A tale of two buses: On Ben Carson, Zoltan Istvan, millennialism and eternal life

Good morning Austin:

Yesterday began with a 7:30 a.m. call from Dr. Ben Carson for what I thought was a pretty good half hour interview about his new book, A More Perfect Union, his primer on the Constitution, which I read over the weekend.

I was pleased.

According to the most recent Fox News poll, Carson is one percentage point behind Trump. According to the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll, he is three points behind Trump. All within the margin of error.

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Real Clear Politics

In other words, that means, in terms of preciousness-of-time-per-percentage-point-in-the-polls, my half hour with Carson was roughly equivalent to a half hour with Trump.

That’s pretty cool.

And by my preciousness calculation, my half hour with Carson is the equivalent of well over an hour on the phone with Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz, between 90 minutes and two hours with Carly Fiorina, three-and-a-half hours with Mike Huckabee, John Kasich or Rand Paul, and a full calendar day on the phone with Chris Christie.

Pretty good.

Carson is also a good interview because his answers are not entirely predictable.

For example, on Sunday’s This Week on ABC, host George Stephanopoulos found himself repeatedly confounded.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s turn to some domestic policy. I was struck by reading your previous book, “America The Beautiful,” of things that you wrote there that sound a little bit more like Bernie Sanders than some of your Republican rivals.

In that book, you wrote about taking the positive aspects of socialism and actually implementing them within capitalism.

CARSON: I meant one of the things that happens, for instance, in Europe, for medical school, is that you don’t have to pay for it. And, as a result, they don’t have the skew that we have here. A lot of people, when they finish medical school, they’re hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

And instead of, you know, doing what they may have wanted to do, which was maybe be a private — a primary care doctor, they decide that I’d better become, you know, one of the specialists that makes a lot more money so I can pay this money back.

That’s not an issue in Europe and they don’t have this — the kind of primary care deficit that we have.

And later:

STEPHANOPOULOS:  You are the only Republican, the only major candidate who opposed President Bush’s decision to invade Afghanistan after 9/11.

And I want to show what you said at the debate.


CARSON: Declare that within five to 10 years, we will become petroleum independent. The moderate Arab states would have been so concerned about that, they would have turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks.


STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s what you said he should have done.

But how would that have worked?


I simply don’t understand how you think this would have worked.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And just before I move on, though, I just want to be clear here. So you’re standing by the statement that, had President Bush simply declared energy independence back after 9/11, that would have caused the moderate Arab governments to turn over Osama bin Laden?

CARSON: I think they — I think they would have been extremely concerned about what the ramifications of that would have been. And I believe they would have been considerably more cooperative.

Of Stephanopoulos, Carson told me, “He’s trying to act like he doesn’t get it and, `I’m a really smart guy, this guy must be way off the wall.’ That’s the impression he’s trying to give.”

Of his campaign’s success, Carson said, “There’s no question that all the experts and political pundits can’t understand it.”

Carson continued:

And I do believe there’s more going on here than meets the eye and I actually do believe in God and interestingly enough, we claim as a nation we believe n God, we’re always saying , particularly when there is a tragedy, “Let us pray.: So are those just empty words?

I am advocating that people be who they are, that they stand up for what they believe in and not allow someone else tell them what they believe and what they can say, and I think that’s a huge part of what being what an American is. We give that away when we allow others to tell us what’s permissible.

Carson said he ran because he was drafted, his house full of boxes of petitions, people imploring him, “you’re the only hope.”

I said, “Lord, if you really want me to do this you will open the doors, I’m not going to bang them down but if you open them I’ll walk through.” And they’ve been flying open.



Ben Carson at Prestonwood Baptist Church
Ben Carson at Prestonwood Baptist Church

Of course, Carson is not the only Republican candidate called by God to run.

On Sunday, he was one of six candidates who talked about the role faith played in his candidacy at Prestonwood Baptist Church, a huge evangelical church in Plano.

It was an in intense session and both Rick Santorum and Carly Fiorina seemed to me a little too tightly wound.

Carly Fiorina at Prestonwood Baptist Church
Carly Fiorina at Prestonwood Baptist Church


Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, seemed wound a little too loosely, like he’s mostly running for president just to get a breather from the rigors of his Fox show and is testing material for his next broadcasting gig.

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Dr. Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, with Mike Huckabee

Cruz was his usual laser-guided missile, but leavened with well-practiced affability, and was the home state favorite.

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

Dr. Jack Graham, Prestonwood’s pastor, interviewed each of the candidates, offering warm praise for all of them, though he was especially effusive with Cruz:

The Lord seems to be elevating you and giving you favor with people.

But, even Jeb Bush, with his high church Episcopal upbringing and conversion to Catholicism, hit the right evangelical notes.

“My parents taught me right and wrong,” said Bush, “But my personal journey began a little later in my life.”

A husband with three kids and involved in myriad things, Bush said,  “I was so overwhelmed.”

I decided to slow down. I started to read the Bible cover to cover, and I got about halfway through Romans when I realized that Jesus was my savior I accepted him as my savior and from that moment on I’ve had a partnership with Jesus Christ that gives me counsel .

I can think with serenity. I can think clearly. I’ve learned to pray. I’ve learned to get down on my knees to pray about things before I make big decisions, and in public life today, it is so important to pray and to think about things clearly because the world has been torn asunder.

But, along with Cruz, the crowd favorite was Carson.

Ben Carson at Prestonwood Baptist Church
Ben Carson at Prestonwood Baptist Church

Some find all this God talk unsettling.

But as I thought about it, I realized that if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and you are running for the Republican nomination for president, and Jesus has not let you know that you may be the one, well, maybe you shouldn’t be running for president.

Yesterday, a few hours after our phone conversation, Carson signed copies of his book for more than 500 people who lined up at the Costco in Northwest Austin, part of a book tour that Carson, with his preternatural calm, can execute in the midst of a presidential campaign – and watch his numbers climb.


For the Carson faithful at Costco, faith counts for a lot. But, since I first encountered Carson’s foot soldiers at the Conservative Political Conference in March, what impressed was how singularly, positively focused they are on him. They mostly don’t even think about or offer a cross word about the other Republican candidates.



photo by Laura Skelding


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Kiyan Caras and his mother Mahshid, center at Ben Carson book signing at Costco. Photo by Laura Skelding Photo by Laura Skelding


Ryan and Kiyan Caras at Ben Carson's book signing at Costco in Austin
Ryan and Kiyan Caras at Ben Carson’s book signing at Costco in Austin (photo by me)
Leaving the Ben Carson book signing at Costco in Austin. Photo by Laura Skelding


But it seems there is also a touch of Christian millennialism in the rapture for Carson as a chosen figure at a chosen time.

Here is a link to a Carson interview with Sharyl Atkisson on her new Sunday show Full Measure, in which he says we may be getting close to the end of days, a point of view consistent with his faith as a Seventh Day Adventist.

Bob and Joanne Pontius attended Ben Carson’s book signing at Costco. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“The Bible says, `He who blesses Israel will be blessed. He who curses Israel will be cursed,” a cheery Joanne Pontius told me after getting her books signed yesterday. “That’s why we’re in trouble. We’re not blessing Israel.”

Let’s pause here for a brief primer on Christian millennialism.



Among Southern Baptists, differences of opinion arise on the nature of the millennium referenced in Revelation 20. That passage describes a 1,000-year period, known as the millennium, during which Satan is bound. Disagreement occurs regarding the timing of Christ’s return relative to the millennium and whether the number 1,000 is literal or symbolic.

Premillennialists believe Christ will return prior to a literal 1,000-year period.

Among premillennialists, there are varied opinions on whether Jesus will remove Christians from the earth prior to a tribulation preceding His return. Some, known as dispensational premillennialists or dispensationalists, believe in such a rescue for Christians. Others, known as historic premillennialists, believe Christians will not be taken out of the world until Jesus returns. A minority of premillennialists believe Christians will be raptured halfway through a period of tribulation preceding Christ’s return.

Postmillennialists believe the 1,000-year period will occur before Jesus returns. Adherents of this position generally believe the millennium will be a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity under the lordship of Christ. Although postmillennialism has enjoyed proponents such as Jonathan Edwards and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary founder B.H. Carroll, the view faded from Baptist life in the last century.

Amillennialists believe the number 1,000 is figurative and that we are currently in the millennium (some premillennialists and postmillennialists also believe 1,000 is figurative). They argue that Satan was bound by Christ through His finished work at the cross and has limited power until Christ returns. Thus, the millennium refers to the current era when Christ reigns in the hearts of believers without Satan’s interference. Christ’s return will mark the close of this era, amillennialists believe.

Then, of course, there are simply millennials – those born after 1980 and the first generation to come of age in the new millennium.

courtesy Zoltan
courtesy Zoltan

Enter Zoltan Istvan, who sent me an email at the fateful hour of one minute before midnight Sunday.

I wanted to invite you or one of your journalists to ride on our Immortality Bus as we tour Austin tomorrow (Monday) promoting transhumanism and cyborgism. Our tour is a bit unusual, but increasingly a number of people consider me the leading 3rd party 2016 US presidential candidate in America. My campaign has some totally original ideas about the future and politics, and we’re the only presidential campaign talking policy on designer babies, artificial intelligence, robots taking all our jobs, a universal basic income, ectogenesis, living to 150, etc. We also think our bus tour is possibly historic, and will one day join the ranks of buses like Ken Kesey’s “Further” which helped start the 1960s.

We are just completing the 3rd stage of our national tour tomorrow, and our final event is in Austin. It will be a show and tell of “biohackers”–who put technology in their bodies as upgrades. For example, many of them (like myself) have chips in them.

Well, that’s different.

LIke the folks at Prestonwood, Zoltan wants everlasting life. He just doesn’t want to have to die first.

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From a recent Huffington Post blog by Zoltan (and yes, it’s such a cool and seemingly fitting first name, that I’m going with it as a standalone name.).

It seemed a wild, impossible dream a year ago when I told my wife and young daughters I was going to drive a bus shaped like a coffin across America to raise life extension issues. A week ago, I just finished the second stage of the tour. Soon I’ll begin the third stage from Arizona to Texas, and then across the Bible Belt to Washington DC, where I plan to post a Transhumanist Bill of Rights to the US Capitol building.

Andi Hatch Photography
Andi Hatch Photography

If the bus tour seems like a wacky idea–especially for a presidential candidate–it’s because it is. Of course, to transhumanists, a more wacky idea is how most of our nation largely accepts death as a way of life. In the 21st Century, with the amazing science and technology this country has, I don’t believe death needs to be left unconquered. If, as a nation, we would just apply our ingenuity and resources, we could probably conquer death in a decade’s time with modern medicine. That’s precisely the reason why I’m running for president and driving the coffin bus around the country; I want to tell people the important news and get them to support radical technology and longevity science.

Zoltan in Austin last night

From a Dylan Matthews report in Vox:

Zoltan Istvan is the presidential candidate of the Transhumanist Party. The party is new, but the movement it represents is not. Transhumanism is the belief that humans can and should use every technology we have to improve and further evolve the species. We should use elective protheses to gain better arms and legs. We should perfect robotic hearts so no one ever dies of heart disease again. We should use cloning and stem cell research and genetic engineering to design the best humans possible. And those humans should be able to live forever.

The coffin-shaped Immortality Bus symbolizes that goal, and serves as a reminder of what Zoltan is promising, and what his opponents are not. Hillary Clinton will let you die, it says. Donald Trump will let you die. Bernie Sanders will let you die. But Zoltan Istvan will conquer death.

Zoltan — who almost always goes by his first name — is only too aware of how fringe an agenda this is. He knows that third-party candidates stand no chance, especially when their party is contesting its first election ever. The operation is about as low-budget as could be. The Immortality Bus is a 1978 Blue Bird Wanderlodge RV, which Zoltan bought for $10,000 near Sacramento, drove back to his home in Marin County, and, along with volunteers, tricked out with a wooden coffin top, new tires, a new paint job, and even some flowers on the roof (how sad would a coffin be with no flowers tossed on top?).

The mission isn’t to win — not yet, anyway. This campaign — including the opening bus trip that will, knock wood, take us from Mill Valley to a “biohacking” festival in the Mojave Desert to the Venetian in Las Vegas — is more of an awareness-building effort. It’s an attempt to force Americans to consider the possibility that the issues that consume most contemporary political debate are basically sideshows distracting from what is, in Zoltan’s view, the only question that really matters: How can we live as long as possible, ideally forever?

So, 12 hours after my wake-up call from Ben Carson, I found myself at a sweet little house tucked away on a little street off Lamar at a bio hackers meet up with Zoltan.

It was easy to find. It was the house with the retrofitted coffin-shaped Immortality Bus parked outside.






Ok. The Ben Carson bus was cool, and definitely more comfortable.

But the Immortality Bus is sick.

Here are Zoltan’s remarks last night:

And here is a Ted Talk by Zoltan.

On the Immortality Bus with Zoltan was his driver/sidekick/videographer Roen Horn, a reporter from Slate, and two film crews – one from the Guardian and the other an independent documentarian.

Not bad. Carson at Costco had a lot of photographers, local TV, and film crew from the Today Show. And, unlike Zoltan, Carson is about to get Secret Service protection. But still, not bad for third party candidate.

At the meetup, there were presentations by biohackers about cutting edge research – including something that one of the presenters said he stuck inside his gums on one side of his mouth and caused his graying temples to return to brown, and experimental eye drops that allowed for extraordinary night vision.

In between, Horn offered an animated pitch for Zoltan.


“Dying is mainstream,” he said. “Vote for Zoltan If you want to live forever.”


Zoltan and Horn are atheists. They believe religion is a drag on sound thinking.

Horn said that dying rendered living meaningless.

That provoked an interesting back-and-forth with some of the biohackers.

Wouldn’t a limitless lifespan sap any urgency and energy out of living?

Isn’t a belief in atheism as much an act of unprovable faith as a belief in God?

Zoltan wants to build a movement among millennials – like environmentalism – devoted to transhumanism.

He would also, in the future, like to make a more serious run for president.

He has a chip implanted in his hand, but it is not about life-extension but convenience. It can be programmed to open a car door, get through a security system, maybe open a garage door.


Machiavelli, the organizer of the meetup, wants to have a Bitcoin wallet inserted in the same place in his hand, but that’s also just as a cool convenience.

But Machiavelli speaks persuasively about how incredibly fast the world is about to change, with people retrofitting themselves with all kinds of enhancements.

On his way to Austin, Zoltan stopped by the cryonics company where Ted Williams is frozen – in two pieces:

After Williams died July 5, 2002, his body was taken by private jet to the company in Scottsdale, Ariz. There, Williams’ body was separated from his head in a procedure called neuroseparation, according to the magazine.

The operation was completed and Williams’ head and body were preserved separately. The head is stored in a steel can filled with liquid nitrogen. It has been shaved, drilled with holes and accidentally cracked 10 times, the magazine said. Williams’ body stands upright in a 9-foot tall cylindrical steel tank, also filled with liquid nitrogen.

I am worried.

How will Major League Baseball survive a world of bionic implants?

What will a defrosted and reassembled Ted Williams think of all this?

I know a defrosted Bernie Sanders will be assailing life span inequality – the one percent living as perpetual 24-year-olds while the 99 percent age and wither and die.

I returned home late night and told my wife that we may be the last generation to die.

“Isn’t that great,” she said. She meant it.

Not to stereotype, but my wife is Irish American and can hold a grudge, and the idea of her refusing to talk to certain people not just for one finite lifetime but  for the rest of time is exhausting to contemplate.

I can hear myself saying, “It’s been 50,000 years. Can’t you just get over it.”

Also, as someone concerned about eking a few more years out of a career in journalism, the idea of having to do it forever is more than I can bear.

But, listening to Zoltan on the Immortality Bus, I realize I’m just not getting it.

Jobs are going away.

With self-driving vehicles, truck driving won’t even be an occupation in five years.

Zoltan’s wife is a surgeon and her job, he said, will disappear not too many years after that.

No wonder Ben Carson went into politics.

I have other practical concerns.

OK. Fine. I can live with living forever. There’s already more good TV being produced these days than any one person can consume in multiple lifetimes.

But the thought of everyone else living forever is disturbing. If new people keep being born, and no one leaves, well, isn’t that a problem? And if nobody new is being born, yuck.

Where have you gone Ben Carson?


Kendra Biegalski, left and her daughter, Christa, 8 wave goodbye to the Carson bus. Ben Carson brings his improbable campaign for the Republican presidential nomination to Austin Monday for a book-signing of his book A More Perfect Union, at the Costco in Northwest Austin. Carson has suspended most campaigning for the next few weeks for the book tour. He signed books for an hour and a half on Monday. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN








What’s in a meme? On Jason Villalba likening democratic socialist Bernie Sanders to a Nazi

Good morning Austin:

Here is something that Rep. Jason Villalba, the North Dallas Republican, tweeted off Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate.

villalba tweet


Hmmm. Wow. Uh oh.

About that meme.

Number 1 is true.

Bernie Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist.

But number two – and therefore number three –  are indisputably wrong.

Nazis were national socialists, but then again, Saddam Hussein’s elite troops were the Republican Guard. The Republicans were the left-wing government in Spain toppled by Francisco Franco’s Nationalists in the run-up to World War II. Neither of which has anything to do with the Republican Party.

Democratic socialists are not only not Nazis – who are usually and properly described as fascists and never described as democratic anything – but are more exactly in philosophy and history, the opposite and enemy of Nazis.

For more on what Sanders means when he says he’s a democratic socialist, read 8 questions about democratic socialism and Bernie Sanders’s vision for the United States, an excellent post-debate primer by Max Ehrenfreund of the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

Here’s Ehrenfreund’s point 2:

Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist.” What does that mean?

This difference between socialism and democratic socialism is actually kind of important. First of all, Sanders isn’t talking about using government to take over large sections of the economy. He doesn’t want to make Comcast part of the government, for example. He’s also not talking about putting an end to the stock market and giving workers control over their companies. Some socialist countries, such as China and the Soviet Union, have sought to nationalize services under regimes that haven’t given their citizens much say in those decisions.

Sanders wants the government to pay for health care and college tuition, but those services would still be provided by a combination of public agencies and private organizations if Sanders got his way.

While Sanders thinks that changes should be made to the U.S. economy, he doesn’t envision doing away with the U.S. system of representative government — Congress, the Supreme Court, elections, all that sort of stuff. He believes in democracy. That’s why he calls himself a “democratic socialist.” In particular, as he repeated in Tuesday night’s debate, he wants to reform the U.S. democratic system to limit the influence that wealthy donors who give money to political campaigns have over the process.

In much of the world — in particular in a number of Western and northern European countries —Sanders would be regarded as a moderate. To get a sense of the way socialism works differently around the world, consider the availability of universal health insurance, conventionally a basic tenet of a “socialist” country.

There is essentially universal coverage in countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom, where socialist philosophy is embraced by many parts of government. In the United States, where socialism is often a dirty word, health insurance has become quasi-universal since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act. About 10.4 percent of Americans are without coverage. And in China, which is nominally communist, many go without access to affordable care.

Add in the fact that Sanders’ father’s family was mostly wiped out during the Holocaust, and you’ve got the makings of one offensive meme.

Villalba’s tweet provoked considerable irritation and anger.

For example.

I was perplexed.

Villalba does like to tweet, but he seemed among the least likely Texas Republicans to call Bernie Sanders a Nazi.

JT Jason Villalba Ledge

Did he mean it? Did he so misunderstand the pertinent history? Did he not anticipate the reaction? Was he trying to outflank Rep. Molly White?

I talked to him yesterday evening and here was what he had to say.

Bernie Sanders  is actually self-described as a Democratic socialist and then to his left (I think he probably meant right, but no matter) are other people who are essentially soft socialists. Any Republican will tell you that, and any Republicans worth their salt believes that Hillary Clinton is a soft socialist, much like this president.

Now including the meme below it is something that struck me as humorous. I attached it and I tweeted it out. So is the history accurate in this? Of course not. Look, was I trying to make a connection between Sanders and the Nazi party? Absolutely not. I categorically reject any suggestion that that  is what I was intending to do. It was meant  just to point out that the Democratic Party, as we understand them today and as they were going through their debate, have exhibited a level of left-wing social engineering that we haven’t seen in our country in decades. And so that was my statement.

Now if you want to try to tie that to that meme I included as a sort of a  second-hand jokey-joke, that’s somebody else laying those intentions over what I was was thinking. But what I was saying was that on the stage tonight was a self-avowed democratic socialist along with a soft socialist, and I stand by that.

You have national socialists and democratic socialists and most people recognize the distinct difference. N-A-Z-I is national socialist. I realize it was a flip, glib sort of commentary on where we are.  Somehow, you invoke the Nazi meme and all of a sudden the Twittersphere breaks through. But  you know, if you’re  socialist, was Stalin any less horrific a leader in his country as a socialist? I don’t think so.

Socialism is wrong for America. It’s not what we want to see from our leadership. I stand by that statement.

Look, if there’s any suggestion for a moment that I was trying to compare Bernie Sanders or anyone in the Democratic Party with Nazis then I categorically deny that and reject that and would tell people who read the  Twitter at night to get their news and information should probably be a little less  focused on some of the bad history included in the memes and realize that it’s a medium to  sort of get broad-themed ideas out there and I stand by the broad-themed idea that the Democrats are on the wrong side of the debate in America today.

Where did he find that meme?

It was on a blog somewhere I don’t even remember. I think it was on another Twitter feed and I saw it and I read it as sort of glib, sort of ridiculous way to accentuate the larger theme that I was making. I slapped it on there as a second thought and obviously that’s what inflamed everyone, because they were suggesting somehow that I was making this comparison between Bernie and the Nazi Party, which is absolutely ridiculous because anyone who knows me knows I know better than that and the history of what that it is.

Now is it sloppy to have anything in a Twitter meme that has the word Nazi in it? Clearly you can’t say something like that and not expect people to react in the way that they do, but clearly it was not intended to be taken as a history lesson for the Twittersphere. It was more meant to again put the emphasis on the broad theme on where the Democrats stand.

Look at my actual quote. Look at what I actually said. And in Twtter today if you’re held liable for anything you either retweet or include in something that’s not yours,  is clearly somebody else’s and is clearly meant to be tongue-in-cheek or satire, then most Twitter statements, you’re going to have to get rid of those because that’s what most of Twitter is. But, if you look at my  actual quote, I stand by my actual quote. It is about democratic socialists and I believe that this  president and most of those who serve in his administration are soft socialists, and we saw that last night.

So, Villalba apparently saw his tweet-with-meme as of a piece with President Obama’s “jokey-joke” about Bernie Sanders at the White House Correspondents’ dinner: “Apparently people really want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House,” the president said. “We could get a third Obama term after all.”

But that’s actually funny.

Villalba acknowledged of Twitter: “It really is a dangerous medium.”

I like to use Twiter for a number of different things. I use it to be  playful with an audiences so that they can get to know me as a person.  I use it  to make statements in real time about issues that are developing right before us. I like to use it to talk about important issues of the day in a very light 140-character style way.

If you really want to understand what I’m about, read my op-eds which are 900 words and get a better feel for what I’m about, when I’m clearly being much more thoughtful, much more articulate on these issues, doing the fact-checking necessary to put a statement with my name on it.

If you’re looking to Twitter as your source for news information and historical reference then you’re probably not going to be getting the best information because Twitter is just not that. Twitter is about scenes and not about long thoughtful, thought-out, fleshed-out ideas.

Villalba, a prime target of the tea party and Empower Texans’ Michael Quinn Sullivan, is facing a Republican primary challenge from another Dallas attorney, Dan Morenoff.

Said Villalba:

They hate me on the far right, now they hate me on the left … Most of the country stands center right, which is right where I stand.

As I was talking with Villalba, it was the seventh inning of the the Texas Rangers-Toronto Blue Jays, an unbelievable inning that would end the Rangers’ season, which was followed by the Astros-Royals game which ended the Astros’ season.

It was a terrible few hours for Texas, but, of course, it had less to do with the players on the field than the errant tweet issued earlier in the week by Gov. Greg Abbott, or, at any rate, his official gubernatorial account.

It is a cautionary tale about he perils of Twitter.




“That’s bush league man,” Joe Scarborough said of Abbott’s tweet on Morning Joe this morning. “It ain’t over till it’s over.”



Viva Las Vegas: On casino capitalism, democratic socialism and honeymooning on the Volga

Good morning Austin:


It’s not clear to me why the Democrats held their first presidential debate in Las Vegas.

Maybe if Bill, not Hillary, Clinton were on stage. But Elvis has left the building.

I mean shouldn’t Trump and the Republicans be debating in this shrine to free market opulence and  gaudy excess?

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Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 6.56.43 AM

Instead, here are the five Democratic contenders gathered for the first time on the stage of Wynn casino in Las Vegas debating whether they should go from the being the party of creeping socialism to being the party of leaping socialism.

ANDERSON COOPER: Senator Sanders. A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, we’re gonna win because first, we’re gonna explain what democratic socialism is. And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost 90 percent — almost — own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. That when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we’re not gonna separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have — we are gonna have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth. Those are some of the principles that I believe in, and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.

COOPER: Denmark is a country that has a population — Denmark is a country that has a population of 5.6 million people. The question is really about electability here, and that’s what I’m trying to get at. You — the — the Republican attack ad against you in a general election — it writes itself. You supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. You honeymooned in the Soviet Union. And just this weekend, you said you’re not a capitalist. Doesn’t — doesn’t that ad write itself?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, let’s look at the facts. The facts that are very simple. Republicans win when there is a low voter turnout, and that is what happened last November. Sixty-three percent of the American people didn’t vote, Anderson. Eighty percent of young people didn’t vote. We are bringing out huge turnouts, and creating excitement all over this country. Democrats at the White House on down will win, when there is excitement and a large voter turnout, and that is what this campaign is doing.

COOPER: You don’t consider yourself a capitalist, though?

SANDERS: Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little by which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No, I don’t. I believe in a society where all people do well. Not just a handful of billionaires.

Very good.

But, as Anderson Cooper noted, the Republican attack ads really do write themselves.

It’s one thing to attack casino capitalism in a casino, but, here in the home of the 24-hour wedding chapel and the heart-shaped tub is a candidate who honeymooned in the Soviet Union.

Really? Can that be true?

Ninotchka in reverse?

Say it ain’t so, Bernie.

From The Guardian:

When Sanders was mayor, Burlington formed an alliance with another city – in the Soviet Union. When Sanders traveled to Yaroslavl, 160 miles north-east of Moscow, in 1988, the trip doubled as a honeymoon with his new wife, Jane. Not much survived in terms of paperwork from that trip, although the mayoral archives do contain a tape recording of Sanders interviewing Yaroslavl’s mayor on a boat somewhere on the Volga river.

After receiving a rundown of central planning, Soviet-style, from Yaroslavl’s mayor, Alexander Riabkov, Sanders notes how the quality of both housing and healthcare in America appeared to be “significantly better” than in the communist state. “However,” he added, “the cost of both services is much, much, higher in the United States.”

Sounds like the same comparison applies to honeymoon accommodations

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Rates From: USD$51.00 per night.

Looks nice. Very comfortable. Quite adequate.

Ah, but maybe the photos are misleading.

I checked the on-line reviews.

Viktor G. gave it a 6. Pretty good.

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 7.18.58 AMIt seems the general tenor of the post-debate headlines and pundit reaction was that Hillary Clinton prevailed and strengthened her position.

But, not according to the Republican National Committee.

Here from an after-midnight email from the RNC’s Ruth Guerra:

Good evening – Lots of analysis tonight on the Democrat debate, but consider these takeaways:

· Bernie Sanders won the focus group conducted by Frank Luntz.
· Bernie Sanders won the focus group conducted by Fusion.
· Bernie Sanders won the focus group conducted by CNN.
· Bernie Sanders won on the issues according to Facebook users.
· Bernie Sanders was the most searched candidate following the debate according to Google Trends.

Hillary Clinton may be the strongest debater on the stage – she was in 2008 too – but it was Bernie Sanders that won the hearts and interest of Democrat voters.

Here, from Guerra’s links.

According to Luntz’s reaction meter, the best-received moment of the debate was when Sanders said he and the American people were tired of hearing about Clinton’s emails.

SANDERS: Let me say this. (APPLAUSE)

Let me say — let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails. (APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: Thank you. Me, too. Me, too.

SANDERS: You know? The middle class — Anderson, and let me say something about the media, as well. I go around the country, talk to a whole lot of people. Middle class in this country is collapsing. We have 27 million people living in poverty. We have massive wealth and income inequality. Our trade policies have cost us millions of decent jobs. The American people want to know whether we’re going to have a democracy or an oligarchy as a result of Citizens Union. Enough of the e-mails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.


CLINTON: Thank you, Bernie. Thank you.

Luntz’s focus group loved that.

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But Trump, on Morning Joe, said Sanders let Clinton off the hook on an issue of her greatest vulnerability. “It was a great soundbite but I think it was a big mistake.”

Back to Guerra’s links.

From Fusion. (What is Fusion? From the Atlantic: Fusion began as a channel aimed at Hispanic millennials. Its executives soon found, however, that the demographic didn’t want their own network. So it chose to focus on millennials as a whole.)

From a CNN focus group.

From a CNN Facebook poll.


From Google Trends:


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I asked three experts on political discourse to offer some commentary on the debate.

From Jennifer Mercieca, professor of communication at Texas A & M University:

The low point for Hillary was her (I’m paraphrasing, but this is what it sounded like to me) “the emails thing is a vast right-wing conspiracy” answer. She was best on foreign policy, but that won’t matter because only Republicans care about that and they are not persuadable when it comes to her.

And yet, she did what she needed to do, which was to solidify her lead with those who’ve been wavering lately. No one else could match her and Chafee bombed. The worst moment of the debate was his “I just arrived” answer about Glass-Steagall. We want a president who is ready on day one, not making excuses years later for what he didn’t know on day one. Hillary came off, as she wanted to, as a pragmatic progressive. Bernie was true to form, character, and message, but he doesn’t seem presidential and he’s hardly a Democrat. His line about Hillary’s damn emails was pretty great though.

Chafee’s “worst moment” was pretty bad.

COOPER: Governor Chafee, you have attacked Secretary Clinton for being too close to Wall Street banks. In 1999 you voted for the very bill that made banks bigger.

CHAFEE: The Glass-Steagall was my very first vote, I’d just arrived, my dad had died in office, I was appointed to the office, it was my very first vote.

COOPER: Are you saying you didn’t know what you were voting for?

CHAFEE: I’d just arrived at the Senate. I think we’d get some takeovers, and that was one. It was my very first vote, and it was 92-5. It was the…

COOPER: Well, with all due respect, Governor…

CHAFEE: But let me just say…

COOPER: … what does that say about you that you’re casting a vote for something you weren’t really sure about?

CHAFEE: I think you’re being a little rough. I’d just arrived at the United States Senate. I’d been mayor of my city. My dad had died. I’d been appointed by the governor. It was the first vote and it was 90-5, because it was a conference report. But let me just say about income inequality. We’ve had a lot of talk over the last few minutes, hours, or tens of minutes, but no one is saying how we’re going to fix it. And it all started with the Bush tax cuts that favored the wealthy. So let’s go back to the tax code. And 0.6 percent of Americans are at the top echelon, over 464,000, 0.6 Americans. That’s less than 1 percent. But they generate 30 percent of the revenue. And they’re doing fine.

COOPER: Thank you, Governor

I think the dream of Chafee 2016 may have expired in that exchange.

But Chafee, who went from Republican to Independent to Democrat, is one very idiosyncratic duck.

Here from a Nov. 14, 2004 story in The Providence Journal by M. Charles Bakst, when Chafee was in the throes of deciding whether to remain a Republican.

His party affiliation sway-pole act was overshadowed only by vacillation over how he’d vote for president this year. Sometimes he signaled he was for Mr. Bush; at other times he backed off.

A spectacular low point came on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention. (He would make only a brief appearance on the New York scene.) Chafee said he supported Mr. Bush’s reelection but wouldn’t commit to voting for him. He looked ridiculous, and Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, more conservative, more combative, and a possible challenger in a 2006 Senate primary, could barely contain himself, asking in an interview:

“What does that mean? Usually, the people you support you vote for. Would you vote for one you wouldn’t support? Or is he saying he supports two people?

Then Chafee, distancing himself further from the president but also wanting to stay away from Democrat John Kerry, hit upon the solution of writing in the name of the president’s father, an old family friend whose policies he like better.

But, in declining to choose between candidate Bush and candidate Kerry, Chafee didn’t make a decision, he avoided a decision. Citizens look to leaders to lead. Chafee is often accused of wanting to have things both ways. This time he outdid himself.

True, Rhode Island was going to be a walkover for Kerry no matter what Chafee did, but the symbolism of his move left him open to ridicule, and, one might say, retaliation. I was struck by a letter to the editor from Edward Smith of Providence:

“When Lincoln Chafee runs for re-election to the U.S. Senate, I will write in his father’s name.”

And then, in an Election Day interview geared to his actually going ahead with his write-in strategy, Chafee compounded his problem by saying he might leave the GOP if the president won a second term.

Forget the “honeymoon on the Volga” Republican attack ad on Sanders.

How about their Lincoln Chafee was for George W. Bush before he was against him before he was for him before he was against him ad.

Asked by Cooper whether his political metamorphosis suggested a flighty nature, Chafee said, “You’re looking at a block of granite when it comes to the issues.”

That brought to mind another Yankee blue blood, Endicott Peabody, who in 1972 actually entered the New Hampshire primary as a candidate for vice president with the slogan, the number one man for the number two job

From the New England Historical Society entry on Peabody.

During his terms as governor, detractors told a joke at his expense: Massachusetts liked him so much they named four places after him: They are Endicott, Peabody, Marblehead and Athol.

OK. Here’s another take on the debate from Kirby Goidel, also an expert on political communication at A&M.

I thought this was an interesting debate where the front-runners did most of what they needed to do. Hillary Clinton is better in a debate format that in a lot of venues. The interaction helps her and she appears smart, well-informed, and engaging. Toward the end of the debate when she got the question on maternity leave she even showed a flash of Bernie Sanders style outrage. Overall, I thought she did well. 

Bernie Sanders was Bernie Sanders, consistent, forthright, and genuine. I was unsure how he might come across in the debate setting but the fact that is unapologetic about who he is is endearing. He might have “won the debate” with his sound bite on being tired of hearing about those damn emails. 

I am not sure how some of his answers will play in the long run – embracing democratic socialism, for example, where he seems outside of the mainstream. The fact that he embraces these differences and uses them as an opportunity to explain his views works for him. The question though is does it expand his base? 

Martin O’Malley did OK but I don’t think we’ll enough. He had an important misstatement on Assad and Syria, though I think he just misspoke. The problem is – he needed to have a home run and he didn’t hit it out of the park. I thought he was at his best when he responded to Sanders saying “we already did that in Maryland.” 

Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee were not helped. 

I have no idea what Joe Biden will do, but I don’t think the debate opened the door any wider. If he was waiting for a sign, I don’t think he got it. 

O’Malley has the extraordinary burden of explaining how this year’s Baltimore riots don’t reflect on his tenure as the city’s mayor and the state’s governor.

COOPER:Governor O’Malley, the concern of voters about you is that you tout our record as Baltimore’s mayor. As we all know, we all saw it. That city exploded in riots and violence in April. The current top prosecutor in Baltimore, also a Democrat, blames your zero tolerance policies for sowing the seeds of unrest. Why should Americans trust you with the country when they see what’s going on in the city that you ran for more than seven years?

 O’Malley answered at length, including this:

O’MALLEY: Well, let’s talk about this a little bit. One of the things that was not reported during that heartbreaking night of unrest in Baltimore was that arrests had actually fallen to a 38-year low in the year prior to the Freddie Gray’s tragic death. Anderson, when I ran for mayor of Baltimore back in 1999, it was not because our city was doing well. It was because we allowed ourselves to become the most violent, addicted, and abandoned city in America. And I ran and promised people that together we could turn that around. And we put our city on a path to reduce violent crime, or Part 1 crime by more than any other major city in America over the next 10 years. I did not make our city immune to setbacks. But I attended a lot of funerals, including one for a family of seven who were firebombed in their sleep for picking up the phone in a poor African-American neighborhood and calling the police because of drug dealers on their corner. We’ve saved over a thousand lives in Baltimore in the last 15 years of people working together. And the vast majority of them were young and poor and black. It wasn’t easy on any day. But we saved lives and we gave our city a better future, improving police and community relations every single day that I was in office.

The one line that stood out to me was I attended a lot of funerals.

Not good.

And here is a first take on the debate from University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus:

Bernie Sanders’s first national debate exposure came off as strident and angry. The message resonates with Democratic voters but the tone needs to be drawn back from angry old man to idealistic critic.

Senator Webb came off as turgid and slightly arrogant but knowledgeable. The only moment where he seemed warm was when Bernie Sanders praised his military service. Otherwise he was forgettable.

Martin O’Malley had the greatest opportunity but fell most short of the mark of anyone on the stage. He struck a timid tone and, other than a little passion on gun control issues, didn’t break through on a single issue.

These debates are a lose-lose for Clinton, like death by 1,000 paper cuts. The subtle jabs and obvious comparisons to the other candidates, either modest or favorable, make her look less viable in comparison. Even so, she presented a poised balance and rational approach to Bernie Sanders’s disagreeable rail against capitalism. Sanders absolved her on the email scandal, at least among Democrats, putting this debate in the positive column for her. Clinton was personal and persuasive on the family leave issue which humanized her and made her more approachable.

In one of the best moments of the night, Clinton was firm and strident on gun control, addressing the general electorate rather than the Democratic Party electorate. She took some hits over Syria but showed both her strong connection to the positives of the Obama Administration but also her deep knowledge. Some of the more damaging hits she took were on voting for the Iraq War, a similar trope from 2008. Foreign policy is not where Secretary Clinton’s opponents are going to quell her in any case but the Iraq issue hurts her with core Democrats, Hispanics and African-Americans. The other damage she sustained was on the war on Wall Street where her admonition of the big banks as Senator fell flat in comparison to Sanders’s populist message.

The bottom line is that Hillary Clinton, while challenged, can’t lose any debate to a group of candidates who are almost a Republican, almost a socialist and almost an independent. The Party wants to be inclusive of a range of ideas but Clinton is the only candidate that hits all the strings on the Party chord.

All in all, I thought the debate was OK, though not nearly as entertaining as the Republicans.

And frankly, I would have much rather been watching my Mets battling the Dodgers, even with its unfortunate outcome.

Even President Obama said he was going to be channel surfing between the two, and when Trump, on Morning Joe, was asked about his decision to solely watch the Democratic debate, he replied:

I can’t believe it either. I thought I had an obligation to sit through the entire thing.

Me too.

Carly Fiorina’s great uncle `literally riddled with buckshot,’ and other Texas news from July 3, 1923

Good morning Austin:

I wrote a story for the Sunday paper about Carly Fiorina’s deep Texas roots.

I wrote about her father, the late Joseph Tyree Sneed III, a very distinguished federal judge, who was born and raised in Calvert and was a professor at UT Law School when Fiorina was born in Austin in 1954.

I also wrote about her uncle, John Beal Sneed, who a century ago did as much as any man to help sell newspapers in Texas.

From Sunday’s story:

On the evening of Jan. 13, 1912, John Beal Sneed strode into Fort Worth’s Metropolitan Hotel and pumped five or six bullets from a .32-caliber handgun into Albert G. Boyce Sr., the former longtime manager of the Panhandle’s XIT Ranch — the largest fenced ranch in the world. Boyce was father of the man who had “eloped” to Canada with Sneed’s wife, Lena, after helping her escape from the Fort Worth sanitarium to which Beal had committed her for “moral insanity” after she revealed to him her love for Albert G. Boyce Jr. (Sneed’s first impulse, he would testify at trial, was to kill Lena and himself, a plan averted only when their daughter wandered in on them.)

In September, nine months after killing Boyce Sr. — who he believed had plotted with his son to steal Lena — and between his mistrial and retrial for the shooting in Fort Worth, Sneed, disguised as a farm laborer in blue overalls, shot and killed Albert G. Boyce Jr. in front of a Methodist church in their hometown of Amarillo, delivering two shots from a double-barreled shotgun and then reloading and delivering a third.

Sneed would be tried and acquitted of both murders, his defense team focused on making sure that if any jurors weren’t native Texans, they were at the very least Southern-born. The trials were covered in newspapers across the country and graced the front page of the Austin Statesman for weeks.


When reporters demanded an explanation for the verdict, the jury foreman replied, “The best answer is because this is Texas.”

“Because this is Texas,” is the title of a 100-page article in the 1999 issue of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Review, based on both Sneed and Boyce family records, written by Fiorina’s sister, Clara Sneed, a teacher, tutor and writer in Berkeley, Calif. She is now finishing work on a novel based on the astonishing family saga that gripped Texas and the nation for more than a year.

In other words, if Fiorina has emerged as a kind of cold-blooded, quick-on-the draw gunslinger in the two Republican debates that have slung her into the top tier of candidates, she comes by it honestly.

The Sneeds shot, and got shot at, always to great public interest.

Six days after the mistrial, Beal’s father, J.T. Sneed Sr., was leaving the post office in Georgetown when he was shot to death by R.O. Hillard, a tenant farmer, who then killed himself. Suspicion focused on the Boyce family, but Hilliard left a note blaming Sneed, his landlord, for driving him insane.

Lena, writing Boyce from Dallas, reported that she had seen “men and women fight on the streets for the papers” to read the latest chapter in what became known as the Boyce-Sneed Feud.

And Beal had a real flair.

Here from the Statesman report on the reaction he and had his lawyers had to his acquittal for killing Boyce Sr.

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If you have trouble reading that, the gist is that when he learned he had been acquitted, Beal let out an Indian war whoop and then insisted on speaking to the jury, promising each one of them a picture of himself and his children.

As I combed the Statesman archives, I found that Beal refused to relinquish his hold on the headlines.

There he was, back on Page One more than a decade later – on July 3, 1923.

Another shooting, though this time he was on the receiving end.

Because it had been so many years, the Statesman also provided a very helpful chronology of Beal’s previous exploits.


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It seems that while Beal was doing a stint in Leavenworth for bribing a juror in a land case, C.B Berry had shot to death Beal’s son-in-law in a dispute over some black men hired to pick cotton. On his return from prison to Paducah, where they lived, Beal shot Berry five times – without killing him – and Berry was now shooting him back.

Each was tried for shooting the other. Both were acquitted.

But, what really intrigued me looking at this story was the entirety of the front page that July 3.

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What a front page.

There are 16 stores on the page.

Yes, many are only two or three paragraphs long.

But scanning the page, I was stunned by the extraordinary topicality – as in current relevance – of many of the stories.

Right there rubbing up against the Sneed story, was a story about the American people hankering for a political outsider for president – someone with enormous success in the private sector.

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As it happens, in 2011, Joseph Kip Kosek, director of undergraduate studies and assistant professor of American studies at George Washington University, wrote for the History News Network about the Ford for President boomlet, with Kosek making comparisons even then to Donald Trump.

The nation’s leading capitalist emerges as a surprise candidate for president.  His political views range from unknown to repulsive to incoherent, but he vaults to the top of early opinion polls.  He has that flair, that self-reliance, that je ne sais pas that set him apart in an undistinguished field.  The man, of course, is Henry Ford.  Long before Donald Trump burst into contention for the Republican nomination, Ford briefly became the most exciting prospect for the presidential election of 1924.  Americans find something strangely seductive in imagining our most powerful economic leaders grasping the reins of political power as well.  The ill-fated Ford-for-President movement shows why that scenario has remained imaginary.

By the 1920s, Henry Ford was one of the great heroes of American culture.  Born on a farm in Michigan, he had parlayed his ambition and mechanical genius into an automobile empire.  Other inventors had designed experimental cars, but Ford’s unique innovation lay in his ruthlessly efficient system of “mass production,” a phrase he popularized.  Many voters began to dream about bringing some assembly-line efficiency to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Ford had become the “people’s tycoon,” as the title of Steven Watts’ biography has it.


More skeptical observers thought that Ford’s popularity was largely the product of a media circus.  A critic writing in the Independent attributed the “bizarre” phenomenon to the rise of the American voter’s “movie mind” (this in the early decades of feature films).  Overstimulated modern people were always looking for “new sensations” that a “tame president” could hardly satisfy.  “If you were a motion-picture producer,” the writer asked, “bent on furnishing a glimpse into the future dramatically, wouldn’t you, now wouldn’t you, choose Henry Ford as your hero?”

Well, maybe.  Despite his potential, the people’s tycoon had some serious liabilities.  Like Trump, he had a weakness for conspiracy theories. Before The Donald’s perplexing sympathy for the birthers was Ford’s perplexing suspicion of the Jews.  In his magazine, the auto magnate disseminated a variety of anti-Semitic writings, including the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  Indeed, Ford was the only American praised by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf.  Being an anti-Semite did not necessarily disqualify one from high office during this period of resurgent nativism, but Ford’s enthusiasm along these lines would undoubtedly have been an embarrassment.

The most important obstacle to a Ford presidency, though, turned out to be the man himself.  He was a cold, even callous personality.  More importantly, unlike Trump, he turned out not to be very interested in running.  In fact, he was opposed to the principle of running.  “I don’t think any man should run for president,” he opined back in 1916.  If the Ford Motor Company needed someone to do an important job, he explained, the company would go out and find the right person.  The Ford-for-President crowd took this to mean that he wanted the American people to do the same, to draft him for president without any active participation on his part.


Next, what was the big issue back in 1923?

Here, from the middle of Page One.


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There’s a science story, suggesting that advances in medical science in the next half century would make dying under the age of 75 “a crime.”


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There are three separate stories revealing the way Prohibition, and its enforcement, were being observed, or not observed.


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And, then, most astonishing of all – though I suppose it should not have been – was a story promoting the coming July 4 speaking appearance of Emperor William J. Simmons of the Ku Klux Klan, who was going to explain why his faction of the KKK was “more actuated by the high ideals of the organization,” than the rival faction headed by Hiram Wesley Evans, a Dallas dentist.

The speech would be at Austin’s Wooldridge Park. All Austin residents are invited.


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So what gives with this struggle between Simmons and Evans for control of the Klan?

What divided them that would be sufficiently compelling for folks to spend some of their July 4th listening to Simmons?

From Jerry L. Wallace, a Coolidge scholar (Coolidge would become president a month later with the death of President Harding) writing at the Calvin Coolidge Foundation:

Col. William Joseph Simmons, an emotional man with a bent towards the mystical, founded the revived Klan order and served as its first Imperial Wizard.[xiii]  He had summoned it into being on top of Stone Mountain, Georgia, on Thanksgiving night of 1915.  Simmons, an avid fraternalist since youth, who himself belonged to several orders, had long dreamed of creating his own group.  In reviving the Klan, he was inspired by stories of the original Klan told him as child by his father, who had been a Klansman, and his nanny.[xiv]

Simmons, however, got the idea for the fiery cross, which came to symbolize the Klan in the 1920s, from the writer Thomas Dixon.  Dixon had conceived the fiery cross and introduced it in his novel, The Clansman.[xv]  Later, the device appeared in Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation.  The first Klan had never used it.

In its early years, 1915-20, the second Klan grew slowly and showed little promise of success.  During the Great War, it put itself to work ferreting out disloyal Americans.  It did not spring to life, becoming an organizational and financial success, until June of 1920, when Simmons hired two clever marketing experts, Edward Young Clarke and Mrs. Elizabeth Tyler, to head the Klan’s Propagation Department.  They became, as one student of the Klan has observed, the “real creators” of the second Klan.[xvi]

The Clarke-Tyler duo was able to exploit for the benefit of the Klan the postwar situation:  a chaotic, violent, and stressful period, marked by strikes, a crime wave, and race riots; by prosperity followed by a severe slump; and by political battles over the future of the nation.  They did this by developing a strategy based upon their conception of One-Hundred Percent Americanism, which consisted of a collection of religious, political, economic, and social ideas and beliefs common to the first American settlers and their descendants.  It was cleverly designed to appeal to the ingrained patriotism and prejudices of the average American.

Of Evans, Wallace wrote:

In November of 1922, Hiram Wesley Evans, a successful Texas dentist, deposed Simmons as Imperial Wizard.  Evans, a capable manager and leader, changed the direction of the Klan.  He exercised more control over local activities, he clamped down on violent acts, and he expanded the Klan’s ranks by creating a popular women’s auxiliary in 1923 and a branch for young folks in the following year.

Most notably, Evans attempted to make the Ku Klux Klan into a powerful political machine, working within the two major parties.  To be at the center of power, Evans moved the Klan headquarters in late 1925 from Atlanta, Georgia, to 7th and “I” Streets in Washington, D.C., where it was to remain until 1929 when it was returned to its home base.[xxxiii]

There were some political successes:  Klansmen, it is said, helped to elect nine Republicans and seven Democrats to the U.S. Senate and six Republicans and five Democrats to governorships.[xxxiv]  Generally, however, the Klan did best at the local level, where Klansmen’s votes, especially in primaries, could play a decisive role.

Revealing his influence, Evans’ picture graced the cover of TIME magazine on June 23, 1924, the day prior to the opening of the Democratic National Convention.  Yet, in the 1924 presidential election, following the debacle created by the Klan issue at the Democratic Convention, the Klan as a national campaign topic soon faded away and it apparently was not a significant factor in the voting that November.  As for the Klan’s own involvement, Robert K. Murray, an historian of the 1924 election, has concluded, “Davis lost no state because of Klan activity nor did Coolidge win one.”[xxxv]


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The Republican National Convention in 1924 was held, as it will be again next year, in Cleveland.

Time referred to it in its 1924 cover story on the Klan’s influence as the Kleveland Konvention

Many men went to Cleveland hoping, trying to put an anti-Ku Klux Klan plank in the Republican platform. They had prepared a plank which read thus:

This party pledges itself and its candidates to stand inflexibly for government by due process of law and against all groups, open or secret, which attempt to take the law into their own hands. If its candidates are elected, this party gives assurance that no act of theirs will render aid or comfort to any organization based on prejudice or discrimination…

As it turned out, the Cleveland convention sidestepped the issue of what to say or do about the Klan.

Meanwhile, from Digital History, the issue of the Klan’s proper place in American public life took an uglier turn at the Democratic Convention in New York:

The two leading candidates symbolized a deep cultural divide. Al Smith, New York’s governor, was a Catholic and an opponent of prohibition and was bitterly opposed by Democrats in the South and West. Former Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo, a Protestant, defended prohibition and refused to repudiate the Ku Klux Klan, making himself unacceptable to Catholics and Jews in the Northeast.

Newspapers called the convention a “Klanbake,” as pro-Klan and anti-Klan delegates wrangled bitterly over the party platform. The convention opened on a Monday and by Thursday night, after 61 ballots, the convention was deadlocked. The next day, July 4, some 20,000 Klan supporters wearing white hoods and robes held a picnic in New Jersey. One speaker denounced the “clownvention in Jew York.” They threw baseballs at an effigy of Al Smith. A cross-burning culminated the event.

Al Smith and William Gibbs McAdoo withdrew from contention after the 99th ballot. On the 103rd ballot, the weary convention nominated John W. Davis of West Virginia, formerly a US Representative from West Virginia, Solicitor General for the United States, and US Ambassador to Britain under President Woodrow Wilson. The nomination proved worthless. Liberals deserted the Democrats and voted for Robert La Follette, a third party candidate. Apathy and disgust kept many home, and just half of those eligible went to the polls. The Democrat candidate, John Davis, received 8 million votes. The Republican candidate, incumbent president Calvin Coolidge, received 15 million votes.

Meanwhile, the Klan was riding high politically in Texas in 1923 when Simmons came to speak in Austin – at least until it ran up against Ma Ferguson in her successful, anti-Klan, campaign for governor in 1924.

From L. Patrick Hughes, a professor of history at Austin Community College.

From 1922 to 1924 the secret order was the chief issue in Texas politics; it elected sheriffs, district attorneys, judges, and legislators. Probably a majority of the House of Representatives of the 38th legislature were Klansmen. In Waco, the mayor and the Board of Police Commissioners were Klansmen. So were the county judge of Dewitt and the sheriffs of Jefferson and Travis counties. When a newspaper charged that the city and county officials of Dallas were Klansmen, no denial was made. Perhaps as many as 400,000 Texans belonged to the Klan at one time or another during the Twenties.

According to Charles Alexander, the “distinctive quality” of the KKK in the Southwest was “its motivation, which lay not so much in racism and nativism as in moral authoritarianism.” More than anything else, the Klan was “an instrument for restoring law and order and Victorian morality to the communities, towns, and cities of the region. Its coercive activity and its later preoccupation with political contests make vigilantism and politics the main characteristics of Klan history in the Southwest.”

Only a small portion of the Klan’s defense of morality and society was directed at blacks. Its campaign of systematic terrorism was aimed mostly at bootleggers, gamblers, wayward husbands and wives, wife beaters, and other “sinners.” At Timpson, Texas, Klansman took a white man from his home and beat him because he had separated from his wife. Similar treatment befell a Brenham man who spoke German, a divorced man in Dallas, a black bellhop in the same city believed to be a pimp, a Houston lawyer accused of annoying girls, and many other moral errants. A woman was taken from a hotel in Tenaha, stripped, beaten with a wet rope, and tarred and feathered because there was some question whether her second marriage had been preceded by a divorce. The Klan in Dallas was credited with having flogged sixty-eight people in the spring of 1922, most of them at a special KKK whipping meadow along the Trinity River bottom.

Some Texans were alarmed by these outrages and attempted to take preventative measures. A number of outspoken district judges ordered investigations and some city officials attempted to prevent Klan parades. Forty-nine members of the state legislature petitioned Governor Pat Neff for an anti-mask law. Chambers of Commerce, American Legions, the Daughters of the American Republic, the Texas Bar Association, the Masons, and others denounced the Klan. The most serious threat to the political activity of the Klan in the Dallas area was the Dallas County Citizens’ League, formed on April 4, 1922, at a mass meeting of five thousand citizens. The League denounced the Klan for its terrorism and violation of the laws of the state and Constitution of the nation, and accused it of trying to destroy political and religious freedom.

The League efforts against the Klan were not very impressive, at least not in political terms. In 1922 practically all of the Klan-backed candidates for office in Dallas County won, including the one running for district attorney. The following year the anti-Klan mayor of Dallas and others on his ticket were defeated by an almost three-to-one vote.

In 1922 the secret order made its influence felt quite dramatically in the race for United States senator. In the Democratic party primary race Senator Charles A. Culberson, hampered by ill health, campaigned for reelection in a less than forceful manners. Three of his opponents were admittedly pro-Klan, while the remaining four were anti-Klan. Among the former group, the KKK in Texas endorsed Earle B. Mayfield of Austin, a member of the State Railroad Commission. Mayfield received a plurality in the primary. The runner-up was former Governor James E. Ferguson. Mayfield won the run-off by 45,000 votes. It is, of course, impossible to determine how many of Mayfield’s votes were cast against “Fergusonism” or how much of the former governor’s support was anti-Klan. What is certain is that the Klan played a prominent role in the two primary campaigns. Mayfield trounced his Republican opponent in the general election.

Governor Pat M. Neff, whom the KKK considered “favorable”, was reelected. Most of the state’s congressmen tried to straddle the Klan issue, although John Nance Garner spoke out against the order. Though reelected, he lost areas, including his home county of Uvalde, that he had always carried before.

In 1924 Klansmen and Klan supporters probably controlled the State Democratic Convention which selected delegates to the national convention. That meeting proved to be the high water mark politically for the KKK in Texas. In the governor’s race that year the hooded order campaigned actively for Judge Felix Robertson of Dallas. His opponent in the Democratic primary run-off, Miriam A. Ferguson and her husband, the former governor, ran a straight-out anti-Klan campaign. Mrs. Ferguson won by nearly 100,000 votes.

At the second State Democratic Convention of 1924, which met after Mrs. Ferguson’s Democratic primary run-off victory, the Ku Klux Klan in Texas was given a merciless political drubbing. The convention inserted in its platform an anti-Klan plank that began: “The Democratic party emphatically condemns and denounces what is known as the Invisible Empire of the Ku Klux Klan as an un-democratic, un-Christian and un-American organization.” Though many Texas Klansmen voted for Mrs. Ferguson’s Republican opponent in November, she won handily.

When Simmons died in 1945, he was given a contemptuous obituary in the New York Times:

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Those are only a selection of the stories on a single front page of the Statesman in 1923.

What a paper!

There were also two cartoons.

There was this one, which seems pretty timeless.

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And there is this one, which went alongside the banner story advancing the big July 4 heavyweight championship fight between Jack Dempsey and Tommy Gibbons in middle-of-nowhere Montana (the fight would turn out to be kind of a letdown). In this cartoon, a grizzled cowboy longs for the days when fights were settled not with gloved fists in a padded ring but out on the street, with guns.

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But the reader’s eye needed only drift to the left hand column of that day’s front page of the Statesman to see that, thanks to Carly Fiorina’s great uncle, Beal Sneed, those good old Texas ways were still very much alive and well in 1923.



As Senate boos Cruz, Ted gets lotsa Lege love from Texas Republicans

Good morning Austin:

Sen. Ted Cruz may find himself isolated from his Senate colleagues in Washington, but the Texas Legislature is thick with senators and representatives who would like to see Cruz elected president.

Cruz’s presidential campaign Wednesday released a list of five Texas state senators and 36 state representatives who are endorsing Cruz for president. That’s pretty impressive, considering that there are 20 Republicans in the Senate and 97 Republicans in the House. It means that Cruz has the support of 35 percent of the party’s legislative caucus.

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Here is the Cruz list:


Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury. Chair, Senate Committee on Nominations.

Konni Burton, R-Colleyville. Vice Chair, Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations.

Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe. Vice Chair, Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations.

Bob Hall, R-Edgewood.

Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. Vice Chair, Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.


Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco. Vice Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock.

Cecil Bell Jr., R-Magnolia.

DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne.

Gary Elkins, R-Houston. Chair, House Committee on Government Transparency and Operation.

Pat Fallon, R-Frisco.

Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress Chair, House Select Committee on Emerging Issues in Texas Law Enforcement.

Dan Flynn, R-Canton. Chair, House Committee on Pensions.

John Frullo, R-Lubbock. Chair, House Committee on Insurance.

Dan Huberty, R-Humble.

Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola.

Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands.

Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth.

Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth.

Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa.

Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker. Chair, House Committee on Elections.

Jeff Leach, R-Plano.

Will Metcalf, R-Conroe.

Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels. Chair, House Committee on Special Purpose Districts.

Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land.

Jim Murphy, R- Houston. Chair, House Committee on Corrections.

Andrew Murr, R-Junction.

Larry Phillips, R-Sherman. Chairman, House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety.

John Raney, R-Bryan/College Station

Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball. Vice Chair on Juvenile Justice and Family Issues.

Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving.

Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler

Matt Schofield, R-Katy.

Matt Shaheen, R-Plano.

Wayne Smith, R-Baytown. Chair, House Committee on Recreation and Tourism.

Stuart Spitzer, R-Kaufman.

Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington.

Scott Turner, R-Frisco.

Molly White, R-Belton.

John Wray, R-Waxahachie.

Bill Zedler, R-Arlington.

John Zerwas, R-Richmond. Chair, House Committee on Higher Education.

Cruz already has the endorsement of six congressmen from Texas – Louis Gohmert, R-Tyler, Michael Burgess, R-Fort Worth, John Culberson, R-Houston, Randy Weber, R-Galveston, John Ratcliffe, R-Heath, and Brian Babin, R-Woodville.

This is useful, as vote of confidence, and, with the March 1 Texas primary being waged congressional district by congressional district, it is useful on the ground, district to district.

The blitz of home state legislative support followed on the heels of Cruz’s effort to knee-cap Sen. Rand Paul by releasing a video highlighting testimonials of support from Ron Paul-loving libertarians.

Cruz also named former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr national Chair of the Liberty Leaders for Cruz coalition.

Bob Barr is Chairman of Liberty Guard, Inc., a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting individual liberty. He also heads a consulting firm, Liberty Strategies, Inc. From 2003 to 2008, Bob occupied the 21st Century Liberties Chair for Freedom and Privacy at the American Conservative Union. He is a member of The Constitution Project’s Initiative on Liberty and Security.

He was the 2008 Libertarian Party candidate for president.

If I were Rand Paul, I would keep in very close touch with dad.

Instead, Paul sidled up to The Man in D.C. , criticizing Cruz for having marginalized himself, neutering his ability to be effective in the Senate.

This is not an argument that is going to hurt Cruz with lovers of Ron Paul.

Yesterday, Burgess Everett of Politico reported, How McConnell outfoxed Ted Cruz: Cruz can’t get the best of the GOP stalwart.

Ted Cruz called out Mitch McConnell seven times by name on Monday night. Afterward, the Senate majority leader barely uttered a word about his chief Republican adversary.

Asked about Cruz’s diatribe on the Senate floor, during which the Texas Republican suggested McConnell is a puppet for Democratic leaders and a foe of conservatives, McConnell couldn’t conceal his smile on Tuesday.

 “I have tried very hard to stay out of the presidential race, and I think that’s probably a good rule for me,” he said with a chuckle.

McConnell may not like to talk about Cruz, but he and his leadership lieutenants have quietly and methodically worked to isolate the conservative senator and minimize his effect on the critical fall spending debate. The end result, in spite of Cruz’s invective toward Republican leaders, is music to McConnell’s ears: no government shutdown.

“We had to be prepared,” said John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican. “He’s running for national office. He’s got a different endgame than we do. There are things we have to do here. We’ve got to fund the government every year.”

In his blistering speech on Monday, Cruz said that McConnell is “not willing to lift a finger” to take on Planned Parenthood or Iran and said that, despite massive GOP majorities, “Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi remain the de facto leaders in the Senate and the House.” He also accused McConnell of using an “unprecedented procedural trick” by denying Cruz a roll call protest vote on Monday, a move that was backed by the vast majority of the Senate GOP conference but opposed by Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah.).
On Tuesday, the blackout continued, even though Cruz had beckoned voters to watch his attempt to again force a vote to disrupt the spending bill. But he couldn’t make this move without some agreement from his colleagues, and they were unwilling to give it to him.
“Ted has chosen to make this really personal and chosen to call people dishonest in leadership and call them names which really goes against the decorum and also against the rules of the Senate,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a rival of Cruz’s for the GOP presidential nomination who has earned a tepid endorsement from McConnell, said on Fox News Radio. “As a consequence, he can’t get anything done legislatively. He is pretty much done for and stifled.”
Cruz declined to comment for this story when asked about the box-out by fellow senators. And perhaps there wasn’t much left to say: He’d again insulted McConnell by comparing him to Reid, boasted about Boehner’s downfall and exhausted his procedural leverage — leaving Cruz to tout his war against McConnell on the campaign trail.
Declined to comment?
Cruz probably couldn’t stop grinning long enough to comment.
I suppose he’s OK with Mike Lee sticking with him, even though it might be even cooler to be all by himself, the lone gutsy truth-teller. And Rand Paul throwing in with Mitch McConnell over Ted Cruz. Don’t they have a real tea party in Kentucky? At this rate, Paul may even blow his chance to pick up the endorsement of Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a liberty-minded tea party hero whose name was missing from the Cruz list.
Cruz likes nothing better than railing against everybody else on the Senate floor.

And then there’s this from Bloomberg: The Isolation of Ted Cruz. The Texan has accumulated an unlikely amount of power by seizing the Tea Party mantle, but it’s not helping much in the Republican bid to win the Senate.


Cruz is probably more worried about Carly Fiorina drawing more fire for her attack on Planned Parenthood than he is, than he is about the daggers being directed his way by 98 of his colleagues.

He is running for president of the United States, not Senate whip.

Cruz can’t be more unWashington than Donald Trump or Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina because, after all, he is actually a member of the Senate. But, given that, being the most reviled man on Capitol Hill is pretty good.

And it’s doing nothing to undermine his standing with Republican legislators in that other Capitol back in Austin.







Who made John Boehner cry and say `bye’ – Ted Cruz or Pope Francis?

Good day Austin:

It’s all in the punctuation. “Don’t cry for me Argentina.”

There’s the Madonna standard punctuation.

But maybe Pope Francis, an Argentinian, uses Argentina as a sly, private nickname, and, yesterday, he passed a note to House Speaker John Boehner – “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.

If so, it was to no avail.

The Pope had Boehner working the hanky during his speech before the Congress.

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The pope had Boehner, his face contorted in eloquent emotion, when Francis came out to the Capitol balcony to offer greetings to the gathered throng.

Now Boehner is a famous crier.

He cries a lot.

He cries on 60 Minutes.

He holds back tears at the State of the Union.

For all I know there is 7-Eleven security camera footage of Boehner bawling when he is told they are all out of Camel Extra Lights.

And, though there is no footage of it, I am quite sure that Ted Cruz makes him cry – not heartwrenching, warm and bittersweet tears. Just hot, salty, bitter  tears of anguish and frustration.

Boehner is stepping down amid a rebellion among party hard-liners for whom Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are squishy sell-outs.

And their spiritual leader – the Pope Francis of Republican discontent – is Ted Cruz.

Cruz is the Fidel Castro of this revolutionary band – the Tortilla Toast Caucus –  holed up not in the Sierra Maestra Mountains but a Capitol Hill Mexican eatery.

Cruz and the TTC are the architects of the defund-Planned-Parenthood-or-die strategy that threatened to lead to a government shutdown that Boehner was determined to avoid and that, with his announcement that he will be stepping down, he is freer to avert.

Boehner’s sudden announcement that he was quitting Congress had Cruz on a giddy high when he addressed the Values Voter Summit in Washington just after the big news broke.

He was – to use a favorite Cruz imagery – on fire.

His buttons were bursting.

From Anthony Zurcher with BBC: John Boehner resigns and Ted Cruz gloats

The man John Boehner once called a “jackass” took the stage at the Values Voter Summit just about an hour after news that the House speaker was resigning from office.


Now Boehner is gone, and it seems Mr Cruz’s brand of high-stakes brinkmanship is gaining favour in the US capital. While the senator himself didn’t take credit for the change, Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine – who introduced Cruz at the Washington event – wasn’t so demur.

“We’re going to get new leadership in the House of Representative,” he said. “It’s happening because there’s a newly elected senator that showed up and started articulating principles that were consistent with the Republican platform.”

He added that the Boehner-led establishment fought the Texas senator for his perceived transgressions.

It seems, however, that there’s going to be a new sheriff in town.

Jonathan Easley at The Hill went with basks instead of gloats: Cruz basks in news of Boehner’s resignation:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) basked in Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) resignation announcement, saying that Republicans had failed to deliver on any of their electoral promises under his leadership.


The Texas Republican insisted that he doesn’t have it in for either Boehner or McConnell, but said his disagreements with them stem merely from his view that they refuse to fight for conservative principles.

“I’ve privately urged them to stand up and lead and told them if they did, I would sing their praises,” Cruz said. “I would be thrilled to hold a press conference and talk about the brave, principled John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, if they would simply act in a way that I could say those things.”

Cruz said he’s tired of the excuse that Republicans must run every branch of government to get anything done, but he said he’s working to ensure they maintain majorities in both chambers in 2017 and take the White House.

“We were told that if only we were to have a Republican House of Representatives we could get something done, so in 2010 millions of us rose up and we did,” Cruz said. “Then we were told that the problem is the Senate, so in 2014 millions of us rose up and we won a landslide election.

“Now we’re told … we have to wait until 2017.”

In his ebullient performance before the Values Voter Summit Cruz said:

You know there’s an ancient Chinese curse. May you live in interesting times. We live in interesting times.

Of Tony Perkins, head of the summit sponsor – the Family Research Council:

You want to talk about a strong. principled conservative who  scares the living daylights out of Washington.

But I have to tell you. Tony doesn’t scare Washington half as much as the men and women gathered in this ballroom.

You want to know how much each of you terrify Washington?

Yesterday, John Boehner was speaker of the House. Y’all came to town and that changes.

My only request is can you come more often. Tony we need to schedule these weekly, once a week.

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Cruz spoke more directly about Boehner with reporters at the summit.

If it is correct that the speaker, before he resigns, has cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi to fund the Obama administration for the rest of its tenure, to fund Obamacare, to fund executive amnesty, to fund Planned Parenthood, to fund implementation of this Iran deal – and then, presumably, to land in a cushy K Street job after joining with the Democrats to implement all of President Obama’s priorities, that is not the behavior one would expect of a Republican speaker of the House.

So Boehner had good reason to be fed up with Pope Ted.

But my guess is that it was the other Pope’s visit that may have given Boehner absolution and emotional release from any guilt or doubt he may have had about about calling it quits and exiting the purgatory that is being a Republican congressional leader in the Age of Cruz.

From the New York Times report on Boehner’s resignation:

Looking poised and sounding rehearsed, Mr. Boehner, who stunned the capital with his news, became emotional as he recalled a moment alone with Pope Francis, who had been his guest the day before at the Capitol and who had asked the speaker to pray for him.


The announcement came just a day after Pope Francis visited the Capitol, fulfilling a 20-year dream for Mr. Boehner, the son of a tavern owner from a large Catholic family, of having a pontiff address Congress. He had a private audience with Francis before the pope spoke to a joint meeting of Congress.

Mr. Boehner wept openly as the pope addressed an audience gathered on the West Lawn of the Capitol on Thursday. He no doubt understood that it was his last grand ceremony as speaker and, indeed, a capstone to his long political career, which began in the Ohio Statehouse.


Rick Perry will support Donald Trump if he’s the Republican nominee

Live, from Austin, Texas, Rick Perry was on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today.

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Looking good.

Rested and ready but, yes, out of the race, and opening up with a salute to the quality of the sunsets in Round Top, the idyllic community to which he has repaired after leaving the race for president a little more than a dozen days ago.

It’s a pretty sunset on the house over in Round Top so my wife and I are enjoying that.

He was the first candidate to bow out of the crowded Republican field.

This week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker followed suit, saying:

Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive, conservative message can rise to the top of the field. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately.

I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner. This is fundamentally important to the future of our party, and, more important, the future of the country.”

Well, Perry was ahead of Walker, in leading by leaving, and also in calling out Donald Trump.

Perry’s exit was less surprising than Walker’s. He peaked four years ago. Walker peaked a few months ago.

Perry blamed the white noise of a crowded field and being under indictment.

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We always knew this was going to be a very steep hill for us to climb with 17, a total of 17  in the race. It became a lot of white noise if you will.

But we always knew ours was going to be a challenge. We had an indictment – still do – in Travis County. The most Democrat county in the state of Texas brought forward – it was a bogus indictment – but we knew it had to be removed last summer and it wasn’t so it really impacted our fundraising.

And money’s like fuel in an aircraft. If you’ve got your destination planned out right and you don’t have enough fuel to get there, you better have a diversion and we decided to make the  safe landing and live to fight another day.

Host Joe Scarborough interjected, “it’s kind of tough also when you have a guy in first place who is flying his plane upside down, not playing by the rules of the game. That had to be very frustrating as well.”

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Well the process is the process.

Democracy and the way it works is sometimes messy but it’s the best there is in the world compared to all the others. I don’t complain about those things. they are what they are. 

I have great faith the American people will get focused. They will choose an individual who can lead this country in some very, very trying times.

And we look around the world and see what’s happening in China, in the  Middle East, in South America even, and we realize we have to have someone who has some extraordinary experience governing. And that’s the reason that some of these governors I think initially, and I think at the end of the day, are going to be looked at very seriously because you don’t want an intern doing your heart surgery Joe, you want the best you can find.

Perry was asked about Carly Fiorina.

Well, I’ve been impressed with Carly for a long time. Back in the mid-2000s she was the head of Hewlett-Packard when Compaq in Houston was absorbing part of that HP process. We negotiated with each other and we became very, very good friends. I’m a great fan of hers. She is solid. She is steady. I have not heard a better closing statement, maybe in my lifetime, than what we saw in that last debate. She was very, very impressive.

Carly is an impressive leader. She is impressive on the stump. She is obviously a very, very capable debater and an individual that, you know, Americans are looking at right now and they’re liking what they’re seeing.

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Would he back Donald Trump – a man he called a “cancer on conservatism” – if he is the Republican nominee?


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Whoever comes out of that Republican field I’m going to be supporting.

When you look at the other side and see the alternatives, whether it’s Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden, or some other candidate out there. I mean, that is – we’re going to be head and shoulders above them.

It’s going to be more of the same from the Democrats. They want more government, bigger government, more taxes. We’ve tried that for, well it will be eight years, and it has been an aboslute disaster and Americans are ready for some free market capitalism and really let this country really become what it can economically, because of that economic prowess to build our military back up  so that we have influence across the globe. The world needs a strong America.

Perry was asked about Dr. Ben Carson’s suggestion on Meet the Press Sunday that a Muslim ought not serve as president of the United States.

Perry said:

What I’m more concerned is these absolutes you get asked. We frankly don’t live in an absolute world. There’s a lot of gray out there, and I think what Dr. Carson was asked was an absolute question that you get asked about.

He got asked, “Would you vote for a Muslim?” I think that was the quote. And he gave an answer that was an absolute when it’s really hard to address those as absolutes, because the fact of the matter, if it’s someone who says the Koran is going to supersede the Constitution, then most Americans are going to say, “You know what. We have a problem with that because we put our hands on the Bible, we make a pledge to uphold the laws and the Constitution of the United States.”

Here is actual exchange between Chuck Todd and Ben Carson on Meet the Press.



Let me wrap this up by finally dealing with what’s been going on, Donald Trump, and a deal with a questioner that claimed that the president was Muslim. Let me ask you the question this way: Should a President’s faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?


Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, no problem.


So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?


No, I don’t, I do not.


So you–


I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.

Back to Perry:

I’ve got great faith in the American people to make a decision …. Let me just leave you with this.

Martin Luther said that I’d rather be ruled by a smart Turk than a stupid Christian.

Joe Scarborough: That’s a really good quote, governor.

Also, from what I could find, both widely cited and likely apocryphal.

From Wikiquote:

The earliest published source for such a statement yet located is in Pat Robertson — Where He Stands (1988) by Hubert Morken, p. 42, where such a comment is attributed to Luther without citation.

Another very popular but perhaps apocryphal Luther quote:

Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!

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Asked, what’s next, Perry said:

I’m going to stay engaged obviously. I care about where this country is headed. Any way I can participate to get America back on track, obviously

One of my passions is the military and how do we support those young men and women who are defending our freedoms around the world.

I can assure you that I will still be involved with Marcus Lutrell and his Lone Survivor Foundation with the brain research on PTSD.

(see the Dallas Morning News: Hope, Hype or Shaky Science? Texas taxpayers pay to spin vets in chair; Experts say $2.2 million paid for shoddy PTSD research)

There are a lot of things that are going to  keep me involved, engaged and busy, including those two beautiful grandchildren. And you know, our  daughter is going to get married sometime next year and I have a lot of great and good things going in my very blessed life. But being involved in this presidential election will be one of them. I will continue to be involved, engaged, watching closely  and at some point in time I may be asked to participate in an even more expansive role.

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Meanwhile, last night’s new South Park was entitled, Where My Country Gone?

In the episode (spoiler alert), Mr. Garrison whips South Park into a frenzy with rhetoric attacking a recent flood of illegal immigrants from Canada, and the political correctness that requires the school to respect the newcomers’ culture – by learning the Canadian alphabet and accepting the fact that each day at 8 and 11 they face east and play Chuck Mangione.

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Mr. Garrison and his angry legions head north to wreak havoc on Canada, only to be outraged to find Canada has erected a huge wall to keep Americans out.


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It turns out that Canada had elected as its new leader a demagogue who Canadian voters found entertaining until it was too late to stop him – thus the flood of Canadian refugees to South Park.


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Fox last night, however, was not to be outdone by Comedy Central.

On The Kelly File, National Review Editor Rich Lowery had this to say about Trump.


Let’s be honest. Carly cut his balls off with the precision of a surgeon. (Megyn Kelly- “What did you just say?”) And he knows it. He knows it. He insulted and bullied his way to the top of the polls and no one was able to best him ever until this tough lady on the stage. And it must be killing him. He must be simmering about it to this night.

And tweeting:

Buried in Hillary Clinton’s emails – a few big hugs from Roy Spence.

Good morning Austin:

Hillary Clinton was on Face the Nation on CBS Sunday, her first appearance on a Sunday show in four years.

My, that’s a long time.

But she didn’t disappoint.

The big news: Clinton’s declaration, I am a real person.



Here is how Face the Nation host John Dickerson elicited that admission.

DICKERSON: Let me — a final question.

Your friend the late Diane Blair wrote in her diary — quote — “On her deathbed, Clinton wants to be able to say she was true to herself and is not going to do phony makeovers to please others.”

So, knowing you don’t want to engage in phony makeovers, give us three words that is the real Hillary Clinton.


DICKERSON: Just three.

CLINTON: Just three? I can’t possibly do that.

Let us pause here.

What kind of question is this?

It’s mired in a kind of morbid negativism.

Your deceased friend confided in her diary that you don’t want die a phony.

Prove you’re not a phony.

In three words.

How is Clinton supposed to answer that question?

Three words?

How about:

Female, Not Email.

Or maybe:

Are You Kidding?

Or just a simple:

Go To Hell.

Perhaps Dickerson should have asked Clinton a variation on the Miss Universe/Miss America question that CNN’s Jake Tapper asked each of the Republican candidates at last week’s Republican debate: Which woman would you like to see replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill?

Except, maybe, out of deference to Clinton, he could have asked Clinton, as potentially the first woman president, whether she would prefer to eventually replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, or Donald Trump on the million-dollar note.

But, instead, he asked Clinton, after decades as among the best known people on the planet, to reintroduce herself with three words that would at long last reveal the real Hillary Clinton.

Clinton, in reply, did about the only thing she could do.

She laughed.

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And then she said this:

I mean, look, I am a real person, with all the pluses and minuses that go along with being that. And I have been in the public eye for so long that I think — you know, it’s like the feature that you see in some magazines sometimes. Real people actually go shopping, you know?

Yes, there is a genre of supermarket tabloid stories that revel in catching celebrities doing something ordinary – walking their dog, taking out the garbage, and, yes, shopping.

And here is an excellent compendium of celebrities grocery shopping.

But Dickerson’s question was way more aggressively intrusive than catching her at the Whole Foods in her sweats.

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As Clinton answered Dickerson, the camera came in so tight on Clinton that, watching at home, I felt she was invading my personal space.

But, as I watched, I felt a sudden surge of empathy.

Clinton seemed so put upon, so alone, in such a hopeless situation.

There was really only one appropriate, human response.

She needed a hug.


But there was no hug coming from John Dickerson – a kind of button-down Chris Matthews who, at least, for better or worse, is all sloppy emotion.


Instead, Clinton having failed to come up with three magic words, Dickerson wrapped it up.

DICKERSON: All right. Well, I’m going to have to really interrupt you.

Thank you, Secretary Clinton.

CLINTON: Thanks, John.

Yeah. Thanks, John. Thanks a lot.

Earlier in the show, in the de rigueur discussion of her State Department emails, Clinton said, People are going to get a chance to see all kinds of behind-the-scenes conversations, most of which, I’m embarrassed to say, are kind of boring.

But buried in those thousands of emails searchable on the State Department site, are a handful of emails that are not at all boring. They are effusive, loving, affirming – hugs in the ether – from someone who knows Clinton – and hugs – as well as anyone: Austin’s Roy Spence.

A prime example:


Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 6.59.48 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-22 at 7.01.12 AMHi sis. I love you. Beloved. Dear Love. I love you. I miss you. I cherish every moment of our remarkable journey together. God Speed. Ride at dawn.

Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

That’s an affirming, a big bear hug of an email. The kind you read and reread. (Pls print)

The kind that makes your day.

I asked Spence about his emails with Clinton in a telephone conversation Friday.

“I’m kind of the chief encouragement officer,” Spence explained.

For those unfamiliar with Spence, he is a founder and chairman of the iconic Austin ad agency GSD&M and founder and CEO of the Purpose Institute.

He also wrote the book on hugs.

Book cover: "The 10 Essential Hugs of Life" by Roy Spence
“The 10 Essential Hugs of Life” by Roy Spence


From Dale Roe’s 2013 interview with Spence in the Statesman when the book came out.

At 65, Spence is ridiculously energetic, his mouth just barely struggling to keep up with the wheels I sensed spinning to a blur behind his silver hair, infectious smile, booming laugh (he’s not a large man — where does that gigantic sound come from?) and inviting Austin drawl.

“If anybody’s qualified to write about hugs,” I thought, “this is the guy.”

Spence was inspired to write the book four years ago. On a business trip with colleagues in Germany, Spence was exhausted after finding himself unable to doze on the flight. Still, he forced himself to stay up until 7 p.m., hoping for a good night’s sleep before the next morning’s important meetings.

Lying in bed alone and far from home, he began to shake. He had immersed himself in work and family in the four weeks since his father’s death. Outside, the skies opened up and it began to pour. “I was a sixty-year-old kid with no parents. I am all alone,” he writes in the book. “I had never needed a hug more in my life.”

The author describes how he began to feel a deep embrace in his heart that he was certain was a hug from his mom and dad. He basked in the warm, soothing feeling then awoke, filled with energy. Thinking he’d slept all night, he was surprised to find out he’d been out only for an hour.

Spence stayed up the rest of the night, first creating the title for the book and contemplating its contents then, going on 40 nearly sleepless hours, writing the chapter titles.

“I wrote the book for it to be both physical hugging and kind of symbolic, metaphysical hugging,” Spence says. “The purpose of ‘The 10 Essential Hugs of Life’ is to use the hidden power of hugs to lift people up, including yourself.”

23 OCTOBER 2013: Roy Spence, founder of GSD&M has a new book out, "The 10 Essential Hugs of Life." poses for a portrait at GSD&M with artwork from the book in in Austin, Tx., on Wednesday, October 23, 2013. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Roy Spence, founder of GSD&M, has a new book out, “The 10 Essential Hugs of Life.” Spence poses for a portrait at GSD&M with artwork from the book in in Austin, on Wednesday, October 23, 2013. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

I’ve only met Spence once in person, but my immediate impression was, this is the real Bill Clinton.

He’s got that charismatic cool with the aw shucks, Texas/Arkansas it’s all-about-you-not-me empathetic approachability.

Add a tincture of Joseph Campbell, a dash of Rod McKuen, and a big dollop of Don Draper in his blissed-out Ommm moment in the closing image of Mad Men, having synthesized the self-actualization of the 1960s into Coke’s classic  “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” ad, and you approximate Spence.

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History’s fortune, Spence became fast friends with Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham in 1972 when they worked together on the George McGovern campaign in Texas.

As Spence recounted the other day:

We were sitting around one day in 1972 and we were just starting to help with the McGovern campaign and we get a knock on the door at our tiny little office and, “Hi, I’m Bill Clinton. I’m taking a leave of absence from Yale Law School,” and, “Hi, I’m Hillary Rodham, I’m taking a leave of absence from Yale Law School,” and from that moment, that’s 43 years ago. I guess what happened was, is, that because we were personal friends of Bill, Hillary, now Chelsea and her daughter, I’ve never considered myself a political friend. We were just personal friends.

Politicians have personal friends too. There’s been ups and downs but I’ve never been a paid staffer, never been on the campaign staff. I’ve always been more of a confidante, friends, they come to our home and they spend the night. We’ve been family friends forever and I guess, you’re right,  I, lots of times, just reach out and give all of them – Chelsea and Bill and Hillary – a hug, and say it’s going to be OK. You know, keep on. That’s sort of my role more than anything.

So, for example, when Spence reads something good about Clinton, he passes it on.

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This email came days after the death of his father, Roy Milam Spence Sr. – Big R – the man who taught him by example that “it is cool to hug everyone.”

As Spence wrote of his father:

The fondest memories I have of him are from my childhood, walking hand-in-hand with him in Piedras Negras, a border town just across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass. Everyone in the Piedras markets, bars and cafés knew him. Big R was a straight-up, six-foot-five, strikingly handsome man. But when he met somebody on the street, he would bend right over and hug them. He hugged them all—men, women and children—and they hugged him right back, especially the women and especially the older ones. He would say in Spanish, “Meet my son, Royito,” and the hugging would begin again.

In her reply to Spence, Clinton made note of Big R’s death.

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And then, a common refrain in the Clinton emails, the secretary of state’s struggle to get a printout.

Part 1.

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And Part 2:

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Forgot apologizing for how she handled her emails.

How about the fact that she was directing American foreign policy and still relying on a fax machine?

In any case, here is Spence passing on another e-hug.

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Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 1.40.50 AMOther times, Spence would be seized by a notion, and share it.

For example, “a quick thought” on a Hillary Rodham Clinton University.

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Or his plan to synchronize their political ambitions.

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The rest of that provocative message is redacted.

I asked Spence about that one.

He said he did not know why it would have been redacted.

It was a moment of time where I actually toyed around with the idea of running for governor here and I thought it would be kind of fun if we ran together – “You run for governor of New York, I run from Texas.” Of course she immediately dismissed that idea.

It’s the kind of stuff I do. Just random words of encouragement.  To all of hem actually – Bill, Hillary and Chelsea. It puts some levity in people’s lives. A little bit, a little joy, a little delight, a little levity and that’s sort of what I’ve been doing for 43 years. I mean, obviously I do a lot of serious business with all of them.  Obviously. But in terms of my little … I thinks there’s enough seriousness to go around. My job is to encourage them and urge them on and have a little fun, just like brothers and sisters and family have with each other.


My mom used to think  I should be governor. She taught civics. We grew up in a very political home in Brownwood, Texas. We would talk politics around the dinner table. She always thought I had the ability to communicate and had a vision so she’d keep pushing me. But I found that my greatest pleasure, and I know this sounds a little trite, is helping other people fulfill their purpose. It really is. I enjoy the idea that I can help Herb Kelleher (co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, a major client) or help Bill Clinton or Hillary or whatever, that maybe people don’t come at it like I do.

Is he bothered about his emails becoming public?

Not really. I didn’t know it was going to happen. It’s like a good friend of mine said recently, I wish everyone would read all of her emails because you’d find out how smart she is.

I remember writing the notes of encouragement to her. I think it’s fine.

For the time being, he said, he is not actively advising the campaign.

Not at this moment. I think she and her team are doing their thing. Obviously when they ask, if they reach out to me I will obviously talk with them but I’m really not that involved with them right now, but I’m still encouraging. I always get involved at some point but I’m not that involved right now, except again in the friendship role, the real friendship role.

Roy and Mary Spence with Hillary Clinton
Roy and Mary Spence with Hillary Clinton

His message to Clinton:

I love her, I love the family. This is a journey. I’s a long journey and there’s miles to go before anybody sleeps. So I would just say, keep on the journey.

And, about his tag line, Ride with Dawn:

One day, we were down in Houston, and this is 25, 30 years ago. We were in a bar, celebrating, we just won a piece of business, drinking tequila, and I got on a table and I said, “Are you with me?” I said, “Drink up my friends, for tomorrow we Ride at Dawn”

And ever since then, I tried everything, and, of course, I’ve had that attitude, I wonder what the world has in store for me today. I think I’ll just go found out Let’s Ride at Dawn.



Ted Cruz on Colbert; Wendy Davis on MSNBC and in Rolling Stone

Ted Cruz was on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night.

It’s quite good and both come off well.

Here’s the full segment.

They open with the usual banter.

Colbert: Were you surprised the field got that crowded.

Cruz: There are another dozen coming.

In fact Stephen, are you going to announce tonight

That’s obviously a joke, but, as I wrote last week, in the age of Trump, Colbert might absolutely be the Democrats’ best pick.


To chants of “Stephen, Stephen,” Colbert said:

I ran for president fake twice. I  found that exhausting, to even to pretend to do that for three weeks.

Cruz said that he had explained to his seven-year-old daughter, Caroline, “You just have to surgically disconnect your shame sensor.”

Precocious, that Caroline. Like her father.

Cruz: It is relentless, but it is invigorating. I am like a kid in a candy store. I am having so much fun.

Colbert: Who is paying for the candy

That enabled Cruz to brag that he had raised more money in direct contributions to his campaign than any other Republican candidate – “over 175,000 contributions the first two quarters.”

“That’s invigorating,” Cruz said.

Colbert asked Cruz, “What do you make of, what’s the name, Donald Trump, he’s my guest tomorrow night. Any question you would like me to ask him?”

“Would he possibly consider donating $1 billion to our campaign?” Cruz told Colbert.

Colbert asked why voters in a general election should consider voting for a candidate as far right as Cruz.

There is one Republican who has a group of Democrats named after him,” Cruz said, referring to Reagan Democrats.

“Democrats didn’t come over because Reagan was the squishiest middle-of-the-road candidate,” said Cruz.

He cited the example of a woman who approached him in Charleston, S.C., said she had voted for Obama in 2008, didn’t vote in 2012, and planned to vote for Cruz in 2016.

“This woman have a name?” Colbert asked, poising pen over pad. “I just want to fact check that.”

Colbert and Cruz then launched into an extended, serious discussion of whether Cruz could be as flexible on issues as Reagan.

Colbert: Reagan raised taxes. Reagan actually had an amnesty program for illegal immigrants. Neither of those things would allow Reagan to be nominated today. So to what level can you truly emulate Ronald Reagan? Isn’t that form a period of time when he was willing to work with Tip O’Neill across the aisle to get stuff done. Isn’t that want more than anything else – not just principles but action.

Cruz: Well I’ll tell you, number one, as I travel the country, I haven’t seen anyone saying the thing we want of Republicans is to give in more to Barack Obama and the direction we’re going. I don’t hear that across the country.

Colbert: But are those aspects of Reagan something you could agree with? Raising taxes and amnesty for illegal immigrants? Could you agree with Reagan on those two things?

Cruz:  No of course not.

Colbert: Alright.

CruzBut Ronald Reagan also signed the largest tax cut in history. He reduced government regulations from Washington. And economic growth exploded. You know when Reagan came in – from 1978 to 1982, economic growth averaged less than one percent a year. here’s only one other four-year period where that’s true. It’s true from 2008 to 2012, and what Reagan did, he cut taxes, he cut regulations, he unchained small businesses and economic growth boomed, millions of people were lifted out of poverty into prosperity and the middle class.

Colbert: But when conditions changed in the country, he reversed his world’s largest tax cut and he raised taxes when revenues did not match the expectations. So it’s a matter of compromising. Will you be willing to compromise with the other side, because I would say it’s possible, it’s entirely possible that your plan might be the right one. If it turns out not to be the right one, would you be willing to compromise with the other side, change your mind and do something that the other side wants and not feel like you capitulated with the devil?


Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 10.53.09 AM

Cruz: So my attitude …

Colbert: Is it possible, because you’re  religious man, you’re  religious man. And I, dabble. But would you believe that it’s important not to call the other side the devil?

Cruz: Absolutely, there’s nothing diabolical about you.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 10.55.29 AM

Colbert:  What about your opponents politically? Are they diabolical?

Cruz: Of course not and, in fact, my response in politics when others throw rocks and insults, I don’t respond in kind. And in fact, when others …

Colbert: It’s true. You haven’t.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 10.59.53 AM

Cruz: And that’s true of both Republicans and Democrats. When others attack me, I make a point of keeping the focus on substance, keeping the focus on how do we turn this country around. People are fed up. They want jobs and economic growth, and you know, you mentioned before, you said, “Cruz, you’re a very conservative guy,” and what I’m fighting are very simple principles – live within our means, stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids, follow the Constitution …

Colbert: And no gay marriage.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 11.09.49 AM


Cruz: No, actually, let’s be precise. Under the Constitution …

Colbert: Yes.

Cruz: Marriage is a question for the state.

Colbert: It doesn’t mention marriage in the Constitution.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 11.13.12 AM

Cruz: We have had a country for over 200 years …

Colbert: So you may be right, but it doesn’t mention marriage in the Constitution.

Cruz: And that’s exactly why it is a question for the states, because the Tenth Amendment says, if it doesn’t mention it, then it’s a question for the states. That’s in the Bill of Rights. Everything that is not mentioned, is left to the states. So, if you want to change the marriage laws …

Colbert: I’m asking what you want.

Cruz: I believe in democracy. I believe in democracy and I don’t think we should …

(At this point there is some hissing for the audience, and Colbert gestures for them to stop.)

Colbert: No, no, guys, guys, however you feel, he’s my guest so please don’t boo him.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 11.19.39 AM

Cruz: I don’t think we should entrust governing our society to five unelected lawyers in Washington. Why would you possibly hand over the rights of 320 million Americans to five lawyers in Washington to say, “we’re going to decide the rule that govern you.” If you want to win an issue, win at the ballot box. Go to the ballot box. That’s the way the Constitution was designed.

Meanwhile, Wendy Davis was part of a panel on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell last night, defending Planned Parenthood, standing up for Hillary Clinton and suggested that the the Cruz-led strategy to defund Planned Parenthood even at risk of shutting down the government was “political demagoguery of the very worst and most dangerous kind.”

She said Republicans were trying to rewrite, on a national scale, “the exact chapter written in our history books” in Texas, in which, “over 150,000 real women lost the only health care they have.”

Politically, she said, Republicans were hurting themselves in a manner that would be hard to recover from.

She was also asked about recent comments on Muslims made by Republican presidential candidates.

Davis: What’s fascinating is that they seem not to have learned from the last presidential election, their exclusionary conversations created real problems for them.

David also did a Q-and-A for Rolling Stone with Lauren Kelly.

She said she’s launching a new “women’s equality initiative.”

Davis: It’s still in the planning stages. But when I came out of the gubernatorial campaign, I reflected on, “What do I want to do now?” because this is the first time in 16 years that I haven’t been in public office. Not being in office – not having my state senate seat – was much harder than losing that gubernatorial election, because I care so very much about these issues. I gave some thought to, “How do I continue to play a role?” And I just listened for a while, to my own inner voice and to what was happening around me, and I took note of the fact that I continue to have a real audience with young women – millennials in general, but particularly young women, who continue, regardless of where I am, to come up to me and say, “Thank you, please don’t give up, we need you to fight for us.” I paid attention to that, and decided I should use this platform that I have to engage millennials and hopefully to help them see the valuable role they have in the political process.

She said she hopes to run for office again:

Davis: I have no particular path in mind at this point. I am simply keeping myself open for opportunities that make sense.

And she had this to say about Carly Fiorina in the context of the campaign against Planned Parenthood:

Davis: It’s really fascinating to observe. It’s particularly interesting to see some of the follow-up editorial commentary about Carly Fiorina and her performance at the last debate. Did she shine in terms of being articulate and intelligent? Absolutely, and I applaud her for that. I love to see women take a national stage and do well. But she also completely betrayed the real issues and concerns of so many women in this country. We can agree to disagree on abortion. We all need to remember that it is constitutionally protected, just like Second Amendment gun rights are constitutionally protected, and yet it receives so much less support in the Republican Party as a whole. But for every one of those candidates, including Carly Fiorina, to adamantly support the idea of de-funding the non-abortion services of Planned Parenthood is an absolute betrayal to hundreds of thousands of women in this country who are going to be impacted by it.


Making (Miss) America Great Again: On Donald Trump and Meg McGuffin

Good morning Austin:

Went to the Trump rally in Dallas last night.

Big crowd. Very festive.

I sat near Steve Kitchen who, according to the card he handed me, is a “Party Starter/Dancing Fool.”

Steve Kitchen, party starter
Steve Kitchen, party starter


Steve Kitchen, dancing fool
Steve Kitchen, dancing fool

It is worth taking note of Kitchen, because, while swatches of Trump’s speech – and a very important part of his appeal – are the bluntly nativist appeals that prompted the most tremendous roars of approval Monday, and make you wonder about where all this is headed, there is also a kind of kitschy, Let’s Make a Deal, Price is Right, Sábado Gigante (oh how we’ll miss you) quality to Trumpmania that takes the edge off.

It was apparent last night that, even in Texas, Ted Cruz has to worry about being swept away by the Trump wave. For all its cartoonish, comic book qualities, and ideological sloppiness –  and perhaps because of it – Trump’s movement is potentially more open and expansive than Cruz’s coalition of evangelical and tea party voters, who can be awfully demanding and very exacting and unforgiving in their demands.

At tea party events, folks sometimes glare at reporters with suspicion.

At the Trump event, they smile and are delighted to talk about why they’re there.

Both Cruz and Trump are appealing to a deep sense of grievance and loss, but with Trump, it is all being processed through an easy, familiar, one-on-one relationship between a kind-of-ridiculous but kind-of-not reality TV star and his fans, who, by signing on to his movement, become part of the show.

Maybe it will get old. Maybe it will get tired.

Maybe at some point America, like Nick Cage in Moonstruck, will get that Cher “snap out of it” slap in the face.

But maybe not.

And, if not, and Trump somehow sweeps to the Republican nomination, about the only thing that might be able to stop him from going all the way would be the Democrats drafting Stephen Colbert for president.

Monday’s rally was the second big arena event I had watched in as many nights.

Sunday night it was the Miss America Pageant, which I watched, switching back and forth to the Giants-Cowboy game.

I have watched Miss America for as long as I can remember.

I love it.

It has its cringe-worthy elements. That’s a big part of its appeal.

The opening sequence this year featured each of the 52 contestants (Puerto Rico is 52), shimmying to the music as they recited some promotional tidbit about themselves and the state they represent. The low point/high point was Miss Wisconsin inviting folks to, “Come smell our dairy air.”

Not good.

Anyway, Miss America is the original reality TV show.

It’s got sex. There is no other satisfactory explanation for the swimsuit competition, this year to the pulsing beat of Give it to me, I’m worth it.

It’s got the talent competition, with its shades of Ed Sullivan, Star Search and American Idol.

I admit I find the evening gown competition a bit of a bore. It’s really just a matter of seeing if anyone trips.

And then there is the most deliciously squirm-inducing final question.

Somehow, in a misguided attempt to seem serious and relevant, Miss America has come to ask its finalists to grapple with the most divisive, hottest-button issues, in 20 seconds.

The softest ball went to Miss Colorado.

What woman would you put on the ten-dollar bill?

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Miss Colorado

Miss Colorado:

The woman I would put on the ten-dollar bill would be Ellen DeGeneres. I think that women is so amazing. Not only is she kind. Not only is she intelligent. Not only is her entire platform speaking tolerance and equality for all, kindness, but she is able to be funny without insulting anybody and I think that is an incredible feat.

Ellen “Dances with Hillary” DeGeneres?

This same question was asked of all the finalists at the Trump-owned Miss USA contest earlier this year. (Hint: The correct answer is Oprah Winfrey.)

Miss South Carolina was asked:

America loves our 2nd Amendment, but gun violence continues to be a tragic problem. Do you support a ban on military-style assault weapons?

Her answer:

I don’t. But I think it’s because we need to increase education. We have to go back there. If we teach people the proper way to use guns then we will reduce the risk of having gun-related accidents. It starts with education.


Miss South Carolina
Miss South Carolina

Ok. But the fact that Miss South Carolina, let alone a black woman from South Carolina, could offer a such a facile endorsement of  the right to own military style assault weapons, without any reference to the  shooting only three months earlier at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that traumatized the nation is remarkable.

Former Miss America Vanessa Williams prefaced her question to Miss Tennessee with a warning: “Take a breath. It’s a tough one.”

Her question:

Some legislators are threatening to shut down the government over federal contributions to Planned Parenthood, even though no federal funds can be used for abortions. Should Planned Parenthood funding be cut off?

Miss Tennessee’s reply?

I don’t think Planned Parenthood funding should be cut off. The $500 million that gets given to Planned Parenthood every single year goes to female care. It goes to screening for cancer. It goes for mammograms. And if we don’t give that funding to Planned Parenthood, those women will be out of health care for reproductive causes.


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Holy cow.

She knows Planned Parenthood’s annual take in federal money?

And she supports it, unequivocally. No mamby-pambying.

Take that Ted Cruz.

Here was Miss Georgia’s question:

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for his part in the so-called Deflategate scandal, then reinstated by the courts. Legalities aside, did Tom Brady cheat?

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Miss Georgia asked to have the question repeated because she couldn’t hear it. Then this:

Did he cheat? That’s a really good question. I’m not sure. I think I’d have to be there to see the ball and feel it and make sure it was deflated or not deflated. But if there was question there? Then yes, I think he cheated. If there was any question to be had, I think that he definitely cheated and there and I think he should have been suspended for that. That’s not fair.

What? Terrible. She’s on every side of the question – starting out as declaring Brady innocent until proved guilty and ending up at guilty until proved innocent

The Kim Davis questions went to Miss Mississippi:

 Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was jailed for defying the Supreme Court’s order to issue same-sex marriage licenses. She claims the order violates her religious freedom. Does it?

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Her reply:

It absolutely does not violate her religious freedom. That is her job that she was voted into doing, and that law is a federal law throughout the rest of the country. So, yes, she did violate the law there. Thank you.

Take that Ted Cruz.

Miss Louisiana got an impossible question, that has already, in  Martin O’Malley, done in at least one presidential candidate.

The Black Lives Matter movement grew as a reaction to unarmed African-Americans being killed by police. Now there are voices raised who call it a hate group and think it should be called ‘All Lives Matter.’ What do you think?

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Her answer:

I believe that black lives matter, all lives matter. It shouldn’t matter what we base our labels on. Everybody matters. And I think that we can stop all of the violence with police brutality with body cameras and making sure that all of our policemen are trained and ready to go into the field. Every life matters.

Finally, here is the questions that was posed to Miss Alabama.

Before we get to it, though, let me tell you a little bit about Miss Alabama.

Her name is Meg McGuffin.

Yes, Meg McGuffin.

And, as if her parents could not have predicted this, her nickname is Egg McGuffin.

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For her talent she did what she called an “edgy” dance routine to Clubbed to Death from The Matrix ssoundtrack.

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Meg McGuffin drew the following question:

According to a poll released this week, Donald Trump is leading Republican candidates by 32 percent of the vote. Why do you think he’s leading by such an overwhelming margin?

Here is Meg McGuffin’s answer, delivered forcefully, fluidly, and without hesitation.

I think Donald Trump is an entertainer. And I think he says what’s on a lot of people’s minds. But I think that the Republican Party should be absolutely terrified of all the attention that he is taking from incredible candidates like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush who could absolutely do the job of president of the United States. If I were a Republican, I’d absolutely be terrified of that.


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What an answer.

From Miss Alabama.

Taking on Trump, mentioning two other, in her mind, better qualified candidates by name, but even then, qualifying that endorsement by saying, “If I were a Republican.” As if, maybe, what’s really gnawing at her is whether she is more drawn to the feminism of Hillary Clinton or the socialism of Bernie Sanders.

Moments later, the judges announced the five finalists.

McGuffin was fourth runner-up – last among the top five.

Miss Georgia with her ridiculous, “I’d have to be there to see the ball and feel it and make sure it was deflated or not deflated,” answer was crowned Miss America.

I am sure that McGuffin’s brave answer cost her the crown. Those judges knew that if they chose as the new Miss America a woman who had just said Republicans ought to be “terrified” of Donald Trump, there would be hell to pay – from Donald Trump.

But, the next day, McGuffin said she had no regrets.

“I’m proud of the way that I answered my question because it reflects my beliefs and who I am,” she said. “I hope that maybe, if anything, my answer shed some light on the fact that Donald Trump does not have any ties to the Miss America organization and I think that’s something that so few people understand.”

Maybe Donald Trump will be elected president and emerge as a beloved figure, the next FDR, the next Ronald Reagan.

But if he isn’t, if he’s a disaster, it’s not as if America wasn’t warned.

It isn’t as if we didn’t have that Cher “snap out of it” slap in the face.

Meg McGuffin, Miss Alabama, warned us.