Beto’s Booker `deported salutatorian’ story wasn’t exactly right, or entirely wrong

Beto O’Rourke and Todd Yauck in Booker, Texas in the summer of 2017.

Good Day Austin:

Yesterday morning I received an email, with a link to a story I had written in September 2017. My story was headlined, Can Beto O’Rourke lead Texas Democrats out of the political wilderness?

“This article you wrote has false information about Booker TX,” the email informed me. “Please do not continue to report false news to the public.”

In that story I had written:

Trump and Cruz are, in their own ways, polarizing figures. But O’Rourke is temperate, accommodating, approachable and positive.

He talks about his visit to Booker in Lipscomb County, the northeastern corner of the Panhandle, where Hillary Clinton garnered 135 votes to Trump’s 1,159, but where the Republican Party chairwoman, “in true Texas fashion … invites me out to dinner, and we’re talking about immigration because, she tells me, ‘We just deported the salutatorian from Booker High School at the point where he is about to pay dividends back on the investment we made in him, someone who is as American as any of our kids or grandkids.’”

But my email correspondent attached a screenshot from a statement posted that morning by Booker ISD.



Beto’s Booker anecdote – one of many from his travels to all 254 Texas counties – had been a staple on the campaign trail.

From a report in December 2017 from the San Angelo paper on a visit by O’Rourke to Tom Green County.

On the subject of the status of dreamers, “Many people have not had the opportunity to follow their dreams.” O’Rourke continued. “The salutatorian in Booker, Texas was deported to Guatemala after graduation. Republicans and Democrats alike in that community thought it was ridiculous.”

From  It’s been a minute, with Sam Sanders on NPR in February 2018.

SANDERS: Anyways, you were saying – talking to folks about immigration.

O’ROURKE: Yeah. And so here you are, as far away from the U.S.-Mexico border as you can be and still be in the state of Texas, and the people in Booker have this on their mind. And they had just witnessed the deportation of an honor roll student at Booker High School back to his country of origin. And as conservative and Republican and disconnected from the border as Booker might be, the people in Booker absolutely got what’s going on. And they knew that they had invested in this young man in the property taxes they paid to finance his education, the quality of life in the community, and just when he’s about to produce a return in whatever he does – the business he starts, the people he hires, the family he raises, the quality he brings to that community – he’s been deported back to his country of origin where he probably doesn’t speak the language, may no longer have family. And if he’s successful against what I think are incredibly long odds, he’ll be successful there and not in Booker.

And so they want him in their community. They don’t want a wall. They get that – especially if I share the facts that the U.S.-Mexico border has never been more secure. We’ve – have the lowest levels of northbound apprehensions. Very often they’re kids, and if they’re lucky they’re kids with their parents fleeing El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala. And they’re presenting themselves to Border Patrol agents and customs officers, not fleeing from them. A wall will do nothing.

But, what brought the story back home to Booker was last Friday’s U.S. Senate debate, in which it figured prominently in O’Rourke’s answer to the very first question at last Friday’s U.S. Senate debate at SMU.

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

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

The Booker News wrote about the school district disputing O’Rourke’s deportation claim yesterday.

This was a puzzle.

In my story, I quoted O’Rourke as sourcing the information about the deported salutatorian to the hospitable Lipscomb County GOP chairwoman.

That would be Diana Hoover

I called Hoover yesterday.

She was driving to Amarillo.

She’s never actually met O’Rourke, but she did extend a dinner invitation to him via Facebook Live as he was heading into town.


He was in Booker. I saw that the was doing a Facebook Live feed and he was as the Republican Party chairman and I saw he was running for Senate, I was kind of watching it and seeing the comments and he was in his car and I said I’d come to town to meet you but I’ve got a houseful of people and I’m cooking enchiladas, and I said why don’t you come by here and I’ll feed you dinner.

And then I found out he was a Democrat and I was little embarrassed that I’d invited him but I wasn’t going to withdraw my invitation.

O’Rourke couldn’t make it, but, while she was making her enchiladas, Hoover continued to watch the Facebook Live feed as Claire Walsh , an accomplished young attorney, the rare Democrat in Lipscomb – Hoover calls her her “Democrat friend”  – brought O’Rourke to the Booker Grocery Cafe, owned by Walsh’s uncle, Todd Yauck, to meet more folks.

It was Todd Yauck, about 20 minutes into this video, who tells O’Rourke about the deported salutatorian.

YauckWe’ve had people in the community, who have been in the community the whole time, that graduated as the salutatorian of the class that get deported.”

O’Rourke: That happened here in Booker? 

Yauck: Yes, because they just didn’t have their papers when they came across, when they were one or two years old. You’d think that if they spent twelve years in the local school system, they’d be considered citizens.

“This stuck with Beto because we wouldn’t have guessed immigration would be on people’s minds until we showed up and asked what issues were on their minds,” said Chris Evans, who travels with O’Rourke and does the live streams (though the Booker trip preceded his tenure in this role) and is the spokesman for the campaign. ‘We have spent the last 18 months driving around the state to visit every county and to have conversations with our fellow Texans. We take what we learn in each community with us and share it as we continue traveling the state.”

I talked with Yauck.

When he spoke with O’Rourke, he was referring to Yamile Guerrero Rosales – she used to work for him and her sister still does –  though he didn’t identify her to O’Rourke by name.

Unlike the deported salutatorian of O’Rourke’s anecdote, Rosales is a she, not a he; she is from Mexico, not Guatemala, and she speaks both Spanish and English. And she was valedictorian back in 2006, and has since gained her legal U.S. residency and citizenship and is living and working as an accountant for an oil and gas company in Booker, not trying to make her way in a land not really her own to which she had been forcibly removed.

“I don’t know how it all got lost in translation,” said Yauck, who said he was a little disappointed O’Rourke didn’t do a little fact-checking before taking the story on the road.

I talked to Rosales. She came to Booker from Durango, Mexico, when she was three.

She married an American citizen, has two children, 8 and 10, with a third baby due any day.

After the birth of her first child, she went to Juarez, Mexico, in order to do the necessary paperwork to legalize her status, a process that took six months.

“The process is really difficult,” she said. And there is always the risk, that you will be denied.

For over a year, her mother has been in Durango trying to legalize her status, with no certainty she will be able to return.

But, Rosales said, legal status is “kind of necessary for everything.”

Yauck said that what she went through amounts to deportation, or at any rate, temporary deportation.

He told O’Rourke about how difficult and expensive the immigration system is for those trying to normalize their status, having to travel five hours to immigration offices in Lubbock or eight hours to Dallas to get blood-work done, or get finger-printed, or do other paperwork.

“There’s a big hassle on these people,” Yauck said, unduly complicated and expensive.

“Our immigration laws are really screwed up,” Yauck told O’Rourke.

Yauck and his niece both, separately, told O’Rourke that the very large Hispanic community in Booker and Lipscomb County – immigrant and not, citizen and not, legal, and not – were a great strength.

“It’s of vital importance to our community,” he said, working in the oil fields and at a small, local meat-processing plant.

Hoover agreed.

She had worried that O’Rourke’s Booker story, despite his exalting its citizenry as enlightened and empathetic, might leave a bad impression – “that we’re deporting, salutatorians, smart, contributing, upstanding people in or community. Even though they are not legal, those are the people everyone knows and they like and are surprised they are not legal.”

Hoover had seen O’Rourke talking on Fox with Tucker Carlson about Booker – “as Republican as it gets in Texas, and the people in Booker were concerned about Dreamers because they had just deported an honor roll student.”


I”ll say if you took a ballot in Booker about whether to give every Dreamer immediate citizenship, it would be voted down.

We all believe in, let’s figure out a better way to do it, besides deporting all of them, you know what I mean. Let’s figure out a path to citizenship or whatever.

And in my mind, if it’s costing them thousands of dollars in lawyers’ fees and everything to get legal, in my mind, if they don’t have a criminal record, and are working and are not on assistance, put them on a different path, maybe fine them a reasonable amount because they have broken the law and instead of having them pay the same thousands of dollars to an attorney, have it be they pay a fine, and then we’re all happy.

Dr. Brian Holt, in his second year as superintendent in Booker, said that Rosales had not come up in their search for any recent top student who had been deported, because she had not been deported.

The district’s enrollment of 400 means that the graduating class has only about 20 students, and the town doesn’t tend to lose track of them. When O’Rourke was in town, Holt said, he may, going door-to-door, have heard some concern that a recent top graduate had been deported, but it turned out it was a false alarm – he was in college in Kansas.

Booker is little and  remote.

“Were closer to five state capitals than we are to Austin. it might be six, we have an argument about whether it’s five or six,” Hoover said. “I don’t want this to be blown up bigger than this. But any story with Booker in the national headlines is a concern. We want it to be a positive story.”

Last night, Hoover sent me a Facebook post her son, Nic Franklin, had written about Beto’s brush with Booker and vice versa.

I think it’s very good and captures all the nuances at play.

Nic Franklin:

At the risk of weighing in to a Facebook hornet’s nest…famous last words…after reading quite a bit of the commentary about Beto’s comments about my hometown of Booker, Texas here are my two cents:

When I heard a candidate for the United States Senate was coming to visit Booker – population 1,500ish – I was thrilled. Candidates for public office rarely visit towns that small, that far from well…airports. Democrats because there aren’t many voters there and very few of those who are will be voting for them. Republicans don’t visit because they don’t need to (pardon the double negative, I grew up in rural Texas). At the time of Beto’s visit, I was living in Austin but I told my mom, the local county Republican Party chairman, she should invite Beto over for dinner because a) I thought he might actually accept (the guy clearly needs to eat more) b) if he knew how good a cook my mom was he definitely would accept c) it seemed that if a candidate for Senate went all the way up to the Panhandle to knock on doors the chance to discuss issues affecting real rural voters that my mom represents was a worthwhile one d) the Beto campaign was recording all of this live and no matter what it was going to be great tv.

What was clear from the video was that Beto was genuinely surprised immigration was being brought up as often as it was as a hot button issue for the community. It seemed as though he expected to find a small town primarily made up of white farmers and ranchers rather than what Booker is – a diverse community made up of people immigrating to the country for the last 100 years. The country of origins and skin complexions have changed over time, but it has been a melting pot in ways only the people who live or have lived there likely understand…or those who bother to come visit.

No one is really talking about that part of his visit to Booker though. Instead if you watch the live video you can see that while Beto is at the local cafe he finds out that he is invited to my mom’s house for supper – though sadly he was not informed she was cooking enchiladas that night (stacked vs rolled will remain a debate for a different day) which might have changed how this all played out – but he declines. I do know that had he gone he would have been teased about being a Dem-O-crat by my mom (that’s the way she says a word she hates to say) and the rest of the family but he and his staff would have left with full bellies and an ear full of insight about places like Lipscomb county. The people who live in Lipscomb county are proud of it and love to show off what makes it a special place.

Since his visit to Booker, Beto has repeated slightly different versions of his visit including the version he told in the opening minutes of his debate with Senator Cruz. Here is the relevant portion of the debate:

Beto: We were surprised that the number one concern of people in that community was the fate of dreamers…and the Salutatorian of Booker High School had been deported back to his country of origin. Everyone there was concerned about his welfare, but they were also concerned about the fact he has been sent back to a country who language he didn’t speak, where he no longer had family connections, where if he was successful against those long odds he would be successful for that place and not successful for Texas.

The Facebook Live stream does not include the interactions when they went door to door, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone who talks about Dreamers specifically though the anecdote he retells clearly seems to be based on a conversation he had in the video with a local business owner who laments that a salutatorian had been deported. They commiserate on how it makes no sense for a community or state to invest in someone for twelve years or more through graduation and then right when they are ready to start being contributing members they get whisked away.

It turns out pieces of that story are not exactly as told or perhaps understood in real time – the subject of the story was actually that the valedictorian not the salutatorian (play Hamilton’s “Immigrants get the job done” lyrics),  the “he” from the story was a “she”, and she was not deported but she also could not become a naturalized resident without leaving the country she had lived in for – I presume – most of her life while leaving her baby behind and getting her paperwork in order in Mexico. I would call that a difference without a distinction if you are in the position of the young woman.

Whether the differences in Beto’s story and what the actual story is makes you outraged is up to you. But boy are you going to be disappointed when you find out about some of the other exaggerations, deceptions, and now I believe the current term is braggadocious politicians often make.

Rewatching the video and the debate it seems Beto missed a great opportunity. One I wouldn’t even notice if he wasn’t being billed as something more than a run of the mill politician. It seems pretty clear this anecdote Beto has used often about Booker is unfortunately just that to him – an anecdote. He talks with such earnestness about how cruel this system is that deported a valedictorian from a small town and yet he never bothered to look into it? The partisan cries about the story being inaccurate matter little to me, but Congressman O’Rourke is a sitting Texas Congressman. As far as he knew she had been deported. Even after he heard the story, even after retelling it several times on the campaign trail, and on Twitter, he never became interested enough to see what a United States Congressman could do to perhaps help this person? It leaves you feeling as though this story gets told/retold/reposted with commentary (like this one!) not because anyone really cares about the woman who was “deported” but because it fits a narrative. That the people in these stories politicians tell are not real people facing enormous challenges but props to be used at campaign rallies, in fundraising emails, and on debate stages.

The next time we get ready to vote it might be worth going back through the anecdotes of Bush, Obama, Trump and all the others running for office where they tell us a story about hardship being faced by some random person they met or heard about on the campaign trail. See if once the live tv feeds are off and the need for campaign donations are no longer there whether they did anything for the subjects of those stories they told. I don’t think Beto did anything wrong, I just think he is a lot more like traditional politicians than many people thought/hoped. But at least he showed up in Booker, Texas – population 1,500ish. No one else did.

 When all is said and done, I asked Hoover if O’Rourke might improve on Hillary Clinton’s 135 votes in Lipscombe County. No. she said. Clinton’s total was pretty good for a  Democrat, she said, stoked mostly by anti-Trump sentiment.

“I’d be surprised if he gets 20 votes in the county,” Hoover said of O’Rourke.

On the other hand, O’Rourke is likely to pick up the vote of at least one Trump voter – Todd Yauck.

Yauck said he tends to vote Republican but with a throw-the-bums out, drain-the-swamp predisposition

He voted for Obama in 2008 – “we’re all entitled to one mistake” – and Trump in 2016.

He’ll vote for Gov. Greg Abbott – “I think he’s doing a fine job.”

But not Cruz.

“Like Donald said, `Lyin’ Ted,'” Yauck said.

As for Rosales, she said she’s “neutral” as to how O’Rourke used her story, sort of, in his campaign.

And who will she be voting for?

“I’m still thinking,” she said.

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


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

Good day Austin:

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


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

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

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

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



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

Thank you, Mr. President.


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

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

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

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

From Julie Hirschfeld Davis at the New York Times:

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

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

Or a genius.

From David Graham at the Atlantic:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REPORTER: Are you worried —

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

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

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


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

REPORTER: It’s going to be good, sir.

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

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

TRUMP: Go ahead. Give me your question.

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

TRUMP: Excuse me, you said from where?

REPORTER: Iraq. I’m a Kurd.

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

And there was this:

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

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

Anything you’d like to add here Jennifer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think that’s disgraceful.

Disgraceful. And also not true.

From Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post Fact Checker:

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

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

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

Four Pinocchio

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we’ll see what happens today.

(Which one is up for re-election?)

And maybe I’ll see some of you Saturday.


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


Good day Austin:

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

I will merely add a short preface and postscript.

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

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

The pretense lifted on Friday night.

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

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

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

His gaffe was one of omission.

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

And they both love to talk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cruz partisans were delighted with Wednesday’s performance

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

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

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

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

For Cruz, this was the money moment.

Here from the debate transcript:

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

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

CRUZ: Are you a socialist or not?

SANDERS: I am a democratic socialist…

CRUZ: OK. Good.

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

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

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


CRUZ: I am happily a conservative.

SANDERS: Conservative, all right.

CRUZ: I am happily conservative.


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

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

CRUZ: You know…


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

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

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

CRUZ: I don’t, either.

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

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

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

From Gardner Selby at PolitiFact Texas:

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

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

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

So, what gives?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 And here from Eugene Kiely of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, Misleadin’ Ted?

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

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

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

I’ve never said that. That’s false.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I wrote in Sunday’s paper:

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


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

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


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


Good Monday Austin:

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

Here are “Beto O’Rourke’s own words.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

(Note: PolitiFact Texas rated this claim false.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Republicans that Cruz admired were those like Jesse Helms,

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

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

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

Ted Cruz Loves Arch-Racist Jesse Helms

By Lee A. Daniels

NNPA Columnist

Sept 16, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, from the AP back in February:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here from his 2015 book, A Time for Truth.

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

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

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

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

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

His father was captured, but released

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

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

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

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

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

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


He was headed to America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







Cruz says Kerry colludes. Kerry says Cruz deceives.


Good Friday Austin:

In today’s paper I wrote a story about U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s town hall last Saturday in Gonzalez.

Ted Cruz speaks to a group of supporters inside Baker Boys BBQ in Gonzales, Texas on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Cruz spoke his supporters about how he believes his opponent, Beto O’Rourke, is too extreme for Texas. The race is closer than anticipated with Ted Cruz asking President Trump to come to Texas to campaign for him. Sergio Flores

GONZALES —Midway through a rousing Ted Cruz town hall meeting at Baker Boys Boys BBQ on Saturday, Yesi Melcher, a slight 10-year-old standing small in the packed house, raised her hand. “Hon, what are you doing?” her grandfather asked. “Papa, I’m going to ask a question,” she replied.

And when Cruz called on her, she did.

“Why do Democrats always blame their mistakes on us Republicans and Trump?” the fifth-grader asked.

“It’s an awfully good question,” Cruz replied. “When Donald Trump was elected there were a whole lot of people in this country who just about lost their minds, who are so filled with anger, they hate him so much, that nothing good can happen. We have record low unemployment, and they hate Trump. We defeat ISIS, and they scream, `We hate Trump.’”

But, Cruz said: “We don’t have to respond in the same way. We don’t have to respond with anger. We can respond with joy. We can be joyful warriors.”

I spoke with Yesi and her family afterward and they were great.

But, the first question to Cruz was about Kerry, it was delivered with some anger, drew a crowd reaction with a hint of  string-him-up menace. and a response from Cruz that was less than joyful.

Here was the question from the back of the room.

Why does John Kerry still have a security clearance and a passport?

(Traitor! Treason! Lock him up!)

CRUZ: I’ve got to say that’s an awfully good question. Look. It is shameful to see John Kerry running around, trafficking with Iranian dictators and enemies of America and to be actively colluding with the government of Iran on how to evade U.S. sanctions.

Look I understand that Democrats, that we saw eight years  of weakness and appeasement in foreign policy during the Obama presidency. We had Hillary Clinton and John Kerry as secretary of state. Our friends didn’t trust us and our enemies didn’t fear us.

In fact, I’m reminded of a political cartoon I saw at the time that had the Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran going “Death to America.” It had John Kerry saying, “Can we meet you halfway?” And it is very difficult to look at the foreign policy scene we have today and not recognize that it has improved dramatically from where we were two years ago.

Two days later, I was on the phone with Kerry for an interview about his new book in advance of his visit to Austin next week, where he will be the Texas Tribune Festival keynoter Thursday night at The Moody Theater.

I covered Kerry in Massachusetts when he was first elected lieutenant governor in 1982 and to the U.S. Senate in 1984, and, in Washington in his first years in the Senate.

After asking Kerry what he’s been up to the last 30 years, I told him about how just two days earlier I was at a Cruz town hall in Gonzales at which the first question was about why he still had a security clearance and passport, that there were some shouts of treason, traitor and lock him up, and that Cruz had quite agreed that Kerry was shamefully colluding  (oh that word)  with Iran.

Kerry seemed incredulous.

KERRY:  He said that? Ted Cruz said that?

I read him the full quote.

KERRYWell you know these guys, what can you say.?

I haven’t talked to the Iranians since the day that Trump pulled out of the deal. I haven’t had any conversations with them .

At the time that I met with then it was at international conferences where everybody talked to them. The UN General Assembly. The Munich Security Conference. And the Peace Conference in Oslo, Norway, where invited guests were. Those were the only places that I’ve been in any conversation with them, and it’s pretty normal for an ex-Secretary and other people to have those kinds of conversations.

These guys are dangerous. They are incredible liars. They don’t hesitate to gin up that kind of frustration or anger or whatever you want to call it. I mean they just bring out the worst in people. 

And by the way, when I had a conversation with them (the Iranians) I raised Yemen, missiles, Israel, their threats against Israel, their interference in other countries and told them point-blank that they are making life difficult for themselves in the world. So I stood up for American principles and it’s a disgrace that these guys play, just lie to people like that and try to energize it.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined in the criticism of Kerry.

From Matthew Lee at the AP on Sept. 15.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has unloaded on his Obama-era predecessor John Kerry for “actively undermining” U.S. policy on Iran by meeting several times recently with the Iranian foreign minister, who was his main interlocutor in the Iran nuclear deal negotiations.

In unusually blunt and caustic language, Pompeo said Friday that Kerry’s meetings with Mohammad Javad Zarif were “unseemly and unprecedented” and “beyond inappropriate.” President Donald Trump had late Thursday accused Kerry of holding “illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people.”

Pompeo said he would leave “legal determinations to others” but slammed Kerry as a former secretary of state for engaging with “the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror” and telling Iran to “wait out this administration.” He noted that just this week Iranian-backed militias had fired rockets at U.S. diplomatic compounds in Iraq.

“You can’t find precedent for this in U.S. history, and Secretary Kerry ought not to engage in that kind of behavior,” an agitated Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “It’s inconsistent with what foreign policy of the United States is as directed by this president, and it is beyond inappropriate for him to be engaged.”


In a statement, (Kerry’s_ spokesman, Matt Summers, said: “There’s nothing unusual, let alone unseemly or inappropriate, about former diplomats meeting with foreign counterparts. Secretary (Henry) Kissinger has done it for decades with Russia and China. What is unseemly and unprecedented is for the podium of the State Department to be hijacked for political theatrics.”

KERRY: But senators, when I met with (Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif) at the UN General Assembly, other senators, a group of sitting senators met with him. He gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations and loads of people did a Q-and-A with him. That’s no difference than what I was going. Period.

Matt Viser wrote a story in the Boston Globe that appeared on May 4, days before Trump withdrew from the Iran deal.

WASHINGTON — John Kerry’s bid to save one of his most significant accomplishments as secretary of state took him to New York on a Sunday afternoon two weeks ago, where, more than a year after he left office, he engaged in some unusual shadow diplomacy with a top-ranking Iranian official.

He sat down at the United Nations with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to discuss ways of preserving the pact limiting Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It was the second time in about two months that the two had met to strategize over salvaging a deal they spent years negotiating during the Obama administration, according to a person briefed on the meetings.

With the Iran deal facing its gravest threat since it was signed in 2015, Kerry has been on an aggressive yet stealthy mission to preserve it, using his deep lists of contacts gleaned during his time as the top US diplomat to try to apply pressure on the Trump administration from the outside. President Trump, who has consistently criticized the pact and campaigned in 2016 on scuttling it, faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether to continue abiding by its terms.Kerry also met last month with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and he’s been on the phone with top European Union official Federica Mogherini, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal the private meetings. Kerry has also met with French President Emmanuel Macron in both Paris and New York, conversing over the details of sanctions and regional nuclear threats in both French and English.

The rare moves by a former secretary of state highlight the stakes for Kerry personally, as well as for other Obama-era diplomats who are dismayed by what they see as Trump’s disruptive approach to diplomacy, and who view the Iran nuclear deal as a factor for stability in the Middle East and for global nuclear nonproliferation. The pact, which came after a marathon negotiating session in Vienna that involved Iran and six world powers, lifted sanctions in return for Iran stopping its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“It is unusual for a former secretary of state to engage in foreign policy like this, as an actual diplomat and quasi-negotiator,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution. “Of course, former secretaries of state often remain quite engaged with foreign leaders, as they should, but it’s rarely so issue-specific, especially when they have just left office.”

Kerry declined to be interviewed for this story. The quiet lobbying campaign — by him and others — is being conducted below the radar because he and his allies believe a high-profile defense of the deal by prominent Democrats would only backfire and provoke Trump, making it more likely the president would pull the United States out of the deal.

From Matt Viser’s story.

The Logan Act prohibits US citizens from having private correspondence with a foreign government “with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government . . . in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.”

Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, said the law is a red herring — since it’s never been used to prosecute anyone — and almost certainly would not apply to anything Kerry is doing.

“The act only applies to conduct that is designed to ‘defeat the measures of the United States’ or influence the conduct of foreign governments,” Vladeck said. “If all Kerry is doing is working to keep in place something that’s still technically a ‘measure of the United States,’ I don’t see how the statute would apply even if someone was crazy enough to try it.”

The controversy around Kerry was stirred by his Sept. 12 interview with Hugh Hewitt about his book.

HH: Let’s move to Iran. Every Day Is Extra is full of detail about the JCPOA. And if I’m correct, did you spend more time talking in person or on the phone with Javad Zarif than any other foreign minister? Maybe Lavrov, but was he your number one interlocutor?

JK: I’m not sure. I never did a tally of the numbers, but I spent a lot of time with my European colleagues also at NATO in many other meetings. We spent a lot of time on Syria in the international Syria support group with our other colleagues. I mean, certainly Javad was up there. But I spent a lot of time with France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia. Those were the principal interlocutors, and I’ve never divided it up.

HH: Okay, it’s been reported you’ve met with him a couple of times at least since leaving office as well. So you still…

JK: Yes, I have. That’s accurate.

HH: And is it a half-dozen times, a dozen times?

JK: No. No, no, no. I met with him at a conference in Norway. I think I saw him in a conference in Munich at the World Economic Forum. So I’ve probably seen him three or four times.

HH: Are you trying to coach him through the Trump administration’s rejection of the JCPOA?

JK: No, that’s not my job, and my coaching him would not, you know, that’s not how it works. What I have done is tried to elicit from him what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better. You know, how does one resolve Yemen? What do you do to try to get peace in Syria? I mean, those are the things that really are preoccupying, because those are the impediments to people, to Iran’s ability to convince people that it’s ready to embrace something different. I mean, and I’ve been very blunt to Foreign Minister Zarif, and told him look, you guys need to recognize that the world does not appreciate what’s happening with missiles, what’s happening with Hezbollah, what’s happening with Yemen. You’re supporting you know, an ongoing struggle there They say they’re prepared to negotiate and to resolve these issues. But the administration’s taken a very different tack. I don’t know as I talk to you today if there’s been any dialogue or sit down. I don’t think there has, which would open up any kind of diplomatic channel. And it appears right now as if the administration is hell-bent for leather determined to pursue a regime change strategy to bring the economy down and try to isolate further. And I would simply caution that the United States historically has not had a great record in regime change strategies, number one. And number two, that makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for any Iranian leader to sit down and negotiate anything, because they’re not going to do it in a capitulatory, you know, situation. It’s just not going to happen.

John Kerry, 27-year-old former Navy lieutenant who heads the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), receives support from a gallery of peace demonstrators and tourists as he testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, D.C., April 22, 1971. (AP Photo/Henry Griffin)

HH: Oh, that makes sense. Part of Every Day Is Extra which is useful training for diplomats is you can’t say you make people do things. They have to say they agree to things. I get all that. But does Zarif at least acknowledge to you they’re running arms through Oman to the Houthis that are becoming missiles that land in the UAE and Saudi Arabia? Do they, are they open about that?

JK: They are open about the fact that they are supportive of the Houthi, but they also say they are prepared to, that they don’t expect the Houthi to be running the government of Yemen. They don’t expect anything except a representative process in which they’re represented as a minority, but they’re able to be safely part of governance. So in effect, I think there could be a capacity to have a process in place that could resolve this. In fact, the negotiations that took place in Kuwait came close to a resolution. And when I went to Oman and met with the Houthi and others, we got them to agree to go back to that discussion and be prepared to accept the outlines of a peace process that we put on the table. I regret to say that it was Hadi, President Hadi who balked and refused to go forward with what he had previously agreed to in Kuwait.

HH: Now I really hope as you continue to talk with Zarif or with the Sultan of Oman, who’s clearly a good friend of yours, that this has just got to stop. To me, it’s as bad as they’re cheating on the JCPOA or sponsoring a terrorist attack on the expats in Paris. They are sending sophisticated weaponry that can kill a lot of people in these missiles that the Houthis are there. And Zarif and the Sultan, they’ve just got to stop that. Do you agree, Secretary?

JK: And we, absolutely, and we made it very, very clear to them, and the issue’s been raised with the Omanis and others. I think there are ways to get at that, but you’re to again have to engage. But I made it crystal clear that that’s unacceptable. In fact, Hugh, it’s not well-known, but we kept in place in the JCPOA negotiations, we kept the sanctions in place for human rights. We kept the sanctions in place for the missile testing. We kept sanctions in place against their transfer of weapons in Yemen. And we raised those sanctions during, even during the time we were negotiating the JCPOA. So we never relented with respect to accountability on those issues. But we believe that having an Iran that didn’t have a nuclear weapon or a pathway to a nuclear weapon was a better place to be in negotiating on those other issues. And our theory of the case was you get JCPOA in place, you prove you’re going to enforce it as you agreed to, and then you put all those other issues on the table. So from my point of view, I think President Trump would have been much better advised to have kept the JCPOA, which would have kept China, Russia, France, Germany and Britain together with you, united. So you keep it in place, and you say to the Iranians hey, guys, we’ve told you you’ve got to stop these other things. I’m going to give you two years or a year or whatever. We’re willing to negotiate on these other things. But if you don’t, if you haven’t done it by then, I’m out of this agreement. And that way, you have China, Russia, these other countries with you in the effort to leverage this different behavior from Iran rather than unilaterally pulling out and isolating yourself and making it much more difficult to sit down with any Iranian.

HH: Now when you get done talking to Zarif in Norway or Munich, do you call up Pompeo and talk with him about this sort of stuff and how…

JK: Well, those conversations took place before Pompeo became Secretary of State. And I haven’t seen him since then. But I did have a fairly long conversation with Secretary Pompeo before the Iran decision was made. And I made the argument that I just made to you. I made it very clearly, and it was clear that he disagreed with that approach, or President Trump disagreed. I don’t know which. But the bottom line is that is not the approach they took.

Kerry’s book barely mentions Trump.

The first mention is of Trump calling for the death penalty for the Central Park Five, who were later determined to be innocent.

But Trump does not figure importantly in the book.

KERRY: No, it’s not about Trump. It’s about my life and about things that actually matter. I’m not fixated on Donald Trump. I think people are wasting their time following all the tweets and engaging. What we need to do is to talk to America about a better agenda for the country  What do we need to do in America. Not Donald Trump. Everybody knows about him, everybody has a sense – it’s just a waste of time.

But, I said, I could only imagine how dispiriting it must be to have President Trump do all that he could to undo the two greatest achievements of his time as secretary of estate – the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord.

KERRY: I’m going to surprise you. I’m going to surprise you. I really don’t have heartache about it. I have motivation, a certain amount of anger about what the consequences are for our country but that’s why I’m out there.

I’m going to keep fighting because that’s what I’ve always done and I believe that … you know I’m actually encouraged because everybody knows what his attitude is, everybody knows what he wants to do, but the fact is the British, the French, the Germans, the Russians, the Chinese are all trying to keep the agreement. What does that tell you?

That’s the message. That’s a solid agreement. All these nations didn’t turn around and run away, walk away and saying, “Well it  didn’t mean anything anyway.” They’re fighting for it.

I think it’s extremely significant that this agreement, that most people in the world think this agreement is one of the strongest nuclear agreements that’s been made and it is. It has the greatest amount of scrutiny, of transparency, of accountability, of any, literally any, nuclear agreement on the planet.

No other signator of the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) has had to do as much as Iran has had to do here. And the fact is that the breakout time (the time required to produce enough weapons-grade uranium) for a nuclear weapon has gone from two months to more than a year and there’s no questions in any rational person’s mind that the world is safer with the agreement.

I’m proud of that. I’m proud of what we accomplished. I’m proud that people are fighting to keep it going.

On the Paris agreement, same thing.

The governors of 38 states in the United States of America have a renewable portfolio law and 29 of those states, the law is mandatory. Those 38 states equal 80 percent of the population of our nation and in those states they are committed to meeting Paris. Governors all across the country are committed to meeting Paris. There’s a movement called We Are Still In  – that’s governors, Republicans and Democrats alike.

There are mayors, more than a thousand mayors have signed on to a movement to make their cities clean environmentally, to live up to Paris.

So I’m not sitting around – what I’ve been able to say to the people of the world is Donald Trump may have pulled out of Paris, but the American people have not.

So I’m not sitting around crying in my teacup We’re now about to have a midterm election, we have an enormous opportunity in that election to define the real vision of the future of the country. And I think we can do it, so I’m energized. I’m feeling very focused and I have clarity about the things that we have to do.

** FILE ** In this Dec. 1, 1992 file photo, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., left, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, listens to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former POW in Vietnam, during a hearing of the committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. The committee released classified testimony detailing the Pentagon’s intelligence gathering efforts in Vietnam. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, file)

This is a political fight. We did our thing for four years. This is where we are. We did out thing for four years.  These guys are running around, using the bully pulpit that they have to try disparage everything we did. What can I say.

Because of our leadership, I went around  the world putting together the coalition to fight ISIS, and we designed the strategy and we implemented it and we basically turned over a very weakened, extraordinarily  decimated ISIS that these guys can finish off.

So I don’t take a second place seat to anyone on what we accomplished.

We stopped Ebola in is tracks in West Africa. We engaged with other countries. We put sanctions on Putin that were tough and stopped him from going to Kiev. And held him accountable for what happened in Ukraine. And even as we did that we got Russia to cooperate on other things we needed to do. So I think we had a robust policy that did a lot of things.

By the way, Donald Trump’s dropped a couple of missiles on Assad, hasn’t stopped him from doing what he was doing. He hasn’t had any diplomacy to try to end  the war.

So I’m happy to have a debate about the security of our country, anywhere, anytime.

John Kerry receiving medals
(US Navy Photo)

We also put in place the sanctions with China against North Korea. We told Trump that we need to do more. We said we’ve got as far as we could with the Chinese, you’ve got to continue. He did continue, and I give him some credit for that. He put some pressure, he got the additional two tranches of sanctions but has he does anything with North Korea?

Did that glitzy public relations summit of his actually produce  a way forward to find denuclearization? They both disagree on denuclearization still. There’s no definition as to where the missiles are. What’s the declaration? What’s the agreement by which there will be inspections? I mean, here’s a guy who criticizes Iran. He hasn’t got even one thing on paper with North Korea.

Kerry said he will be doing some campaigning for Democratic congressional candidates.

KERRY: I’m in touch with the DCCC. I’m in touch with the DNC. Some campaigns obviously are happier to run against everybody. so are happy for you to come in. It just depends on what the dynamics of the state and the district are. So we’re just playing it by ear.

I noted that he has not ruled out running for president in 2020.

That’s Kerry ont he left and Jackie Kennedy’s mother in the foreground.

KERRY: Jonathan. let me be as clear as I can on this. You know I haven’t ruled out a lot of things in life. I haven’t ruled out jumping out of plane with a parachute. But I’m not sitting around planning on it, and people somehow take it and run with it.

I think it’s a mistake to be talking about 2020 at all right now, and I’m not in any regard. I’m not sitting around planning to run for office. It’s just not in my deal right now.

Then you’re also not thinking about the possibility of impeachment?

KERRY: I’m not thinking about impeachment. I think it’s a mistake for anybody to be thinking about impeachment because I think that politicizes it. I think it’s a big mistake to put it in the context of an election. Having voted on one impeachment and been through the impeachment process in the Senate, I’d love to see our country not have to do that. I think it’s silly to talk about it unless or until Mueller comes up with a report that kind of puts it in front of you in a way that’s unavoidable. 

I don’t think it should be a political strategy. The Republicans did that once and I think the Republicans paid a price for it.

But Kerry, who was a classmate of Mueller at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., and worked with him on uncovering the BCCI scandal when Kerry was on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Mueller was head of the criminal division at the Justice Department, is the right man in the right job.

KERRY: He’s a professional and a terrific public servant and I have great respect and admiration for Bob.

PORTLAND, UNITED STATES: Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry greets a crowd of supporters during a rally in Portland, Oregon, 13 August, 2004. AFP PHOTO / HECTOR MATA (Photo credit should read HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)



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


Good day Austin:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Chuck Lindell’s story:

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

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

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

¡Ay, caramba!

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

The stakes could not have been higher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

LBJ is rolling over in his grave.

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

And the same first name.

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

Christian Archer struck a more somber, realistic note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe Gallego lacked a spark.

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

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


From Asher Price’s story on the Quinnipiac poll:

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

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

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

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

From Quinnipiac:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Quinnipiac:

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

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

But, that’s just one poll.

From Reuters:

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, take your pick.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In claiming Beto would ban BBQ, Ted Cruz battles a straw man made of tofu

[cmg_anvato video=4483810 autoplay=”true”]

Good Monday Austin:

I went to see Ted Cruz at town hall meetings this weekend. Good crowds and Cruz was in fine form.

The first event was at Baker Boys BBQ in Gonzales. The second was at Schobel’s Restaurant in Columbus.

When I arrived at the Columbus event there were four folks from PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — out in front holding signs. I suppose you could call them protesters or demonstrators, but their demeanor was extraordinarily pleasant and their signs weren’t anti-anything. They were simply pro-tofu.

I knew what was up.

Cruz had recently suggested that out-of-state liberals were pouring money into Beto O’Rourke’s Senate campaign because they want to impose California values — including tofu consumption — on Texas.

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I approached and introduced myself. Dani Alexander, a 31-year-old PETA volunteer from Houston, who was the spokeswoman for the group, said she had a prepared statement, which she read to me.


We are here passing out free barbecue tofu samples after Sen. Cruz’s snipe about soy earlier this week. He said some things about tofu being liberal, but tofu’s actually bipartisan. PETA is confident that once Sen. Cruz gets a taste of how delicious tofu can be he will want to see tofu in every Texas pot.

Tofu’s the most versatile food on the planet and it’s grown right here in the Lone Star State. According to the USDA, soy production in the Lone Star State was valued at $61 million last year and as more and more people realize that eating meat is completely unnecessary and with the ever-growing list of vegan-friendly restaurants and businesses, it is no surprise the vegan eating in the U.S. has skyrocketed by 600 percent in the last three years alone.

Sen. Cruz can joke all he wants but life for animals on factory farms is no laughing matter. Cows, pigs, chickens, fish and other animals used for food feel pain just like our dogs and cats yet nearly all of the millions of them killed for food every year in the U.S. are raised on crowded, filthy factory farms where they are subjected to extreme crowding, a terrifying trip to the slaughterhouse and a violent, painful death.

Tofu can be baked, fried, scrambled, marinated or sautéed. And it’s packed with high-quality protein without the artery-clogging cholesterol and saturated fat of meat, eggs and dairy. Americans are horrified to learn that pigs, cows, chickens and other animals are crammed into filthy sheds and tiny cages, routinely mutilated with no painkillers and having their throats slit while fully conscious

We can all help put an end to this cruelty simply by choosing tofu and other healthy, delicious vegan foods. He can visit to order a free vegan starter kit and see how easy it is to leave animals off of your plate.

They then cheerfully offered me a little specimen cup of barbecued tofu, which I politely declined, because I don’t really like tofu.

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My daughter is a vegan. I admire vegans and vegetarians. I am an omnivore who recognizes — thanks in part to a report my daughter did in high school on factory farming — that if one wants to continue to eat and enjoy meat, it is best not to interrogate too deeply how a lot of that meat got to your table.

But I also guess I believe that eating other animals is the way of the world and is such a source of pleasure that I’m OK with that being an important part of my diet. And while I generally eschew tofu (it’s edible surrounded by better stuff), I refrain from scorning or mocking those for whom it is integral to a vegetarian or vegan diet.  And I’m assuming Cruz shows the same respect at home, where his wife, who grew up Seventh Day Adventist, maintains the vegetarian diet preferred by church members, even though she now worships with her husband as a Baptist.

As Ellen White, co-founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, put it: “The intellectual, the moral, and the physical powers are depreciated by the habitual use of flesh meats. Meat eating deranges the system, beclouds the intellect, and blunts the moral sensibilities. We say to you, dear brother and sister, your safest course is to let meat alone.”

This is what Cruz had said about tofu precisely a week earlier on Sept. 8 in Katy.

As y’all know, it’s election season. We are 59 days out from election day, and we got a fight on our hands. The extreme left — they’re angry, they’re energized, and they hate the president. And I gotta tell you, that’s dangerous. We underestimate that level of fury and rage — we underestimate that at our peril. It means two things. No. 1, we are seeing tens of millions of dollars flooding into the state of Texas from liberals all over the country who desperately want to turn the state of Texas blue [boos]. They want us to be just like California [boos]. Right down to tofu and silicon and dyed hair. And by the way, I married me a California vegetarian. She’s wonderful, but I brought her to the great state of Texas. [applause].

But the second thing it means is, come election day, come November, we are going to see record-setting Democratic turnout here. Now, here’s the good news. This is Texas, and in Texas there are a whole lot more conservatives than there are liberals [applause]. So politically, our tasks the next 59 days is simple. This election comes down to one word: turnout, turnout, turnout, turnout. Our biggest danger is complacency. Look, I don’t think there’s a great risk that a bunch of Texas conservatives are suddenly going to wake up and vote Democrat, but the danger is too many of us might stay home, that we might feel the economy’s booming, work is going well, we’re focused on our job and our family and our church and going to the ballgame, and you just don’t make it to the polls to vote. That’s how we lose the state of Texas. And I’m here today to tell you, that will not happen, not on our watch. 

In Gonzales and Columbus, Cruz struck the same theme, opening his remarks at each stop with, “God bless Texas.”

In Columbus, he continued:

We welcome everyone. Thank you for coming out. God bless. We’re thrilled to see you.

I got to say, when I got here someone told me that even PETA was protesting and giving out barbecued tofu, so I got to say, they summed up the entire election: If Texas elects a Democrat, they’re going to ban barbecue across the state of Texas.

You want to talk about an issue to mobilize the people, and I’m talking everybody.

So I want to thank PETA and I do want to tell PETA you’re going to have to disclose to the FEC that by coming and protesting and giving away tofu, that you have given an in-kind contribution to my campaign by demonstrating just how bad things can get. (Right, right)

Cruz has a good sense of humor. So I heard this as Cruz having, as he would put it, “some fun” with the PETA protesters, and that he did not necessarily mean to literally suggest that, if Texas elects a Democrat, they’re gong to ban barbecue across the state of Texas.

But then again, the crux of Cruz’s campaign is to present Beto O’Rourke as outside Texas’ political and cultural norms, and I think he knows how to deploy humor in a way that seeks to seriously link Beto with tofu in the listener’s mind, while providing him with his just having some fun deniability.

I did a First Reading back in March about how I thought this was the case with the jingle the Cruz campaign came up with mocking O’Rourke’s use of the nickname Beto.

Cruz was asked about the ad at the time on CNN by Chris Cuomo.

Cuomo: Your name is Rafael. You go by Ted. Your middle name is Edward. That’s an Anglicized version of it. He went the other way and has a more ethnic version of his name. Why go after it? You’re both doing the same thing.

Cruz: Well, you’re absolutely right, my name is Rafael Edward Cruz. I am the son of Rafael Cruz, an immigrant from Cuba who came to Texas with nothing, had a hundred dollars in his underwear, couldn’t speak English, washed dishes making 50 cents an hour, and my dad’s journey of coming to Texas seeking freedom, that’s the American story, that’s who we are.

You know in terms of the jingle, some of it is just to have a sense of humor.

We had some fun with it.

But, as I wrote:

Maybe, but I think that little ditty contains within it everything you will need to know about the Cruz campaign against O’Rourke. This is not based on anything anyone has told me. It is simply my intuition.

Ted Cruz means to do nothing less than crush Beto O’Rourke’s candidacy and do so by destroying his good name, or at least, his first name, by turning BETO into a four-letter word, an epithet to be spit out in anger or, better yet, derision, the telling diminutive of a liberal beguiler, imposter and poseur, who is either an opportunist trying to fool Hispanic voters into thinking he is, at least in part, one of them, or, some kind of deluded, self-hating Anglo (albeit Irish-American Anglo), whose sentimental, fuzzy-headed, liberal notions of bi-nationalism and multiculturalism have robbed him of the most basic understanding that what makes Texas Texas is a strong border and unfettered access to guns.

The jingle, and Cruz’s follow-up comments, send the message to his voters that Cruz — the Hispanic son of an immigrant — is, by taking the name “Ted,” assimilating the way it’s supposed to be done, while O’Rourke, by calling himself Beto, is going weirdly the other way, undermining what made America great.

Talk to supporters at Cruz rallies, or read some of their tweets, and that line of attack on Beto as using the name Beto as some cynical act of opportunistic cultural appropriation has taken hold, even if he’s gone by the name since he was small.

So, just because Cruz is smiling, doesn’t mean he’s kidding, or that his audience is not receiving a message associating O’Rourke with an unTexan, pro-tofu, weirdo vegan, animus toward BBQ. This, even though O’Rourke, as a well-known Whataburger consumer (who Cruz spokeswoman Emily Miller famously referred to as a “triple meat Whataburger who is out of touch with Texas values”) is hardly a poster boy for PETA, whose volunteers were not representing the O’Rourke campaign outside the Columbus eatery, and who were also not saying anything about banning meat.

A straw man, times two.

Nonetheless, yesterday, Cruz again tweeted his joke/not-a-joke.

As did Miller.

Not everyone was laughing.

And Bunni Pounds, Cruz’s pick to succeed Jeb Hensarling in Congress (she lost the GOP nomination to Lance Gooden), seemed to be taking seriously Cruz’s suggestion that PETA’s pro-tofu protest was part of a plot to ban meat.

So, is Cruz’s creating a straw man out of tofu, intended to be taken with a grain of salt?

And if so, should the same grain of salt be applied to Cruz’s assertion that O’Rourke wants to take away their guns, which his audiences do not seem to take as some jokey hyperbole.

In this case, a protestor at a Cruz event — Beto guy — is taken as a credible proxy for Beto himself, and, the straw man established, Cruz proceeds to take him down.

Crowd explodes.

Cruz in Columbus:

On guns. on the Second Amendment — or as Beto calls it, the what? — Beto brags about, he has tweeted out how proud he is that has an F rating from the NRA, not a D-minus, not a D, but an F, and I promptly retweeted it. Look, elections are about choices. If you want a big government, gun-grabbing liberal, well the Democrats are giving you one.

But, just because O’Rourke got an F  from the NRA, doesn’t mean he wants to grab everyone’s guns.

From Jeremy Wallace of the Houston Chronicle back in April:

During a pair of campaign stops in Houston on Thursday, Democrat Beto O’Rourke jumped right into the middle of the gun regulation debate, saying he fully backs a call for universal background checks and a proposal to ban the sale of assault-style weapons.

“There is no reason that weapons of war should be sold to people in this country,” O’Rourke told a rousing round of applause from supporters at a town hall meeting at the University of Houston on Thursday.

Hours earlier, he had a similar message at another town hall in the heart of Houston’s East End. O’Rourke told that crowd that he is a co-sponsor on a bill that would ban the sale of weapons like the AR-15, which 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz used int the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in February. An AR-15 was also used in 2012 in the mass killings of 27 — mostly children — at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

O’Rourke said those weapons are for one purpose — killing other humans as efficiently as possible.

But O’Rourke, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for re-election, was also careful to stress he is not for taking guns away from anyone and believes the Second Amendment of the Constitution needs to be defended. He told both audiences that his uncle, who was a sheriff’s deputy, taught him how to shoot, and his father instilled lessons about proper gun ownership.

Cruz was also asked in Columbus how he plans to “out-Hispanic” O’Rourke.

Here was the question:

I live in San Antonio, I have a family ranch here and I’m concerned about the all the Beto signs I’ve seen in yards. What are you trying to do to try to out-Hispanic him?

Here was Cruz’s reply:

Number one, he asked about all the Beto signs. There are signs everywhere.

You’re right and the reason is they are raising tens of millions of dollars from all over the country so they have invested about $4 million in signs. You want to know why there are signs everywhere?  $4 million buys a heck of a lot of signs. And why don’t we have signs everywhere? We don’t have $4 million to put into signs.

So that differential is driving it and also it’s being driven by the rage and anger on the far left.

Now you have asked what am I doing to out-Hispanic him.

So I have to tell you, the national press is kind of funny. I was doing an interview a couple of weeks ago with CNN, and CNN asked me, this is their question, “Well, don’t you think it would be good for diversity for Beto to win?” I just kind of looked at him and said, “Because we don’t have enough Irishmen in the Senate?” 

This is the world we live in. I told the reporter, “Look I’m the son of a Cuban immigrant, the first Hispanic senator ever to represent the state of Texas, but you’d rather some left-wing socialist for open borders. That’s not Texas.

On returning from Columbus Saturday night, I did some Googling to try to find that CNN interview in which he was asked that lame-brained question. Did the interviewer not know that Cruz is Hispanic and O’Rourke is not. (Must have missed the Cruz campaign’s Beto jingle.) I couldn’t find anything.

I emailed Emily Miller asking for a cite or link. She replied that the interview had never aired.

Meanwhile, as noted, Cruz had warned that out-of-state liberals were trying to make Texas into California by electing O’Rourke, right down to tofu and silicon and dyed hair.

Of this litany, tofu makes the most sense.

If he meant silicon, as in chips, which is how he pronounced it, it makes no sense that Texans would be anti-high technology. And if he meant silicone, as in breasts, well …

And dyed hair also seems an odd place to draw a politically useful line for Cruz.

Last Monday, Abby Hamblin wondered about Cruz’s California litany in the Los Angeles TimesSen. Ted Cruz used ‘tofu, silicon and dyed hair’ to describe California. Wait, what?

Now we well know how Texas and California have been pitted against each other for a number of reasons over the years. The 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers is a prime example, and we’re also well aware that plenty of Californians have moved to Texas in the past decade.

But this description of Californians is raising a lot of questions, especially on the dyed hair and tofu points. After all, Texas is the home of a $61 million soybean crop in 2017. Tofu is, ahem, a soybean product.

Maybe he should have gone with avocados? But who can say a bad thing about avocados?

Who? Ted Cruz. That’s who.

Per a 2013 Q-and-A with the Des Moines Register:

Perhaps the most surprising detail of the interview was the fact that Cruz, whose father emigrated from Cuba, hates avocado — a staple food in the Southwest.

“I despise avocado. It’s the only food I dislike, and I dislike it passionately,” he said. “Which is ironic, because I’m Cuban, and my dad grew up with avocado trees in his backyard. My whole family eats avocados like crazy, but I can’t stand them.”

From Liz Goulding in the Dallas Observer in October 2013: Ted Cruz Admits He Hates Avocados, Is No Longer Fit to Serve Texas

Texans deserves a senator that represents our interests, and Cruz is clearly unfit for such a task because he doesn’t even understand the people he is serving. How can you understand Texas if you don’t enjoy chips and guacamole on a sunny patio every once and awhile, or if you’ve never discovered that perfect mix of avocado, lime juice, and salt at home? There was a time in my life when I didn’t like guacamole, but I was 10 and then I got over it. Now I couldn’t imagine my life without it. It would be like being colorblind but with my mouth. The things we eat literally become part of the cells in our bodies, and Cruz’s cells aren’t made of any guacamole. Which means I can’t trust him. He might as well have been born in Kenya.

Marfa, August 2018


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

Good Friday Austin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That DWI was not in dispute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But again, who am I to talk?

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

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

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

Case closed.

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

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

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

From New York Magazine:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Ellen proceeded cautiously.



OK Beto, let ‘er rip.
















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

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

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

But no. That was it.

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

I understand this was not 60 Minutes.

This was not Oprah.

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

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

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


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

There is still time to see him sweat.

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

But Ellen is all about solutions, not just problems.

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




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

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

















































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

Poster by Sabo

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

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

















It was another charming, bravura performance by the phenom.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Remembering the Alamo … and remembering the rest of Texas history


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

Good day Austin:

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

His audience gasped.

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

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

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

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

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


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

Everybody the world over remembers the Alamo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travis wrote in the letter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can value the things worth valuing.

We can remember.

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

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

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

It closes as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Yes. Of course.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political designs: How Beto’s basic black and white and Ocasio-Cortez’s revolutionary look defined their candidacies


Good day Austin:

Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at the end of June won a Democratic primary for a congressional seat in New York City against one of the most powerful politicians in the city, soaring into the national political consciousness, have a few things in common.

Both project an upbeat, youthful vigor — or, more properly vigah, because O’Rourke is a virtual Kennedy and Ocasio-Cortez cut her political teeth working as an intern in U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy’s office while going to school at Boston University.

Of course Ocasio-Cortez is very young — at 28, a generation younger than the 45-year–old O’Rourke (she’s a Millennial, he’s Generation X).

Both also are masters of political virality, not to be mistaken for political virility, though maybe they are, these days, one and the same.

And both Ocasio-Cortez and O’Rourke have benefited from campaigns with very distinctive and effective graphic design that have gone a long way toward branding them in ways that complement their strengths.

From n+1 magazine on June 30:

The democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking victory in this week’s Democratic primary in New York’s 14th congressional district has rightly provoked enthusiastic commentary and analysis. If she beats her Republican opponent in November, as seems assured, Ocasio-Cortez will be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Her grassroots campaign against the business-friendly incumbent Joe Crowley, who until Tuesday was a likely candidate for speaker of the House, sends a significant signal to the Democratic Party. Ocasio-Cortez’s election to Congress would be the clearest sign yet of the electoral viability of the left in the US.

Her campaign also marks a major step forward for graphic design in American politics. Rather than the tired repetition of white letters on blue backgrounds, white letters on red backgrounds, and American flag iconography, energetic diagonals cut across Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign materials in an unexpected yellow and purple. When paired with the instantly iconic photo of the candidate by Jesse Korman, the vibrancy of the system is infectious.

And from Didi Martinez at Politico on July 7:

One of the year’s most distinctive, break-the-mold campaign designs belongs to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the giant-killing New York progressive who recently pulled off the upset of the primary season by defeating veteran Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley.

Using purples and yellows and drawing inspiration from old United Farm Workers of America posters, Ocasio-Cortez’s logo and campaign signs are a dramatic departure from customary practice.

Scott Starrett, who oversaw the creation of Ocasio-Cortez’s posters — which embraced Spanish-inspired inverted exclamation marks to highlight her Puerto Rican heritage — said they could afford to take design risks as they reached for a “bold, revolutionary look” for the campaign.


From Aileen Kwun at Fast Company on June 29:

Opting for bold lettering and a flat design treatment that forgoes drop shadows, gradients, American flag motifs, and other visual cliches, the identity intentionally avoids pretentious signifiers to refreshing effect; one might even liken the energetic campaign visuals to a local poster bill. In place of red, white, and blue, Ocasio-Cortez’s color scheme draws upon purple–a symbolic blend of the two-party system’s red and blue, also used by Brand New Congress–and yellow, as its aesthetic complement.

Enlarged, all-caps text–set bilingually in English and Spanish, in equal weighting–frames Ocasio-Cortez’s countenance with similarly angular effect, and her name, proudly flouted with inverted exclamation marks and stars, is emphatically, unapologetically multicultural. It’s an outward display of Ocasio-Cortez’s roots as a third-generation, working-class Bronxite with Puerto Rican heritage.

(Campaign volunteers for Beto O’Rourke, left to right, Canan Yetmen, Debbie Cahoon and Bessie Tassoulas, prepare yard signs at a rally at Mount Sinai Baptist Church on Monday August 27, 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

O’Rourke’s design went the other direction — no photo, no color, just BETO in black and white, in keeping with his stripped-down punk sensibility and perhaps also in subliminal homage to a particular Texas comfort zone – Whataburger.

As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Anna Tinsley wrote on Aug. 9:

What’s black and white and reminds some people of a tasty Texas treat?

Apparently it’s the campaign signs and logo being used by U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat embroiled in a battle with Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for the Senate.

Some are taking to social media to say those campaign messages remind them of the design on the Whataburger spicy ketchup container.


On Sunday, I wrote a story about following O’Rourke on a three-day swing through South Texas the previous weekend.

The last rally was in Brownsville, emceed by the local state Rep. Eddie Lucio III.

From the story:

Was O’Rourke getting a late start in the Rio Grande Valley?

“I don’t think so,” Lucio said. “You’ve got to peak at the right time. You’ve got to conserve your energy. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and I think he’s peaking and moving and gaining speed right when he needs to.”

But O’Rourke, 17 months into a relentless Senate campaign that has already taken him to all 254 Texas counties, is running the marathon as a sprint. Last weekend’s stops in Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville, drawing raucous crowds amid the campaign’s fecund fundraising and with poll after poll showing a competitive race — combined with his uncanny ability to draw national attention with viral video clips, most recently showing him skateboarding in a Brownsville Whataburger parking lot and another in which he explained his support for professional football players kneeling for the national anthem — suggested a campaign on a roll.

Following a candidate on the campaign trail is a time-honored way of reporting on politics. There were several other reporters following O’Rourke on his border swing.

It is, in fact, the next best thing to not being there if you are interested in what really matters — which is what’s going on on social media — Facebook, Twitter, likes, retweets, clicks, etc. The demands of the road can only distract from a disciplined attention to these coordinates.

Case in point, this viral tweet from Josh Billinson, the editor of the Independent Journal Review and a very talented tweeter, based in Washington, D.C., who I don’t believe was in Texas at all, but rather was, I assume, observing O’Rourke via his campaign’s  Facebook live stream of virtually everything he does on the road.

Up until Billinson’s tweet, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the skateboarding story, if that’s what this was.

I had asked O’Rourke about his newly acquired board as he clutched it at a gaggle with reporters between his Saturday evening rally in Brownsville and his dinner at a Brownsville Whataburger with some 32 El Pasoans who had come by bus to Brownsville with Veronica Escobar, the Democratic candidate to replace O’Rourke representing El Paso in Congress, to help rally support for their hometown hero.

O’Rourke was in a punk band — Foss — as a young man and I asked about his skateboarding background.


My dad bought me a skateboard when I was in the sixth grade for my birthday, so I must have turned 12.  I met the guy who sold my dad that skateboard. He now lives in San Antonio. So I skated in elementary and little bit in high school and then my kids have a skateboard and I’ll jump on that. They have a long board. This is the opposite of a long board but it’s got these nylon wheels, really good wheels.

Filling out the profile of a punk skateboarder, I asked O’Rourke if there was any graffiti he wanted to cop to. Beto would be a great tag, after all, and I’m sure the Cruz campaign is scouring freight trains and overpasses in and around El Paso for incriminating evidence.

O’Rourke: No, no, no, no, no.

I didn’t follow O’Rourke to the Whataburger that night because, while I heard the El Paso crew was headed there, I didn’t know he would be joining them — though I should have assumed he would be. And frankly, I had a Whataburger for dinner the previous evening while waiting to get a new tire in San Antonio to replace one of the two new tires I had purchased the previous day in Austin that went flat on my way from an afternoon O’Rourke rally in San Antonio, to one that evening in Laredo.

Worse still, in order to get the quarters needed to turn on the air to see if I could revive the flat tire at the gas station where I had pulled over about 20 minutes outside San Antonio,  I had to make a purchase, so I grabbed the first thing at hand, an orange package of Trident gum, though I don’t generally chew gum. But as the tire hissed air as quickly as I added it, and without a full-sized spare, I called AAA for a tow, sought comfort in my pack of orange Trident, and began chewing, quickly dislodging a crown.

I shoved the crown back where it belonged — where it remains to this day — got the tow to San Antonio, and while I waited for a new tire I repaired to a close-by Whataburger to do some research.

From Tinsley’s story on the resemblance between the Beto logo and the Whataburger spicy ketchup package:

Cruz’s campaign responded to the likeness.

“Unlike the spicy ketchup, when Texans unwrap the O’Rourke packaging, they are definitely not going to like what they see underneath,” Cruz campaign spokeswoman Emily Miller said. “He’s like a Triple Meat Whataburger liberal who is out of touch with Texas values.”

This was apparently not a good riposte.

I confess in the my five-plus years in Texas I have only had a couple of Whataburgers, all via drive-through. The experience was fine but not life-altering, though I acknowledge and admire the fierce devotion of Texans to the chain. Like for HEB, only that one I actually live and feel.

In any case, unaccustomed to being inside a Whataburger, I looked around for the spicy ketchup package, and before I ordered my basic burger, I asked the guy at the counter how to secure a spicy ketchup in the Beto-like container. He looked at me as a bit of a security risk. I didn’t realize that a young woman would come around, when I received my order, with a condiment tray, like a cigarette girl in a 1940s nightclub.

Very classy.


The burger was pretty good. A single meat Whataburger was hefty. I doubted a triple-meat Whataburger was ever a good idea. And, at first glance, the resemblance between the ketchup package design and the Beto logo didn’t seem to me to be all that extraordinary.

But let us pause here to consider Ocasio-Cortez’s eye-catching design and how, there but for a former Austinite’s search for an acceptable taco in New York City, it might never have come off the way it did.

From that n+1 piece:

We were curious about how such a complex and impressive visual schema emerged, so we sought out the designers responsible for it: Scott Starrett, cofounder of Tandem (along with Shaun Gillen), and Maria Arenas, lead designer on the campaign. (Tandem’s Carlos Dominguez also assisted the campaign.) We spoke by phone on Friday, June 29, three days after Ocasio Cortez’s victory.

—Rachel Ossip and Mark Krotov

MARK KROTOV I first saw your campaign poster months ago, in a storefront on Queens Boulevard, in Sunnyside. At first I wasn’t sure if I was even looking at a campaign poster, but whatever it was, I knew I’d never seen anything quite like it. That poster was the first I’d heard of Ocasio-Cortez, and she more or less had my vote right at that moment. I was trying to remember when it was that I had that first encounter, and it feels like a long time ago—long before the articles began to be written. How did the process of working with Ocasio-Cortez and her campaign begin?

SCOTT STARRETT We’ve known Sandy [Ocasio-Cortez] for some time. We started talking politics before she began her bid for Congress—we even lent her our GoPro when she went to Standing Rock. But the seed of the campaign identity came from the fact that our whole studio really loves Sandy. That was a big part of why the design turned out so well.

MARIA ARENAS We really knew Sandy well, and we knew we had her complete trust. She trusted us to represent the campaign authentically.

RACHEL OSSIP How did the identity for the campaign evolve?

SS We’re in a revolutionary moment, so we went straight to the history of grassroots, civil rights, and social justice movements in search of a common language we could participate in. One that Sandy could participate in and that she belongs in. The most inspiring figures to us were Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, the cofounders of the National Farmworkers Association. They had a positive, uplifting message about bringing power to the people. It resonated so deeply with who Sandy the person was, and who Sandy the candidate became, that it was a good fit.

We also researched revolutionary posters, union badges, et cetera. But the National Farmworkers Association inspired us a great deal. We looked to a lot of low-fidelity activist materials bred from necessity, and we knew we couldn’t have too much polish. We wanted the identity to have a populist look, in the sense that it was simple enough that it could have been cut out of construction paper or made by hand in some way. But it also had to have a modern bent, with a nod to the visual culture of subway posters.

I’ve worked in politics for years. I had my first political clients in Austin almost seven years ago. The cultural and visual language there is so different. Had we run Ocasio’s identity in Texas, I don’t think it would have resonated to the same extent. In the Bronx and Queens, people speak and understand a different visual language. So when they saw it—and when you yourself saw it, Mark—they and you recognized that it kind of spoke to the visual language of New York and New York street advertising. People are advertised to differently in the subways than they are in, say, the Midwest or Texas.

Aha. Austin. I spoke to Scott Starrett back in early July.

Starrett, 34, moved to Austin from Lawrence, Kansas, where he was the director of marketing for the University of Kansas Memorial Unions, when he was 27. He was hired by Katie Naranjo at GNI Communications where his clients included state Sen. Kirk Watson, Mayor Steve Adler and Hugh Fitzsimons, who finished out of the money in a three-way race against Jim Hogan and Kinky Friedman for the Democratic nomination for agriculture commissioner four years ago. Despite that fact that Starrett did this beautiful map of Texas for his campaign.

Fitzsimons campaign effectively ended the day he filed his paperwork to be on the ballot.

Starrett: It meant a lot to him, it was meaningful and he asked he go in alone to put his name on the ballot because it was sentimental. He put his name on the ballot as Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III. He came out and showed us that and we were all like, “What have you done to us?”

Starrett subsequently moved to New York and co-founded Tandem.

I asked him about his comment that he didn’t think the Ocasio-Cortez design would have worked in Texas.

STARRETT: New Yorkers “are exposed to so much in their visual culture that — I don’t want to use the word sophistication, because that’s condescending to you guys — but (in New York) you are bombarded by the different visual languages and meeting that visual culture halfway we found to be a really positive thing and it may have been too much for Texas, and that also sounds condescending.

The Ocasio-Cortez design, he said, “borders on sentimental and dramatic, right? Like the ethos is excessive on some level and Sandy’s a bombastic candidate. She’s a firebrand, so when you hear her talk, you instantly go, ‘Oh, Ok, the poster fits, so it works.'”

“It might have been a little high-falutin’ for Texas.”


Originally, he said, the campaign “wanted a ton of inspirational text packed on there and we tried and we tried and at first we said, `I don’t think it’s going to work, it just doesn’t work, it was overbearing.’ They said, `Make it work.'”

“Some campaigns force you to do things that won’t work,” he said. But, ultimately the Ocasio-Cortez campaign relented.


“Not only was Sandy our friend, but she trusted us and believed in us.”

And they came up with a selection of buttons that each emphasized an issue.

Starrett and his partner became friends with Sandy because of Starrett’s yearning for tacos like the ones he’d grown to love in Austin.

“Oh man, I miss all the tacos, but Pueblo Viejo, that was my taco lunch,” said Starrett of the taco truck in the parking lot next to the GNI office on Brushy Street (it’s since moved inside the North Door).

(Note that the Pueblo Viejo color palette is to the Ocasio-Cortez campaign what the Whataburger spicy ketchup black and white is to O’Rourke’s look.)

STARRETT: New York does not always have the best tacos. Our office is in Union Square. So I was roaming around looking for something to eat and this new restaurant had just opened. I think I walked in on the second day and, I said, `OK, this could work out. You know there’s a taco joint less than a block from our office. This is a good thing. I could see good things happening for us.

“It’s called Flats Fix. It’s attached to the Coffee Shop,” a Union Square institution known as a hangout for models, he said.

It turned out that the bartender/waitress at Flats Fix was Ocasio-Cortez.

As she explains in a clip from Knock Down the House — a documentary being made about four women candidates for Congress, including Ocasio-Crotez — “I started waitressing after the financial crisis because we were about to lose our house.”

STARRETT: We’re fairly down-to-earth people. Over time my business partner, Shaun Gillen, and I,  we gravitated solely toward lunching and having business meetings at Flats Fix.

We’re pretty much always talking business so we made friends with the staff and they could see we were up to something and so that, along with politics — everyone in New York was talking politics in 2016 leading up to the race — so we really hit it off being politically inclined folks and when Sandy went to Standing Rock and she went to Detroit (Flint), we let her borrow our office studio’s GoPro to help document her trip and then later, as things started heating up, she got me in touch with … and we started working for Brand New Congress and justice Democrats (both groups supporting Ocasio-Cortez’s candidacy) and then I let her borrow my car to drive upstate to attend endorsement meetings.

She calls us out on Twitter as her Day One Brothers. So we were there from the start just encouraging her, telling her we thought she had it in her, just encouraging her every step of the way.

She is fierce now in a way that I think has impressed and surprised all of us but she’s always been gregarious and intellectual and kind.

Starrett said she worked at Flats Fix until about 10 months ago. (Her image, working the bar, continued to adorn the Flats Fix website after her election, but is now gone.)

She apparently previously worked at the Coffee Shop, which had a different clientele but the same ownership.

“The owners are clearly not fans of her politics — they are wealthy and they want to keep as much of their wealth as they can,” said Starrett. And, indeed, since our conversation they announced they are closing the Coffee Shop, blaming increases in the minimum wage, though they are keeping Flats Fix open.

Before heading down to South Texas, I spoke with Tony Casas in El Paso who designed the Beto logo.

Casas is a partner and part owner of Stanton Street, a web design and development company and digital marketing firm founded and formerly owned by O’Rourke, who hired Casas as a junior designer in 2008. O’Rourke turned the firm over his wife, Amy, when he was elected to Congress, and she in turn sold it just before O’Rourke announced for the Senate to Casas and Brian Wancho, the president and CEO.

He really took a chance on me and I’m glad that it worked out,” Casas said of O’Rourke.

I told him what Starrett said about the Ocasio-Cortez campaign being too bold a look for Texas. I wondered whether the O’Rourke campaigns choice of black and white confirmed that assessment.

Casas said that what guided O’Rourke to like the spare black and white design was his punk sensibility.

“Beto was real big on black and white to begin with,” Casas said. “It goes back to his punk rock roots, which are very black and white.”

Cases who, at 36, is a decade younger than O’Rourke, also grew up in the El Paso punk scene, designing posters and flyers for groups appearing locally.

CASAS: A lot of his campaign is based off of transparency and honesty and being straightforward about who he is and no sham about that, and the black and white more appealed to that and I think he just identified more with the black and white than the color, and it was less about what Texas was going to think.

He didn’t want the smoke and mirrors that everybody else has. He wanted it to be as bold and straightforward as he possibly could.

“I am punk rock at heart too so I knew about his band,” Casas said.

Had he ever seen him perform?

“I’m pretty sure I have, I know I’ve seen him on fliers,” Casas said. ” I did all the punk rock posters for bands after he was already out of the scene but I’m almost positive that I have (seen him) but I just don’t recall off-hand because it wasn’t as significant as it would become — who would ever have thought.”

Casas also designed the retro RFK Beto buttons in a more traditional red, white and blue.

CASAS: That was mine. A lot of people kept on making that comparison early that he looked a lot like Robert Kennedy and we were talking about it and I’m, “That’s an awesome statement for people to make the comparison.” I was, “we’re already working on some retro designs,  let’s play off that,” and we created those buttons and passed them out during the launch.

Casas said the punk palette is black, white and bright pink.

I asked where the pink was in O’Rourke’s campaign and he said Veronica Escobar, the Democrat running for Beto’s seat, was using it in her campaign, which is being designed by another El Paso outfit.

Having said all that, Casas’ original design for the Beto logo was in color, and that’s what he presented to O’Rourke and the campaign team. But, because it didn’t feel quite right to him, he had also prepared a black-and-white version that was not part of the presentation.

CASAS: They didn’t hate them but at the same they had the same feeling, they’re good but, uh, oh i don’t know. I said, “Let me show you one other thing. I made the same logo in black and white. Let me know what you guys think.” And the second I showed it to them, Beto was the first, “That’s it, that’s what I’m going for,” and everyone else was, “Yeah, that’s more or less what we wanted,” and then we tweaked it until we got it right.

His whole campaign has been, “This is me and this is what I’m doing, transparency and honesty and what  better way to do that than simple black-and-white signs saying Beto’s running for Senate.”

Prospective first-time voters at San Antonio rally.


Casas said it’s the black and white that most draws comparison to the Whataburger spicy ketchup package. That and the lines on either side of Spicy, on the ketchup lid, and For Senate on the Beto logo.

CASAS: At one time the lines from the E were extended all the way through to the end of the logo and that looked weird to me, so I cut the lines off and left them there, and then centered the “For Senate”, and then added the lines to the other side. so those lines are just the extension of the E and then when I did that it was, OK, it looks symmetrical, it looks a lot better like that.

When he showed the final version to O’Rourke, Casas said, “I was talking to people in the office and it hit me, you know this feels very Whataburger, but at the same time, the consensus was, that could work, you know, it’s OK. It’s not like we copied it, but I mean it could work. It’s Texas. People love Whataburger and I’m included, and one of the funniest things, the very first time I sat down to talk to Beto about the logo, I kid you not, the entire campaign was there (in the campaign office) eating Whataburgers, and I think back to that now, and it was a sign from the beginning.”

After he finished the final design, Casas said, “I didn’t want to look at it.”

CASAS: I knew this was potentially going to get national attention and I didn’t want to read the comments. I know what the comments are like on social media and I don’t want to be a part of it. I know how mean social media can be. Up until maybe the last week I have never felt proud of it, not because it wasn’t good but just because I was scared. Now that people are embracing him and embracing it and sticking up for a logo they had nothing to do with, it’s empowering. It feels great.

Not leaving well enough alone, I asked Casas the ultimate question — is Whataburger objectively good or just a home state favorite.

CASAS: I don’t know. Whataburger is always just a thing for us. My wife and I have been friends since we were 13 years old and her loyalties are always Whataburger. She says, “I like the taste more than anything.” She orders a plain Whataburger, no cheese, no nothing on it,  just a burger and bun and she says it has the best meat of anybody.

Either we were raised to like it or it’s plain good.

Indeed, Casas recalls how his father, who used to work at Wendy’s, would bring Whataburger home for the family.

Which brings us to the 1984 Democratic presidential campaign and the popular Wendy’s ad that Walter Mondale used to truly devastating effect against Gary Hart, when it appeared Hart had Mondale, who had seemed a prohibitive front-runner, on the ropes.


Four years later, New York Times political correspondent R.W. Apple wrote that, “Walter F. Mondale’s memorable ‘`Where’s the beef?” response to Gary Hart’s ‘new ideas’ …  may have enabled the former Vice President to wrest the Democratic presidential nomination from Mr. Hart in a very close race.”

Now, 34 years later, comes a Cruz spokesman suggesting that O’Rourke has too much beef, albeit of the liberal variety, with O’Rourke and company offering a playful reminder of the miscue by ordering triple meat Whataburgers in Brownsville after O’Rourke worked up an appetite with a block walk in Laredo, town halls in McAllen and Brownsville, and the quick skate seen ’round the world in the Whataburger parking lot.

I stayed at the same hotel that night as O’Rourke and the next morning saw him in the breakfast area.

I quickly recounted for him my conversation with Casas and my earlier conversation with Starrett about Ocasio-Cortez’s design.

I asked if he had met Ocasio-Cortez and he said he hadn’t. I said I thought she had been at the Father’s Day march he led on the immigration detention center in Tornillo to protest the separation of families at the border, but it turned out she was there a week later on the eve of her primary.

“I would love to meet her and I should probably  get her phone number and just reach out to her and talk to her,” O’Rourke said. “I am just really impressed, not just by her victory, but she is on the march. How old is she? 32? Is she that old?”

I asked about Casas and the decision to go back and white with the Beto logo.

“I just remember having a conversation with him — I don’t want flags, I don’t flames of liberty,” O’Rourke said.

“I don’t want the stuff you see all the time in logos. Just make it as plain as you can, and then I remember, he was showing us the color version and I said, `Just black and white… Beto.”

“It’s turned out well and I don’t know what we sold in t-shirts and what we’ve sold in yard signs and bumper stickers for 3 bucks. That’s actually been a big part of what we’ve raised, people wanting to buy that gear or the signs. So Tony did good.”

And, O’Rourke said of Casas, “He’s a skater, actually.”

“In his free time,” his company bio says, “Tony pops crook grinds, trey flips, and back tails at the local skateparks.”

With that, I checked out of the hotel and as I put my stuff in the car to follow O’Rourke’s pickup to the block walk, he rolled by me.