fed?

She – The Ted Cruz said so but did not show up to vote.

He – Why did he not show up?

She – He was too busy campaigning.

He – Campaigning costs money. Where does the Ted Cruzz get his money from?

She – I hear Wall Street money. Millions. Even $1 million from the Goldman Sachs.

He – Does the Goldman Sachs want to audit the Fed?

She – I don’t think so. They are the Fed.

He – Why does Ted Cruzz take their money if they are the Fed?

She – I don’t know. That is strange.

He – When Ted Cruz ran for Senate he did not legally disclose a loan he got from the Goldman Sachs.

She – How much did Ted Cruz take from the Goldman Sachs?

He – Over one million dollars.

She – Wow. What does this mean?

He – It means Ted Cruz received favors from the special interests.

She – So why do they call him a grassroots candidate?

He  – I don’t know.

She – But doesn’t he claim to be against the establishment?

He – Yes.

She – Then which candidate for president is the grassroots candidate?

He – I hear good things about the Rand Paul. He is for individual liberty, the free market and auditing the Fed.

She – Yes. I like this Rand Paul. And his hair. Maybe he should audit the Ted as well.

He – Yes. I think we need to audit the Ted.

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The spot was created by Vincent Harris of Austin, who said it was Paul’s idea and he worked with Paul land Doug Stafford, the campaign’s senior chief strategist, on the script.

Here is something about Vincent Harris from Harris Media’s website.

Vincent Harris is CEO of Harris Media and Chief Digital Strategist for Senator Rand Paul. Previously he has worked on the digital side of three Presidential races, having run all online operations for Texas Governor Rick Perry and Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaigns. In 2014 Vincent was hired by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to oversee the digital operations for his Likud party’s successful campaign. Vincent spent over three years working with Ted Cruz, whom many have credited his successful use of the web as part of his incredible underdog win. Under Vincent’s watch, the nationally acclaimed firm, Harris Media, has grown into a successful company with over 20 employees proudly headquartered in Austin, Texas. Vincent is a strong believer in the power of the internet as a tool to influence the public arena, and his firm’s successes have been noted in numerous publications and news outlets. His expertise stretches from practical application into academia where he is working towards a PhD at the University of Texas and is blessed to be guest faculty at Baylor University. He was named the youngest “Rising Star” in Politics by Campaigns & Elections Magazine and was recently profiled in Bloomberg, where he was dubbed “The Man Who Invented the Republican Internet.”

I had an email interview with Harris this morning.

FR: That’s  in the style of Xtranormal, right?

VH: Yes it is!

FR: It works so well, but why is that?

VH: Works so well in the sense of fitting together and being a little funny? I think it’s because Xtranormal already has a fan base out online, one that a lot of libertarian-minded folks love, so the campaign piggy-backed on top of that. This style of video has been something Senator Paul has been aiming for his campaign to do for a while now. A reason I continue to love working for Senator Paul is that he pushes everyone on staff to be creative. He’s generating constant ideas, and it’s amazing to be able to work for him and see some of them played out like this one.

FR: Why the British accents?

VH: Why not!

FR: Why the article “the” before Goldman Sachs, and Ted Cruz, and why the alternate pronunciations of Cruz/Cruzz?

VH: To make the video more fun to watch and more entertaining to viewers. Uniqueness and small items that lend themselves to those in the know always help virality of web videos. The average person in a recent study released watches videos on Facebook for :22 seconds long before discarding them. If we can keep people watching longer by having more fun and being spontaneous, then it’s a success.

FR: Am I reading too much into it that, based on the British accents, the trees and the resemblance of the characters to South Park Canadians, you are subtly planting the idea of Canada in viewers’ minds?

VH: “What we see depends on what we look for”- Sir John Lubbock

FR: I’m transcribing the text and I’m not getting what comes between “I like this Rand Paul” and “maybe he should audit the Ted as well.” Is it “I like this Rand Paul, and his hair?”

VH: Yes it is! 🙂

FR: Any sense of response yet to the new ad?

VH: Great response across age demographics. The campaign is spending some money promoting the spot in early states and to the Senator’s fans nationally. It’s the kind of unique spot that plays very well online with sharing and interaction. It’s gotten some on the left fired up as well calling it stupid, but the attention and name-calling is appreciated and we on the right wear it with a badge of honor.

When every ad seems to be the same. :30 seconds of trash talk with black and white clips of opponents and swirling text bashing them, this is a different and more subtle and fun way to make a point.

In today’s digital age, if a voter doesn’t want to watch something, they can simply flip it off. The Senator’s goal for this spot was to create something that folks online would actually watch to completion and keep their attention. So far from the metrics we’ve seen, this is doing exactly that.

FR: Any other unique content you are doing for the Paul campaign that I should mention?

VH: We were the first campaign to do a day long live-stream, the first campaign to release a vector file of his logo, the first campaign to crowd-source a TV ad that money was put behind, and I would guess the only Republican campaign that has a plurality of website visitors and engagement on social media be from the 18-35 demographic. Keep on the look out for some more to come in the last couple of weeks here before Iowa!

What is Xtranormal, or, more accurately, what was Xtranormal, which shut down two years ago”
Here is a press release explanation of Xtranormal from 2011:

REDMOND, Wash. — Xxtranormal’s  tagline, “If you can type, you can make movies,” describes both the company’s mission and how to use its text-to-speech system to create animated movies. The Microsoft BizSpark One member is working to transform movie-making into an everyday activity, as simple and commonplace as composing a text message.

“We want to make animated movies ubiquitous,” says Graham Sharp, CEO of Xtranormal . “I’d like to see people using the Xtranormal platform like they use Microsoft Word: just opening a document and starting to type.”

You might have already seen a video created using the Xtranormal system. The most recognizable characters are large-headed bears who speak in measured tones, using whatever words each video’s creator has typed in.

Several Xtranormal videos gone viral on the Internet, receiving millions of views. Xtranormal estimates that during an average month, 10 percent of its 4 million registered users are actively creating videos, with an unknown number of people using the service for free without registering. At that rate, more than 5 million Xtranormal videos are being produced each year. And Sharp reports the site gets between 200,000 and 250,000 new registered users a month.

Although many people use Xtranormal to make videos for their own entertainment — to poke fun at their workplaces, to make a political statement or in hopes of creating a viral sensation — others have more serious goals.

“We reckon about 60 percent of our paying users are making videos for education or business,” says Sharp. “Teachers or students use the videos to spice up coursework, while companies use them to promote or advertise products, for training or as part of their public relations efforts.”

To inspire potential users and show what’s possible with its technology, Xtranormal also creates and posts its own animations on its website, via the Xtranormal Studio.

The Paul universe is no stranger to Xtranormal

In his video from 2011, Steve, an over-programmed Ron Paul supporter, responds to every interaction in Paul babble.


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Liberty, Constitution. Liberty, Constitution. Liberty, Constitution.

Straw poll. Straw poll. Money bomb. Money bomb. Straw poll. Straw poll. Money bomb. Money bomb. Straw poll. Liberty. Constitution. Straw poll.


She: What about Rick Perry or Jon Huntsman? Do you think they have a chance?

Steve: Alex Jones. Bilderberg. Liberty. Big banks are out of control. Don’t regulate the big banks. Free market. Alex Jones. Money bombs Liberty. Republicans suck. Ron Paul is Republican. Liberty. Liberty. Ron, Paul, George and Ringo. Liberty. The end. I win the debate.


She: Steve, You are not making sense.

Steve: When Ron Paul becomes president I will be riding my jet patch to Washington to work in the Department of Liberty and Free Wheat. We should meet up.

And on and on.

And here is Ron Paul being pestered by a reporter about whether he actually wrote the newsletters that bore his name.

Here also are a couple of other Xtranormal classcis.



Meanwhile, Rand Paul had a town hall on MLK Day yesterday at a Platinum Kutz, a black barbershop in Des Moines.

Paul didn’t get a haircut.


Greg Abbott flies `Air Adelson’ to Israel/Davos.

From the Jewish Insider yesterday:

Israeli Delegation at Davos: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former President of Israel Shimon Peres, American Jewish Committee’s Rabbi David Rosen, Bank Hapoalim’s Yair Seroussi, Bank Leumi’s David Brodet, Yossi Vardi, Sami Sagol, Ehud Shapiro, Matan Hoffman.

AIR ADELSON: Also on the guest list for Davos is Texas Governor Gregg Abbott. Yesterday, Haaretz’s Avi Scharf tweeted asking why Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands’ 737 flew from Austin to Tel Aviv and who was on board? Well, a source confirmed that the plane brought the Texas Governor’s delegation to Israel prior to his trip to the Swiss Alps. Last night, Abbott tweeted a picture from the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and we’re told he plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett today. Unclear if Adelson’s plane is also flying the delegation from Israel to Davos and, if so, who else might hitch a ride.

And then, from Jewish Insider today:

JI’s SCOOP: “Abbott’s office confirmed that the governor flew on Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands 737 after it was initially reported Monday by Jewish Insider… After his stop in Israel, the governor will fly to Switzerland later this week for a stop at the World Economic Forum in Davos. An Abbott spokesman said Monday that flight will be made on Adelson’s plane as well.” [DallasMorningNewsTexasTribune]JERUSALEM SCENE: After a day packed with meetings, including with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and a visit to the Western Wall, Texas Gov. Abbott attended a reception last night in his honor at a penthouse apartment in the Rechavia neighborhood of Jerusalem. According to a source, attendees included former Gen. Yaakov Amidror and his wife Dorith, Saul & Wendy Singer, Cecilia Abbott, Aryeh Lightstone, Rabbi Steven Burg, Rabbi Avi Berman, Shmuel Winiarz, Miriam Peretz, Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi, and Rivka Kidron.

How It Played: ”In Israel, Abbott affirms block on Iran investments” [Chron] • “Governor Abbott Meets Israel’s Netanyahu” [CBSlocal] • “Greg Abbott Meets With Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu” [TexasTribune]

From Brandi Grissom at the Dallas Morning News:

Adelson has invested generously in GOP candidates, spending at least some $93 million on primarily GOP-related causes during the 2012 presidential election, according to the Washington Post.

Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson, are also prolific philanthropists, supporting Jewish causes and Israel through the Adelson Family Foundation.

The casino magnate has made appearances in Texas before, urging lawmakers in 2009 to allow resort-casino-style gambling here. Those efforts failed, as have casino gambling proposals before and since.

Abbott and the conservative Texas Legislature have been vociferous opponents of gambling expansion.

From Edgar Walters at the Texas Tribune:

The billionaire recently made national headlines when he was revealed to be the mysterious purchaser of The Las Vegas Review-Journl in December. He also owns the newspaper with the largest circulation in Israel, a free daily.

Here from Jason Zengerle at New York Magazine in September:  Sheldon Adelson Is Ready to Buy the Presidency. He just hasn’t decided which Republican candidate to back.

And here is Adelson a few years ago talking about dropping an atomic bomb in the Iranian desert, and then telling the Iranian regime that, unless it ends its efforts to make nuclear weapons, the next atomic bomb will be dropped in the middle of Tehran.

Overnight, I sent the governor’s press office a few questions about why the governor flew on Adelson’s plane?

How come? Is Adelson bearing the cost or being reimbursed? Was it the whole Texas delegation on the flight, and have you put out a list of those in the delegation? Was Adelson, or were some of Adelson’s people, on the flight? How did this come about? Do the governor and Adelson have a relationship?
Is Adelson providing transportation to Davos as well, and then from Davos back to Texas?


Abbott spokesman John Wittman replied, “I can confirm the Governor took Adelson’ plane to Israel,” and would be flying on Adelson’s plane to Davos and back home to Texas.

Here is the governor’s press release advancing the trip:

Governor Greg Abbott will lead a business development mission to Israel and Switzerland from Monday, January 18th through Friday, January 22nd, 2016. Governor Abbott’s trip will focus on increasing foreign direct investment in Texas. During the trip, the Governor will tour businesses, hold meetings with public officials and business executives in both countries, and participate at the World Economic Forum in Davos. This will be Governor Abbott’s third international business development trip since taking office.

“The combination of Texas’ low-tax, low-regulation environment and our skilled workforce is attracting more foreign direct investment to make the Lone Star State a hub for global commerce,” said Governor Abbott. “Our proven model stands out among states and, indeed, among nations as a beacon for free enterprise and economic prosperity. I look forward to building ties with new international business partners and strengthening Texas’ economic relationships across the globe.”

Governor Abbott’s trip comes after IBM’s 2015 Global Location Trends Facts & Figures report named Texas the #1 state in the United States for foreign and domestic investment, based on the number of jobs.

“TexasOne is proud to support Governor Abbott in his efforts to expand business relationships and create additional trade opportunities for the State of Texas in Israel and Switzerland,” said Tracye McDaniel, President and CEO of Texas Economic Development Corporation and TexasOne. “We look forward to further strengthening economic ties in these key markets and to identifying opportunities to grow Texas’ target industries—life sciences, financial services, manufacturing and energy.”

“Israel appreciates the close relationship that Governor Greg Abbott has nurtured, both economically and politically. We look forward to many more collaborations, especially in the areas of water, energy and technology,” said Consul General Eitan Levon, Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest United States.

The trip will be sponsored and paid for by TexasOne, the state’s Economic Development Corporation.





Different strokes: O’Malley sings, Trump stings

Good morning Austin:
Yesterday was Martin O’Malley Day here in Austin.
Sort of.
The third wheel of the Democratic presidential contest spent the day in town:
Taping Overheard at KLRU.
Having lunch with a Mexican immigrant family in danger of being split up if President Obama’s executive order is permanently blocked by a court suit initiated by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
An evening fundraiser.
And just before that, a speech before an enthusiastic student audience at UT’s Hogg Memorial Auditorium, which ended with O’Malley, grabbing a borrowed guitar, and, with a touch of Pete Seeger, or maybe Raffi, leading the students in a rendition of the Passenger song, Scare Away the Dark.
Here is a low-quality video I shot of O’Malley’s performance
Here is a far higher quality video of another performance of the same song, which has evidently emerged as a kind of anthem for O’Malley.
And here are the lyrics, which are pregnant with all kinds of meaning for a man running for president in this day and time.

So sing, sing at the top of your voice
Love, without fear in your heart
Feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up we can scare away the dark

We wish our weekdays away, spend our weekends in bed
We drink ourselves stupid and work ourselves dead
And all just because that’s what mom and dad said we should do

We should run through the forests, we should swim in the streams
We should laugh, we should cry, we should love, we should dream
We should stare at the stars, and not just at these screens
You should hear what I’m saying and know what it means to sing
Sing at the top of your voice
And love without fear in your heart
Feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up, we can scare away the dark

Yeah we wish we were happier, thinner and fitter
We wish we weren’t losers and liars and quitters,
We want something more than just nasty and bitter
We want something real, not just hashtags and Twitter

It’s the meaning of life. and it’s streamed live on YouTube
But I bet Gangnam style will still get more views

We’re scared of flying, and swimming and shooters
But we’re all slowly dying in front of f*cking computers
So sing, sing at the top of your voice
Yeah and love without fear in your heart
Feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up we can scare away the dark


And the TV and papers, they fill us with fear
The icecaps are melting and Al-Qaeda is here
Now every curtain-twitching suburban is scared of every man that’s wearing a turban
You see, the unknown breeds fear, and fear breeds hatred
And hatred is everything that darkness created
When it came in the night, and it strangled the hope
So let’s open the windows and turn on the light

So sing, sing at the top of your voice
Yeah love with all of your heart
Feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up we can scare away the dark

Oh and sing, sing at the top of your voice
And love without fearing your heart
Feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up we can scare away the dark


Yeah we wish we were happier, thinner and fitter
We wish we weren’t losers and liars and quitters,
We want something more than just nasty and bitter
We want something real, not just hashtags and Twitter

Well, at just about the same time the former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor was serenading the Longhorns, 860 miles away, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, a large crowd at Iowa Central Community College didn’t have to wish they weren’t losers because they were present for the EPIC RANT, a 95-minute, extemporaneous one-man show by Donald Trump that pushed the performance art of his campaign to a whole a new level, and left me wondering, if  he survives this, is there nothing he can do to undo himself.

(note: that’s Sam Clovis, who went from chairing Rick Perry’s campaign to being Trump’s top adviser, opening the show.)

From Jenna Johnson’s gripping account in the Washington Post.

FORT DODGE, Iowa — For an hour and 35 minutes, Republican front-runner Donald Trump vented about everything that’s wrong with this country and this election.

He said he would “bomb the s—” out of areas controlled by the Islamic State that are rich with oil and claimed to know more about the terrorist group than U.S. military generals. He ranted about how everyone else is wrong on illegal immigration and how even the “geniuses at Harvard” have now backed his way of thinking. He accused Hillary Rodham Clinton of playing the “woman’s card,” and said Marco Rubio is “weak like a baby.” He signed a book for an audience member and then threw it off the stage. He forgot to take questions like he promised. And he spent more than 10 minutes angrily attacking his chief rival, Ben Carson, at one point calling him “pathological, damaged.”

Gone was the candidate’s recent bout of composure and control on the campaign trail. As Trump ranted on and on, campaign staffers with microphones who were supposed to take questions from the audience instead took a seat, trying to cheer their boss here and there. The audience laughed at times and clapped for many of Trump’s sharp insults. But an hour and 20 minutes into the speech, people who were standing on risers on the stage behind Trump sat down. The applause came less often and less loud. As Trump skewered Carson in deeply personal language, a sense of discomfort settled on the crowd of roughly 1,500. Several people shook their heads or whispered to their neighbors.


“Carson is an enigma to me,” Trump said. “He said that he’s ‘pathological’ and that he’s got, basically, pathological disease… I don’t want a person that’s got pathological disease.”

Trump repeatedly said he doesn’t believe there’s any cure for such a disease, and he said he doesn’t believe that Carson was truly changed by divine intervention, as he writes in his book.

“If you’re a child molester — a sick puppy — a child molester, there’s no cure for that,” Trump said. “If you’re a child molester, there’s no cure. They can’t stop you. Pathological? There’s no cure.”

And yet Carson is doing well in the polls, Trump said in disbelief.

“How stupid are the people of Iowa?” Trump said. “How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”

Here’s the Carson riff within the EPIC RANT.


My first thought was of Lonesome Rhodes, the fictional hero/villain of the 1957 film, A Face in the Crowd, played with crazed gusto by Andy Griffith, making his film debut.

It’s a magnificent movie.

I was hardly alone in making that association.

Says Rhodes of his adoring public:

They’re mine. I own them. They think like I do. But they’re even more stupid than I am … So I’ve got to think for them.

Trump asking Iowans how stupid they are is not exactly the same thing, but it’s not all that different.

And this is, apparently, real life.

From the original New York Times review by Bosley Crowther:

BUDD SCHULBERG and Elia Kazan, the writer-director team whose “On the Waterfront” manifested the rare congeniality of their skills, are doing a brisk encore in tracing the phenomenal rise (and fall) of a top television “personality” in their new film, “A Face in the Crowd.” This sizzling and cynical exposure, which came to the Globe last night, also presents Andy Griffith as the key figure in his first screen role.


From the outset, when he is picked up as a drunken guitar-playing tramp by a female television reporter in an Arkansas town, he progressively dominates the TV audience to which he is expandingly exposed, the advertising agency representatives and the big industrialist by whom he is employed. He even is coming close to dominating a political faction and a Presidential aspirant when the rug is suddenly pulled out from under him by his girl friend, who throws a studio switch.

Meanwhile, he is demonstrating his eccentric personality—his gusto, his candor, his shrewdness, his moral laxity and his treachery. And, from the way his eyes narrow and his lips tighten, we gather he is demonstrating a thirst for power, when his loving and loyal discoverer decides that we’ve all had enough.


We finally get bored with Lonesome Rhodes. Thus the dubious device of having his girl friend switch him on the air when he thinks he is finished with his program (and is scorning his public) is inane. This type would either have become a harmless habit or the public would have been finished with him!

Inane? I thought it was a pretty good device.

Here is what Rhodes says on the hot mic:

Those morons out there? Shucks, I could take chicken fertilizer and sell it to them as caviar. I could make them eat dog food and think it was steak. You know what the public’s like? A cage of guinea pigs. Good night, you stupid idiots. Good night, you miserable slobs. They’re a lot of trained seals. I toss them a dead fish and they’ll flap their flippers.

Back to Austin, here is the advisory from the O’Malley campaign about his lunch.

Governor O’Malley will join the Ramirez family, a New American family that would have benefited from the president’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) for lunch in Austin, Texas. This week, the 5th Circuit Appeals Court ruled in favor of Governor Greg Abbott  and the 25 Republican governors blocking President Obama’s DAPA program and the 2014 expansion of DACA.

Governor O’Malley spoke-out against the ruling and tomorrow, he hears first-hand how our inhumane immigration system and the ongoing court battles have impacted the Ramirez family

Governor O’Malley has committed to make comprehensive immigration reform a priority of his administration. While other candidates try to triangulate and make-up for past comments, Governor O’Malley’s bold, progressive immigration plan has been heralded as the most inclusive in the race. His record and proposed plan have earned him the title, “the Most Aggressively Pro-Immigration Candidate in the Race.”

The event is being organized by America’s Voice, United We Dream Action and the Center for Community Change Action/Fair Immigration Reform Movement as part of their DAPA Dinners campaign.


First. Lunch –  chilaquiles and refried beans, potatoes, salsa –  looked and smelled great.

The conversation in the sweet little house in East Austin was obviously a bit  stilted – surrounded by reporters and camera.

But it was powerful.

The parents are not legal residents, though they could have secured their status under the DAPA executive order issued by Obama had it not been stymied in court, thanks to the lawsuit initiated by Abbott in his waning days as attorney general before assuming the governorship.

The youngest child, Abigail, is U.S. born and, therefore a citizen

The older children are covered by DACA and, in two-year increments, are safe here.

Maria Ramirez, 22, spoke first. She is student at UT and has an infant daughter, Scout.

O’Malley asked about the baby’s name.

It is from To Kill a Mockingbird, a favorite book, Maria said.

O’Malley lit up.

“My older sister, Eileen, looked just like Scout growing up, had that sort of cowboy thing, and my dad raised six of us, was a sole practitioner lawyer, so it was not unusual for us to get paid in cords of wood and  for people to show up at the door at all hours of the day and night. We used to call my dad Atticus. I was so angry, though, when they came out with that second book and redid the character of Atticus.

Maria agreed.

“I do remember growing up in Mexico we did kind of lived in poverty,” Maria said. She told how her parents went to the United States ahead of her and her sister. They were left with an aunt and uncle in Mexico.

Her uncle eventually delivered them to a coyote to get to Texas, and, she said, they had an easier time slipping in because “we were lucky enough to pass as white.”

“My older brother and sister, they had to physically cross the river. My sister saw people die trying to get here,” Maria said. She is crying. “I just feel so lucky not to have experienced that,  and getting here to see my parents.”

“I hadn’t seen my father in years, and it’s like, `Who are you? I know I love you and i know you’re my dad but i don’t know you.'”



The walls of the house are almost exclusively decorated with large graduation photos. With the exception of the youngest, the other children all went to or are now going to UT.

O’Malley asked about the status of in-state tuition for so-called Dreamers in Texas.

“I think Texas was one of the last states to do that,” O’Malley said. “We call that the state version of the Dream Act in my own state.”

In fact, Texas preceded Maryland in enacting in-state tuition, and, for all the agitation on the issue, it’s still there. And Rick Perry paid a huge political price for defending in-state tuition when he ran for president four years ago, telling his rivals,  “I don’t think you have a heart,” if you oppose it.

From the National Council of State Legislatures in 2014

Currently, at least 18 states have provisions allowing in-state tuition rates for undocumented students.  Fourteen states provide these provisions through state legislation—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington.  Two states—Oklahoma and Rhode Island— allow in-state tuition rates to undocumented students through Board of Regents decisions.

California and Texas were the first states to enact legislation in 2001. In 2002, New York and Utah passed similar legislation. During the 2003 and 2004 legislative sessions, Washington, Oklahoma, Illinois and Kansas all passed such laws. Oklahoma has since amended its law, leaving granting of in-state tuition rates to undocumented students up to the Oklahoma Board of Regents. The Board of Regents currently still allows undocumented students, who meet Oklahoma’s original statutory requirements, to receive in-state tuition. In 2005 and 2006, New Mexico and Nebraska signed undocumented student tuition legislation into law, and Wisconsin enacted a similar law in 2009, but then revoked that law in 2011. Maryland’s governor signed a law in May 2011 allowing undocumented students meeting the specified requirements to pay in-state tuition at community colleges only. Also in 2011, Connecticut enacted a law allowing in-state tuition for undocumented students. In 2013, four states, Colorado, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Oregon enacted laws allowing in-state tuition for undocumented students. Florida passed legislation in May 2014 and was signed by the Governor in June 2014. 

And, here, from PolitiFact Texas.

Also, when the Ramirezes mentioned Abbott’s leadership role in blocking the implementation of Obama’s executive orders on DACA and DAPA, O’Malley said that he had not realized that.


It was in his press release.

It seems to me that O’Malley could have seized the opportunity to use the Perry and Abbott examples to point out how much the Republican Party has moved right on the issue of immigration, and offered some words of praise and warning about how Texas has been and can continue to be a model for its successful, blended Tex-Mex character, and ought not risk that now.

“If you get to be president, remember all the promises made, because we’re not people who come and take,” said the mother, Adriana Campos Rivera, her Spanish translated by an aide to O’Malley.

Abigail Ramirez, 13, spoke next. She was crying from the start.

 I live in constant fear of coming home from school and not being able to see my family, not knowing if I’m ever going to see them again.

And I have to live with that constant fear. And so do other kids.

You know, other people don’t realize that if immigration reform doesn’t happen, you know, millions of families could be split up, because every time I hear people say like, `Well, I’m glad they are going to deport all these people,” but they don’t realize it would affect other people.

I mean how would you feel if you came home one day and no one was there, an empty house and all you think is, oh, they just went out. But then, after hours and hours  of waiting, they never come back. I have to live in constant fear of that happening to me.

And I hear all these people say that people like my family take jobs and don’t pay taxes. But they pay taxes. They love this country so much they take jobs that no other people take. They build buildings basically risking their lives. And if something goes wrong, they’ll never be able to see their family again.

O’Malley: Well said, Abigail.


“Why don’t i talk a little bit, share a little bit about myself,” O’Malley said.

I believe very, very firmly that our country is made better in every generation by the arrival of new American immigrants. And the beauty of our nation is that from people from all over the world, we become one nation because of our diversity. Our diversity is our strength. Our diversity is what allows us to build a great country.

And fortunately, I was raised in a home where my mom, most of whose people were German immigrants, and my dad, whose people were Irish immigrants, reminded, and made sure all of their kids knew, that all of us, except for our Native American brothers and sisters, all, at some point, all of us came from somewhere else.

During the seven years I was mayor of Baltimore, and the eight years I was governor, I always kept a sign from the 1890s on my desk, and it read – you know what it read? Help wanted, no Irish need apply.

So that’s the flip side of our history. That’s the sometimes ugly side of American history. But the good news is that in every generation, we find ways to overcome that, and we’re going to overcome this too, and pass comprehensive immigration reform.

And as one candidate running for president, I intend to be very clear of our principles as a people, that our enduring symbol is the Statue of Liberty, and not a barbed wire fence, or detention camps for women and children. Because it’s been my experience that on issues the people say are too divided, we can’t reach an agreement, that leadership matters, and when you call people back to the principles that unite us, that people come together, and things shift and things change and you can get things done.

“I hate to interrupt,” said Paul Alexander, who is Maria’s fiance and Scout’s father. “You really nailed it on the head. You have to respect the dignity of every person.”

Grasping to find the right words, Alexander apologized.

“I’m distracted.

“You’re not distracted,” O’Malley said. “You’re thinking about what it would be like for your little girl to be in a detention camp. You’re very focused.”


We’re always brought up to believe to treat everybody like they’re your neighbors, right?

But a lot of people just don’t see the injustices that we’re placing on people. Just because of a silly line on a map, we’re treating them as less than human, in some cases. It’s really hard to see that unless you’re brought up in something like this, like Abby’s story, just that raw emotion, I never knew what that was like, and I still can’t even relate to that, and I’m lucky to call these people my family now.


The good new is, when I talk to younger people, under 30, I rarely ever meet young Americans who think like Donald Trump. I rarely ever meet young Americans who want to bash New American immigrants, and for younger people in our country, the word “foreign” has become almost a bit of an antique word. There’s an awareness. And it’s more than geographic. I think it’s empathetic.



Afterward, outside the house, O’Malley talked with reporters.

Asked about Trump’s promise to deport millions, O’Malley said, “It’s this close to ethnic cleansing and it’s not right and it needs to be called out”

If he were president, O’Malley said, “I would extend executive protection to even more people,” and make the process less expensive for those applying for legalization.

The idea of “parents being taken away from their families, from their kids, that’s not right, that’s not us, that’s not the United States. We’re better than that.”

And O’Malley said, of the Democrats, he has been the most consistently pro-immigrant.

Clinton will boast about she was for big fences and walls on the border, the border with Mexico, which last I checked, we had net zero immigration from, and then, in another context, she’ll talk about comprehensive immigration reform and compassion.

If you want us to be a more compassionate nation than you need to speak to the goodness within us and not the sort of cynical game  in which you say one thing to one crowd and use the term “illegal immigrants,” and then you turn around to another crowd, switch your messaging and talk about new Americans. I always talked about new Americans.



On Morning Joe earlier in the week, Trump described how it would go down.

You’re going to have a deportation force and you’re going to do it humanely and fairly because you have some excellent, wonderful people,  some fantastic people who have been here a long time, but  don’t forget you have millions of people who are waiting on line to get into this country and they’re waiting to come in legally.

We have no choice. Otherwise we don’t have a country.

But President Obama told ABC”s  George Stephanopoulos.

The notion that we’re gonna deport 11, 12 million people from this country — first of all, I have no idea where Mr. Trump thinks the money’s gonna come from. It would cost us hundreds of billions of dollars to execute that.

Imagine the images on the screen flashed around the world as we were dragging parents away from their children, and putting them in what, detention centers, and then systematically sending them out. Nobody thinks that that is realistic. But more importantly, that’s not who we are as Americans.

O’Malley arrived in Austin to the results of the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.


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“I’ve got them right where I want them,” O’Malley told Texas  Tribune CEO and editor-in-chief Evan Smith on Overheard.

As he explained to reporters yesterday”

Usually in the Democratic Party there is an inevitable front-runner who remains inevitable, right up until the first voters have a chance to express their choice, and that happens first in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then it’s off and running.

So I would look forward to coming back to Texas. But right now, most of my time is spent on the ground in Iowa and in New Hampshire, but after those early states, I believe this race is going to take a turn, the dynamic is going to shift and it will be a choice between a candidate from our country and our party’s past, that all of us have heard of, and a new candidate that mot of us are just meeting, and I look forward to that robust debate about our country’s future.

It’s obviously a very optimistic scenario, but I wouldn’t say utterly impossible.

His let’s-move-on, generational argument is a powerful one, especially if the Republicans appear likely nominate a candidate like Rubio or Cruz, both now 44. O’Malley is 52, Clinton is 68, and Sanders is 74.

And Iowa and New Hampshire are all about exceeding expectations, and that is a harder trick right now for either Clinton or Sanders, who have traded the lead in two early states. O’Malley doesn’t have to win to win.

At UT, O’Malley was presented with a campaign rap.

Despite his relative youth, O’Malley seems an old-school Democratic politician and a happy warrior.

Meanwhile, back in Iowa, the Washington Post reported that:

Trump started the speech looking exhausted, his voice hoarse. This was his fourth state in four days. A sense of anger built as Trump listed off everything wrong with the country and everything wrong with his rivals. His voice got louder and stronger, his hands gripping the podium. He would be a unifier, he said, a winner. Then he wondered aloud if he should just move to Iowa and buy a farm.

“I’ve really enjoyed being with you,” Trump said as he drew to a sudden but long awaited end. “It’s sad in many ways because we’re talking about so many negative topics, but in certain ways it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful.”

I’ll let O’Malley play you out.

A Pogues cover.


And busking, in shorts, with a banjo.



Ten questions: On Patrick endorsing Cruz, the winnowing of the Democratic field and other cool things Jeb could be doing

Good morning Austin:

A lot has happened in the last week.

The Democratic field has winnowed. Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee are out and Joe Biden is not getting in.

Hillary Clinton testified before a House Select Committee on Benghazi for roughly the length of time of a Jerry Lewis Telethon, except that she was the whole show and she didn’t sweat, smoke a cigarette, say, “Hey, laaaaady!” or sing, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Ben Carson passed Donald Trump in polling in Iowa, and Trump, who is leading every other poll in every other place, was not pleased.  In retaliation, he intimated that his religion is better – or at least more socially acceptable – than Carson’s religion.

Carson defended himself from Trump’s suggestion that he was low energy by reminding Chuck Todd on Meet the Press Sunday that, “As a teenager. I would go after people with rocks, and bricks, and baseball bats, and hammers. And, of course, many people know the story when I was 14 and I tried to stab someone.”

Jeb Bush dramatically reduced his campaign’s personnel budget, and said there are “a lot of really cool things” he could be doing besides running for president, and that if America loves Trump so much, why don’t they marry him.

And, this very morning, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is endorsing Ted Cruz for president of the United States, even though, or maybe because, former President George W. Bush let it be known of Cruz that, “I really don’t like that guy.”

To help sort all this out, here are some answers to ten follow-up questions.

1Why is Dan Patrick endorsing Ted Cruz for president today?

FR – Simple. Because, when he was running for lieutenant governor, Patrick pledged to support Ted Cruz if he ran for president, and he is a man of his word.

Here is what Patrick said in September 2013:

My opponents have criticized my statement published in the Texas Tribune recently where I said that I would support Senator Cruz if he were to be a candidate f or president.

It is true that I did not support candidate Cruz during the (U.S. Senate) primary elections – but then again neither did any of my opponents. I supported Ted in the General Election, as did all good Republicans.

Since taking office, Sen.Cruz has impressed me, over and over. I have been quick to give him credit where credit is due. I appreciate Ted for his willingness to take strong stands in Washington. He is providing critical leadership for other conservatives. He is the prescription for what is ailing the country and our Party.

Two of my opponents, Commissioner Staples and Commissioner Patterson are quick to call me a flip-flopper.

Unlike Mr. Staples and Mr. Patterson, I am not afraid to say I would support Ted Cruz if he were to be a candidate for President. Neither of them seem convinced that he is the right candidate or have yet mustered that courage to say so.

I choose not to act like a politician, never admitting a mistake. It is amazing to me that my opponents do not recognize or will not admit what an outstanding job Ted Cruz is doing in Washington, pressing the battle for conservative ideas.

“Who are Mr. Staples and Mr. Patterson supporting for President in 2016 – Chris Christie?


Good one.

2. Will Gov. Abbott back Ted Cruz for president?

FR: Hmm. Good question. Don’t know.

Abbott has indicated he may endorse a candidate for president before the March 1 primary.

After early voting on Wednesday, Abbott once again laid out his criteria for picking a candidate.

From Brandi Grissom at the Dallas Morning News:

Abbott listed the top criteria for a candidate to win his support:

– “Do more than talk, but take action to secure the border.”

– Fix Medicaid. “Promise and commit to at least a block grant program so that Texans can do a better job of taking care of themselves with regard to the health care system.”

– Stop federal overreach by agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “I’m looking for a candidate who will rein in what Barack Obama has done under the EPA.”

– Repeal or overhaul financial regulations of the Dodd-Frank Act, which he said is “really hampering the ability of both lenders to make loans and borrowers to access capital.”

So far, he said, no one has checked all those boxes.

“Not ruling out, not ruling in any candidates,” Abbott said. “I will continue to evaluate the process as they move forward.”

 Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick talk about President Obama's immigration executive order at a news conference at the Capitol on Wednesday February 18, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick talk about President Obama’s immigration executive order at a news conference at the Capitol on Wednesday February 18, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Abbott could endorse Cruz, but he need not.

Cruz was his solicitor general when he was attorney general. He can take credit for being his mentor. Cruz is a likely front-runner in Texas, or at the very least will be depending on Texas to keep him in the competition, and he is extraordinarily popular with the Republican base, which might be mightily displeased if Abbott seemed to be dissing Cruz by failing to endorse him or, far worse, endorsing another candidate.

On the other hand, Abbott and Cruz are in contention to be the top GOP dog in Texas, Abbott is not quite as keen on making enemies as Cruz, and there are some Republicans in the state who would think more of Abbott if he steered clear of Cruz.

But, if not Cruz, who?

I think Abbott actually believes, after a long career in elective office, that some experience in governing is an advantage. That would rule out Trump and Ben Carson – who, with his wife, visited with Abbott Monday while in Austin – and Carly Fiorina.

It would make no sense to endorse someone who could not compete effectively in Texas.

Jeb Bush is struggling, and so anathema to tea party folks, that Abbott would pay a steep price for endorsing him.

Rand Paul is fading fast. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are too moderate and have no traction in Texas.

Which leaves Marco Rubio, who Ross Douthat, the so-called conservative columnist at the New York Times, wrote Sunday, is the one.

The betting markets have him as the most likely nominee, and — since this is quadrennial prediction time — I’ll say that I agree: I think he’s the real front-runner, and I predict that he will win.

But, as far as I know, Rubio has made no effort to court Abbott, and for Abbott to endorse anyone but Cruz would be a very bold move by a very cautious politician.

Ted Cruz at Prestonwood Baptist Church
Ted Cruz at Prestonwood Baptist Church


3. Is Ted Cruz dislikable enough to be president?

FR: Well, yes. Sure he is.

Normally, this question is asked in the reverse, as Erica Grieder did last week in Texas Monthly.

Is Ted Cruz Likeable Enough To Be President?

That followed the blockbuster story by Eli Stokols at Politico, which began like this:

Inside a sleek Denver condominium, George W. Bush let a hundred donors to his brother’s campaign in on a secret. Of all the rival Republican candidates, there is one who gets under the former president’s skin, whom he views as perhaps Jeb Bush’s most serious rival for the party’s nomination.

It isn’t Donald Trump, whose withering insults have sought to make Jeb pay a political price for his brother’s presidency. It isn’t Marco Rubio, Jeb’s former understudy who now poses a serious threat to his establishment support.

 It’s George W. Bush’s former employee — Ted Cruz.

“I just don’t like the guy,” Bush said Sunday night, according to conversations with more than half a dozen donors who attended the event.

One donor in the room said the former president had been offering mostly anodyne accounts of how the Bush family network views the current campaign and charming off-the-cuff jokes, until he launched into Cruz.

“I was like, ‘Holy sh-t, did he just say that?’” the donor said. “I remember looking around and seeing that other people were also looking around surprised.”

Of course, W is not alone among Republican heavyweights in his low opinion of Cruz.

House Speaker John Boehner, also at a Colorado fundraiser, referred to Cruz this summer as “that jackass,” and later as a “false prophet.”

John McCain took an instant dislike to Cruz when he arrived in the Senate, labeling him a “wacko bird.”

And earlier this month, McCain’s alter ego, Mark Salter, wrote a scathing column at Real Clear Politics, which began:

Although I find Sen. Ted Cruz’s “lonely man of principle” act as tired as it is phony, I should give the devil his due. Cruz has given Americans exasperated with Washington gridlock hope that Congress can, when sufficiently motivated, find consensus and act.

In this instance, the consensus is that Ted Cruz is a jackass.

Last week it was columnist Frank Bruni’s turn at the New York Times, with The Scary Specter of Ted Cruz:

And remember that when someone is as broadly and profoundly disliked as Cruz is, it’s usually not because he’s a principled truth teller.

It’s because he’s frightening.

The Huffington Post.

OK. So Cruz has a bit of an edge.

But the ads write themselves.

“I just don’t like the guy.” George W. Bush.

“What a jackass,” John Boehner.

“He’s a wacko bird,” John McCain.

Stop the Washington Cartel: Cruz for President

Likability is overrated.

Barack Obama is really likable, and yet he may be the most hated person in the country, in the world.

You want likable? There’s Rubio.

You want stand-up tough? It’s Cruz.

Cruz fashions himself the next Reagan, but maybe he’s more Nixon.

A lot of people hated him, but, before  he wasn’t, he was the one.

From Grieder:

Since Cruz was first elected to the United States Senate in 2012, I’ve heard more people than I can count express the same kind of aversion that Bush did over the weekend. I’ve heard it so often that I think it has to be taken seriously, even though the feeling has consistently been reported without reference to a compelling explanation, and often without any stated reason at all.

While reporting Texas Monthly’s 2014 profile, for example, I talked to dozens of sources who had personal history with Cruz—these were conservatives, contemporaries, most of them Texans. Some of them did express a visceral distaste for the senator. But when I asked those sources to elaborate, none of them produced a concrete reason. They just disliked the guy. The only explanations offered were ex post facto and unconvincing.

OK, but Cruz is courting trouble, in the Republican race, but especially in the general election if he is the nominee, by running a campaign that seems predicated on the idea that an electoral and governing majority can be assembled entirely of people to the right of George W. Bush and Chief Justice John Roberts.

It is a strategy that doesn’t do him much harm – and may help him – with the base in a crowded race.

But, as the former president’s comments suggest, there are powerful people in the Republican Party who I think would rather see Hillary Clinton elected president – would rather see Bernie Sanders elected president – than Ted Cruz.


4What other cool things Jeb Bush could be doing if he weren’t running for president?

FR: Here is what Bush said over the weekend in South Carolina:

If this election is about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people literally are in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.


Well, all right then.

Not that you feel entitled or anything, and not that Trump is getting to you, but, say, for instance, what cool things?

I don’t know.

I did a little digging, and this is what I came up with:


1 – Horseshoes. His father installed a horseshoe pit at the White House, probably on the instructions of Lee Atwater, who figured it was a good activity while eating pork rinds.


Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 10.37.58 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 10.35.33 PM

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Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 10.38.58 PM

What else?

2 – Skiing.

From the New York Times’ First Draft in January.

“I like to ski.”

Jeb Bush, while boarding a plane at Reagan National Airport heading to Salt Lake City, responded to questions about whether he was going to meet with Mitt Romney in Utah.

5Who makes better presidents –  Presbyterians or Seventh Day Adventists?

FR: In between calling Bernie Sanders “a communist,” and suggesting that if you want America to go to hell, Hillary is your girl, Trump, in a raging river, stream of consciousness rant in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday, hurled a few insults in the direction of mild-mannered Ben Carson, including a seemingly dismissive comment about Carson being a Seventh Day Adventist.


I’m Presbyterian. Can you believe it? Nobody believes I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks. In all fairness, I mean, Seventh Day Adventist. I don’t know about.

It is true that there have been a lot of Presbyterian presidents.

Andrew Jackson – 7th U.S. President
James Knox Polk – 11th U.S. President (converted from Presbyterian to Methodist)
James Buchanan – 15th U.S. President
Rutherford B. Hayes – 19th U.S. President
Grover Cleveland – 22nd and 24th U.S. President
Benjamin Harrison – 23rd U.S. President
Woodrow Wilson – 28th U.S. President
Dwight D. Eisenhower – 34th U.S. President
Ronald Reagan – 40th U.S. President

There  have been even more Presbyterian vice presidents.

Aaron Burr – U.S. Vice-President under Jefferson; killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel
Daniel D. Tompkins – U.S. Vice-President under Monroe
John C. Calhoun – U.S. Vice-President under John Quincy Adams and Jackson
John C. Breckinridge – U.S. Vice-President under Buchanan
William A. Wheeler – U.S. Vice-President under Hayes
Thomas A. Hendricks – U.S. Vice-President under Cleveland
Adlai E. Stevenson – U.S. Vice-President under Cleveland
Thomas R. Marshall – U.S. Vice-President under Wilson
Charles G. Dawes – U.S. Vice-President under Coolidge
Henry A. Wallace – U.S. Vice-President under F.D. Roosevelt
Walter Mondale – U.S. Vice-President under Carter
Dan Quayle – U.S. Vice-President under George H.W. Bush

Of course, some of those vice presidents turned out to be losers, when they ran for president. Bob and Elizabeth Dole, both losers as presidential candidates, are also Presbyterians. William Jennings Bryan, a three-times presidential loser, was Presbyterian.

There has not yet been a Seventh Day Adventist president or vice president, according to, and the ranks of SDA politicians is pretty thin – U.S. Rep. Shelia Jackson of Houston. Former Philadelphia Mayor John Street. A handful of others.

But Sojourner Truth was SDA. Malcolm X was born SDA. Paul Harvey was SDA.

And Art Buchwald. For a while.

Buchwald’s mother went mad after his birth and was institutionalized, and, according to the New York Times obit by Joseph Severo:

Mr. Buchwald soon parted from his father as well. Joseph Buchwald, unable to support his children after his business ran dry during the Depression, placed his son in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in New York. Mr. Buchwald was shuttled to a series of foster homes, including a Queens boarding house for sick children — he had rickets — run by Seventh-day Adventists.

There, young Arthur, a Jew, was taught that eating meat, fish and eggs was sinful. Years afterward, he wrote, “There is still a tiny Seventh-day Adventist inside of me screaming to get out every time I make a pass at a tuna fish sandwich.”

Mr. Buchwald remained at the home until he was 5. He and his father and sisters were eventually reunited and lived in Hollis, Queens.

Ben Carson at book signing at Austin Costco
Ben Carson at book signing at Austin Costco

6. Does Ben Carson want a national ban on abortion?

FR: Yes. No. Maybe. Or maybe it all depends on exactly how you frame the question.

This is what Carson told me last week when I asked about Mike Huckabee’s suggestion that the Constitution’s 5th and 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection provisions could be invoked to end abortion.

Carson believes that most decision-making should rest with the states, except when, as in the cases of slavery and Jim Crow, something is “so out of whack” that the federal government needs to assert its authority.

And, for the same reason that he thinks the question of gay marriage ought to have been left to the states, Carson, who opposes abortion, believes regulating abortion should be left to the states.

“I think you have to give the states some leeway on issues that are controversial. There’s no general agreement about life. I obviously believe what I believe, but there are people on the other side who believe just as strongly that that’s not a life,” Carson said. “Now that is moving, it is moving toward the pro-life side as we become more knowledgeable, as ultrasound techniques improve, as endoscopic techniques improve, and we learn more about that individual in the womb.”

“But there’s still quite a dichotomy and it’s always tempting to say, `Now it has to be my way or the highway,’ but we live in a pluralistic society and I think we do much better when we’re willing to sit down and discuss things. When we sit down with somebody who thinks this is a meaningless mass of cells and you begin to explain to them, `We can see this organ and this organ and it’s responding to the environment, the limbs move,’ I think that tends to be a much more powerful, convincing tool than just to say, `This is the way it is,’ and I think that just creates animosity, and I think that’s what we’ve been doing”

But here is what he had to say on Meet the Press Sunday:


Does life begin at conception?


I believe it does.


Does that mean, whose right, I guess, should be superseded? The mother or the unborn child? Whose rights, who has greater rights?


In the ideal situation, the mother should not believe that the baby is her enemy and should not be looking to terminate the baby. You know, things are set up in such a way that the person in the world who has the greatest interest in protecting the baby is the mother. We’ve allowed the purveyors of the division to make mothers think that that baby is their enemy and that they have a right to kill it. Can you see how perverted that line of thinking is?


What if somebody has an unwanted pregnancy? Should they have the right to terminate?


No. Think about this. During slavery– and I know that’s one of those words you’re not supposed to say, but I’m saying it. During slavery, a lot of the slave owners thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave. Anything that they chose to do. And, you know, what if the abolitionist had said, you know, “I don’t believe in slavery. I think it’s wrong. But you guys do whatever you want to do”? Where would we be?


Definitively, do you want to see Roe v. Wade overturned?


Ultimately, I would love to see it overturned.


And that means all abortions illegal? Or is there still an exception that you would have?


I’m a reasonable person. And if people can come up with a reasonable explanation of why they would like to kill a baby, I’ll listen.


Life and health of the mother?


Again, that’s an extraordinarily rare situation. But if in that very rare situation it occurred, I believe there’s room to discuss that.


Rape and incest?


Rape and incest, I would not be in favor of killing a baby because the baby came about in that way. And all you have to do is go and look up the many stories of people who have led very useful lives who were the result of rape or incest.

And then here is another pass on Carson on abortion from an excellent recent piece – The Political Education of Ben Carson – by Yahoo! Politics senior political correspondent Jon Ward.

Given Carson’s flair for impolitic comments, I was surprised to find the 64-year-old candidate curiously opaque when we spoke about matters of importance to conservative voters. At one point I mentioned that rival presidential campaigns were criticizing his views on abortion. “And what is my position on abortion?” he asked, prompting me to explain what his critics were saying.

I told him other candidates had pointed out that in 1992, Carson had said, “I would never advocate it be illegal for a person to get an abortion.”

He indicated that he did not believe that now — “I have definitely changed my views.”

But when I asked Carson whether he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and abortion made illegal without exceptions – both nearly standard positions these days for GOP candidates – he refused to answer.

“I favor life. That’s what I favor,” Carson said.

That wasn’t very clear. So I asked if he instead believed that Roe should remain the law of the land. Again, he didn’t answer the question, talking about how he would appoint Supreme Court justices who “believe in life” and “understand that a baby in the uterus is a human being and is protected by the Constitution.”

“What does that mean for Roe, though?” I pressed.

“It means that we will try to protect human life because all people in our country have a right to the protections of the law,” Carson said.

After four attempts, I moved on. But it was puzzling to me why — when it seemed clear that Carson was pro-life — he refused to be precise about how he would approach laws governing the issue if he were elected president. When I asked Carson’s spokesperson Deana Bass afterward why that was, she said Carson preferred to focus on the process rather than the outcome. She later sent me a text message saying that Carson had been “pretty clear about appointing judges who value life.”

Uncertainty about Carson’s views on abortion go back to 1992, when he appeared in a political ad arguing that Maryland voters should reject a ballot amendment that would have preserved abortion rights in the state in the event that Roe v. Wade was ever overturned. There was an uproar, and Carson disavowed his involvement with the ad, asking the anti-abortion group to remove it.

Carson was defensive about this. “I came from a background where I was a Democrat, and where I was a fairly radical Democrat and had a different belief system,” he told me. “That has changed over the course of time. Does a person not have a right to have an alteration in their thinking over the course of time?”

People change their views on one issue or another all the time in politics. But they usually provide some justification or explanation — even if flimsy — and try to establish what their new position is. See Hillary Clinton on same-sex marriage.

Perhaps Carson’s lack of clarity on Roe can be ascribed to what he himself has called his own “political inexperience.” At this point in a presidential campaign, however, it’s the kind of basic question on a core belief that is usually ironed out.


7. Why did Lincoln Chafee get out of the race for president?

FR – Why did Lincoln Chafee get into the race for president?

From Jennifer Bogdan and Lynn Arditi of the Providence Journal under the headline, End to Chafee’s run called right move in R.I.

“It looks like we can put our metric system converters away for a few years,’’ state Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Joseph McNamara quipped when asked for his thoughts on Chafee’s decision to drop out. Chafee made the announcement Friday at a women’s forum hosted by the Democratic National Committee in Washington.

McNamara was referring to a heavily mocked comment the former U.S. senator made while announcing his presidential bid in June. Chafee, also a former Warwick mayor, called for the United States to “join the rest of the world and go metric.”

Still, McNamara called Chafee “a gentleman” and said he’s raised important issues about the U.S. handling of the Middle East conflict. Among Chafee’s primary campaign points has been a call to “change the paradigm” in the Middle East from a militaristic situation to a peaceful negotiation.

“I certainly give him credit for participating,’’ McNamara said. “[But] as the governor would probably say, when the gains of his campaign are measured in centimeters and not kilometers, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.’’

From The Slot at Jezebel.

Lincoln Chafee, a gentle, smiling bird you’d rather not be killing for dinner but you have to, that’s nature, has raised just over $15,000 for his Democratic presidential campaign. Of that sum, $4,100 came from his own wallet, while $8,300 was collected from a selection of major donors as numerous as toes on your feet, or stars in a cluster of 10 stars.

I want to cry.

NPR interviewed three of the 10 itemized donors, who each willingly parted with at least $200 to support a campaign averaging one-tenth of 1 percent in the latest Democratic primary polls. Two of them are Chafee’s friends, and one of them just likes his vibe.

Well at least Chafee put his own money where his mouth was, paying for budget hotel rooms, gas for the car and, this $4 here, to feed a parking meter.


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Maybe he got out of the race because his time was up.


8. Why did Jim Webb drop out?

FR: Webb, the former senator from Virginia, is a very smart and impressive guy. He shoulda been a contender.

My guess is that his campaign team, such as it was, was infiltrated by double agents on behalf of powers-that-be who feared his potential, and who advised him to keep his powder dry until the first Democratic debate at which, he was instructed that, no matter what the question, he was to whine about how he wasn’t getting called on for any questions.


9. Why did Joe Biden decide not to run for president?

FR: For exactly the reason he stated on 6o Minutes last night:  He didn’t think he could win. (Usually when prospective candidates choose not to run, they start out by insisting that if they had run,  they could have won.)

I’ll be very blunt. If I thought we could’ve put together the campaign … that our supporters deserve and our contributors deserved, … I would have done it.

10. Why did Hillary Clinton laugh when Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama asked her whether she was alone, “the whole night” the day of the terrorist attack in Benghazi.

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FR: From Politico:

Roby asked if Clinton had a SCIF, or a sensitive compartmentalized information facility, in her home. Clinton said she did.

“Were you alone?” Roby asked.

“I was alone, yes,” Clinton said.

Roby pressed: “The whole night?”

Well yes, the whole night,” Clinton said, bursting into prolonged laughter.

“I don’t know why that’s funny. Did you have any in-person briefings? I don’t find it funny at all,” the Alabama Republican admonished her.

“I’m sorry, a little note of levity at 7:15,” Clinton said.

“The reason it’s not funny is it went well into the night,” Roby said.

Clinton’s response: “Congresswoman, you asked if I had a SCIF. I had secure phones, I had other equipment that kept me in touch with the State Department at all times. I did not sleep all night. I was very much focused on what we were doing.”

Well, I don’t know the answer.

Humor is subjective.

But I think it may have something to do with being married to Bill Clinton.




`I don’t like losers.’ On Donald Trump, Miss USA and Ted Cruz

Good morning Austin:

Donald Trump’s twitter handle is @realdonaldtrump. I guess that’s to distinguish it from a parody account. Sensible precaution.

The real deal is a thing of beauty.

A recent sampling:

In this video, Trump talks about how the U.S. economy is “going to hell,” because of the “cunning” of Mexican and Chinese leaders.

In this unedited video of a Trump rally in New Hampshire, he talks about the Iran deal, Hillary Clinton and his Republican rivals.

So what is Trump’s problem?

Four years ago, Maria Konnikova at Big Think suggested that Trump may be suffering from narcissistic personality disorder.

Hmm. Sounds right. I looked it up.

From the Mayo Clinic:
If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection.Many experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions. This manual is also used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:– Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
– Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
– Exaggerating your achievements and talents
– Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
– Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
– Requiring constant admiration
– Having a sense of entitlement
– Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
– Taking advantage of others to get what you want
– Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
– Being envious of others and believing others envy you
– Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
– Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence, it’s not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal and value yourself more than you value others.

Wow. He’s textbook. They ought to just to rename it Trump’s Syndrome.

But, lo and behold, it turns out that Trump exists at a moment in American reality TV history when Trump Syndrome is not necessarily a debilitating malady. Indeed, it may be an advantage.

As Jelani Cobb wrote recently in the New Yorker:

In all the ways that matter, save actual performing, Donald Trump is a not a politician—he’s a rapper. If elected, he’s less likely to represent George W. Bush’s third term than Kanye West’s first one.

Actually, listening to Trump’s comments over the weekend about John McCain at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, I also heard the rhythms and sensibility of a New York insult comedian, say Andrew Dice Clay.

Here is a transcript of the pertinent remarks from Real Clear Politics:

QUESTION: John McCain, a war hero, five and a half years as a prisoner of war and you called him a “dummy.”

Is that appropriate in running for president?

DONALD TRUMP: I know him too well, that is the problem. Let’s take John McCain. I’m in Phoenix, we have a meeting that is going to have 500 people at the Biltmore Hotel. We get a call from the hotel, it is turmoil, thousands and thousands of people are showing up, four days before they’re pitching tents.

The hotel says we can’t handle this it is going to destroy the hotel, we move it to the convention center, we have 15,000 people. The biggest one ever. Bigger than anybody Bernie Sanders, bigger than anybody and everyone knows it… Wonderful, great Americans…

John McCain goes, “oh boy, Trump makes my life difficult, he had fifteen thousand crazies show up,” he called them all crazy.

I said, they weren’t crazy, they were great Americans…

I know what a crazy is, I know all about crazy, These weren’t crazy.

So he insulted me, and he insulted everyone in that room. So I said, somebody should run against John McCain — and I supported him for president, I raised a million dollars for the guy, that’s a lot of money.

I supported him, he lost, he let us down. He lost, so I never liked him as much after that. I don’t like losers.

QUESTION: But he is a war hero, five and a half years as a prisoner of war.

He is not a ‘war hero.’

He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, let me tell you. He’s a war hero. Because he was captured, and I believe perhaps he is a war hero, but right now he’s said a lot of very bad things about a lot of people.

So what I said, is: John McCain, I disagree with him, these people aren’t crazy, and, very importantly, I speak the truth, he graduated last in his class at Annapolis [Naval Academy], nobody knows that. I said he graduated last or second to last, he graduated last at Annapolis. And he was upset, for what? For telling the truth. You’re not supposed to say that somebody graduated last or second to last, because you’re supposed to be very nice.

I want to make America great again… We don’t want to listen to his stuff with being politically correct. We have a lot of work to do.

There is a logic to Trump’s attack on McCain. It is the logic of the middle school playground. You insult me, I insult you. You hit me below the belt, I’ll hit you even harder below the belt – and it’s perfectly OK because you started it. The merit of what I’m saying is entirely beside the point.

It’s presidential politics as playing the dozens. If Trump runs as an independent, it ought to be on the Yo’ Mama People’s Party.

"I know what crazies are."
“I know all about crazy.”

According to Jonathan Martin and Alan Rappeport in the New York Times, the audience in Iowa was less offended by Trump’s comments on McCain than other aspects of his presentation.

Yet Mr. Trump’s awkward and ill-suited remarks about religion and marriage here may have done more damage to his candidacy, at least with Christian conservatives.

“I’m a religious person,” Mr. Trump offered. “I go to church. Do I do things that are wrong? I guess so.”

Mr. Trump also struggled to answer if he had ever sought forgiveness from God, before reluctantly acknowledging that he had not. “If I do something wrong, I try to do something right,” he said. “I don’t bring God into that picture.”

And Mr. Trump raised eyebrows with language rarely heard before an evangelical audience — saying “damn” and “hell” when discussing education and the economy — while also describing the taking of communion in glib terms. “When we go in church and I drink the little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and I eat the little cracker — I guess that’s a form of asking forgiveness,” Mr. Trump said.

If all that was not enough to roil the button-downed crowd, he also described his three marriages in starkly frank terms, conceding that he had difficulty finding a work-life balance.

“It was a work thing, it wasn’t a bad thing,” Mr. Trump said. “It was very hard for anybody to compete against the work.”

Despite his marital problems over the years, Mr. Trump said that he was always available to his children and that he did his best to have dinner with them on most nights even when his work was grueling. He worked hard, he said, to instill good values and steer them away from drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.

“I was actually a great father,” Mr. Trump said. “I was a better father than I was a husband.”

It was these comments, not his attack on Mr. McCain, that prompted the most muttering and unease in the audience.

Yes, Trump seems an unlikely evangelical hero, without a thorough rewriting of the Gospels.

For example:

Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek,  for they shall inherit the earth.”

Donald 5:5 “The meek are losers. I hate losers.”

As I watched Frank Luntz question Trump and the other candidates in Iowa, I thought how fortunate they were that they weren’t put on the spot the way the five finalists were at the recent Miss USA Pageant, a Trump production.

You may recall that Trump’s words about Mexican border-crossers when he announced his candidacy a month ago led NBC and Univision to cancel broadcast of the pageant at the very last minute.

From the New York Post:

NBC and Spanish-language broadcaster Univision refused to air the Miss USA pageant, as scheduled, on July 12. Niche cable network Reelz picked up the rights.

The pageant drew just 925,000 viewers on Reelz, down sharply from the 5.6 million viewers who watched the show on NBC in 2014, according to Nielsen data.

Trump has sued Univision in New York state court for $500 million over its decision to drop the pageant programming and plans to file a similar suit against NBC, a source said.

This is what Trump said that prompted the cancellation:

The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems … When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

I thought it was hugely unfair for NBC and Univision to cancel airing the pageant – a kind of self-satisfied preening that came at the expense of the contestants. I watched the pageant and this was an impressive group of hyper-accomplished young women – doctors, lawyers, newscasters, creators of non-profits devoted to civic betterment – and incredibly racially and ethnically diverse, with a sizable proportion the children of immigrants.

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The five Miss USA finalists

The individual penultimate question for each of the five finalists was, as usual, cringe-worthy. (The final question for all of them is what woman should be on the $10 bill.)

Miss Texas – Ylianna Guerra of McAllen – was asked whether the government should do anything about the fact that CEO’s make 300 times as much as the average worker?

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She gave the correct Texas answer. No.

“CEO’s, I believe they work hard enough for their money, so I think they should be able to attain whatever it is they are working for.”

For Miss Rhode Island it was, “Recently comedian Jerry Seinfeld spoke out against political correctness in our culture. Do you think political correctness is hurting or helping this country?”

That’s terrible. What is the politically correct answer?

Miss Rhode Island froze. Started to answer. Asked to have the question repeated. Resumed her halting answer. It was awful. A lovely young woman who we had learned earlier in the pageant had spent some of her growing up homeless living in a Walmart parking lot, was done.


Miss Rhode Island: "I'm sorry. Can you repeat the question?"
Miss Rhode Island: “I’m sorry. Can you repeat the question?”

For Miss Maryland, it was whether restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba was a good thing.

“Yes … We should not be holding onto old grudges.”

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Miss Nevada got the ultimate pageant question: “What would you do to improve race relations in the U.S.? Please be specific.”


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Suffice it to say, she couldn’t solve the race problem, in 30 seconds, dressed in her evening gown. She was through.

And here was Miss Oklahoma’s question.

“The Confederate flag, excessive force by police and same-sex marriage are all recent hot-button issues in our country. What will be the next we have to tackle on a national level?”


What would Donald Trump say?

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Miss Oklahoma did what a good politician would do. She didn’t answer the question. She answered the question she wanted to answer.

“I think we still need to talk about race relations in this country. We have still not solved that problem.”


Of course, she didn’t have time to solve the problem – and frankly, that was really Miss Nevada’s responsibility – but, boom, done, without hesitation or doubt, she had offered an assertive, politically correct reply and she was crowned Miss USA.

The point here is that Donald Trump could never have won based on the Q-and-A at his own pageant. But in the realm of Republican Party politics, the assertive, politically incorrect reply is gold, and that bears serious attention.

As Brookings demographer William Frey warned in the Washington Post, even before this latest to-do, it’s time to Stop Laughing at Donald Trump, even if it is, as this First Reading suggests, tempting.

But writing Trump off is dangerous. The billionaire may play the buffoon, but he is an important one — one whom Americans appear to adore. A USA Today-Suffolk University poll released Tuesday shows him leading all Republican presidential hopefuls. And while establishment candidates in both parties might want to ignore him, or express a milder version of his anti-immigration opinions, an enormous number of voters clearly like his views. Pretending they don’t allows Trump and other immigration firebrands, such as Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz, to resuscitate a century-old nativism that could stick around beyond this election. Given that the United States is undergoing a demographic diversity explosion, our workforce — our very future — is tied to people Trump is rallying support against.

Trump’s message is a call to 1950s American greatness and a simmering, mad-as-hell populism that blames Chinese imports, freeloading Saudis and Mexican immigrants (and Mexico) for the nation’s ills. It appeals to a vein of the U.S. electorate that will remain a significant voting bloc for several election cycles to come: older whites. Trump calls his supporters the “silent majority,” the same name Richard Nixon used to marshal support from a white, middle-class, middle-aged population that felt underappreciated and feared the dramatic social change wrought by activist, antiwar youths and the civil rights movement.

Public opinion polls and recent election results reflect similar views among older whites today. Pew Research Center data from 2012 showed that more than half of white baby boomers and seniors believed that increasing numbers of newcomers from other countries represented a threat to traditional American values. They were less likely than minorities and younger whites to hold a positive opinion of the growing numbers of Hispanics and Asians in the United States. These views translate into negative attitudes toward government programs they see as not benefitting their own children and grandchildren. A 2013 Pew survey showed that, given the choice between a larger government that offered more services and a smaller government that offered fewer, less than a quarter of white baby boomers favored larger government, compared with 7 in 10 minorities of the Gen X and millennial generations.


Democrats cannot make the politics of fear go away simply by courting the young-adult and minority voting blocs. While it is true that the supersize turnout and support of those groups helped elect President Obama twice, the white portion of the electorate, which votes strongly Republican, underperformed in support of John McCain in 2008, and white turnout was down in 2012. Rhetoric playing to the fears of older Americans could change that pattern and draw more white voters to the polls in 2016.

While racial minorities now account for 95 percent of U.S. population growth and represent 38 percent of the population, as reported by the Census Bureau last month, there is a sharp lag in diversity between the overall population and the portion that turns out on Election Day. A disproportionate number of Hispanics and Asians are either too young to vote, are not citizens or are not registered, qualities that will not change for several more election cycles. Even in 2012, with strong minority turnout, whites made up 74 percent of all voters. And within the white voting bloc, it is the older electorate — those most greatly fearing change — that will be gaining as baby boomers continue to age. By my calculation, the number of (mostly white) eligible voters over age 45 will be 26 percent larger in 2024 than those under age 45. This disparity will be further widened by the higher turnout of older white voters, who may not determine future elections but will continue to have a strong voice.

This helps explain why it is that Sen. Ted Cruz has refused to join most of his fellow Republican candidates, beginning with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in criticizing Trump.

In an interview with Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin Cruz explained, with great earnestness, how much he admires the courage of his “friend” John McCain, but would not play the “media game” of denouncing his “friend,” Donald Trump.

Now Cruz has crafted the persona of the truth-teller who doesn’t play the Washington game of fake “friends,” but we’ll have to take his word for it that he and McCain and Trump are well and truly BFFs.

Still, he is walking a fine line.

From a Wall Street Journal editorial posted Sunday evening:

But note the silence of Ted Cruz, who declined to criticize Mr. Trump because he said the media enjoy such intra-Republican fights. Mr. Cruz has recently released a book whose main theme is an attack on other Republicans. It’s central to his campaign strategy. The Texas Senator must be hoping to inherit Trump voters once the casino magnate flames out, but he’s revealing his own lack of political character.

As to the Cruz campaign strategy, last week a Cruz super PAC, Keep the Promise, posted a PowerPoint affirmatively answering the question, Can he win? From CNN:

Keep the Promise, whose strategy is detailed in a 51-slide PowerPoint presentation titled “Can He Win?” recently posted to the organization’s website, mercilessly attacks 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney as unable to elevate “wedge issues,” or divisive issues that polarize voters, to the forefront of the Republican debate. Calling Romney a “terrible candidate with a terrible campaign,” the slides pillory him as a Republican who managed to squander winnable states just like every other “loser” moderate candidate.


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The terrible candidate with a terrible campaign almost won, is the PowerPoint’s repeated refrain.


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Romney was a “terrible candidate” who ran a “terrible campaign.”

“Moderate candidates are losers.”

The language, the tone is Trumpian, and clearly, their strategy is to harness what Frey called the “mad-as-hell populism” that Trump has tapped into.


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The PowerPoint notes that the only moderate Republican to win the presidency in recent decades was George H.W. Bush, and then only thanks to the contributions of Ronald Reagan, Lee Atwater and Willie Horton.

It’s a bracing note.

After all, on his deathbed, Lee Atwater had his regrets.

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12— In a detailed and candid article about his career and his fight against an inoperable brain tumor, Lee Atwater has apologized to Michael S. Dukakis for the “naked cruelty” of a remark he made about the Democratic Presidential nominee in the 1988 campaign.

The apology by Mr. Atwater, who is now in his last month as chairman of the Republican National Committee, is included in an article in the February issue of Life magazine, where he also starkly describes his often-desperate attempts to deal with his illness and his fear on some nights that if he falls asleep, “I will never wake up again.”

As manager of Mr. Bush’s campaign, Mr. Atwater succeeded in making the case of Willie Horton, a convicted murderer, an issue against Mr. Dukakis.

Mr. Horton, who is black, raped a white woman and stabbed her husband while on a weekend furlough from a Massachusetts prison. The Bush campaign used the case to portray Mr. Dukakis, then Governor of Massachusetts, as a liberal who was soft on crime.

“In 1988,” Mr. Atwater said, “fighting Dukakis, I said that I ‘would strip the bark off the little bastard’ and ‘make Willie Horton his running mate.’ I am sorry for both statements: the first for its naked cruelty, the second because it makes me sound racist, which I am not.”

Since being stricken last year, the 39-year-old Mr. Atwater has apologized on several occasions for many of the campaign tactics he once employed and for which he was criticized. But rarely has he spoken in such detail or with such candor as in the interview for the first-person Life article.

“In part because of our successful manipulation of his campaign themes, George Bush won handily,” Mr. Atwater said. He conceded that throughout his political career “a reputation as a fierce and ugly campaigner has dogged me.”

“While I didn’t invent negative politics,” he said, “I am one of its most ardent practitioners.”

Abbott in the Apple: ‘Frankly, New York is easy picking for us.’

Good day Austin:

Our governor is in New York.

This morning, accompanied by his wife and daughter, he rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, kicking off the second day of his two-day trip to New York talking up Texas, a trip paid for by TexasOne, the state’s Economic Development Corporation.


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He’s talking about Texas being the place to do business, much as his predecessor, Rick Perry, did on similar business recruiting trips, well-choreographed trips that occupied a lot of his attention, especially in his last years as governor.

Only difference is that Abbott said that Texas is even a better place to do business after his first legislative session.

At one point, he sounded almost sorry for the Big Apple.

“Frankly New York is easy picking for us.”

July 14 is Bastille Day.

But it is also the anniversary of the day in 1984 when a tree fell on Abbott as he jogged in Houston.

Two years ago, Abbott announced his candidacy for governor on July 14, talking about his literal “spine of steel.”

Immediately after ringing the NYSE bell, the governor appeared on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street.

Asked about whether Texas was suffering because of the slump in the oil economy, Abbott said:

Texas has continued to grow jobs because we have a very vast and diversified economy. We lead the nation in technology exports. We have the largest medical center in the entire world. Today in Arlington, Texas, General Motors is investing $1.4 billion in another manufacturing facility. We run the gamut as far as a broad-based economy is concerned and that’s why we’re here attracting even more businesses to Texas.

As he has in the past, Abbott declined to pick a favorite in the presidential race:

Everyone in the country is running for president. We’ve got to narrow it down a little bit.


In a series of TV appearances yesterday and today, the governor seemed in fine fettle. While the ostensible purpose of his trip was to talk up Texas, he also spent a lot of time answering questions about immigration, the border, Donald Trump and sanctuary cities, and talking down Barack Obama as the responsible party for the federal failure to secure the border and enact immigration reform, setting the stage for both Donald Trump and sanctuary cities.

There was a certain self-confidence bordering on bravado in the timing of the governor’s trip. Here he is spending two days in New York saying terrible things about the president of the United States, even as federal Special Operations forces are amassing in Texas for the launch Wednesday of the Jade Helm 15 military exercises. (Maybe amassing is not the right word, because the actual numbers are really quite small. How about “aminimassing?”)

Apparently the governor has great confidence that the Texas State Guard, which he assigned to monitor the operation, would have alerted him if they thought Jade Helm was on the verge of turning into a takeover of Texas by federal troops.

In any case, the governor will be back in Texas tomorrow and can set things straight then.

Here is an account from the governor’s office yesterday of his first day in New York.

Governor Greg Abbott spent his first day in New York City meeting with various business leaders and industry experts to discuss Texas’ economic model of limited government, low taxes and minimal regulations. While in New York, Governor Abbott made several media appearances highlighting the State of Texas’ efforts to attract new businesses by further cutting taxes, speeding up permitting processes and investing in education and infrastructure while still contributing to Texas’ Rainy Day Fund.

Governor Abbott will also attend an evening event hosted by TexasOne, the state’s Economic Development Corporation, to speak with dozens of business executives, employers, TexasOne prospects and supporters about the merits of conducting business in the State of Texas.

What follows is a review of the governor’s Monday in the media.

First stop. Fox and Friends.

There is a drug lord on the loose.

Fox: “How in the world does that happen.? To get some answers we have Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. He just met with the Mexican government a few days ago. He joins me now.”

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Uh oh. The governor has his mean look on. Very rarely seen.

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Oh. Never mind. He was just waiting for the conversation to begin.

The governor said he is concerned about the escaped drug lord. He wants Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman extradited so he can be tried and imprisoned in the United States, for the rest of his life.

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President Obama hasn’t done all he could have done, the governor says. Obama hasn’t secured the border, which is why Texas just enacted “the toughest border security program any state has ever had in the history of this country.”

Fox: The drug lord’s escape has given Donald Trump reason to say, “I told you so.” (note: the drug lord has, threatened Trump’s life – on Twitter! While on the lam!)

Abbott: ‘Trump and others have injected into the presidential race the need to talk about the border.”

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“I disagree with some of his tenor,” Abbott said of Trump.

Sanctuary cities?

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Were it not for the failures of the Obama administration, Abbott said, “We wouldn’t even be talking about sanctuary cities.”

We have to elect a president who will do a good job of securing the border, passing immigration reforms  and that will get rid of all these sanctuary cities-based issues. You would not have people seeking sanctuary if we had an effective immigration plan, if we had an effective border security plan, and Americans are going to remain frustrated until we have an effective immigration and border security plan.


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Meanwhile, on how great Texas is:

We have no personal income tax, no corporate income tax and now we have cut the business franchise tax by 25%. We have sped up the permitting process and we are elevating our education system so that we will have the best workforce in the United States of America.


Next stop: the Steve Malzberg Show on Newsmax TV.

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During my tenure as attorney general, the office I held before I was governor I sued the Obama administration 31 times. Listen, I didn’t want to have to do it and I shouldn’t have had to do it, but I had to do it, because he repeatedly, time after time, violated federal law, violated the United.States. Constitution. The last lawsuit I filed against him was in December of last year when I filed a lawsuit against his immigration amnesty order.

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The amazing thing. The star witness in our case was Barack Obama.

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I’ve got to say, Malzberg is an incredibly empathetic host. Look at the parallel body language.

Then it’s back to Fox News, Cavuto Coast to Coast.

More on Trump.

I would say the tenor Donald Trump has used is not the tenor I would use. It is important to remember that the only reason we are talking about this is because Washington, D.C., has totally failed America in doing its job to secure the border.

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More on Texas:

We have the most diverse economy in the United States of America and there is a reason for that. It’s because of the low cost of doing business and the high standards of the workforce. Businesses are flocking to the state of Texas.


Next it’s The John Gibson Show on Fox News Radio

More on sanctuary cities:

First we need to understand there is only one reason why sanctuary cities is even an issue and that is because the federal government has failed to do its job to protect our sovereignty and secure our border and to come up with a meaningful and effective immigration system. If the federal government had done those three things, we wouldn’t even have sanctuary cities right now.

In Texas this session:

Sanctuary city legislation was offered up. It did not pass, But again, going back, we focused on the key thing that must be done to stem this tide from the beginning. It’s a matter of triage, if you would, it’s a matter of setting priorities from the very beginning. And the first and foremost thing we must do is to secure the  border to prevent the cross-border unauthorized immigration taking place to begin with.

And so Texas is leading the way to do that. But frankly, none of this is going to be solved unless and until the federal government does its job and comes up with an effective immigration system and an effective border security system.

What about Trump saying that Perry failed to solve the border problem during his 14 years as governor?

 What Gov. Perry did do is Gov. Perry did call for the elimination of sanctuary cities. Gov. Perry did send the National Guard to the border, and then I picked up the baton and passed the most sweeping and toughest border security plan that the United States of America has ever had.

So Perry did take it a step in the right direction and I’m in the process of finishing off that.

 On Texas being the No. 1 state in the nation for people to move to.

I’ve got to tell you. If you look at the numbers, it’s quite astonishing. As far as people moving to states. Texas is number one in the nation for people to move to.

As far as moving out of states, New York is dead last. People are moving, fleeing New York, more than any other state, because of the high taxes, high regulation, high cost of doing business, high cots of living, and it’s the exact opposite in the state of Texas. So frankly, New York is easy picking for us.

But isn’t he worried that bringing all those folks to Texas from blue states might turn Texas blue?

I don’t and I have specific evidence why I don’t worry about that.

 First, if you are a person who is dependent on government, the last place you would leave is California and the last place you would go to is the state of Texas.

The state of Texas does not promote programs that create a state of dependency on government. We expect people to be independent and to work for living.

Second, Abbott said his campaign for governor had, in its polling, found that about 15 percent of voters had moved to Texas recently from California, and about ten percent from New York, but “about two-thirds of people who moved to the state of Texas were conservatives and voted for me for governor, and there’s a reason for that.”

The people who are seeking independence, who are seeking opportunity, who want to start a job, they are fleeing states like California and New York and they are fleeing to the great state of Texas.

Gravy on a bagel: An anthology of Republican verse from Abe to Huck

Mike Huckabee at BookPeople in Austin  (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Mike Huckabee at BookPeople in Austin

Good morning Austin:

Today’s First Reading is devoted to the poetry of Republican politics.

It was inspired by last week’s visit to BookPeople in Austin by Mike Huckabee to sign copies of his new book – God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy – in preparation for a second run for the White House.

While, at first glance, GGG&G is a work of prose, it is best read as an epic poem in which our hero, Huck, the tribune of Bubba-Ville, for six and half years bravely travels each and every weekend to New York City – along with Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, one of the three Bubble-Ville “nerve centers of our culture” – in order to defend, on Fox, the values of “the new American outcasts – people who put faith and family first.”

What follows are some excerpts from the book, all straight from the text, nothing added or subtracted, except for the titles that I have given them, and poetic spacing.


Gravy on a Bagel (On first visiting Zabar’s)

Gravy on a bagel

Just doesn’t work for me.

If I want to chew that hard,

I’ll take up chewing tobacco,

Which I won’t.

I’m not even that rural.

New York, New York

It’s not completely Sodom and Gomorrah,

But the traffic at 3 a.m. Sunday is more intense

Than at 11 a.m.

That ought

To tell you something


Once Upon a Time, a Person Who Came to America illegally was called an illegal alien.

Maybe we should also rename the Border Patrol the “Dream Police”

Or just “Dream Catchers.”


But I digress

(Some of he meanest people I’ve ever known were “church people.”

And, truth be told, a lot of Christians like to do their fussing and cussing as “prayer requests,”

As in, “We need to pray for Robert:

He is drinking again

And Martha is going to divorce him if he doesn’t get out of rehab

All dried out.”

But I digress)


When a country boy calls 911

It will be a bad day for the person who didn’t understand

That a country boy doesn’t helplessly call 911

And hope help arrives before he gets killed,

Or his wife and daughter get assaulted.

He calls 911 to tell them

Where to come and pick up the carcass of the one

Who tried to break into his home.


Your pants, they are on fire

I think maybe PolitiFact needs to learn the difference

Between an assumption and a fact.

They might also want to look up

The definition of the word “joke.”

And the word “opinion.

Without some effort

I feel a bit more disconnected from people who have

Never fired a gun,

Never fished with a cane pole,

Never cooked with propane,

Or never changed a tire.

If people use “summer” as a verb,

As in, “We summer in the Hamptons,”

I probably don’t have much in common with them.

If people don’t put pepper sauce on their black-eyed peas,

Or order fried green tomatoes for an appetizer,

I probably won’t relate to them

Without some effort.

I earlier described Huckabee’s book as an epic poem. And this is what I am referring to – epic small-mindedness.

As Gail Collins wrote in The New York Times on reading this last passage:

Well, there goes Ohio.

Think about that statement. We’re already tortured by the red-state-blue-state chasm. Now we’re going to divide ourselves by restaurant orders? The first rule for anyone who aspires to lead this country is that you have to at least pretend that you can relate to all its citizens.

At BookPeople, in answer to a question, Huckabee said what distinguishes him from other candidates is his talent for consensus, but here he is in his book taking one of the surest ways to bring people together – food – and turning it into another litmus test of division.

My signed copy.
My signed copy.

“Have you ever tried to order grits in a fancy Manhattan restaurant?” Huckabee asks in his book. ” Good luck.”

Well, here from New York Magazine on Maysville Food & Bourbon on w. 26th Street near Broadway:

Our pick for best new grits dish consists of five deep-fried croutons fashioned from coarsely ground upstate corn, each one glued to a splotch of Old Crow–spiked mayo and wearing a little do-rag of scrunched-up, sliced-to-order Kentucky ham ($9).

I would also note that New York, like Bubble-ville’s D.C. and Los Angeles, has a large black population and the food that Huck craves but can’t seem to find also goes by the name Soul Food.

It is not just the food that makes Huckabee feel a man apart in Manhattan.

I can’t find a Walmart in Manhattan, either, and people stare at my cowboy boots when I’m on the subway. What’s up with that?

Yes, what is up with that? People staring at him on the subway because he is wearing cowboy boots. Really?

From USA Today:

For the past 16 years, Robert Burck has played guitar in Times Square wearing only tighty whities, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat … Today Burck switched into the Fruit of the Loom boxer briefs as part of the brand’s marketing campaign for its new underwear line …. The briefs will be sold in several colors in Walmart, Kmart and Target stores for $13.99 for a five-pack beginning this month.

If people are staring at Mike Huckabee in Manhattan my guess is it is because, while in New York, he presents as some kind of composite Midnight Cowboy character, traversing the gritty, gritsless streets of New York City with a perpetual Joe Buck strut and irascible Ratso Rizzo “I’m walkin’ here” attitude.

Here, then, is Huckabee’s failing as a poet. The author of GGG&G seems to have a fundamentally incurious nature. He travels to the most interesting city in the world every weekend for six-and-a-half years and all that seems to absorb him is what is not there.

Rick Perry, on the other hand, has much more the poet’s sensibility. He is a man keenly open to new experience, and in touch with his own feelings.

Here is a poem derived from his book, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For.

You may be so tired

You may be so tired

You don’t feel like reading the Little Mermaid

To your three-year-old for the tenth time,

But it amazes you that after you begin reading it,

You actually sort of enjoy yourself;

In part because the act of nurturing has its own reward

If we simply put “self” aside for another.

And Perry showed his versatility just last week, with this verse, delivered as part of a speech in Washington, in response to U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat, going off on Texas as a “crazy state to begin with.”


Crazy (with apologies to Willie Nelson and Gnarls Barkley)

Earlier this week there was this liberal congressman from Florida

And he called Texans crazy.

He is right!

We are crazy!

We’re crazy about jobs.

We’re crazy about opportunity.

We’re crazy about liberty.

We’re crazy about the Constitution.

And we’re particularly crazy

About the 2nd Amendment

And the 10th Amendment.

What we’re not crazy about is

Government that taxes too much,

Borrows too much,

Spends too much.

Country singer Larry Gatlin, penned this own rhyming reply to Hastings, but I prefer Perry’s.

From Gatlin:


The eyes of Texas are upon you.

Better not come near.

The eyes of Texas are upon you.

I think you’d better steer clear.

You said things about my Texas that were just not kind.

And if I get a chance,

I’ll open up a cowboy boot shop in your behind.


Of course, the Republican poet laureate is Sarah Palin.

Almost as soon as she burst on the national scene, the writer Hart Seely began cataloging The Poetry of Sarah Palin.

For example, from her early work:


I am a Washington outsider.
I mean,
Look at where you are.
I’m a Washington outsider.

I do not have those allegiances
To the power brokers,
To the lobbyists.
We need someone like that.

(To C. Gibson, ABC News, Sept. 11, 2008)

Or later.

I’m Sick and Tired

I’m sick and tired
@@@@of hearing about
Obama and the White House
@@@@coming out


What’s great about Palin is that she continues to push the boundaries of her art.

Sarah Palin (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Sarah Palin
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Here is how Nia-Malika Henderson covered her recent performance at the Iowa Freedom Summit:

Sarah Palin, slam poet.

Dim the lights and maybe light a candle on stage at the Iowa Freedom Summit, and Palin’s rambling speech begins to make more sense.

This was poetry, not politics, ya dig?

This is how Henderson presented Palin’s words in the Post, calling it, “The Ballad of 2016.”

Very nicely done, but that title is, I think, too prosaic. I prefer this, taken from a question that Sean Hannity asked Palin about the speech, and, parenthetically, the lasting image of this inspired work.

Did the teleprompter go down? (Backbent Mountin’)

Things must change for our government.
Look at it.
It isn’t too big to fail.

It’s too big to succeed!

So we can afford no retreads
nothing will change with the same people

And same policies that
got us into
the status quo.

Another Latin word.
Status quo.
And it stands for,
‘Man, the middle-class, everyday Americans are really gettin’ taken for a ride.’

That’s status quo.
And GOP leaders,
by the way,

The man can only ride ya when your back is bent.
So strengthen it.
Then the man can’t ride ya.

America won’t be taken for a ride.
Because so much is at stake


We can’t afford politicians playing games
nothing more is at stake than.


Maybe just the next standing
of theirs.
In the next election.

 Seely is also the compiler and editor of Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Here is perhaps Rumsfeld’s most famous work.

The Unknown

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.


During the last presidential campaign, Mother Jones collected some of the found poetry of Mitt Romney, which was surprisingly daring in its imagery. As they wrote, “this one, Breakfast Special, is only nominally about breakfast:

I saw the young man over there with eggs Benedict,

With hollandaise sauce.

And I was going to suggest to you that you serve your eggs—

With hollandaise sauce in hubcaps.

Because there’s no plates like chrome—

For the hollandaise.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, but also very interesting and daring in its own way, is the work of Dave Carney, the political consultant who has worked as a top adviser to both Perry and Gov. Greg Abbott.

This is from his recent piece in Politico Magazine, How We Won Texas, which proceeds in an intentionally obscure and methodically technocratic style, only to knock your socks off with a swift nihilistic ending.

How We Won Texas

Campaigns need to settle on a base-scoring system using predictive analytics and dynamic modeling that will serve as the common currency for all aspects of the campaign.

The Abbott campaign settled on parameters based on their likelihood to support Abbott and their propensity to turnout to vote early in the campaign that produced a universe of approximately five million voters.

Too much time is wasted worrying about motion without caring if there is progress or not. We look at how many impressions an online ad receives, how many gross rating points are behind a television ad, or how many calls a phone bank makes.

None of these matter.

Wow. Pow. And I can’t help but hear the echo of that beautiful poem Rain by  that appeared in The New Yorker a few years ago.

It begins: I love all films that start with rain:
And ends: and none of this, none of this matters

Read the whole thing. It’s quite good.

The first great Republican poet, of course, was the first Republican president – Abraham Lincoln.

From the Library of Congress:

Throughout his life, Abraham Lincoln was an avid reader of poetry. As a teenager, however, Lincoln also began to cultivate an interest in writing poetry. Lincoln’s oldest surviving verses, written when he was between fifteen and seventeen years old, are brief squibs that appear in his arithmetic book.

Abraham Lincoln
his hand and pen
he will be good but
god knows When [1]


Abraham Lincoln is my nam[e]
And with my pen I wrote the same
I wrote in both hast and speed
and left it here for fools to read

One of Lincoln’s Springfield neighbors, James Matheny, recalled that sometime between 1837-39 Lincoln joined “a Kind of Poetical Society” to which he occasionally submitted poems. Although none of the poems survive, Matheny remembered one eye-raising stanza from a poem “on Seduction“:

Whatever Spiteful fools may Say —
Each jealous, ranting yelper —
No woman ever played the whore
Unless She had a man to help her.

Democrats, of course, write poetry as well.

Here, also from the Library of Congress, is an early work of a young Barack Obama:


Under water grottos, caverns
Filled with apes
That eat figs.
Stepping on the figs
That the apes
Eat, they crunch.
The apes howl, bare
Their fangs, dance,
Tumble in the
Rushing water,
Musty, wet pelts
Glistening in the blue

The Library of Congress asked Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities and English at Yale University, to evaluate Underground and another of Obama’s poems, and, he said that, “Underground is the better of Obama’s two poems, reminiscent of some of D. H. Lawrence’s poetry.”

“I think it is about some sense of chthonic forces, just as Lawrence frequently is—some sense, not wholly articulated, of something below, trying to break through,” said Bloom.

And, the LOC notes:

Obama’s poetry, Bloom makes clear, is much superior to the poetry of former President Jimmy Carter (Bloom calls Carter “literally the worst poet in the United States”).

Tweeting, of course, is by its nature a medium of concision and a form of poetry. Now, with Poetweet, we have a website that instantly turns anyone’s tweets into poetry – either a sonnet, a rondel or an indriso. The results are very uneven – poetry is still better written with intention. But Poetweet also enables you to scroll over the poem and get fuller citations for each tweet from which the line is drawn, which is of great value to scholars of the form.

I spent some time with this over the weekend, and while I enjoyed it, the results mostly don’t hold up the next day. For example, this Poetweet, derived from Dave Carney’s tweets, starts very strong but then fizzles into incoherence.

Our Home

by Dave Carney

All Haters go home! Case resolved.
Wendy Davis painted Texas redder
Chuck Norris approved

All legacy airline on passengers
Feb 2nd Chris Kyle Day | RedState
Chance right? Every vote matters!

A jump on cleaning out the trash?

Commanding General Sean MacFarland

And this Poetweet from Bobby Jindal seems aimless until two stunning lines in its third stanza.

The crisis

by Gov. Bobby Jindal

Hurt our famers and our businesses.
Washington knows what’s best.
Men and women & their spouses.
Guys in government are the dumbest.

Out who is crossing our borders.
Is running your healthcare.
It’s time to cheer on the Tigers.
Adults over seniors in Medicare.

Domestic/international no-fly list.
Fight back Tigers. Bring on Bama!
In the resurrection of Christ.

With the 10th pick. What a steal!
Play the Steelers! Geaux Saints!
Everything I can to work for repeal

If tweeting is clearly an art form, I am not yet sure whether retweeting is truly a form of creative expression. Of course, early on, there were those who thought photography was not really art.

But, if retweeting comes into its own as a celebrated means of expression, it should  be recalled that we have one of its early masters in our midst.

I am talking, of course, of Gov. Greg Abbott.

I conclude with his contributions to the genre just since his inauguration.


Days apart: On Chris Kyle Day and Texas Muslim Capitol Day


Good morning Austin:

Today is Chris Kyle Day in Texas. That, above, is Chris Kyle’s gravesite late yesterday afternoon, just before the gates of the Texas State Cemetery in Austin closed for the day. It was very bright with a stiff breeze. The flags flapped and rippled.. You can hear a light clanging in the background that sounds like a harbor bell but I think is that of flag fluttering against its flagpole.

Kyle’s gravesite is a work in progress with no headstone yet. Right now it sill looks more like an impromptu roadside memorial.

Chris Kyle's gravesite
Chris Kyle’s gravesite

He is buried next to Borah Van Dormolen, an important figure in Texas Republican Party politics, who also died in 2013. Van Dormolen enlisted in the U.S. Army and rose through the ranks retiring after 23 years with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Nearby are Darrell Royal and Wally Pryor, the voice of the University of Texas Longhorns.

Greg Abbott has declared today Chris Kyle Day. He will sign the official proclamation at noon in his office. The flag at the state cemetery will fly at half mast. It is and was a brilliant gesture. From what I know, Chris Kyle is the quintessential Texas hero. “American Sniper,” the movie about his life, has quickly become the top-grossing war film in history. Kyle and “American Sniper” have also become a proxy for much deeper feelings about America and its place in the world.

When Abbott announced his declaration of Chris Kyle Day at the Texas VFW Convention in Austin on Friday, a female veteran from Corpus Christi, who had just walked into the hall, approached me to ask whether the holiday would be just for this year or in perpetuity. I said I wasn’t sure but I assumed it was just for this year. She was displeased. After all, she said, we have a holiday every year for Martin Luther King Jr.

A day earlier there was an alarming scene outside the Capitol, with a small group of protesters disrupting Texas Muslim Capitol Day. The juxtaposition of that fiasco and Chris Kyle Day were just happenstance. What does one have to do with the other? Nothing, really. But, of course, everything

I wasn’t at Muslim Texas Capitol Day Thursday. I was a couple of blocks away at a meeting of the Texas Historical Commission, at which they unanimously approved a historical marker for the 1910 Slocum Massacre, a rampage of white-on-black violence in rural East Texas, that had, in the intervening century, been mostly lost to public memory.

Patrick Beach and Sean Collins Walsh offered a vivid account of what happened Thursday in the Statesman:

What was supposed to be a rally at the Texas Capitol on Thursday promoting tolerance and inclusion for Muslims and their supporters was largely derailed by sustained screams from protesters loudly advocating for something quite apart from peace and love.

Texas Muslim Capitol Day was organized by Texas chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose members intended to raise awareness on issues, advocate on a number of bills and celebrate their right as Americans — and in one speaker’s case an eighth-generation Texan — to be part of the political process.

But not one of the 10 or so speakers at the hourlong event managed to finish a sentence without being heckled by a group of maybe two dozen that fanned out about 20 paces from the south steps of the statehouse. A patriotic song by the Houston Koran Academy didn’t even silence the screaming.

CAIR-TX spokeswoman Ruth Nasrullah had barely begun the program when a woman briefly commandeered the podium and attempted to claim the Capitol in the name of Jesus Christ. The woman, a native Michigander who now goes “wherever the Lord calls,” later said she was seized by “righteous anger” and felt she’d accomplished what she attempted to do Thursday morning.

Lauren McGaughy was there for the Houston Chronicle and posted something quite beautiful about it on Facebook:

I haven’t been in this business that long, but I’ve seen some pretty horrible things. I saw a man in his 70s, withered from cancer and years in solitary, get reindicted just days after being released from prison. I saw people writhing on the ground, gunshot victims of the insane, unbelievably selfish Mothers Day second Line shooters. I’ve seen people spew homophobic diatribes at couples wanting to seal their love with a union recognized by the state they know as home.

But yesterday was just the second time I cried on the job. It wasn’t because of what Molly White wrote on Facebook and it wasn’t even because of what the protestors yelled at the Muslims who had gathered on the steps of the Capitol to pray and sing the national anthem. The tears came when I was watching this little Muslim girl in the crowd. Sporting a headscarf and pink satchel in hand, she stood listening to the speakers tell her it was OK to be Muslim in America, that it was just enough the protestors right to be there as hers. Then I looked down. Over her thin white stockings she wore little silver shoes with bows.

Seeing those little girl shoes, standing there, bracing her body as she faced away from the hatred and vitriol spewed by that group, wondering where else those little girl shoes have taken her, what other hardships she’s faced by virtue of that thin piece of fabric on her head and others hatred, that’s what got me.

The most amazing thing – me? Couldn’t hold it together. That little girl? All dry eyed. What strength.
Apologies for the long post. Just needed to get that thought out of my head and down on “paper.”

Overlaid on this was what freshman Republican Rep. Molly White posted on her Facebook page.

To judge by the reaction of White and the protesters outside the Capitol, one might have thought that Thursday was Texas Muslim Capitol Open Carry Day, and not an earnest, innocent expression of Muslim-American patriotism and civic engagement.

But for going on 14 years, since Sept. 11, 2001, America has been at war on one battlefield or another with radical Islam, and the biggest movie in America right now is a film in which the opening sequence poses the sniper’s ultimate moral dilemma as really no dilemma at all. Kyle has what appears to be a Muslim mother and child in his scope. He sees the woman passing the child a grenade. He has to decide whether to shoot them. His comrade warns, “they’ll fry you if you’re wrong.” But for the viewer, the choice seems unambiguous. Any red-blooded American, myself included, is rooting for Kyle to pull the trigger and kill them, mother and child. He is saving American lives.

Here from a June profile of Kyle in the New Yorker, In the Crosshairs, by Nicholas Schmidle.

Kyle seemed to consider himself a cross between a lawman and an executioner. His platoon had spray-painted the image of the Punisher—a Marvel Comics character who wages “a one-man war upon crime”—on their flak jackets and helmets. Kyle made a point of ignoring the military dress code, cutting the sleeves off shirts and wearing baseball caps instead of a helmet. (“Ninety per cent of being cool is looking cool,” he wrote.) Like many soldiers, Kyle was deeply religious and saw the Iraq War through that prism. He tattooed one of his arms with a red crusader’s cross, wanting “everyone to know I was a Christian.” When he learned that insurgents had placed a bounty on his head and had named him al-Shaitan Ramadi—the Devil of Ramadi—he felt “proud.” He “hated the damn savages” he was fighting. In his book, he recounts telling an Army colonel, “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.”

And this from Toby Harnden, Washington editor of the London Times

Many soldiers are haunted by the lives they have taken. Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in American history, was not one of them. Three years ago I interviewed the tobacco-chewing former cowboy about his tally of 160 confirmed kills in Iraq — he estimated the true number was 255 — and asked whether he regretted any one of them.

Former Navy Seal Chris Kyle was laid to rest in the Texas State Cemetery in a private graveside ceremony after a lengthy procession from north Texas to east Austin. People lined the highway and streets to pay their respects to the fallen solider who was gunned down in an outing last week while helping a troubled fellow soldier in his recovery. At the intersection of E. 7th and the frontage road of I-35 people salute and hold flags in his honor including Shaina Payne, from Arlington, Texas. "I'm here to pay my respects. My father was a sniper in the Korean War and the Patriot Guard was at his funeral three years ago. Mr. Kyle served his country so we can stand here today. Why wouldn't you be here. There should be thousands of us." said Payne. (Photo by Ralph Barerra)
Former Navy Seal Chris Kyle was laid to rest in the Texas State Cemetery in a private graveside ceremony after a lengthy procession from north Texas to east Austin. People lined the highway and streets to pay their respects to the fallen solider who was gunned down in an outing last week while helping a troubled fellow soldier in his recovery. At the intersection of E. 7th and the frontage road of I-35 people salute and hold flags in his honor including Shaina Payne, from Arlington, Texas. “I’m here to pay my respects. My father was a sniper in the Korean War and the Patriot Guard was at his funeral three years ago. Mr. Kyle served his country so we can stand here today. Why wouldn’t you be here. There should be thousands of us.” said Payne. (Photo by Ralph Barerra)

“No, sir, not at all,” he replied, in his characteristic soft Texas drawl. He then chuckled. “To be honest with you, I wish I’d killed more because every kill saved American lives and that was what I was out there for.”

A US Navy SEAL who served four tours in Iraq, was wounded twice and earned two Silver Stars for gallantry, he was the son of a church deacon and had grown up hunting deer, turkey and quail. He was a committed Republican who espoused the American heartland values of “God, country and family”. He was as far from the attitudes of the urban sophisticates of New York and Los Angeles as it was possible to be. As one writer dubbed him, he was “a true American badass”.

Kyle was delighted by the runaway success of his book, which had triggered a “huge fascination” with the art of delivering death through a telescopic sight.

“It’s been taboo for so long, I’m glad that people are actually looking at it with an interest and saying these guys are actually something we need,” he told me. “Before, it was looking back to Vietnam and everybody was looking at it as if it was black ops and it wasn’t a fair fight.”

Less than a year after we spoke, Kyle was killed on a remote Texas shooting range by a mentally disturbed veteran he was helping. He was shot in the back at close quarters. Kyle would doubtless have been delighted by the success of American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, whose role in Dirty Harry established him as the ultimate Hollywood tough guy, a forerunner of Kyle himself. He might also have been gratified by the way it exposed the divide he had spoken of to me, between those who believe he is a hero and those who view him as a serial killer.

The sense of menace from jihadists has metastasized with the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, the Boston Marathon bombings, and, most recently, the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.

How to react? What to do?

Here from something Shadi Hamid, a fellow with the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and the author of Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East, wrote recently in the Atlantic:

The impressive and inspiring show of solidarity at France’s unity march on January 11—which brought together millions of people and more than 40 world leaders—was not necessarily a sign of good things to come. “We are all one” was indeed a powerful message, but what did it really mean, underneath the noble sentiment and the liberal faith that all people are essentially good and want the same things, regardless of religion or culture? Even if the scope is limited to Western liberals, the aftermath of the assaults in Paris on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket has revealed a striking lack of consensus on a whole host of issues, including the limits of free speech, the treatment of religions versus racial groups, and the centrality of secularism to the liberal idea. Turns out, we are not all one.

French schoolteachers were reportedly dumbfounded that (some) Muslim students refused to stand up for a moment of silence after the attacks. But this is where confusion seeps into the debate. Within France, there is not a cultural divide on the attack that left 12 dead at the offices of a satirical magazine. To even suspect that a significant number of French Muslims might support the slaughter of innocents is troubling. But beyond the killings themselves, there is, in fact, a cultural divide—one that shines light on some of the most problematic aspects of how we in the West talk about Islam, values, and violence.

For instance, French Muslims are more likely than non-Muslims to view blasphemy as unacceptable. They are more likely to think that attacks on the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran should be criminalized as hate speech and incitement, much like denial of the Holocaust is. It is problematic, then, to view condemning the Paris killings and affirming the right to blaspheme as two sides of the same coin. For many Muslims, they aren’t. To treat them as a package deal is not only odd—after all,


Beverly Scott of Houston protests at the Texas Muslim Capitol Day at the Capitol on Thursday (photo by JAY JANNER)
Beverly Scott of Houston protests at the Texas Muslim Capitol Day at the Capitol on Thursday (photo by JAY JANNER)

After the attacks of September 11, author Christopher Hitchens, essayist and critic Paul Berman, and others framed the war against terrorism as an existential struggle. They were enlisting readers in a fight about something bigger—a fight over ideals and ideas. This wasn’t just about terrorism. It was about reasserting faith in Western liberalism in order to defend it against Islamist totalitarianism, which, itself, drew inspiration from European totalitarianism. The prose was romantic too, befitting a new ideological struggle that would be waged on an epic scale. In reading the great political theorist Michael Walzer’s recent meditation on Islamism and the Left in the age of ISIS, I was reminded of Berman’s 2003 book Terror and Liberalism. I remember its stark, white cover. Even the title suggested a certain clarity. Walzer’s essay is a continuation of this sort of polemic, ending appropriately with a call to arms. “My friends and neighbors are not ready to enlist; many of them won’t acknowledge the dangers posed by Islamist zealotry,” he writes. “But there are dangers and the secular left needs defenders. So here I am, a writer, not a fighter, and the most helpful thing I can do is to join the ideological wars.


It is worth believing that, in times of tragedy, people come together; they rethink their biases and assumptions; they reach out to the weak and disenchanted; they embody grace; they try to take steps to avoid other tragedies, at least the ones they might have some control over. But, when it comes to fallout from the Middle East, tragedies are rarely teachable moments. They are just as likely to bring out the worst in us as the best.

Janet Kelley of Clear Lake protests during the Texas Muslim Capitol Day at the Capitol on Thursday.  (photo by JAY JANNER)
Janet Kelley of Clear Lake protests during the Texas Muslim Capitol Day at the Capitol on Thursday. (photo by JAY JANNER)

With every act of terror, Western powers and their populations are tested. The temptation to react, and overreact, grows. I am not optimistic that we will calibrate the right responses, or even that we can. But, at the very least, we will have to try.

Well, based on the unprovoked hostility on display at the Capitol Thursday, we will have to try harder.

When I called Robert McCaw, government affairs manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose Texas chapters had sponsored Texas Muslim Capitol Day, he said that, all in all, he counted it as a very successful event. In his view, a few protesters and and a single lawmaker had brought  discredit to themselves and provoked a deluge of sympathetic support for CAIR  and the Muslims who had come to the Capitol Thursday.

(When I called CAIR’s Washington office to try to reach McCaw, the voicemail menu included “Press 5 for Islamophobia.”)

But, as the tweet above from the enormously influential Erik Erickson indicates, Molly White’s national debut will enhance her standing on the right – where mainstream opprobrium is the coin of the realm. I already envision her as the star of the first tea party musical – The Unthinkable Molly White – in which an irrepressibly politically incorrect Texan offends polite sensibilities while winning the hearts of the people and and unlikely role as national power broker.

Just consider the example of U.S. Rep. Steve King, the Iowa Republican, whose pronouncements on immigration make our own Rep. Louie Gohmert sound like Adlai Stevenson, and who recently hosted the Republican “Freedom Summit,” where Republican presidential wannabes, right up to and including Chris Christie, lined up to pay their respects.

Here, a critical account from veteran political writer Dick Polman:

In Iowa, at a so-called “Freedom Summit,” a cavalcade of prospective presidential candidates competed to kiss the ring of Republican congressman Steve King, the anti-immigrant extremist best known (among all his remarks) for characterizing young immigrants as drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes.” Meanwhile, at an invitation-only confab in Palm Springs, a few more prospective candidates competed to kiss the rings of the Koch brothers. And meanwhile, down in Louisiana, prospective candidate Bobby Jindal prayed for America at a confab sponsored by the American Family Association, a right-wing group that seeks to spread The Word that gays are “in the clasp of Satan” and “should be disqualified from public office.”

So much pandermania packed into one weekend, it’s hard to know where to look first…

OK, Iowa. The very fact that Republican hopefuls actually pay obeisance to Steve King, of all people, is proof positive that the GOP hostage, more than ever, to its primitive wing. Last week alone, King took aim at one of Michelle Obama’s State of the Union guests, calling her a “deportable,” but no matter. Iowa goes first during the primary season, the caucus electorate is dominated by out-of-the-mainstream conservatives and evangelicals, and apparently those are sufficient reasons to pander. Even though Iowa’s last two winners – Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum – flamed out on the campaign trail.

So what we saw, in Iowa, was the usual red meat on high flame – with various candidates attacking Chris Christie for physically touching Barack Obama after Sandy hit Jersey; with Donald Trump and his hair assailing the immigrants (“Half of them are criminals!”), with Jeb Bush’s potential rivals attacking Jeb Bush in absentia (because he supports national education standards), with Sarah Palin conducting yet another master class in free-associative incoherence. Plus, the hopefuls – including Christie, Santorum, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, and Mike Huckabee – had to sit for a video and answer six queries, including: “Does erotic liberty trump religious liberty?” and “”What will you do about the impending Supreme Court marriage case if it goes against state constitutions?” (The sane answer to the latter question is, “Obey the law,” but, in the Iowa caucuses, that would probably land you in last place.)

Ted Cruz won the weekend prize for Most Energy, because he managed to indulge Steve King and fly to California for the Koch brothers.

As for Jindal, here, from the Atlantic, is Peter Beinart on what he calls, The Sophisticated Bigotry of Bobby Jindal.

 If Bobby Jindal runs for president, he will likely campaign on two major themes. The first, which he outlined last February at the Reagan Library and last May at Liberty University, is that Christians are at war with a liberal elite that is trampling religious liberty and secularizing American culture. The second, which he laid out this month at London’s Henry Jackson Society, is that “non-assimilationist Muslims” are endangering America and Europe.

Unfortunately for Jindal, these two arguments contradict each other.

 How so?

 So let’s imagine a scenario. A devout Christian emigrates from Nigeria to a progressive American college town, where she takes up work as a pharmacist. She quickly finds herself at odds with the dominant culture around her. Co-workers mock her modest dress and her insistence on interrupting work to pray. When she calls homosexuality a sin, they denounce her as a bigot. Ultimately, her employer fires her for refusing to dispense contraception.

Based on his speeches at Liberty University and the Reagan Library, Jindal’s advice to this woman would be clear: Wage “silent war” against the culture that oppresses you, even if you’re a minority of one. If necessary, “establish a separate culture within” the dominant one so you can raise children who fear and obey God.

Now imagine that our devout Nigerian is a Muslim. Suddenly her resistance to the dominant culture makes her not a hero but a menace.


In 2012, Herman Cain distinguished himself as the leading Islamophobe in the Republican presidential field. Jindal is now well-positioned to fill that role. The only difference is that Cain spoke like a pizza executive while Jindal speaks like a Rhodes Scholar. But strip away the fake sophistication and it’s bigotry just the same.

Two years ago, Jindal wrote a piece in Politico under the headline, The End of Race.

My parents immigrated to the United States from India a few years after Dr. King was assassinated. They came looking for an equal opportunity, and they got it, in the Deep South, in Baton Rouge, La. My parents wanted only to be judged based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

In 2003, I decided to run for governor of Louisiana, a state where David Duke got 44 percent of the statewide vote in 1990. The pundits said I was insane to even try. Friends worried about my mental stability and begged me not to run. I narrowly lost that first race, but I’ve won every race since then. I wish I had a nickel for every time East Coast political journalists have asked me about discrimination, and I wish I had a dime for every Louisiana voter who has broken those journalists’ ugly stereotypes.

Here’s what I’ve found in Louisiana: The voters want to know what you believe, what you stand for, and what you plan to do, not what shade your skin is. And I think that’s true of the country as a whole: America’s younger generation pays less attention to skin color than the generations that preceded them. (By the way, I noticed recently that the president of the United States, a man with whom I disagree with on almost everything, seems to have darker skin than most Americans. He hasn’t had a problem getting elected.)

When Jindal was elected governor, his seat in Congress was taken by Steve Scalise, who was then a state representative.
As my friend and former colleague at The Times-Picayune  Stephanie Grace, wrote recently in The Advocate, where she is now the political columnist:
This is what I remember about the first time I met Steve Scalise nearly 20 years ago: He told me he was like David Duke without the baggage.

This all became consequential because Scalise is now the House majority whip.

I covered Steve Scalise in Washington and can tell you, he is no David Duke.

As Rep. Cedric Richmond, the black Democrat who represents New Orleans and has been friends with Scalise since the both served in Baton Rouge told The Times-Picayune, “Steve and I have worked on issues that benefit poor people, black people, white people, Jewish people. I know his character.”

“I don’t think Steve Scalise has a racist bone in his body,” Richmond said.

On the other hand, when I met David Duke some years ago at a white nationalist gathering I was covering outside D.C., he informed me, by way of introduction, that he could tell I was Jewish. I can tell you the man’s Jewdar is in good working order, but, based on my profile, I’m not sure what a brilliant deduction this was.

In any case, I don’t think Duke would have been capable of a friendship with Richmond, and Scalise has survived his brush with Duke.

So far.

But now, this first reported by Buzzfeeed:

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke says he might run for office against Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

Scalise faced questions earlier this month about a 2003 appearance he made as a state representative before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) — a white supremacist group founded by Duke.

Scalise called the appearance “a mistake I regret” and condemned the sort of views groups like EURO hold.

Now Duke, who initially was supportive of Scalise, calling him a “nice guy” to the Washington Post, says he is a “sellout” for apologizing for speaking to the group over a decade ago.

“Steve Scalise, let me tell you something, this is the way I view it now: I mean this guy is a sellout. I mean he’s a sellout. He’s not David. He used to say that he was David Duke of course without the baggage, whatever that means,” Duke told Louisiana radio host Jim Engster of the Jim Engster Show Wednesday.

“The New York Times admitted that the Republican Party won office and got control of the United States House of Representatives, essentially on my political issues. Opposed to the massive illegal immigration, the issues of welfare reform, so many other issues that I’ve talked about, and but the difference is with someone like me Steve Scalise, or David Vitter, you know the prostitution king. The difference between myself and those guys is that I did not sellout. I’ve never sold out…”

In Scalise, Duke seems to be saying, he has discovered what to him is a new, particularly contemptible species of RINO – Racist In Name Only.


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Culture Wars: Of Perry, Palin, Huckabee, Beyoncé and the Ted Nugent primary

Good morning Austin:

The head of the first wild hog shot legally from a helicopter under a law sponsored by Sid Miller is on the wall of Miller's new  office of agricultural commissioner.
The head of the first wild hog shot legally from a helicopter under a law sponsored by Sid Miller is on the wall of Miller’s new office of agricultural commissioner.

This is the head of the first wild hog shot from a helicopter under a 2011 law authored by Sid Miller when he was a state representative. Miller is our new agriculture commissioner and so the hog’s head has a pride of place in his office at the Stephen F. Austin State Office Building a couple of blocks from the Capitol.

The hog’s head is also a reminder of the close bond between Miller and Ted Nugent, his campaign’s co-chairman and treasurer. Nugent got close to Miller when Miller sponsored the “pork chopper” legislation that permitted helicopter hunting of feral hogs. Nugent loved the bill, offered Miller plenty of advice on how to refine it, and became among the most conspicuous helicopter hog hunters in Texas when it became law. When Miller, who  lost his bid for a seventh term in the Texas House in 2012, ran last year for agriculture commissioner, Nugent was there for him, serving as campaign co-chair and treasurer, and nothing Nugent could say or do could shake Miller’s friendship or confidence in him.

That included Nugent’s description a year ago of President Obama as a “subhuman mongrel” in an interview with at the 2014  Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show. Said Nugent:

I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist raised communist educated communist nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.

Those words gained special currency when, not long after, then Attorney General Greg Abbott, running for governor, campaigned with Nugent ahead of the Republican primary.

Amid a firestorm of criticism, Nugent sort of apologized for his choice of words.

“I apologize for using the street fighter terminology of ‘subhuman mongrel’ instead of just using more understandable language such as ‘violator of his oath to the Constitution,’ the liar that he is,” said Nugent.

And, Nugent said to CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson: “I do apologize — not necessarily to the president — but on behalf of much better men than myself. I will try to elevate my vernacular to the level of those great men that I’m learning from in the world of politics.”

“He’s used words that I wouldn’t use,” Miller said at the time. “He has a very colorful vocabulary. He recanted some remarks that he made about the president, so I think that everything’s good.”

“I believe Ted Nugent recognized his language was wrong and he rightly apologized,” Abbott said in a statement.

But, a year later, with overwhelming victories by Abbott, Miller and Republicans nationally behind him,  Nugent has now recanted his recantation and apologized for his apology.

It now seems that on the basis of sober reflection, Nugent, in an anniversary interview with at this year’s SHOT Show, has concluded that his description of President Obama as a “subhuman mongrel,” was too kind.

“It was precious,” he said of his turn of phrase, explaining:

“I’m a shit kicker, I’m a street fighter, I’m from Detroit, so I’m engaged in the culture wars and I’ve been in close-quarter combat in the culture wars since the 1960s where the hippies in the music industry would attack me –  just hateful, vicious condemnation for believing in self-defense and carrying a gun and eating venison.  Of course, if you take enough LSD you might come to that conclusion also. I know that it’s that kind of hate against independence, it’s that kind of hate against self-defense, that’s the most evil force in the world because it has affected policy to such a degree that innocent lives are lost every minute of every day because some lying bureaucrats, and there are other terms when issued against self-defense, that is the most evil force in the world.

I think if a person creates an environment where sheeple can be led to gas chambers, I don’t think the term subhuman mongrel is too outrageous. I don’t know if there is any English term, or any term available to mankind, to adequately describe the depth of evil to a human who would deny good from winning over evil, and with the insanity of our government, the insanity and the abuse of power, the runaway corruption, deceit and dishonesty coming out of Barack Obama and Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and the left, they really believe that they can take our tax dollars and hire machine gun-toting security guards while dictating unarmed helplessness to their employers. Can you think of a word that could be offensive enough to describe someone who takes your money to hire security people while passing laws denying you the right to be secure? So subhuman mongrel was probably much too delicate.

You don’t have to use, you know, nasty terms like subhuman mongrel because I suppose you could have just called them liars and haters, but I was dealing with victims, I had been bombarded with evidence and testimonials from victims of jack-booted thuggery, homes that were broken into because some jack boot got the wrong address, people being shot, innocent people being shot by out of control government agents, ranches and farms being shut down because of trumped-up allegations. And we will never let America become Germany. We will never become sheep like the emperor did to the Japanese citizens. We  just won’t let that happen. So sometimes really harsh, outrageous terms – sticks and stones  break my bones, but names will never hurt me –  so really there was such an uproar over my choice of name calling but not uproar over a bunch of punks who would dictate policy forcing citizens to be unarmed and helpless. You choose which side you’re on because conscientious, smart people who believe in freedom are on my side and I couldn’t be more proud.

While at the SHOT show in Las Vegas, Nugent also received another Golden Moose Award from the Outdoor Channel as Fan Favorite Best Host for his show Spirit of the Wild.

The award was presented by Sarah Palin, who on Thursday is having Nugent on her show, Amazing America with Sarah Palin,  on the Outdoor Channel’s sister station, the Sportsman Channel.

Meanwhile, at the Republican Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa this weekend, Palin said she is seriously considering jumping into the 2016 presidential race.

A few days earlier, last Monday on the Daily Show, Nugent was, in absentia, in the middle of another culture-war debate between host Jon Stewart and Mike Huckabee – who just quit hosting his show on Fox so he can explore a run for president. Huckabee was on to talk about his new book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy. (Not to be confused with Nugent’s 2000 book, God, Guns, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.)

By way of background, this from an interview with Huckabee in PEOPLE:

First, it was Beyoncé and Jay Z up for scolding by conservative Republican Mike Huckabee. Now it’s Barack and Michelle Obama‘s turn.

In an interview about his new book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, Huckabee tells PEOPLE he doesn’t get how the Obamas can encourage their daughters’ love for Beyoncé. Especially, the former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister says, if the president and first lady ever actually listened to the lyrics to – or seen a performance of Beyonc´’s steamy “Drunk in Love.”

The Obamas “are excellent and exemplary parents in many ways,” Huckabee says.

“That’s the whole point. I don’t understand how on one hand they can be such doting parents and so careful about the intake of everything – how much broccoli they eat and where they go to school and making sure they’re kind of sheltered and shielded from so many things – and yet they don’t see anything that might not be suitable for either a preteen or a teen in some of the lyrical content and choreography of Beyoncé, who has sort of a regular key to the door” of the White House.

In his book, Huckabee depicts an America divided between “Bubble-ville” – Washington, New York and Hollywood – where the elites live, and Bubbaville, where the salt of the earth reside.

Stewart says that Huckabee believes Bubbaville is “better.”

Huckabee says, no, he is just saying they are “different,” and not that one is “better” than the other, but Stewart is not buying.

“No, better,” he says of Huckabee’s love for Bubbaville.

Stewart says that Huckabee is using Jay Z and Beyoncé  as exemplars of “a sort of permissiveness that you think is not great for our children.”

Huckabee says they really only occupy one page in the book, “but it’s illustrative of a chapter I call, The Culture of Crude.”

Huckabee says that Beyoncé is so talented that “she does not have to be vulgar in order to set a trend.” He said she inspires girls to want a “stripper pole” for their 12th birthday.

After taking offense at a “truly outrageous” characterization of Beyoncé, Stewart says, “here’s the blind spot in Bubbaville and all this stuff about, `the culture,’ and`it’s so insidious, you don’t have to do that.'”

Stewart then plays a clip from Huckabee’s show on Fox in which Nugent is singing Cat Scratch Fever, with Huckabee playing bass guitar behind him. Nugent is singing the lyric, “Well, I make the pussy purr with the stroke of my hand.”

Huckabee laughs, and says that is an adult song for an adult audience.

But Steward presses on: “Do you see my point? You excuse that type of crude because you agree with his stance on firearms. You don’t approve of Beyoncé because she seems alien to you. Johnny Cash shot a man just to watch him die. That’s some gangsta … ”

“My point is you can’t single out a corrosive culture and ignore the one you live in because you’re used to it,” Stewart says.

“I want you to read the book,” says Huckabee.

“Oh I have,” says Stewart. “It ain’t Shakespeare.”

“I didn’t write this for the Harvard faculty; it might be over their heads,” says Huckabee.

Here is their exchange.

Well, the bad news for Palin and Huckabee is, try as they might to ingratiate themselves with Uncle Ted, Rick Perry has already won the Ted Nugent primary.

Perry long ago won Nugent’s heart.

It was Nugent who gave an ear-blistering performance at Perry’s 2007 inaugural ball dressed in a Confederate flag t-shirt, embellishing his performance, according to some reports,with harsh words on immigration.

It, per usual, created a bit of an uproar. But, in an April 2007 interview with Evan Smith, then at Texas Monthly, Nugent denied saying anything hateful.

TN: What happened is, I’m a stream-of-consciousness guy. I’m so organic that I should be found on the shelf of a Whole Foods somewhere. I don’t consider what the recipient of my communication may or may not take from it. I just speak, and I’m sincere—I’m too sincere for politically correct, scared-of-their-own-shadow punks. I have become too effective at explaining the truth about the Second Amendment, the truth about the natural, pure instinct of self-defense, about the reason our Founding Fathers put that in there, in a cultural war where everybody on the other side of the fence—that would be the media 98 percent of the time—hates guns. They hate me because I do thousands of interviews every year, and I do them with a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, historically irrefutable tsunami of statistics and current evidence, and it drives them batty. Instead of someone condemning me because of what I do, they should look at me for what I am. And this brings me to the question you posed. If I was any more PG-13 that night, onstage at the inaugural ball for my good friend and valued employee Governor Rick Perry, Barney would have dry-humped me. I adjusted my halo. I never mentioned [requiring people to speak] English. I never mentioned immigration, illegal or otherwise. I never mentioned these things.

ES: Not a peep.

TN: Not a peep. But I’m not angry. This is better than Richard Pryor on fire. I have to wear a girdle to keep from busting a gut laughing at these idiots. A few years back a newspaper put quotation marks around the following sentence and attributed it to me railing at the audience at the Houston Parklands, or Timberlands, or Gomerlands, or whatever it is: “All you dirty, stinkin’ Mexicans should go back to where you came from.”

ES: That’s not what you said?

TN: Never, never. If I were to express that sentiment, I could make it much more colorful. What I said was, “If you can’t speak English, get the f— out of America.” I didn’t say that because we were in Texas. I say that in Des Moines.

And, on Perry:

ES: Is Rick Perry more in the mold of the kind of person you’re comfortable supporting?

TN: Very much so. I don’t agree with everything he’s done. I think the Texas education system is out of control. I thought he was too late in securing our borders. But in the world of politicians in 2007, Rick Perry stands in the top one percent of those who accurately represent “we the people.” He’s an inclusive, understanding, thoughtful, intelligent, and decisive person, and if more and more states had Rick Perry at the helm, the pimps and the whores and the welfare brats would be stopping at the next Help Wanted sign real soon.

ES: Have you talked since the inauguration?

TN: Many, many times.

ES: What does he say about all this?

TN: It’s hard to get words back and forth to each other amongst the uproarious laughter over the telephone. He thought the whole brouhaha was just adorable and that I am just precious. I don’t think he used the word “adorable” or “precious.” I think there was more-intense street vernacular from the good governor, none of which could be reprinted. Maybe in Texas Monthly.

Based on an interview Friday with Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, barring a Sid Miller run for president, Rick Perry remains Nugent’s main man.

When asked about a possible presidential pick for the 2016 election, the rocker was quite clear. He would love to see former Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the White House.

Nugent shared his reasoning behind the Perry pick, stating, “Given that the conditions in our White House are embarrassing and as corrupt as they are, there are thousands of great Americans that would be better than Barack Obama.”

He continued, “But, we don’t want just better than Barack Obama. We want real statesmen, real Constitutionalists. And I know why my quality of life in Texas is so supreme: Because of Rick Perry and our other elected employees. … And we the people of Texas remaining engaged and demanding accountability.”

Nugent summed up his thinking by saying, “So if my current dream could come true, I would love to see the American helm handled by the great Rick Perry.”

 In his first Iowa foray since surrendering the governorship, Perry was among the bevy of Republican candidates who appeared at  the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, winning good notices.

Here’s a small sample of coverage, provided by Perry’s staff:

The Hill: “A Fiery Speech…” “Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) painted himself as a border warrior in a fiery speech on Saturday, looking to convince immigration hawks to come to his corner.” (Cameron Joseph, “Perry Paints Himself As Border Warrior,” The Hill, 1/24/15)

Daily Caller’s Alex Pappas: “Rick Perry Is On Fire–Says He’s Been ‘Thinking A Little Bit About 2016.’” (, 1/24/15)

 Fox News’ Adam Shaw: “Did That Speech Just Put Rick Perry Back On The Map?” (, 1/24/15)

 Des Moines Register: “Perry Gave A Fiery Speech Saturday…” “Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry gave a fiery speech Saturday to the Iowa Freedom Summit, calling for the nation to embrace the kind of tax policy and economic plans that made the Lone Star State a leader in creating jobs.” (William Petroski, “Perry: U.S. Should Follow Texas’ Lead,” Des Moines Register, 1/24/1

  “Enthusiastic Applause And Cheers For His Criticism Of Obama’s Administration And His Calls For Lower Taxes, Less Government Regulation And Tougher Border Security.” “Perry got enthusiastic applause and cheers for his criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration and his calls for lower taxes, less government regulation and tougher border security.” (William Petroski, “Perry: U.S. Should Follow Texas’ Lead,” Des Moines Register, 1/24/15)

In fact, according to Scott Conroy, writing at Real Clear Politics, the one negative aspect of Perry’s appearance was that he had to follow Sarah Palin. (Apart, that is, from a fresh PolitiFact Texas Pants on Fire for his assertion Monday that the U.S. unemployment rate has “been massaged, it’s been doctored.”)

Conroy, co-author of Sarah of Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar,” wrote:

Few, if any, political professionals consider Palin or (Donald) Trump to be plausible presidential material. But their presence among the serious contenders in Iowa—and, quite possibly, their participation in future confabs in the state later this year—risks diminishing the sincere White House aspirants.

A swing voter in Ohio or Colorado who happened to have caught a two-minute report about Saturday’s event on the evening news would have had a hard time distinguishing the pretenders from the contenders.

Rick Perry, for instance, is aiming to revitalize his national image following his disastrous 2012 presidential bid. But Perry had the misfortune of being assigned the speaking slot directly following Palin—a programming oddity on the order of Woodstock producers scheduling Sha-Na-Na, the 1950s throwback band, right before Jimi Hendrix.

The headline on Conroy’s story was The Iowa Trap.
What’s the trap?
The numbers tell the story.

In the 2012 caucuses, for example, only 122,255 of the 614,913 eligible Republican voters participated—good enough for a record turnout but one that amounted to a mere 19.8 percent participation rate.

Only the most passionate and committed Iowa Republicans—who collectively are older, whiter and more devoutly conservative than the national GOP electorate as a whole—are willing to give up an hour or more of their time on a cold January night to take part in the tradition.

Therefore, the easiest way to stand out in a crowded field in courting their support is by doling out heaping portions of the kind of red meat rhetoric that wows the conservative crowds but also fills national Democratic strategists with visions of President Hillary Clinton dancing in their heads.

In other words, the Iowa caucuses sound like a standard-issue, super-low-turnout Texas primary election, with the same ideological skew.
Amid light crowds last week for the inauguration of Perry’s successor, Greg Abbott, Paul Burka at Texas Monthly, wrote a post under the headline, What If They Held an Inauguration (And Nobody Came)?

That is how I felt about the inauguration of Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. The crowds were modest, at best, on the south lawn of the Capitol for the actual swearing-in. During the parade down Congress Avenue that followed, I saw mostly empty sidewalks with only a few onlookers. Perhaps they were all at Zilker Park enjoying the afternoon instead? Or perhaps I should not have been surprised. After all, nobody voted in the election, so why should anyone expect people to attend the parade?

This may help explain why, no matter his new description of “subhuman mongrels” as too kind a cut, Ted Nugent may remain a cultural icon in good standing in Huckabee’s Bubbaville and in the Republican primary process.

So when Nugent opines, as he did last fall on Facebook, about Ferguson, it may matter less how crudely he expresses himself than how many people are giving it the Facebook thumbs up – 581,328 likes.

Ted Nugent

Here’s the lessons from Ferguson America Don’t let your kids grow up to be thugs who think they can steal, assault & attack cops as a way of life & badge of black (dis)honor. Don’t preach your racist bull…. “no justice no peace” as blabbered by Obama’s racist Czar Al Not So Sharpton & their black klansmen. When a cop tells you to get out of the middle of the street, obey him & don’t attack him as brainwashed by the gangsta a……. you hang with & look up to. It’s that simple unless you have no brains, no soul, no sense of decency whatsoever. And dont claim that “black lives matter” when you ignore the millions you abort & slaughter each & every day by other blacks. Those of us with a soul do indeed believe black lives matter, as all lives matter. So quit killin each other you f….. idiots. Drive safely.

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Texas miracle or mirage; what does Glenn Hegar see in his crystal ball?

Good morning Austin:

Big day today.

At 10 this morning we will hear the annual revenue estimate by the Texas comptroller of public accounts, who, as of this month, is Glenn Hegar.

Here is how the Comptroller’s Office describes this responsibility:

The Comptroller’s Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE), required by the Texas Constitution since 1942 and produced before each regular legislative session, tells the Legislature the amount of funds that should be available for spending in the next two-year budget period.

The Texas Government Code also requires the Comptroller to prepare another estimate, generally called the Certification Revenue Estimate (CRE), after each regular legislative session. The CRE uses the BRE as its starting point and incorporates the fiscal impact of that year’s legislation.

Got to feel for Glenn Hegar. Sworn into office on Jan. 2 and ten days later he’s got to do the most significant thing he’s going to do his whole term in office, the thing that more than anything else he does, will determine how his tenure in office will be judged.

Consider the fate of his predecessor Susan Combs.

Texas Monthly put Combs on its list of Worst Legislators 2013, even though she wasn’t even in the Legislature, based on the inaccuracy of her 2011 revenue forecast, which led to deep education cuts that, in retrospect, with a more accurate forecast, might have been avoided.

Texas Monthly wrote:

rbz Election Glenn Hegar
Comptroller Glenn Hegar (photo by Ralph Barrera)

 Here’s why: the comptroller’s job is to monitor the state’s revenue streams and tell legislators how much they’ll have to spend every biennium. And because the state has a pay-as-you-go requirement, the comptroller’s revenue estimate is an actual restriction; lawmakers can’t spend more money than she says they can. Last time around, Combs predicted we’d have $73.4 billion to spend in the 2012–2013 biennium. But in January of this year, she announced that the state could expect to finish the biennium with an $8.8 billion “ending balance” (that’s accountant-speak for “surplus”).

We’re sympathetic to the fact that the economy has been volatile for the past few years, which makes the comptroller’s job trickier than usual. But if you take a closer look at this year’s estimate, the latest numbers show that the state had $90.2 billion available in general revenue–related funds during the 2012–2013 biennium. That’s a lot more than the $73.4 billion Combs allowed. About 23 percent more, in fact.

In other words, that $8.8 billion suggests truly excessive caution—or, to be cynical, truly excessive partisanship. Let’s not forget that at the same time that Combs was making such a conservative prediction about the budget, she (along with other statewide Republicans) was all too eager to talk about the “Texas miracle” of economic growth and job creation.

Now it’s Hegar’s turn, and as Aman Batheja and Jessica Hamel wrote in the Texas Tribune in September:

The responsibility has become a political minefield, particularly after Comptroller Susan Combs’ estimate ahead of the 2011 session drew criticism for underestimating tax revenue by several billion dollars. Combs’ office recently researched the accuracy of revenue estimates going back 40 years and found that, by one measure, other comptrollers’ estimates have landed farther from the actual number.

The minefield this year is even more treacherous because of the precipitous recent decline in oil prices, which, in the past, has proved to be the state’s Achilles’ heel.

Here from the Comptroller’s Office’s retrospective examination of past revenue estimates:

In the past 40 years, almost every instance of overestimated tax collections occurred as a result of recession and/or precipitous declines in energy prices. Underestimates were associated almost exclusively with soaring energy prices, new technologies in the oil and natural gas industry, and/or boom periods in the economy featuring rapid employment growth and expansion in the housing market

And this:

While the Texas economy has diversified significantly, the oil and natural gas industry still has an outsized impact on the state.

But, as the Statesman’s Kiah Collier reported, on the day Hegar was sworn in:

Texas’ new comptroller on Friday all but dismissed worries that falling oil prices will drag down the state’s economy in the near future.

In his first remarks after being sworn into office,  former state Sen. Glenn Hegar emphasized the benefits that low fuel prices bestow on consumers and noted that sales tax receipts — which make up a much larger portion of state tax collections than those that come directly from oil production — have remained healthy even as the dollar-per-barrel has plummeted to a five-year low.

“Lower fuel costs should reduce the price of importing goods, which is great for consumers and, ultimately, our economy,” Hegar said, standing on the dais in the Senate chamber at the Capitol. “In fact, the average taxpayer will see the equivalent of a 2 percent pay raise as a result of low fuel prices.”

(note: PolitiFact Texas checked this and found it to be “mostly true.”)

Afterward, Hegar said that will act as “a counterbalance … for the economy.”

“I think the outlook for the Texas economy is strong,” he told reporters. “Obviously from one side of it, the budget gets hit a little bit with lower oil prices, but also it’s a stimulus for the economy.”


On Friday, he declined to reveal what oil price that estimate will be based upon, but he said prices have “stabilized.”

“No one has a crystal ball — if you got one, can I have it?” he quipped.

Hegar’s general optimism was echoed by Gov. Rick Perry in an appearance Friday at the annual legislative orientation of the Texas Public Policy Foundation:

Gov. Rick Perry said Friday that the plunge in oil prices will lead to some short-term “belt-tightening” in Texas and a “shakeout” in Midland-Odessa and parts of Houston, but would not knock the state from its perch as the nation’s “epicenter of job creation.”

He predicted the energy sector would probably right itself by the second half of the year.

Perry is depending on that.

Even a relatively short-lived downtown could undo the governor’s post-gubernatorial presidential ambitions.

As I wrote:

Perry’s political calling card would be the strength of the Texas economy and what has been called “the Texas miracle.”

“I can’t explain a miracle,” Perry said. “This is the ‘Texas model.’ ”

Miracle or model, a Texas economy hit hard by falling oil prices would undermine Perry’s political standing.

It’s not just Perry.

To listen to the the rhetoric of Texas Republicans, Texas is the New Jerusalem, its economic success of recent years proof of the rightness of their policies and the righteousness of their cause.

As everyone knows by now, there may be 50 states, but only two really matter – Texas and California – and they are locked in a long twilight struggle to determine which state knows best and to which the rest of America ought to pledge its troth. One offers the path to a bright and happy American future, and the other the road to hell.

At his TPPF appearance last week, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott presented his governorship as a crusade against creeping “Californianization.”

But then there is this huge drop in oil prices, and this piece in last week’s New Yorker by Vauhini Vara, under the headline, How California Bested Texas.

Vara, the former business editor of, who lives in San Francisco, writes:

 These days, though, no one is talking about the lessons California should learn from Texas. California’s economy is improving, and its budget is finally balanced—partly because of budget cuts and a voter-approved tax hike in 2012, and partly because the stock-market boom has translated into more tax receipts from California’s wealthiest residents (the ones with those high income-tax rates). These changes happen to come as Texas, the nation’s biggest oil-producing state by far, is grappling with a collapse in oil prices, which has depressed the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil to under fifty dollars a barrel for the first time in more than five years. It will be several months before the government publishes figures on G.D.P. and business creation for the period coinciding with the drop in oil prices, but already there are signs of trouble. Michael Feroli, the chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase, said in December, “We think Texas will, at least, have a rough 2015 ahead, and is at risk of slipping into a regional recession.” The Texas budget, too, could be hurt by lost oil and gas taxes.

(California Gov. Jerry) Brown, who was sworn in on Monday for a second consecutive term as governor of California (his fourth, including a stint from the late seventies to the early eighties), must have enjoyed a moment of schadenfreude if he happened to scan the Wall Street Journal on his way to the inauguration. In an article on how the oil slump could hurt Texas, Jon Hilsenrath and his colleagues wrote, “Some Texans sobered by memories of past energy busts are bracing for a fall. The argument among economists and business leaders isn’t whether the state will be hurt, but how badly.”

The concerns about Texas’s fortunes speak to a misperception of the state’s recent boom, and of California’s bust. Texas’s outperformance of California had a lot to do with factors beyond the control of politicians like Perry and Newsom—namely, the importance of real estate to California’s economy, and the importance of oil to Texas’s

Let’s pause here for some Twitter reaction to the piece.

Sandra Fluke? Sure. Why not?

On Tuesday, Kiah Collier wrote:

“As oil prices have plummeted and show no sign of recovery … lawmakers probably will have to pursue ‘small ball’ tax cuts rather than ‘grand slam home runs,’ said state Sen.-elect Paul Bettencourt, a Republican from Houston who is closely aligned with Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick.”


Last week, Hegar downplayed the impact of falling oil prices, but Bettencourt and others say they are expecting him to deliver a very conservative estimate that probably assumes something closer to current oil prices than the last estimate.

“That’s his job,” said Bill Hammond, CEO the Texas Association of Business, which is advocating for new spending on roads and other items before lawmakers consider tax cuts. “If revenues come in higher, people will criticize him but, in our view, he’s doing his job.”

While Hammond agreed with Bettencourt that big ticket tax cuts likely will be more difficult, Hammond said the association’s concern is that the investments it wants could take a backseat to tax cuts.

“All of the elected officials have promised tax cuts so” there will be some “push comes to shove, because of the promises on tax reductions, regardless of the revenue levels,” he said.

And then this:

Patrick told the Associated Press on Monday that falling oil prices wouldn’t result in broken promises from Republicans of major tax relief.

“Let there be no doubt — there will be tax cuts,” Patrick said.

There will be tax cuts.

There was something familiar about its sweep and cadence

There will be tax cuts.

Of course.

There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic 2008 film, described by IMDB as, “A story of family, religion, hatred, oil and madness,” and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, who won his second of three Best Actor Oscars for the role (the first was for Christy Brown and My Left Foot and the last for Abraham Lincoln).

Daniel Day-Lewis was born to play the tall and rangy Dan Patrick. Patrick, like Lincoln, is six-foot-four inches tall, two inches taller than DDL, but if the man has proved anything as an actor, it is that he can stretch.

(This weekend I saw Anderson’s latest film, Inherent Vice, based on a 2009 novel by Thomas Pynchon that takes for its title a legal term that refers to “the tendency in physical objects to deteriorate because of the fundamental instability of the components of which they are made, as opposed to deterioration caused by external forces.” According to, “Examples of inherent vice include spontaneous combustion, rust etc.” Or, with its combustible mix of mainstream Republicans, tea partiers and Democrats, perhaps also the Texas House. Have to keep an eye on that.)

I called Mike Collier, the Democratic candidate for comptroller in 2014, on Sunday, to ask what he would do about the revenue estimate if he were Hegar.

Collier, who is now an energy financial consultant and is a former chief financial officer for Layline Petroleum, LLC, said he worried during the campaign, “what happens if I get elected and commodity prices fail, or fall. It’s not that I was smart enough to see it coming. Its’ just that I’ve been working in an around the oil business for a long, long time and I know that they’ll surprise you.”

His answer, now, as during the campaign, was for the state to convert to a system in which the comptroller updates the revenue estimate on a quarterly basis.

Here is some of what Mike Collier said:

We need to switch over to quarterly system because we have a very volatile revenue stream related to the oil business, so we should do what businesses do.

If you talk to senior executives at the oil companies, they have price outlooks, but they do no presume a certain commodity price over a long period of time. They do just the opposite – the presume it will be volatile and they make sure they can manage around that, and one of things they do, and you’ll hear them say only a fool will try to estimate prices, you just presume that they’re volatile, and what they do is update their forecast and their plans as they go. It’s very, very simple.

And Texas doesn’t do that, and really never has … The system we’re using was designed long before we were as large and complex as we are now… Now we’re very large and very complex and we really can’t afford to make mistakes, so we really ought to cut over to a quarterly revenue system just like we do in the oil business.

Mike Collier
Mike Collier

What this all boils down to is,  if I were on friendly terms with Hegar, and he were to pick up the phone and call me – “Mike, what would you do?” I would say, “Glenn, you need to make history. Issue your estimate and tell everybody that you’re going to update your estimate every quarter.

Think about what that would for us …  It would allow the Legislature to be much more savvy about how they make their budgets. For example, if Hegar were to be very pessimistic about oil prices through the end of the  forecast period, 2017, the Legislature might be inclined to make reductions in places Texans might not want reductions – education, transportation and so forth. Or, to be as generous as I can be, they might be fearful of the tax cuts they’ve been promising because Hegar’s come up with a pessimistic forecast, whereas if you update every quarter, you could have another look at it in March, have another look at it in June. If there was still uncertainty, you would know that you would be getting a new forecast in September and in December, and you could do a contingency plan.

Now, nobody really knows how a quarterly forecast would work vis a vis the Legislature, which meet every other year, but that’s because we haven’t tried it. So this does not have to be a threat to Glenn Hegar, the fact that commodity prices are creating so much uncertainty. He could use this as an opportunity to make this a real feather in his cap by changing to a quarterly system.

Hegar did not seem to be sweating the revenue estimate at a panel discussion Thursday night at the TPPF conference that also included Patrick,  and the new attorney general Ken Paxton, and new agriculture commissioner, Sid Miller.

When Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, asked each of the men what kept them up at night, Hegar didn’t mention the forecast. Instead, he said, it was his concern about the state maintaining its Texas values of character, integrity, honesty and hard work. But then he added, that, truth be told, what really keeps him up at night is worrying about the day when boys come calling on his young daughters.

Patrick credited his sleeplessness to concerns about terrorists crossing the Texas-Mexico border.

Miller was, as ever, puckish.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is bad Mexican food,” he said. But, seriously folks, he said, when he’s got his grandchildren on his lap he worries about America’s long term future:  “Will this be a socialist country? Will this be a Muslim country?”

When Paxton’s turn came, he offered Hegar, whose daughters are younger than his own, what he said was some sound advice.

When boys came to the house interested in dating one of his daughters, Paxton said he would pull the young man aside, look him in the eye, and say, “Don’t do anything to my daughter that you wouldn’t do to me.”