Posted: Oct 22, 2013 2:59 PM
Updated: Oct 22, 2013 3:00 PM
Austin American-Statesman. Oct. 16, 2013.
Lieutenant governor's race turns toward absurdity
When Wendy Davis announced her candidacy for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination two weeks ago, we called on the state senator from Fort Worth and her likely Republican opponent in next year's general election, Attorney General Greg Abbott, to make Texans proud by steering clear of personal attacks and seriously debating competing visions for the state's future.
"Give us a race worth remembering," we wrote.
We would like to take the time to urge the same of the four Republicans seeking their party's nomination to be lieutenant governor. But the party primary race is well underway and with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples each busy trying to define himself as the authentic conservative in the race while stirring tea party distrust of the others' conservative credentials, we fear the ink and pixels would be wasted.
Thus far the four candidates are giving us a campaign to remember all right. The way things are going, by its end it'll be a campaign we will want to forget.
Absurdity stalks the lieutenant governor's race. Each candidate talks about defying Washington and President Barack Obama as much as he talks about how he'll lead the Texas Senate and help govern the state. Each pledges fealty to a variety of issues important to tea party conservatives, from the reach of the federal government to who most strongly opposes letting undocumented immigrants pay in-state college tuition, to repealing the 17th Amendment.
Yes, the 17th Amendment, which entered the U.S. Constitution about a century ago and took the power to appoint U.S. senators away from state legislatures and gave it to the people in the form of a popular election. The high hurdle to repeal the amendment means its constitutional place is secure, but that hasn't stopped desire for its repeal from becoming another tea party cause detached from reality.
Dewhurst supports the repeal movement and we can understand why. Were there no 17th Amendment Dewhurst would be sitting in the Senate today. No one feels the intraparty turbulence rattling Republicans more deeply or painfully than Dewhurst. He suffered an embarrassing defeat last year at the hands of Ted Cruz, then an unknown to most Texans, in the race to succeed Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate. He has been desperately pandering to tea party conservatives ever since.
Dewhurst can pander all he likes but to many tea party conservatives he'll always be the worst kind of Republican, a moderate. Nonetheless there he was in Tarrant County on Monday telling a tea party forum, unprompted, that Congress should impeach President Obama for his actions and inactions on immigration and border security, health care, and the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
On the campaign trail the other candidates often focus on Dewhurst. He is, after all, the incumbent and the goal for Patrick, Patterson and Staples is to emerge from the March primary in a runoff against Dewhurst and then defeat him in a two-man race.
Dewhurst feels the need to prove his worthiness as a conservative. The other three candidates want to prove they aren't David Dewhurst. At a debate last week in Austin, this dynamic degenerated into a political version of Qui n es m s macho? Each candidate's manhood and ability to tell the truth was at issue as much as tea party bona fides. As the American-Statesman's Mike Ward reported, a large part of the audience gathered at the Austin Convention Center walked out. Some audience members said they were disgusted by the bickering.
Will the disgust grow and force the candidates to correct their course toward a more serious discourse? We can hope. If not, odds are the campaign for lieutenant governor only will get more distasteful as we get closer to the Republican primary in March.
Houston Chronicle. Oct. 16, 2013.
Why we miss Kay Bailey Hutchison
Does anyone else miss Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison?
We're not sure how much difference one person could make in the toxic, chaotic, hyperpartisan atmosphere in Washington, but if we could choose just one it would be Hutchison, whose years of service in the Senate were marked by two things sorely lacking in her successor, Ted Cruz.
For one thing, Hutchison had an unswerving commitment to the highest and best interests of Texas at all times. This revealed itself in a thousand different ways. Hereabouts, we miss her advocacy for NASA, the Port of Houston and the energy industry. And we know she worked just as hard for Dallas, San Antonio and a hundred smaller Texas cities and towns.
And dare we say it? We miss her extraordinary understanding of the importance of reaching across the aisle when necessary. Neither sitting Texas senator has displayed that useful skill, and both the state and the Congress are the poorer for it.
One reason we particularly believe that Hutchison would make a difference in these hectic days is that if she had kept her seat, Cruz would not be in the Senate.
When we endorsed Ted Cruz in last November's general election, we did so with many reservations and at least one specific recommendation - that he follow Hutchison's example in his conduct as a senator.
Obviously, he has not done so. Cruz has been part of the problem in specific situations where Hutchison would have been part of the solution.
We feel certain she would have worked shoulder to shoulder with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in crafting a workable solution that likely would have avoided the government shutdown altogether.
But we'll never know.
While we're on the topic, we'd like to think our first choice to succeed Hutchison in the Senate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, would have been more amenable to following Hutchison's example than Cruz has been. But these days, we're not so sure. Dewhurst, long considered a moderate in the Texas GOP, clearly was rattled by his unexpected loss to Cruz for the Senate seat.
Since the defeat, the lieutenant governor has attempted a full-blown political makeover designed to make him the darling of the conservative wing of the Texas party.
Faced with the impossible task of outflanking three strong conservative challengers, the traditional moderate Dewhurst does not seem like a man comfortable in his own skin. It's painful to watch.
The Dallas Morning News. Oct. 22, 2013.
Was Dallas officer too quick to shoot?
No one can seriously dispute the minute-to-minute danger of being a police officer in a pressurized urban environment like Dallas. Any cop would tell you that the moment you drop your guard could be your last.
This is one reason police officers earn our respect and admiration. They protect and serve where many of us dare not go. Our choice, their livelihood.
Which is why one officer's apparently inexplicable shooting of a mentally ill 52-year-old eight days ago in southeastern Dallas is so troubling.
An arrest warrant affidavit listing Dallas police Officer Cardan Spencer as an aggravated assault victim said he shot Bobby Gerald Bennett after the man walked toward Spencer and his partner with a "knife raised in an aggressive manner." Spencer fired four times, striking Bennett in the abdomen. Bennett survived but remains hospitalized at Baylor University Medical Center. He has a criminal record, and police said his mother told them that he had been off his antipsychotic medication.
And that might have been that, except for a neighbor's surveillance video that directly contradicts the affidavit. It shows Bennett seated in a rolling chair, initially scooting back from officers as they advance. He stands up but does not move, hands at his side, and he is standing still when Spencer shoots him less than 30 seconds after driving up.
Police Chief David Brown, whose department has faced mounting criticism over officer-involved shootings dating to 2012, declined to comment Monday, saying he hopes to have incident and administrative investigations completed by the end of the week.
Brown did drop the aggravated assault charge against Bennett, leaving unspoken how he'll deal with Spencer, a six-year veteran. His attorney insists the officer did nothing wrong, and "there is much more to this situation than that video."
True enough. The video is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional event. We can't see what the officer saw, from his point of view, know what he knew or hear what anyone was saying. All we see is a man standing still, hands down, until a Dallas police officer shoots him.
Brown and his investigators need to move expeditiously. Police knew about the damning video before Bennett's neighbor, Maurice Bunch, took it public. Barring some dramatic surprise, the video reveals an officer overreacting to nearly deadly effect.
If there's something we can't see, Brown needs to make it public as soon as possible. If there isn't, he must assure everyone that this is not how Dallas police officers should react. Public confidence is on the line; if you're a caregiver for a mentally ill person, would you hesitate to call 911 today?
If Brown expects us to believe him when he deems an officer-involved shooting justified, it's vital that he bring the full weight of the Police Department and the justice system when it clearly isn't. Credibility comes with a price, and this is it.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Oct. 19, 2013.
The Alamo is no place for a gun-totin' demonstration
The iconic image of the little mission in San Antonio where a band of brave Texans died fighting an overwhelming Mexican army 177 years ago has long been a symbol of liberty, independence and self-determination.
The Alamo, Texas' No. 1 tourist attraction, on perhaps the state's most hallowed ground, over the years has resisted being politicized, its custodians banning protests and demonstrations on the state-owned land. Such rallies usually were relegated to the nearby city-owned Alamo Plaza.
That will change Saturday when hundreds of rifle- and shotgun-toting gun enthusiasts converge on the grounds in a "Come and Take It San Antonio!" rally protesting the city's ordinance that prohibits firearms at political rallies or in public parks. Some of the pro-gun organizers are also supporting three men recently arrested while carrying rifles outside a coffee emporium.
Permission for this rally, where Texans are being urged to show up with their long guns in clear view, was granted by the Texas General Land Office, which took control of the four-acre historical site in 2011. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a pro-gun advocate who as a legislator sponsored the state's concealed handgun law, will be the keynote speaker at the event.
Patterson, a candidate for lieutenant governor, released a proposed opinion column for Saturday publication that said, "The main goal of today's rally at the Alamo is simple: The peaceful exercise of a right we fear losing. It is legal, after all, to carry a long gun in Texas. Despite that fact, there are those who would claim otherwise under color of law. Today's demonstration is expression of that right, plain and simple."
He went on to say, "The fact that many Texans only feel comfortable with police carrying guns isn't normal, historically speaking. Armed citizens shouldn't be alarming in a free society."
The fact is Texans do have a right to be alarmed over this planned demonstration and Patterson's encouragement of people to come bearing arms at the Alamo for whatever purpose. It should not be "normal."
This newspaper has praised the land commissioner in recent months for his stewardship of this sacred place, to which he has brought even more attention through unique exhibits and much more interaction with the public.
But this latest event smells of a cheap political stunt that is unworthy of Patterson, distasteful to many Texans and frankly disrespectful to the memory of those who died at the Alamo during the siege of 1836.
When Texans "remember the Alamo," that memory should not include this undignified public insult.