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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 8.24.31 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 1.36.25 AM

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?


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Carly, queen of the rodeo: Fiorina did in Perry, will she do in Cruz?

Good morning Austin:

SIMI VALLEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Fifteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the second set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

From the minute the Republican under card debate last month in Cleveland ended, Carly Fiorina was the consensus winner. Her poll numbers spiked and she and her supporters successfully lobbied CNN to expand the cast for the main stage of the second debate to eleven to include her. And, once again, even before it was over, Fiorina had emerged as the clear winner.

“Every time she spoke it was like a pin-prick strike,” said Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning.

Of her debate performance, “I’ve never seen anyone like her anywhere … She’s terrifying. She’s really good.

“It is one of the strongest performances in modern American politics,” said Joe Scarborough, saying she brought to mind his hero – Margaret Thatcher.

“Carly Fiorina was phenomenal, phenomenal,” said Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s chief strategist.

There was an absolutely cold-blooded precision and efficiency to Fiorina’s performance that was devastating.

Obviously, all the other candidates suffer when another candidate excels. But the biggest losers from the performance by the Austin native at both last month’s debate and last night’s debate were the two other Texans in the race – Rick Perry and Ted Cruz.

It was Fiorina’s performance at the so-called kids’ table debate on Fox that effectively ended Perry’s candidacy.

For Perry – who entered the race for president four years ago as the instant, if flash-in-the-pan front runner – it was humiliating to be consigned to the junior varsity debate this time around. His only chance to get back in the mix in a way that would win him a serious hearing from voters in the long run – and donors in the short run – was to prove himself in debate, his obvious weakness last time around.

As it was, Perry’s performance in Cleveland was OK. Not bad. Not great.

He probably wouldn’t have emerged as the “winner” of that debate even without Fiorina being there. But her triumph by acclamation and elevation to the main stage this time around essentially buried Perry, consigning him to the perpetual purgatory of the second-string debate, a fact of life that Perry accepted by bowing out of the race days ahead of yesterday’s debate.

Fiorina’s impact on Cruz’s campaign is not as obvious as on Perry’s, but I think that she unmistakably stole his thunder last night in two ways – one general and one specific.

The general harm to Cruz was that, of everyone on that debate stage, he is reputed to be the pro – the brilliant Princeton debate champ. He is very good at it.

But Fiorina was way better – turning every answer into a crisp, memorable tour de force.

And, specifically, Fiorina delivered Cruz’s defunding Planned Parenthood lines better than he did, winning far greater applause – and far more media replays and comment – than Cruz on what was supposed to be his defining issue.

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

Cruz’s tactical decision to be the only Trump rival who only says nice things about Trump robbed him of a potential moment of confrontation with Trump, the kind of moment or moments that ensured that Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Scott Walker and especially Fiorina would get some quality replay time.

But Fiorina’s performance on the Planned Parenthood question also blocked Cruz’s other route to the highlight reel.

GOP 2016 Debate.JPEG-02f62

Fiorina had too many of those moments. Here she was on Trump’s dissing her looks.

Jake Tapper:

In an interview last week in Rolling Stone magazine, Donald Trump said the following about you. Quote, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” Mr. Trump later said he was talking about your persona, not your appearance. Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona.


You know, it’s interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.

On Trump, more generally.


You know, I think Mr. Trump is a wonderful entertainer. He’s been terrific at that business.

I also think that one of the benefits of a presidential campaign is the character and capability, judgment and temperament of every single one of us is revealed over time and under pressure. All of us will be revealed over time and under pressure. I look forward to a long race.

On the question of drugs, she offered a powerfully personal answer that no one else could touch.

I very much hope I am the only person on this stage who can say this, but I know there are millions of Americans out there who will say the same thing.

My husband Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction. So, we must invest more in the treatment of drugs.

I agree with Senator Paul. I agree with states’ rights. But we are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having a beer. It’s not. And the marijuana that kids are smoking today is not the same as the marijuana that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago.

We do — sorry, Barbara. We do need — we do need criminal justice reform. We have the highest incarceration rates in the world. Two-thirds of the people in our prisons are there for non-violent offenses, mostly drug related. It’s clearly not working.

But we need to tell young people the truth. Drug addiction is an epidemic, and it is taking too many of our young people. I know this sadly from personal experience.

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina on the debate stage at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

She even aced the fluff, beauty pageant question.

Jake Tapper:

Earlier this year, the Treasury Department announced that a woman will appear on the $10 bill. What woman would you like to see on the $10 bill?

Paul said Susan B. Anthony.

Huckabee said his wife.

Ben Carson had an arresting answer:

I’d put my mother on there. You know, she was one of 24 children, got married at age 13, had only a third grade education, had to raise two sons by herself, refused to be a victim. Wouldn’t let us be victims, and has been an inspiration to many people.

Rubio said Rosa Parks. Good answer. So good that Cruz and Trump seconded it, though not before each offered a trademark tick, with Trump first suggesting maybe his daughter Ivanka, and Cruz saying, “Well, I wouldn’t change the $10 bill, I’d change the $20. I’d take Jackson off and I’d leave Alexander Hamilton right where he is as one of our Founding Fathers.”

Jackson, was of course, an Indian killer and author of the Trail of  Tears, but I suspect that Cruz mostly begrudges Jackson’s place as founder of the Democratic Party.

Bush said Margaret Thatcher. Walker said Clara Barton. Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Mother Teresa. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Abigail Adams.


But once again it was Fiorina who offered he most compelling and unexpected answer, using her status as the only woman on the stage to say what none of the men could, offering an answer finely tuned to Republican sensibilities and setting her apart and above her rivals on a question that was also asked of all the candidates at Trump’s Miss USA Pageant, and asked of one of the finalists at Sunday’s Miss America Pageant. (Miss Colorado offered a clearly Democratic answer – Ellen DeGeneres.)

Fiorina’s response:

I wouldn’t change the $10 bill, or the $20 bill. I think, honestly, it’s a gesture. I don’t think it helps to change our history. What I would think is that we ought to recognize that women are not a special interest group. Women are the majority of this nation. We are half the potential of this nation, and this nation will be better off when every woman has the opportunity to live the life she chooses.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The three hour debate was preceded by a four-candidate preliminary debate between former New York Gov. George Pataki, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, South Carolina Lindsey Graham and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Graham carried the day, the Henny Youngman of American politics.

For example:

And like that.

But the most revealing moment of the early debate came when Jindal was asked about the case of Ahmed Mohamed.

Jake Tapper:

Governor Jindal, I do want to bring you in. I want to turn to a story in news in the story today. A 14-year-old Muslim high school student in Texas was arrested on Monday for bringing a homemade clock to school after it was mistaken for a fake bomb. Police released the young man after they determined it was, in fact, a clock. Today, President Obama invited that student to the White House.

Governor Jindal, throughout your campaign, you’ve spoken many times about Muslim extremists in this country. How would you, as president, strike a balance between vigilance and discrimination?


Well, Jake, look, I think the American people – we don’t discriminate anybody based on the color of their skin or their creed. I think the way you strike that balance, you say to Muslim leaders, they have got two responsibilities.

One, it’s not enough to denounce just simply generic acts of violence. They have got to denounce the individuals by name, and say these are not martyrs. These terrorists are not martyrs; rather, they are going straight to hell. They are not going to enjoy a reward in their afterlife.

Secondly, they have to explicitly embrace the same freedoms for everybody else they want for themselves. Look, I know it’s politically incorrect to say this, the president says Fort Hood was an issue of workplace violence.

We are at war with radical Islam. Our president loves to apologize for America, he goes to the National Prayer Breakfast, brings up the Crusades, criticizes Christians. We’re at war today with radical Islamic extremists.

It’s not politically correct to say that, but the way you strike that balance, you say to Muslim leaders, denounce these fools, these radical terrorists by name, say they are not martyrs.


Governor Jindal, I’m afraid you didn’t answer the question. How do you strike the balance between vigilance and discrimination?

Obviously, we know how you feel about the vigilance part of this. Do you ever see the discrimination part of it?


Sure, I don’t think a 14-year-old should ever get arrested for bringing a clock to school. So, if you’re asking me I’m glad he wasn’t – he was released. I’m glad that police are careful. I’m glad they are worried about security and safety issues.

Look, in America we don’t tolerate them. The biggest discrimination is going on against Christian business owners and individuals who believe in traditional forms of marriage. They are throwing this woman in jail in Kentucky.

Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about the Christian florist, the caterer, the musician, who simply want to say, don’t arrest us for having – or don’t discriminate against us, don’t shut down our businesses, don’t fine us thousands of dollars for believing marriage is between a man and a woman. Let’s talk about not discriminating against Christians

This is unbelievable. Clueless. Tone deaf. And surpassingly lacking in self-awareness.

Bobby Jindal has always been the brilliant, scrawny, brown-skinned, child of immigrants wunderkind.

How can Bobby Jindal look at Ahmed Mohamed and not see himself?

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 10.29.55 PM

How could he offer an answer so utterly lacking in anything but the most pro forma empathy?

What happened in Irving is a disgrace.

How could any educators allow Ahmed to be led out of their school in handcuffs?

And even after their disgraceful actions, they compounded it by suspending Ahmed.

Can anyone seriously suggest that Ahmed’s treatment didn’t have everything to do with his name, his color and his background?

Everyone in the chain of command in that school system ought to be gone.

President Obama instantly understood this.

Hillary Clinton understood it (thought typically offered a stiffer response than Obama).

Mark Zuckerberg understood it.


Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 7.17.45 AMAhmed Mohamed comes out of this fine.

More than fine.

But if the Republican Party is at a place where they are not horrified by what happened to Ahmed, they’re in a lot of trouble.

Ronald Reagan would have been on Ahmed’s side.

Anyone with the slightest relationship to Hollywood storytelling would know that there is only one way to tell Ahmed’s story and that is from Ahmed’s point of view.

But Bobby Jindal, for whom this should have been most obvious, blew it.

It was a telling moment and I wish every candidate at the main event had had to answer the same question.



Follow live: 2016 Republican presidential debate on Sept. 16

Update 10:15 p.m.: Carly Fiorina took on Donald Trump and won loud applause, remaking the GOP debate dynamic the second time around Wednesday night.

She pounced at times and showed restraint at others, occupying nearly as much air time with the top-runners.

“Every American’s life must be filled with the possibilities that come from their god-given gifts,” she said in her closing statement.

Donald Trump, the front-runner who was on the defensive at times, was still the focal point. Jeb Bush brought more energy than he did in the first debate — he said his Secret Service code name would be Energizer.

With the first voting slightly more than four months away, the candidates have little time to make a move to challenge Trump.

Update 9:52 p.m.: Donald Trump, rejecting a medical opinion from his opponent former brain surgeon Ben Carson, called autism an epidemic and said to address it, childhood vaccines should be curtailed.

“We have extremely well documented proof that there’s no link between autism and vaccinations,” Carson said, but refused to attack Trump. Instead Carson agreed that vaccines could be spaced out more than they are typically.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, also a physician, said parents should be able to chose when their children receive vaccines.

Update 9:43 p.m.: Donald Trump said Wednesday night at the GOP debate that he would consider making Social Security a voluntary program, and that wealthy people like him don’t need it.

“I would be willing to check it off and not get Social Security,” Trump said. “The fact is there truly are people who don’t need it.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said such a voluntary program wouldn’t save Social Security and that some people shouldn’t receive it so that it is available for people who rely on it.

Update 9:36 p.m.: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush admitted to smoking marijuana “40 years ago” at the GOP debate Wednesday night and said that his mother won’t be happy he said that.

In a discussion about legalization of marijuana, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul accused Bush of being against use of medical marijuana laws, and said that federal drug laws unfairly send poor, mostly black and Latinos, to jail while letting privileged people, like Bush, see little consequence.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina defended laws against marijuana use.

Update 9:25 p.m.: With less than a half hour to go, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has failed to gain the limelight in the second GOP debate Wednesday night.

Other candidates — Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush — have grabbed more airtime than Cruz.

The tea party-backed junior senator from Texas was a debate champion at Princeton and was expected to shine in the debates. But in this debate, and in the first last month, he has struggled to gain an edge.

Cruz has notably taken sides with Trump during the campaign and so stood on the sidelines as other candidates took on the billionaire front runner Wednesday, often to applause.

Cruz, who is seeking the evangelical vote, influential in early voting states, has failed to move the needle beyond mid-single digits in national polls.

Update 9:06 p.m.: Donald Trump said Wednesday night that George W. Bush was such a bad president that even Abraham Lincoln would have struggled to win in 2008.

“My brother kept us safe,” Jeb Bush said to applause.

Update 9:01 p.m.: Donald Trump defended his foreign policy chops at the GOP debate Wednesday night, saying few Americans would know the difference between the Iranian al-Quds force and the Kurds, which he had confused in a radio interview.

“I will know more about the problems in this world by the time I sit (in the White House),” Trump said.

Update 8:43 p.m.: Donald Trump criticized Carly Fiorina’s tenure as CEO of Hewlitt-Packard at the GOP debate Wednesday night.

“She can’t run any of my companies, I’ll tell you that,” Trump said, saying the company still hasn’t recovered from her poor leadership, citing a report that the company was poised to lay off thousands more employees.

Fiorina, who defended her business acumen, shot back at Trump, saying the billionaire businessman “ran up mountains of debt,” filing for bankruptcy four times.

“Why should we trust you to run the finances of this nation any different than you run the finances of your companies?” Fiorina told Trump, to applause.

“I got out of Atlantic City at the right time,” Trump said, blaming the failure of casinos there on the declining popularity of the city as a gambling destination.

Not to be left out, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, said: “Stop this childish back and forth between the two of you.”

Update 8:24 p.m.: Jeb Bush asked Donald Trump to apologize for saying that the former Florida governor has a “soft spot” for Mexican immigrants because his wife is Mexican.

“I hope you apologize for that Donald,” Bush said at the GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Wednesday night, for bringing his wife into a “raucous” campaign.

“I hear your wife is a lovely person,” Trump said.

Bush cut him off and again asked for an apology.

“I won’t apologize because I did nothing wrong,” Trump said. “He’s weak on immigration.”

Later, Trump was asked about his previous comments criticizing Bush for speaking in Spanish on the campaign trail.

“This is a country where we speak English not Spanish,” Trump said.

Bush, who is fluent in Spanish, said he had spoken in Spanish answering a student’s question in Spanish “out of respect.”

Update 8:10 p.m.: Former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has drawn the two longest applause lines so far in the GOP presidential debate Wednesday night.

She made an emotional appeal to defund Planned Parenthood, saying if congressional Republicans don’t do so, “shame on us.”

She was then asked to respond to Donald Trump’s comment in a Rolling Stone article degrading her “face.”

Trump later said he was misinterpreted.

“I think women in this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Fiorina said Wednesday night.

Trump responded: “I think she’s got a beautiful face and I think she’s a beautiful woman.”

Update 8:03 p.m.: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said religious freedom should be protected for county clerks who don’t wish to marry gay couple and that Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who refuses to marry same-sex couples, was jailed for the “criminalization of her faith.”

CNN moderator Jake Tapper sought to pit former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush against Huckabee, saying that Bush had said previously that Davis swore to uphold the law and should follow it.

Bush, though, said Wednesday night he agreed with Huckabee that Davis should not be forced to issue a license to gays as long as someone in her office does so.

“You can’t just say, ‘gays can’t get married now,'” Bush said.

Update 7:52 p.m.: Donald Trump, receiving a foreign policy question in the Wednesday GOP debate, said the three senators on stage with him bore some responsibility for the Syrian refugee crisis because they voted against U.S. military action in Syria.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said if the U.S. had targeted the Syrian regime after evidence showed it used chemical weapons, “ISIS would be in Damascus now.”

Update 7:41 p.m.: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, standing next to Donald Trump in the GOP main debate Wednesday night, suggested he was cozy with several Democratic leaders and said Trump had failed in bringing a casino to Florida.

Trump said that wasn’t true, that if he wanted a casino in Florida, he would have gotten one.

“More energy tonight. I like that,” Trump said of Bush.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a half hour into the debate spoke for the first time, saying on his first day in office he will “rip to shreds” the nuclear deal with Iran.

Updated 7:30 p.m.: Early in the main GOP presidential debate Wednesday night, Donald Trump took the best shots from a few candidates lagging in the polls.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said Trump used “careless language” and had a “sophomoric quality,” better suited to entertaining than governing. He also said Trump has at times had a “visceral” reaction to people’s looks.

Trump retorted: “I’ve never attacked him on his looks, and believe me, there’s a lot of material there.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said, “We don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We have one right now. … You’re using the talking points of the Democrats.”

Several candidates were asked whether Trump could be trusted with his finger on the nuclear button. Former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said it was up to the voters.

Update 6:53 p.m.: Four Republican candidates for president lagging in the polls offered a rousing warm-up this evening to what promises to be a lively main event, as the top 11 candidates are poised to take the debate stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library at 7 p.m.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina sparred effectively with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, highlighting his foreign policy experience and pragmatism.

Graham also showed some humor, after invoking Ronald Reagan’s regular meeting with Democratic House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill over drinks, saying if he’s elected, “we’re going to drink more.”

The debate opened with questions about billionaire businessman Donald Trump, the front-runner who has confounded the Republican establishment with his widening margin in the polls. All candidates took swipes at Trump, perhaps foreshadowing direct sparring with Trump in the main card.

CNN moderators have said they want to encourage direct debating, and it worked in many instances in the first debate.

Earlier: Follow along live with the 2016 Republican presidential debates at the Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday, Sept. 16, as American-Statesman reporters and other political writers and pundits tweet through the night. Among the candidates participating in the prime-time event are U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Austin-born businesswoman Carly Fiorina, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and, of course, Donald Trump.

There are actually two debates.

The first, at 5 p.m., is for those candidates lagging in the polls. There are four: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former New York Gov. George Pataki and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Three candidates who were in the under card debate last month on Fox will be missing. Former Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race last week. Former Gov. Jim Gilmore of Virginia was not invited because he didn’t meet the minimum 1 percent average in recent polls. And Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, graduated to the main debate stage thanks to an impressive performance at the last debate.

The main event – scheduled to run about two hours and 45 minutes – begins at 7 p.m.

In addition to Fiorina, that debate will feature all 10 candidates who participated in the last debate. They are: Trump, Bush, Cruz, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.


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?

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 11.18.06 PM
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.


Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 11.33.39 PM

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?

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.07.58 AM

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?

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.12.19 AM

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?

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.15.28 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 12.00.48 AM

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

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 11.55.52 PM

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.


Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 11.45.22 PM


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.

Follow live: Monday’s Donald Trump rally in Dallas

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Follow along as Statesman political reporter Jonathan Tilove live-tweets Donald Trump’s address in Dallas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.