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)



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)

Flash-bang grenades: On Ted Cruz’s incendiary political rhetoric.

Poster by SABO


Good Friday Austin:

The TIME 100 is supposed to be a list of the 100 most influential people of 2018.

Each of the hundred gets a little write-up by some other pretty influential person.

And so our own Texas Sen. Ted Cruz did the blurb for President Trump.

Here is what Cruz wrote:

President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America. The fact that his first year as Commander in Chief disoriented and distressed members of the media and political establishment is not a bug but a feature.

The same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump’s popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump’s achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans. While pundits obsessed over tweets, he worked with Congress to cut taxes for struggling families. While wealthy celebrities announced that they would flee the country, he fought to bring back jobs and industries to our shores. While talking heads predicted Armageddon, President Trump’s strong stand against North Korea put Kim Jong Un back on his heels.

President Trump is doing what he was elected to do: disrupt the status quo. That scares the heck out of those who have controlled Washington for decades, but for millions of Americans, their confusion is great fun to watch.

Cruz is a U.S. Senator from Texas

Well, what could be greater fun than watching the merry mayhem that ensues when a a flash-bang grenade is tossed by some forgotten men and women into a crowd of media and political types in Washington.

Am I right?

Actually, I will confess that, up until a couple of weeks ago I didn’t know what a flash-bang grenade was.

Then I spent some time working on a story on the 25th anniversary of the Branch Davidian siege in Waco that ended the lives of 82 Branch Davidians – including many children – and four agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

At a 1995 Congressional hearing, Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin, who represented David Koresh, the Branch Davidian leader who died amid he fire that consumed Mount Carmel, their communal residence, 25 years ago Thursday, testified that, “I did see some grenades that the ATF had thrown in.”

Chuck Schumer, then a congressman, was outraged by that insinuation.

“What do you mean thrown in?” he asked DeGuerin.

DeGuerin: The ATF threw in grenades in their dynamic entry.

Schumer: They didn’t throw in any grenades as I understand it. They were flash-bangs.

DeGuerin: Did you ever see what a flash-bang can do to somebody? They’re grenades. There’s an explosive charge in it. It’s very dangerous. It can blow your hand off. It can blow your face off. It can kill.

The next day, Schumer returned to the question of flash-bang grenades.

Schumer: And coup de grâce, Mr. DeGeurin says that flash-bangers can kill, injure, maim. Anyone who knows anything knows they can’t.

Thus spake the munitions expert from Brooklyn, though a subsequent witness, ATF Special Agent Jim Cavanaugh, said that, per DeGeurin, flash-bang grenades can be very dangerous.

If this goes off in your hand, they will call you stumpy.

And, form Pro Publica:

Hotter Than Lava
Every day, cops toss dangerous military-style flashbang grenades during raids, with little oversight and horrifying results.
by Julia Angwin and Abbie Nehring, ProPublicaJanuary 12, 2015

Cruz’s encomium to Trump won predictable criticism for all too obvious reasons.

Including from his Democratic rival:

O’Rourke said he would vote to impeach Trump as a member of the House, but couldn’t say whether he would vote to convict if he were a member of the Senate, which would hold a trial if the House were to, in effect, indict the president for high crimes and misdemenanors.

But, that said, Ted Cruz has has said worse things about Donald Trump than Beto O’Rourke ever has. Way worse. Way, way worse.

From May 2016.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This morning, Donald Trump went on national television and attacked my father.

Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK. Now, let’s be clear. This is nuts. This is not a reasonable position. This is just kooky. And while I’m at it, I guess I should go ahead and admit, yes, my dad killed JFK, he is secretly Elvis, and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard.

You know, Donald’s source for this is “The National Enquirer.” “The National Enquirer” is tabloid trash. But it’s run by his good friend David Pecker, the CEO, who has endorsed Donald Trump. And so “The National Enquirer” has become his hit piece that he uses to smear anybody and everybody.

And this is not the first time Donald Trump has used David Pecker’s “National Enquirer” to go after my family. It was also “The National Enquirer” that went after my wife, Heidi, that just spread lies, blatant lies.

But I guess Donald was dismayed, because it was a couple of weeks ago “The Enquirer” wrote this idiotic story about JFK. And Donald was dismayed that the folks in the media weren’t repeating this latest idiocy, so he figured he would have to do it himself. He would have to go on national television and accuse my dad of that.

Listen, my father is has been my hero my whole life. My dad was imprisoned and tortured in Cuba. And when he came to America, he had nothing. He had $100 in his underwear. He washed dishes making 50 cents an hour. You know, he is exactly the kind of person Donald Trump looks down on.

I’m going to do something I haven’t done for the entire campaign. For those of you all who have traveled with me all across the country, I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.

This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.

He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying. And it’s simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist, a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.

Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and goes, dude, what’s your problem? Everything in Donald’s world is about Donald. And he combines being a pathological liar — and I say pathological because I actually think Donald, if you hooked him up to a lie detector test, he could say one thing in the morning, one thing at noon, and one thing in the evening, all contradictory, and he would pass the lie detector test each time.

Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute, he believes it. But the man is utterly amoral.

CRUZ: Let me finish this, please.

The man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him. It’s why he went after Heidi directly and smeared my wife, attacked her. Apparently, she’s not pretty enough for Donald Trump. I may be biased, but I think, if he’s making that allegation, he is also legally blind.

But Donald is a bully. You know, we just visited with fifth-graders. Every one of us knew bullies in elementary school. Bullies don’t come from strength. Bullies come from weakness. Bullies come from a deep, yawning cavern of insecurity. There’s a reason Donald builds giant buildings and puts his name on them everywhere he goes.

And I will say there are millions of people in this country who are angry. They’re angry at Washington. They’re angry at politicians who have lied to them. I understand that anger. I share that anger. And Donald is cynically exploiting that anger. And he is lying to his supporters.

Donald will betray his supporters on every issue. If you care about immigration, Donald is laughing at you. And he’s telling the moneyed elites he doesn’t believe what he’s saying, he’s not going to build a wall. That’s what he told “The New York Times.”

He will betray you on every issue across the board. And his strategy of being a bully in particular is directed as women. Donald has a real problem with women. People who are insecure, people who are insecure about who they are — Donald is terrified by strong women.

He lashes out at them. Remember, this is the same Donald Trump who last week here in Indiana proudly touted the endorsement from Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist who served three years in prison here in Indiana for raping a 17-year-old girl. And in Donald’s world, he said Mike Tyson was a tough guy.

I don’t think rapists are tough guys. I spent a lot of years in law enforcement dealing with rapists. Rapists are weak. They’re cowards and they’re bullies. And anyone that thinks they’re a tough guy, that reveals everything about Donald Trump’s character.

Donald Trump said Bill Clinton was targeted by unattractive women. You know what? I have been blessed to be surrounded by strong women my entire life.

Today’s voting day here in Indiana. The president of the United States has a bully pulpit unlike anybody else. The president of the United States affects our culture. I ask the people of Indiana, think about the next five years if this man were to become president.

Think about the next five years, the boasting, the pathological lying, the picking up “The National Enquirer” and accusing people of killing JFK, the bullying. Think about your kids coming back and emulating this.

For people in Indiana who long for a day when we were nice to each other, when we treated people with respect, when we didn’t engage in sleaze and lies — and I would note one of the lies he engages in, listen, Donald Trump is a serial philanderer, and he boasts about it. This is not a secret. He’s proud of being a serial philanderer.

I want everyone to think about your teenage kids. The president of the United States talks about how great it is to commit adultery, and how proud he is, describes his battles with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam. That’s a quote, by the way, on the Howard Stern show.

Do you want to spend the next five years with your kids bragging about infidelity? Now, what does he do? He does the same projection. Just like a pathological liar, he accuses everyone of lying. Even though he boasts about his infidelity, he plants in David Pecker’s “National Enquirer” a lie about me and my family, attacking my family. He accuses others of doing what he is doing. I will tell you, as the father of two young girls, the idea of our daughters coming home and repeating any word that man says horrifies me.

That is not who America is. And I would say to the Hoosier State, the entire country’s depending on you. The entire country is looking to you right now. It is only Indiana that can pull us back. It is only the good sense and good judgment of Indiana that can pull us back. We are staring at the abyss.

CRUZ: There is a broader dynamic at work, which is network executives have made a decision to get behind Donald Trump. Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes at FOX News have turned FOX News into the Donald Trump network. Rupert Murdoch is used to picking world leaders in Australia and the United Kingdom running tabloids, and we’re seeing it here at home with the consequences for this nation. Media executives are trying to convince Hoosiers, trying to convince Americans the race is decided. You have no choice. You are stuck between Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, either one of which is a horrific choice for this country.

And I will say the cynicism — and Donald is playing on the cynicism. He lets the media echo he cannot be beat. Hoosiers can prove that wrong. The people of Indiana can prove that wrong, and the country is depending on Indiana. If Indiana does not act, this country could well plunge into the abyss. I don’t believe that’s who we are. We are not a proud, boastful, self-centered, mean-spirited, hateful, bullying nation.

If you want to understand Donald Trump, look no further than the interview he did a few months ago in Iowa when he was asked a very simple question — when is the last time you asked god for forgiveness? And Donald Trump said he had never asked God for forgiveness for anything. I want you to think about that. What does that say about a person? I have asked God for forgiveness three times today. Your children, do you want your children coming home and saying, mommy, I don’t need to ask God for forgiveness for anything. Why? Because Donald Trump doesn’t, and he if he doesn’t, and everyone likes him, all the media praises him, I don’t need to either.

I love this nation with all my heart. I love the people of this country. This is not who we are. These are not our values. If anyone has seen the movie “Back to the Future II,” the screenwriter says that he based the character Biff Tannen on Donald Trump. A caricature of a braggadocious, arrogant buffoon who builds giant casinos with giant pictures of him everywhere he looks. We are looking potentially at the Biff Tannen presidency. I don’t think the people of America want that. I don’t think we deserve that. I don’t think Hoosiers want that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, these are some of the strongest words you’ve used against Donald Trump yet. You know I have been with you, I heard you talk about him. Today feels different for you. I’m going to ask you a question and you’re going to say I sound like a broken record —

CRUZ: You sound like a broken record.

CRUZ: Does someone else have a record?

CRUZ: You have asked one already, Hallie.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you support him as the nominee. I don’t understand why you won’t answer the question, Senator. If you say he’s a liar — if you say he’s a pathological liar —

CRUZ: Hallie, you have asked one already.

CRUZ: Go ahead, Jessica.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, when you talk about Midwestern values and the common sense and good judgment, if Hoosiers don’t pick you today, does that mean they consider things a different way when the northeast voted and you could say those are Trump’s neighbors?

CRUZ: There is no doubt this Indiana primary has national significance. The media is trying desperately to convince you it’s over, I’ll tell you if Hoosiers come out and vote, if you pick up the phone and you call your friends, you call your neighbors, if Hoosiers come out today and vote and say no, this is not who we are, this is not America, that will change the entire trajectory of this campaign, of this primary. It will pull us back from the cliff. Indiana can do it. Indiana can pull us back, but it takes Hoosiers showing up and voting today. And the country is looking to Indiana. It’s looking to the judgment of the good men and women of this state.

Heidi and I and Carly, we have traveled the state showing Hoosiers respect, asking for their support, answering their questions, all the while Donald Trump laughs at the people of this state, laughs, bullies, attacks, insults, I don’t believe that’s America, and it is my hope, it is my prayer, that Hoosiers will come out and vote today in record numbers to say to this who we are. We are a people who believe in goodness. We are a people who believe in manners. We are a people who believe in generosity. We are a people who believe in honesty. We are a people who believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is America. That is the America I love. It’s the America my father fled Cuba to come to. We’re fighting for this nation. We’re fighting for who we are for the very soul and character of this nation, and it is quite literally in the hands Hoosiers across this state.

Well, I guess it all depends on who is on the receiving end of the flash-bang.

What will now be Cruz’s timeless TIME 100 flattery of Trump, certainly is an invitation to this, Friday, from Progress Texas’ Humans Against Ted Cruz project.

But, putting aside Cruz’s fulsome act of forgiveness of his former tormentor, what interested me was his use, in a world beset by terror, of the flash-bang metaphor, and what seems to me to be his consistent, and I think unique at his level, delight in using the most vividly  violent metaphors in his political rhetoric.

As I wrote in March 2015:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz roused the hundreds of young people who packed the “Big Government Sucks” reception Thursday night at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference with a typically provocative appeal.

“Each of you has an ability to spread a fire; I am asking you to be an arsonist,” Cruz said. “I encourage you to light fire of liberty in other young people, so it burns and rages and spreads from one young person to another. That is how we turn the country around.”

“Now listen,” Cruz said to his young audience, explaining of his choice of imagery. “This may be a particular predilection because I am the son of a Cuban guerrilla.”

“My dad grew up in Cuba,” said Cruz. “When my dad was 14-years old he began fighting in the Cuban revolution, he began fighting alongside Fidel Castro. Now, he didn’t know Castro was a communist. None of the kids knew.”

But, he said, what they did know was that Batista, the Cuban dictator who Castro was seeking to overthrow, was cruel, oppressive and corrupt, and so, at 14, Cruz’s father “began throwing Molotov cocktails.”

On the campaign trail for president Cruz would describe his political allies – like U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, as political “knife fighter.”

When Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick endorsed Cruz in October 2015, Cruz praised  Patrick as an ally who would  “crawl through broken glass with a knife between his teeth.”

This year he has described the Democratic base as having such a hate for Trump, “They will crawl over broken glass in November to vote.”

Does painting these kind of word-pictures matter?

From LSU political scientist Nathan Kalmoe:

Fueling the Fire: Violent Metaphors, Trait Aggression, and Support for Political Violence
Article in Political Communication 31(4) · October 2014 


The recent concurrence of violent political rhetoric and violence against political targets in the U.S. and abroad has raised public concern about the effects of language on citizens. Building from theoretical foundations in aggression research, I fielded two nationally representative survey experiments and a third local experiment preceding the 2010 midterm elections to investigate support for violence against political authority. Subjects were randomly assigned to view one of two forms of the same political advertisements. Across all three experiments, mild violent metaphors multiply support for political violence among aggressive citizens, especially among young adults. Aggressive personality traits also predict support for political violence in both national studies. This work identifies dynamic roots of violent political orientations and reveals for the first time surprising interactions between this elite discourse and personality traits in citizens.

Here are some graphics from Kalmoe’s dissertation on the subject.


But Kalmoe’s examples of violent language are tepid compared to Cruz’s.

They use the language of war, battle, enemy, crusade.

Cruz uses the far more vivid imagery of flash-bang grenades, molotov cocktails, arson, broken glass and knives.

I’ can’t think of another major American politician who compares.

And, where it may matter is in his contest with O’Rourke, who, rhetorically, comes to the campaign trail in peace.

Cruz is as polarizing a figure as there is in American politics. He knows that, and I assume, he believes, in its ability to rouse the base, this is the way for him to go.

From Jeff Roe on March 17 in the New York Times.

President Trump may not be on the ballot in November, but the election will be a referendum on him, as 2010 was on President Barack Obama and 2006 was on President George W. Bush. We will lose seats. The only question is this: Will these losses be catastrophic or manageable?

That will be determined by a very specific choice: Will the party retreat from its leader or fix bayonets and storm to the front with him?

No one fought Mr. Trump harder and longer than I did, as the campaign manager for Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign for the Republican nomination. I know the maddening brilliance of Mr. Trump. I also know history doesn’t favor the president’s party in midterm elections. With the election of a Democrat in the 18th Congressional District of Pennsylvania — a district Mr. Trump carried by 20 percentage points, but which also has tens of thousands more registered Democrats than Republicans — it has become media gospel that the president is toxic and that Republican candidates will have to distance themselves from him. That narrative is wrong.


While some Republican candidates, in swing seats, may benefit from creating distance from Mr. Trump, a strategic retreat will work only in rare instances. The myth that midterms are decided by swing voters ignores the prevailing reality that large midterm electoral shifts are driven by shifts in base motivation.


It is undoubtedly difficult to differentiate Trump policies from the Trump persona, because the Trump persona dominates news coverage. But Republican candidates for Congress have to try. Tactically, that means being laser-focused on generating local news coverage of policy accomplishments, even when the national cable news fixates on the latest Trump outrage.

And guess what? Despite breathless coverage of the daily outrage generator in the White House, the economy is improving. The tax cuts will, and in fact already are, spurring growth, freeing capital for investment, creating jobs and returning overseas profits to our shores. There is a message to sell. So sell it.

I would go further and argue that it is the Trump persona so vilified in the media that has in fact made bolder, more sweeping reforms possible than would have been conceivable under almost any other Republican who might have been elected.

Would a President Jeb Bush have signed a strong executive order on religious liberty, or would a President Marco Rubio have started construction of a wall? Would President John Kasich have had the intestinal fortitude to execute such a huge reorganization of the Environmental Protection Agency, dismantling the liberal bureaucracy that with its deeply embedded biases harms our economy? Would President Mitt Romney have pushed through such a major tax overhaul? No way. What makes Mr. Trump different is that he just doesn’t care what the bed-wetting caucus says about his policies.

(I think bed-wetting caucus counts as fighting words.)

Meanwhile, Cruz’s contribution last year to last year’s TIME100 was his blurb on “warrior and patriot” Rebekah Mercer:

Rebekah Mercer is a warrior and a patriot. She is the daughter of a brilliant mathematician and tremendously successful investor, and blessed with her own deep intelligence and intuitive insight, and it would have been simple for her to have settled into a life of comfort and ease. But Bekah cares too much about freedom and our nation to do so.

Instead, she and her father, Bob, have invested generously in helping fuel a political revolution. Their approach is multi­faceted. From think tanks to public-policy organizations to online media to path-breaking data analytics, Bekah has helped transform the world of politics. She understands the populist frustration with the bipartisan corruption in Washington, and she is one of the strongest champions of draining the swamp.

And she has helped fund upstart campaigns and underdog candidates, including my own Senate and presidential campaigns. When Donald Trump won the nomination, Bekah played a pivotal role in helping assemble the team and strategy that shocked the world in November.

From Maggie Haberman in the New York Times in July 2016.

In an extraordinary public rebuke, two influential donors who were among the biggest supporters of Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign excoriated Mr. Cruz on Saturday for his decision not to endorse Donald J. Trump at the Republican National Convention.

The remarks from Robert Mercer of Long Island and his daughter Rebekah Mercer suggest widening fallout over Mr. Cruz’s convention speech, in which he did not endorse his former rival and, instead, suggested that Republicans should “vote your conscience” for candidates “up and down the ticket.”

“Last summer and again this year, Senator Ted Cruz pledged to support the candidacy of the nominee of the Republican Party, whomever that nominee might be,” the Mercers, who rarely comment in the news media, said in the statement to The New York Times. “We are profoundly disappointed that on Wednesday night he chose to disregard this pledge.”

The statement continued: “The Democratic Party will soon choose as their nominee a candidate who would repeal both the First and Second Amendments of the Bill of Rights, a nominee who would remake the Supreme Court in her own image. We need ‘all hands on deck’ to ensure that Mr. Trump prevails.”

“Unfortunately,” the statement added, “Senator Cruz has chosen to remain in his bunk below, a decision both regrettable and revealing.”

The Mercers invested at least $11 million in Keep the Promise I, one of a group of interlocked “super PACs” that supported Mr. Cruz in his presidential run. During the contentious primary race, Mr. Cruz had early praise for Mr. Trump on the belief that his candidacy would eventually fade and that Mr. Trump’s voters would move over to the senator’s camp.

Instead, Mr. Trump’s candidacy endured and the race between the men grew increasingly rancorous.

Mr. Cruz is up for re-election in 2018 and is said to be looking at a second campaign for president in 2020, should Mr. Trump lose in November. But, in both cases, he will need his donor base to stay with him.

After Mr. Cruz’s speech at the convention in Cleveland, Sheldon G. Adelson, the casino magnate who was an early admirer of Mr. Cruz in the primaries, blocked him from his suite. (A friend of Mr. Adelson’s, claiming to represent him, insisted after the fact that he was not trying to disrespect the senator.)

The next morning, Mr. Cruz was booed by members of the Texas delegation at a breakfast.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cruz, Catherine Frazier, said on Saturday: “Senator Cruz considers Bob and Rebekah to be patriots ad friends. As Senator Cruz urged in Cleveland, Hillary Clinton would be a disaster for America. Republicans need to unite, and the only way to unite is behind shared principles. His speech laid out a path — vigorously defending freedom and the Constitution — for our nominee to unite the party and for Republicans to win up and down the ticket.”

Mr. Mercer in recent weeks has helped fund a new effort for donors who want to defeat Mrs. Clinton, but who do not want to donate to a group that is openly supporting Mr. Trump. That group is being operated by David Bossie, the president of the group Citizens United.

Kellyanne Conway, who was the president of a pro-Cruz super PAC and now is an adviser to Mr. Trump, said the statement reflects the Mercers’ feelings about defeating Mrs. Clinton in the fall and “how grievously piqued they were to watch Ted’s convention stunt on Wednesday night.”

Ms. Conway added, “They supported Ted because they thought he was a man of his word who, like them, would place love of country over personal feelings or political ambition.”

As for Rebekah Mercer’s “path-breaking data analytics,” here from the New York Times on March 17:
How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions

LONDON — As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.

The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

An examination by The New York Times and The Observer of London reveals how Cambridge Analytica’s drive to bring to market a potentially powerful new weapon put the firm — and wealthy conservative investors seeking to reshape politics — under scrutiny from investigators and lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.


In Britain, Cambridge Analytica is facing intertwined investigations by Parliament and government regulators into allegations that it performed illegal work on the “Brexit” campaign. The country has strict privacy laws, and its information commissioner announced on Saturday that she was looking into whether the Facebook data was “illegally acquired and used.”

In the United States, Mr. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, a board member, Mr. Bannon and Mr. Nix received warnings from their lawyer that it was illegal to employ foreigners in political campaigns, according to company documents and former employees.

From the Texas Tribune on March 20:

“Cambridge Analytica was an outside vendor that the campaign hired to assist in data analysis and online advertising, and they worked for the campaign, pursuant to contract,” Cruz told The Texas Tribune. “Cambridge Analytica represented to the campaign that all data in their possession were legally obtained and that they were in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, and the campaign relied on those representations.”




How Mary Wilson and her 22-year-old consultant beat the odds in CD-21.

Good Monday Austin:

Democratic political consultant Joe Trippi appears to have been onto something when he said that the Democratic candidate best suited to win in the 21st Congressional District was the one who would appeal to those voters seeking calm amid the political chaos in Washington.

What he didn’t count on, was that that candidate might not be his client, Joseph Kopser, but rather rival Mary Wilson, who finished ahead of Kopser, forcing a runoff on May 22 where, it would appear, the mathematician/minister, who spent $39,000 to Kopser’s more than $600,000 is now, of all things, the front-runner.

Trippi was the chief media strategist for Doug Jones in his narrow triumph over Judge Roy Moore in last year’s Alabama special U.S. Senate election. On Feb. 24, while in Texas tagging along with Kopser’s campaign,  Trippi did a town hall of sorts at the Tamale House East to talk about the lessons of the Jones campaign for Democrats in 2018.

As I wrote in a First Reading at the time:

“There are a lot of people who say, if you just get all the Democrats out,” Trippi said. “There were just not enough Democrats in Alabama to win that election. It doesn’t work that way and there are plenty of districts where it doesn’t work that way.”

“What we discovered its that the common ground message we wanted to deliver was the most powerful message in the race,” Trippi said. “This is what’s going on in my view. Trump is fueling two things. He is absolutely fueling the energy among the Democratic base, minority and young voters in particular. To give you an idea, in 2008 for Barack Obama, African-Americans, who are 24 percent of the population, were 27 percent of the vote. In 2017, for Doug Jones, they were 29, 30 percent of the vote. Young people. Obama in 2008 won under-45’s nationwide by 15 percent. Doug Jones won the under-45 group by 28 points.”

Trippi said that Republican women, particularly in the suburbs, and under-25 college educated voters, “they can’t take the chaos,” under Trump.

“They may even like some the things that he’s doing, but they can’t stand the chaos. They’re exhausted by constantly being on edge, this feeling of chaos and exhaustion they just want it to end. I call it chaos exhaustion,” Trippi said. “They talk in terms of, `I can’t believe I’m saying this but for the first time in my life I’m actually thinking of voting for a Democrat,’ which is a huge opening, particularly for Republican women who are thinking like that, and what we discovered is finding common ground and ending chaos and division does not chill the Democratic base, the intensity went up, the more we talked about it.”

It appears that in race in which, as I wrote in a story on the campaign, Kopser openly feuded with rivals Derrick Crowe and Elliott McFadden, about whether it was wiser to appeal to the center or rally the base, it was Wilson, who stayed above the fray and ran her own race her own way, even when it was widely written off, who finished first.

“One of the special things about Mary is everybody remembers Mary,” said David Logan, her 22-year-old political consultant, on Saturday. “She’s very memorable. That is a key aspect to who she is, as a person, as a candidate,  the candidate touch. It is absolutely the case of the candidate touch, that nice little unique fit.”

From my story:

The candidate touch’

Wilson, 58, who for many years taught math at Austin Community College, is the pastor of the Church of the Savior in Cedar Park. She said she originally got into the race as a “sacrificial lamb.”

But, as she began campaigning she realized that “as the female candidate with a nonpolitical background, I actually have a different voice to bring to it.”

Wilson doesn’t criticize her opponents. At a recent forum in Boerne, she asked her opponents to each say something they liked about each other. At the next event in New Braunfels, she talked about the value of “attentive listening.”

“I decided I’ll stick it out, ride it through and see how it goes,” Wilson said, even though it meant pausing work on her divinity school doctoral project on the meaning of the Resurrection to women who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

So far, she’s barely raised any money, but her novice political consultant, David Logan, said no candidate works harder and no campaign is more handcrafted.

On Thursday, Logan said, “When I got home from handing out 22 of the massive 4-foot by 8-foot field signs and handing out 300 yard signs, I came to her house and there were 350 postcards she had handwritten with addresses on them. That is the type of campaigning I see out of Mary Wilson.”

“The candidate touch is something that’s very important,” he said. “We’ve done analysis and we’ve run some algorithms, and it is entirely possible for a candidate to work hard enough to win a congressional seat. It is entirely mathematically possible for a candidate to talk to enough people to win.”

“It takes a special person to go the whole way especially when the narrative has been against you the whole time, especially when there are entire articles, great pieces that have entire analyses on what it is to be Derrick Crowe vs. Joseph Kopser, and at the very end it will say, `Oh, by the way, Mary Wilson’s also running.’ To get those kind of articles and still be like, “I still have a chance, I can still do this.'” said Logan. “It takes a lot of perseverance to do that. And I think a lot of people responded to that.”

And in a race in which Kopser, an Army Ranger with a naturally aggressive personality, was in serial combat with Crowe and McFadden, who took turns pounding him for being insufficiently progressive, Wilson, a woman with a minister’s healing demeanor, stood out.

“Frankly, a lot of things lined up,” Logan said.

“What we’re starting to find out is that Mary was always the front-runner, once the four candidate were lined up,” Logan said.

I first met Mary and David at that early February candidate forum in Boerne,  at which she posed the question to her fellow candidates, “Given the divisiveness in our country and that natural competitive of an election, please identify one or two traits” you admire about each other.

When the question was posed to each of the candidates about whether it was tactically sounder to try, per Kopser, to appeal beyond the Democratic base, or, per Crowe and McFadden, to rally and rouse that base, Wilson sought a middle ground.

My spouse and I have been jokingly saying with one another about this race, `You be you, you be you.’ And what I have found is if I am just myself, and I don’t try to pretend to be anyone else, what you see is what you get with me, and so people will recognize that authenticity. And I’ve had people tell me that I have never voted in a Democratic primary but I am going to vote for you in this one. Now I am going to take their vote, and I’m going to be really happy to get it, and so I am going to take all those votes that we can get.

I am also emboldened and inspired by going to places like the Kyle-Buda Democratic Club where they had a roomful, standing room only, and this room, I mean would you have had a  room like this, filled like this, four years ago? We have a growing wave of people who want to come vote for Democrats because what we are seeing is scary to us. We don’t like the racism. We don’t like the divisiveness. We don’t like what we are seeing from the Republican Party, and there are Republicans who don’t like it either.


But I agree with Derrick on this. We’ve got to stick with what we know. We’ve got to stick to our guns. And then let people come join us.

So the reason I got into this race, where the first seed was planted, is, a little over a year ago, Lamar Smith said the only place we can get the unvarnished truth is from the president. (laughter.) Exactly. I thought I can’t tolerate that. I don’t know what I’m gong do about that. But I can’t tolerate that.

Wilson said she called the state Democratic Party to see if any Democrat was running against Smith – who subsequently decided not to seek re-election – and told them:

If we need a sacrificial lamb, I am willing to do that because we need to contest every race, every race. And  so I started with the idea that we just had to stand up for truth, to stand up for truth as our first priority.

One of the things that really bothered me in this last election was the number of evangelical Christians who voted for Donald Trump. And what continues to bother me are evangelical ministers that are willing to excuse everything under the sun and say it’s all OK because he’s on our side. He gets a Mulligan for, whatever. I  am not OK with that.

You know what I think it means to be a Christian minister? I think you hold people accountable, especially when they’re on your side. So I want our side to be the ones that tell the truth. I want our side to be the ones that  have higher standards. I want our side to the ones that will call each other out to be better than that side.

And quite frankly, I want us to call out that side too, and say you can do better because I think Donald Trump represents the antithesis of everything I have ever heard you claim  you stood for my entire life.

 I am here because I think truth actually matters. I think it matters in my personal relationships, I think it matters when I stand up and preach. I think it matters when I go out and counsel people and give them pastoral care. I think it matters in DC. I think it matters wherever we are a and I am not OK with anything that’s less than straightforward, anything that’s less than transparent, or anything that’s less than a yes is a yes and no is a no.

So, when I am your representative you will hear from me the truth, whether I like the truth or not I will still tell the truth, and I think our country needs that.

Thank you very much.

Logan got his start in politics as a student at Lake Travis High School, working on phone banks for Obama’s re-election campaign.

Last fall, Logan arrived early for a forum at Scholz Garten on veteran’s issues for the Democratic candidates in a CD-21 race that was still taking shape. He was sitting at a table  outside the meeting room, working on some GIS stuff on his laptop when Wilson arrived and he recognized her.

“My father went to her church a long time ago. I went there once. I didn’t real get it,” Logan said. But, “Mary shows up and I say, “Hey I know you.’ She’s very memorable. And this is the key to Mary. She looks at me and she goes, “David.'”

From there, they began communicating with one another, on Facebook, and then in conversation, with Logan eventually emerging as her one and only political consultant.

She liked the training and volunteering he had done with the Red Cross in Luling during Hurricane Harvey – training he had undergone at the suggestion of Elizabeth Bryant, a first responder who he had been helping on her run for Texas House District 45 before health concerns forced her to leave the race last fall.

Logan had gotten involved with the Red Cross to better understand Bryant. To get to know Wilson better, he started attending her church services.

“If I’m going to spend a lot of time with a candidate, I might as well know where they’re coming from,” Logan said. “For the first month, at every single service, I would just start to cry. People would ask if I was OK. I’d say, `I’m fine. I’m being introduced to new things.”

Wilson also realized that Logan knew things she didn’t, and, that unlike some other potential consultants who had some kind of conflict because of cross-cutting friendships with those involved in the rival campaigns, Logan, at 22,  “didn’t have a 20-year friendship with anybody, so it worked out.”

After Tuesday’s result, Ben Guarino in the Washington Post interviewed Kopser.

When Kopser spoke to The Washington Post on Thursday he described the impending runoff in cordial terms: Kopser and his daughter had been joking, he said, that the last time a big event involved two characters named Mary and Joseph, “it turned out to be pretty good for a lot of people.”

What did you make of Tuesday’s election? What happened that you weren’t expecting?

Kopser: This is exciting to be a first-time candidate returning to public service. [Kopser, a military veteran, held a government position at the Pentagon.] And so what was exciting was to see democracy in action. Nearly a year of my life had gone into planning, preparation, and then the actual day of execution was just a thrill.

By our accounts, on our projections, some 8,000 people showed up to the polls that we had not anticipated — even on the high side.

Evan Smith from the Texas Tribune said it best: There was not a blue wave in Texas. There was a pink wave in Texas. It is reflected in so many races where women finished strong, and in many cases women were the top two finishers.

Now we know there’s an even larger universe of people that are eager to have their voice heard. But we survived. We made it past the primary, and now we can focus on the runoff.

You now have a lot of data after Tuesday’s election. Are you going to use that to hone your approach for the next part of the campaign?

Kopser: Heck, yeah, I’m going to be engineering this sucker.

We haven’t decided on exactly the best methodology, but you better believe it’s going to be data-driven. It’s going to be driven by good practices. It’s going to be engineered in such a way that we will make the most efficient use of our time and our resources. It’s a big district, as you know, and you’ve to target the right people, because unfortunately so few people actually show up at these primary runoff elections.

I don’t always give bumper sticker answers. There have been plenty of forums where I’ve been booed. And at the end of the day, I’m not here to tell people what I think they want to hear. I’m here to tell people what I think they need to hear. The results validate the fact that that’s what people respond to.

Logan said Wilson was not surprised by the turnout.

Mary has a mathematics degree, and she told me we had to get to 12,000 votes to get into the runoff. She knows her stuff very well. Mary knew it was going to be a higher turnout and she knew it for sure after Virginia. We saw dramatic turnout numbers, and this is the awesome part, they were in races that are not like easy Democratic seats, but there were huge turnout changes  in races that were Republican districts but always Democrats running, “close-enough” seats, I guess you would call it.

Logan said he thinks that Kopser’s explanation to the Post about being surprised by the turnout was “looking for an out” in order to explain the surprising result to disgruntled donors.

“They want to know why for every $100 they’ve given him, we spent $4,  and that’s, by the way, what we’re going to continue to do.”

The numbers are stunning.

Here’s Kopser’s report:


And here’s Wilson’s.


“The whole campaign cost $40,000 of which $9,000 went to signs,” said Logan.

“We talked to every single female voter in the Hill Country (who regularly votes in Democratic primaries), and Mary got to talk to most of them individually, as people.” said Logan. “The list I gave to her was some 3,000 Democratic voters in the Hill Country.”

That was exclusive of Hays and Comal counties. For Travis, Comal and some of Hays, especially Kyle/Buda, the campaign sent out 10,000 hand-noted postcards – hand-addressed by Wilson, who would also sometimes add a personal note.

“What does that leave – the biggest gap in the entire campaign? San Antonio – and that’s where the signs came in,” Logan said.

We put 200 4-by-4’s and 25 4-by-8’s throughout parts of San Antonio that were in the district, and some parts that weren’t in the district to get the arteries into San Antonio or around it. And we had those up for 60 days, because I think legally 90 days is the max.

And I started getting text messages about 30 days in from people saying we’re seeing them everywhere. And that was a great feeling. And we were that only campaign that had any signs in San Antonio. (All four Democratic candidates live in Austin). And we were the only Democrat in CD 21 that had any big signs, the whole race.


“Signs don’t vote. That’s true. But it is name recognition,” Logan said. And, unlike mailers, which are instantly disposable, you can’t thrown a sign away. It gave Wilson what she needed – name recognition.

DIANA ROSS and THE SUPREMES the ballad of Davy Crockett (MARY WILSON on LEAD!)

And, Logan said, with its mirrored M and W, “Mary’s design is really good.”

When I saw it, I said I’ve got to get this out as much as I can. We couldn’t afford to play social media really well. We couldn’t afford to put $100,000 into Zynga ads. But we could put these out. So we printed them out and put them out.

It’s a very good design, isn’t it?

Let’s pause here to meet, as I did yesterday, at Wilson’s Sunday church service, Hannah Gaskamp, the graphic design student at Texas State University in San Marcos, who wanting to help her pastor’s campaign, designed the logo.

Like Logan, Gaskamp is 22.

Gaskamp grew up, and her parents still live, across the street from Wilson’s hurch. Her family belongs to a very conservative Christian church, but Gaslamp is gay, and, at some point, she Googled gay friendly churches in the area, found out that the one across the street fit the bill and joined.

“It’s affirming and very open,” she said. “We’re not evangelical or judgmental.”

At first, Wilson suggested a Wonder Woman theme for the log, but it ended up too derivative.

Gakamp came up with her own take, with the mirrored M and W, and the distinctive map of the gerrymandered 21st Congressional District.

Of the signs, Logan said, “I am confident that is why we ran second in San Antonio and did better than anyone would have expected us to. They helped a lot with name recognition.”

I asked Logan where he learned the art of the campaign sign, and he credited Travis County Precinct 3 Constable Stay Suits.

“He texted me the other night and christened me, `The Sign Junkie of Austin,'” said Logan, who has the bruised hands to show for it



Logan also put up 500 polling day signs for Mary Wilson (and 2,500 for a few other clients), from Election Day eve though 6:30 p.m. Election Day. Why so late on Election Day, when polls closed at 7?

“There were lines,” Logan said.

So, let’s review.

Here is how the Kopser campaign spent its  money – mostly on DC and NY consultants and staff.






Meanwhile, here was the sum total of Mary Wilson’s spending on campaign consultants.


“The way to take money out of politics is to make money irrelevant in politics,” said Logan.

More Logan:

Mary had the message. Mary’s the person that CD 21 wants. Mary has a message for this district that I know she can carry on. We proved that the message of caring is what took the day.

One thing that shocks me is if you go back and do a very serious analysis of Alabama, Doug Jones stayed above the fray on everything. Whenever someone commented on his opponent’s actions or possible criminal history, Doug Jones stayed above it. He never flung mud. He just stayed above the fray and he won.


He ran as a Democrat and he won.


I think this was a win for local campaigns, and local consultants and people who really know the area. I don’t think this was me or Mary doing anything really special. I think we were local and that carried a voice much more than money could buy.


At Scholz Garten Saturday.

In an interview Saturday after moving into her new headquarters in South Austin – it’s Crowe’s old office which he gave to her with his post-primary endorsement, Wilson said:

We knew we didn’t have a lot of money so we had to be very focused and very strategic in what we did and I think it paid off.

I think it’s clear I got some of the female voter preference that is clearly a thing this year in Texas in this particular election. But I would also make the case and I would also argue that that would haven’t been enough to get me to the runoff by itself. It might have given me enough to move into first place.

I’m pleased to be sitting here in the position that I’m in.

I spent a lot of time the last couple of months, waking up eery day with the thought – what’s the best way to say it – that there was more to do and there were more votes that I needed to get, that I wanted to have the attitude that I didn’t presume that I was doing as well as people were telling me by word of mouth.

I heard a lot from Travis County, into San Antonio, Kerrville, a lot of different places, a lot of people telling me, “Mary, you’ve got a lot of support,” but I didn’t have any data to back that up, and so I couldn’t let myself believe that what I was hearing was anything but anecdotal, so I had to get up and work hard again to get more votes.

At about noon on Election Day, “I said to my spouse, `I’m done.’ I’m either going to win or not, let’s go the movie’ We went to see Black Panther at the Violet Crown. She had a big bowl of popcorn with a little parmesan on top.

On election night, on her way to their campaign’s gathering at El Arroyo, across the street from where she lives, Wilson got a call from a reporter with the early vote results showing her running a strong second to Kopser.

By night’s end, she had claimed first and had to surrender the title of underdog.


It is a good time and appropriate time to say we won the night and I can win May 22nd and I  can win in November. I have shown with the least amount of money, even 20 to 1, I can win. We’ll always have to be strategic, we’ll always have to very focused.. We’ll always have to be very efficient.”

Wilson figures they have raised about $10,000 since the primary.

Wilson said she has also heard, since the primary, from the Democratic Congressional Committee, which had tilted toward Kopser.

“I think they very politely wanted to know, `Who the hell are you?’ I don’t know how that is going to play out.”

How much does that matter to her?

“Not that much, honestly,” Wilson said.

But, she said:

It is frustrating  to have, like the DCCC  seemingly pick a candidate  prior to the actual campaigning and events and knowing who else might be a qualified candidate. If they pick somebody in advance it means they don’t know who is organically coming out of the  district.

And I would say, across the board, and not just in Texas, there is a certain frustration with the DCCC taking on that kind of role. I think what most of us would really prefer is they encourage and support what’s going on in their districts, working with the people who grow out of campaigning within the districts, who appear to be good representative just based on how they connect within the district.

I understand their role is to win. and they are doing what they think they need to do to win.  I guess what we’re seeing across the country is that they do not have not the best strategy of how to win.

`My name is Samuel Temple. I am running as the last sane Republican in District 21.’



Good day Austin:

On a recent Saturday afternoon I met Samuel Temple at a playground at a housing complex on Old Bee Caves Road in Austin that was the site of a sparsely attended voter registration drive and candidate fair. I wanted to talk about his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Congress in  the 21st Congressional District.

After we talked a while, I said I wanted to make a one-minute video of him explaining why he was running. He said he would give it a try, and he proceeded to give the elevator pitch for his unlikely candidacy – if the elevator was in the Empire State Building.

I first encountered Temple, who is from San Antonio, a few days earlier at a forum for the large field of Republican candidates seeking to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith  in TX-21, sponsored by the Travis and Hays Country Republican parties at the Exotic Game Ranch in Creedmoor.

On Sunday I wrote about the four Democrats in the TX-21 race. I am now working on a story about the unwieldy larger Republican field.

Samuel Temple will probably not loom very large in story, which doesn’t mean he is not interesting, only that he stands little chance of winning, and, with that many candidates, I have to focus on the contenders.

As San Antonio Express-News columnist Gilbert Garcia wrote in his recent appreciation of Temple.

It’s hard to dislike any political candidate whose campaign pitch includes the phrase, “After I lose this election.”

That phrase was uttered by Samuel Temple, the defiant outcast of the 18-candidate GOP field to succeed Lamar Smith in U.S. District 21.

Like Garcia, I thought there was something compelling about Temple’s candidacy, and I figured I could devote a First Reading to him without skewing the outcome of the race.

He is different.

Here, for example, is Temple, using his time at Bexar County Republican Women’s meet and greet on Jan. 12 to talk about the lessons politicians should draw form the landmark social psychology experiments of Stanley Milgram:

Here’s Milgram:

Here’s Temple”


The emotional high point of Temple’s candidacy – so far – came at last week’s Austin Legalize Marijuana Forum at Austin’ s Flamingo Cantina.

Temple appears just past the 17-minute mark.

My name is Samuel Temple. I am running as the last moderate Republican in the district. Seventy-five percent of my appearances have been in rooms full of tea partiers.

Does anyone in here think Islamic law is taking over the nation?

Oh good, I don’t have to tell you about the First Amendment.

Does anyone in here think failure to clap is an act of treason.

Oh, thank God, I had to deal with that last night.

Which is funny because the guys who are worried about that used to yell, `You lie,’ at the president.

Fiscally, socially, ethically, there is no good reason not to legalize marijuana.

I am running as the last sane Republican in District 21. Please God, help me find 15,000 people to prevent the tea party from continuing to radicalize our party. Fifteen thousand votes is all I need to get to the runoff, and if you think I’m funny now, make me one of two and let me take those uneducated Republican to the cleaners in a debate with cameras.

I will do it, and I hope Jason Isaac sees it, because I am tired of having to go after him in meetings to say that Sharia law is not taking over the country, and I am tired of him getting more applause than me when he says that.

So please, for the love of God, help me find 15,000 people in South Austin and San Antonio and the Hill Country, and help me move America in the right direction. We have had a speed bump, but do not lose faith, there are good people out there. There are good Republicans out there. They have just been marginalized. 


Temple was followed by Foster Hagen, another of the 18 GOP candidates, who made the surprise announcement that he was endorsing Temple.

Foster Hagen:

That person that just spoke, he tells the truth. His name is Samuel Temple and he is a bad-ass mother——and he tells he truth.

He’s going to get elected. I am going to endorse him right now.

We are going to take on Jeff Sessions.

The guy i endorsed right now is the right guy at the right time

I am endorsing Sam 

Here is Temple the previous day at a candidate forum at Canyon High School in New Braunfels.

Temple is campaigning around his full-time job as statistician with AT&T.

Here is what we talked about when I caught up with him in Austin.


I’m a statistician. I was mentored by economists. These things are important. And I am running against people who, “I believe, I believe.”

Well, there’s what you think, what you know, and what can you prove. A lot of these people can’t prove the sun is rising if they tried.  I could spend five minutes on Google and I am dancing these guys on border policy.

They act like, `Oh, the border’s insecure.’ Well, I hate to give W credit for doing something right but, well, illegal border crossings decreased by half between 2000 and 2008, went from about 1.5 million a year to about 750,000. It halved again under Obama’s tenure, it’s down to about 350,000 a year. It dropped 33 percent year after year. It sounds to me like we’re improving our border security. Every bit of evidence is on my web site. Everything is well documented.

The number of undocumented individuals in our country leveled off about five years ago and now it’s starting to decline. Well, if the Republicans acknowledged they had solved the problem, then they wouldn’t be able to rally their base by fear-mongering. But that’s not appropriate. That’s unethical.

You don’t mandate the legislative process in this country by appealing to irrational fears. If you’ve solvedthe problem, you’ve got to move on to the next one, which is Dreamers and DACA. And the Republicans don’t want to acknowledge that not only were there independent economic studies that showed that the average Dreamer contributes a quarter million dollars net positive over the course of their lifetime, but the Trump administration found it too and the Trump administration buried it. So you have them behaving not fiscally responsible and unethical at the same time. So, where’s the fiscal conservative side of the party?

To me there’s only one reason they would bury that study, and that’s to appeal to somebody who doesn’t think somebody from Mexico ought to be here for a non-fiscal reason.

FR: Any Republican role models, now or in the past?


Joe Straus is someone who recently I’ve been very proud of. But if I go further back.

Eisenhower’s the last president to run a true budget surplus.

But more importantly there are two speeches Eisenhower made that I have found to be very meaningful – his farewell address warning about the dangers of he military-industrial complex, without necessarily providing a solution, but we have a problem, is very prescient given his career in the military. When he said, gone are the days when people could forge their plowshare into swords –  he recognized that the had to have a standing Army give modern warfare structure, but he also said the defense-industrial complex is profiteering.

Many years later, many decades later, we can see that his warning was reasonable. We see the cost we spend on our defense infrastructure, sometimes wastefully. The F-35 could have paid for everyone’s student loan debt. Did we get a good plane for a war that we might never fight?

FR: When did you first vote for president?


I’m 34 now so I just missed out on Bush’s first election in 2000, so my first presidential election was 2004. And so Bush was running for re-election, and we were already in Iraq.

You know you grow up with you father’s stories about how there were anti-war protests for Vietnam, and I was perplexed that there were both anti- and pro-war protests on my college campus at Texas Tech. I thought this was interesting. People really wanted blood.

I remember the day after 9-11 being in class and everybody was talking about their feelings, and I remember I was sitting in a social psychology class, which should have known better, when it was my turn to say something, I was cut off before I could finish. At that point, the day after, we didn’t who’d done it, I said, `Before we go off to war, let’s find out who did it,’ because remember, in the first hours after the Oklahoma City bombing, I remember, the police said we are looking for two Islamic suspects. We don’t even know who did it yet. Yes, there’s a lot of anger, but don’t in the heat of the moment make a decision that you will come to regret. And the teacher, the instructor, cut me off. And after class, I was very upset, and she said I was afraid you were going to say something that was going to upset somebody. I’m sorry that a call for patience is offensive.

And what happened. We got the Patriot Act, which nobody likes but everybody keeps renewing, which is, oh, I thought Republicans were all about individual freedom. Those who would give up permanent freedom for temporary security will get neither. I think that’s Benjamin Franklin, but I also think that may have been misattributed. So I’m careful.

Abraham Lincoln said don’t believe everything on the internet. That’s a joke.


FR: Do you always vote Republican?

Temple: I’m a swing voter all over the place.

At the Creedmoor forum, Jenifer Sarver was asked by another candidate about her vote for Hillary Clinton against Trump in 2016..

Temple wished he had gotten the question.

I voted for Hillary Clinton because, in my opinion, the evidence was all there up front that Trump was very likely compromised and unfit to be president. My opinion on this somehow has not changed over the last year.

Jenifer voted in the Republican primary. But I voted in the Democratic primary for the first time in my life because in 2016 the Republican primary was a circus of disgrace. That was the worst assembly of candidates I’ve ever seen in my life. Half of them weren’t really running and were just out there to sell books, in my opinion. The other half – I mean if Kasich is the sane one in the room …

These people are saying things that are fundamentally wrong, they are making lapses left and right that ten or fifteen years would have killed your political career. And, on the other hand you’ve got Hillary and Bernie, and say what you will about Bernie being a progressive, you know what I love about Bernie, he wrote bloody encyclopedias on his page. He had facts supporting his policies. 

There are two candidates in District 21 who have put citations on their web site – to my last check about ten days ago – myself and Autry Pruitt. I hate him because he puts citations on – facts, web links, anything that supports what you have to say – and I can’t claim to be the only one. 

I’m a peer-reviewed published author – we bloody cite. 

(In the primary) I gave Bernie a try. I was very anti-Hillary because I have a problem with the establishment.

But, in the general election, Temple said:

When you have a job that affects over 300 million people, if you don’t have the gravitas in your heart that even your smallest decisions hurts people and helps people, then you’re not fit for office.  Hillary was a great statesperson. I was happy to vote for her in the general election because to me it was an obvious choice.

Trump’s in a lot of trouble and it’s going to be epic because four people have already plead guilty. There weren’t even tried. They didn’t even try to fight it. They just plead.

FR: When did you decide to run.


When Lamar retired, but I’d been looking at it for years. I hated Lamar for years. 

Let me be fair.

What do I hate? I hate corruption.

The first time Lamar appeared on my radar, I don’t know when, a couple of years back, and Lamar Smith is the head of the Science Committee, and he was putting forth some legislation to remove the peer review process from scientific grants, I believe, trying to remove the peer review process because it was too political, and that political review should be used instead. And so the problem was politics in academia, and yes I know there is a politics in academia, but to get it out we’re going to replace it with pure politics? Brilliant solution there.

And so I started reading more about Lamar Smith and started realizing more about his positions on climate change. I started seeing that he was a hard-line party loyalist, and again, people before the party. He wasn’t too far to the right for me. He wasn’t a tea partyest. But he was extremely party loyal. 

Well, look at the situation we have today. We have a situation where there are amazing amounts of credible evidence that our president has been compromised on numerous levels. Amazing. It was available before the election. When Donald Trump Jr. said in 2008, `Most of our investment is coming from Russia,’ and then Donald Trump says, `We have no business with Russia.’ I can’t help you. It just breaks my heart.

We have potential Russian collusion. We have his emoluments violations. We have, quite frankly, that he is one of the most vulgar people to ever hold office. And so Take your pick of the reasons why he is unfit.

And so he is being investigated by Mueller, Mueller has found several people guilty, and now we see Republicans in powerful positions in the House and Senate trying to discredit the investigation, which is funny because when he was appointed people I remember being thrilled because, `Oh, he’s a lifelong Republican. He’s one of us. He’s the right one to ethically run it. It will be great.’ And then when he
found something about their guy it was, `Oh, he’s terrible,’ they changed their tunes pretty fast.

They’re smearing him. They’re smearing the DOJ.  They’re smearing the FBI.

What good is it to criticize the ethics of only your opposition, because then it’s easily dismissed as partisan politics. You must be willing to speak out about any corruption of your own party. If you really care about your party, if you really believe it is a vehicle for rightness, then you want to be as clean and effective as possible, yet we see people closing ranks.

The NRA is implicated. Where did you guys get your money? That’s a pretty big deal. The NRA is amazingly active in politics, funnels tons of money to candidates. If they received Russian money, how many candidates, all over the country, illegally received Russia money, most, I imagine, unknowingly, through a PAC donation.

I mean how serious is this? Is there an active attempt by a foreign government to buy a political party, and how far have they gone. And instead of investigating it to restore faith in our government, we have people closing ranks on it because it’s their guy.

From Gilbert Garcia’s Express-News column:

To his fellow Republicans in the race, Temple is a hopeless irritant. But from where I’m sitting, Temple’s willingness to go off (as in way off) the party-line script is bringing some useful discomfort to the campaign; a little bit of creative friction which is healthy for the political process.


To get a sense of how far afield Temple is from his primary rivals, consider the fact that a business-friendly, low-tax conservative like Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, who served in the administration of Ronald Reagan, is routinely lambasted by Texas Republicans as a left-wing traitor to his party. If GOP activists in this state regard Straus as a RINO (Republican in Name Only), how could they begin to process the rogue stylings of Temple?

Fortunately, for all concerned, he doesn’t much care.


Make no mistake, even 15 years ago Temple would have been a major GOP outlier. But in this political environment, in this primary, he sounds like nothing less than a mutant invader from another galaxy.


I want to know why everybody calls me a radical, why I’m so crazy, why the San Antonio Express-New -, I loved the article by Gilbert, I think it was flattering. I think it painted me in a very favorable light I think it was accurate, I am a goofball who’s passionate, who’s trying to laugh so I don’t cry – but why am I a foreign invader, the mutant from another galaxy.

Of the Republican audiences where his pitches, Temple says:

There are 100, maybe 200 people in the room at a time. Half of them are candidates or friends of the candidates.  Seventy thousand to 100,000 people are going to vote in this primary for a Republican and mostly likely only a thousand or two thousand will have seen any of the 18 candidates in person.

There are plenty of moderate people. I’ve knocked on doors. And there are plenty of people who are dissatisfied. If there are 20,000 who I can get my message to with no money and say, `Hey guys, we’re over here,’ then we can have reform in the Republican Party.

And we need housecleaning I believe. We separately need a housecleaning and the only people who can clean house are those who have never had authority and have never been compromised. Chip Roy with his contacts is going to clean house? Jason Isaac with `Dearborn, Michigan is a no-go zone,’ he’s going to clean the house?’


Here, from Feb. 6, is Temple doing a Facebook Live session on immigration.

And here is another on health care, in which he explains that his campaign manager couldn’t be there to moderate the discussion because he had to work.

“I joke that our current level of campaign fundraising is don’t quite your day job.”

Oh, and here’s his latest, on “supply side economics and why it doesn’t work.”






Beto pulls an all-nighter. `We are absolutely going to ace this.’

Good morning Austin:

I am all about the all-nighter.

I thrive by night.

I dare say there are not that many people on the planet, aside from people who actually get paid to work the night-shift or chronic insomniacs, who have pulled more all-nighters.

And what do I have to show for it?

Rude question.

But I’ll answer it anyway:

  1. A college degree.
  2. Almost every longish story I’ve ever written not on a same-day deadline. So, with 40 years and counting as a reporter … lots.
  3. First Reading. Every time you read a First Reading you are reading the product of an all-nighter, or something perilously close to it.

Why the all-nighter?

Why not just do what I need to do within the conventional confines most people adapt to?

Good question.

Here are a few answers:

  1. Daytime is cluttered with all those other things you could or should be doing.
  2. I am easily distracted and find it hard to get started. Once I get going, stopping is stupid and unproductive.
  3. Nighttime is the right time.

I have a complementary taste for marathons, telethons for almost any cause, but especially those with a single host, like Jerry Lewis, who strains and sweats and loosens his bow-tie and cries, legislative hearings that run till dawn and extra-inning games, the longer the better.

In other words, I don’t like things to end.

I tell you all this to explain why I reacted so positively when I heard that Beto O’Rourke was planning a 24-hour live-stream of a long day of campaigning, beginning at 5:15 Sunday morning in Houston, and culminating in a midnight Sunday rally at his Austin campaign headquarters on Airport Boulevard, and – this is it – a UT Austin All-Nighter with Beto at Kerbey Lane Cafe,  the all-night restaurant right by the campus on Guadalupe, beginning at 1:30 a.m.


It’s a gimmick.

But everyone’s got a gimmick.

The purpose was two-fold: attention and momentum.

O’Rourke’s Senate campaign already live-streams much of what he does.

He’s a natural on camera and wears well.

Against Cruz, they think their ace in the hole is O’Rourke’s likability – his winning personality.

The live-stream is a way to make him totally accessible, answering any questions that come his way, but also to build a very loyal fan base that is sucked into his story.

But, Texas is big and, to succeed, they’ve got to scale up to a bigger and bigger audience, and, like a telethon, they need to give people periodic reasons to pay special attention.

This last live-stream also was a way to build momentum, by showing him gathering large and enthusiastic crowds all along the way.

They got a head start with a big crowd at their town hall in Garland on Friday  night.

And then, they juiced Sunday’s unfolding events with the evening announcement – a few days before the report is due – that they had raised $2.4 million in the last three months of 2017. That’s a good number, and it was made better when the Cruz campaign issued its own numbers, in order to show that it still had a big fundraising advantage. But the numbers indicated that O’Rourke had raised more than Cruz had in the last quarter of 2017, and that they were gaining on them.

From my story:

Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke out-raised Sen. Ted Cruz in the last quarter of 2017, $2.4 million to $1.9 million. But the Republican incumbent maintained a $7.3 million to $4.6 million cash advantage heading into 2018, though the third term Democratic congressman from El Paso has narrowed that gap since the middle of 2017, from a 3.9 million to a $2.7 million deficit.

Here, then, are my tweets off of O’Rourke’s all-day-and-all-nighter.

I first checked in when he was returning to his hotel room after a morning run with supporters.

OK. This next one was by far my most popular tweet of the day.

Why was this so popular? Because it’s sweet and personal.

This led to a riff about how he didn’t used to like Matthew McConaughey, probably because of how much his wife, Amy, liked McConaughey, but he likes him a lot now.

Peterson is really good.

The Statesman has written about him before.

He’s worth another couple photos.


O’Rourke was given a really warm introduction at Kerbey Lane by its CEO, Mason Ayer.

Talking to young woman in charge at Kerbey Lane afterward, she estimated there were 500 to 600 people there. At that time on a Monday morning, they are usually maybe a dozen people there.

At this point, for heightened documentary effect, I switched to black and white photos, or what my iPhone calls silvertone.

O’Rourke spoke, answered questions and then had his photo taken with everyone who wanted one.

Finally, O’Rourke posed for photos with the people who work at Kerbey Lane, then took off to meet and thank some campaign workers, and then headed to the airport.

Throughout the live-stream, he would answer questions and engage the comments from viewers that would scroll across the Facebook page.

And that was it. Except for me, who had an all-nighter to finish.