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Capitol Letters

Ted Cruz

I want to tell you a love story. It’s the story of all of us. It’s a love story of freedom.
—Republican Senate nominee Ted Cruz at the Republican National Convention, August 28

If you were eager to watch Ted Cruz’s speech last night you most likely ended up watching it on his website since none of the major cable networks—not even Fox!—considered it important enough to cut away from their punditry roundtables and interviews with random sparkle-studded delegates. Is that any way to treat a rising Republican star, this year’s Marco Rubio, if you will? Cruz, the only Texan with a prominent role at the convention, has two big things going for him: He’s an über-conservative and he’s Latino. He’d be a Republican triple-threat if he wasn’t part Canadian.

Of course it’s tough to follow a man as gifted as former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, but Cruz tried his best. He first thanked his “thousands and thousands” of liberty-loving tea party activists who propelled him to victory. (And make no mistake, this speech was for them. You can tell by the repeated invoking of the founding fathers.)

“We are seeing a great awakening, a national movement, of ‘We the People,’ brought together by what unites us—a shared love of liberty—and an understanding of the unlimited potential of free men and free women.

“I want to tell you a love story. It’s the story of all of us. It’s a love story of freedom. It’s the story of our founding fathers who fought and bled for freedom then crafted the most miraculous political document ever conceived, the Constitution.”

Luckily for those scholars in the audience, Cruz’s speech was not just a love story but a lesson in history as well, with solemn nods to General Santa Ana, the Greatest Generation, Nazis, communism, civil rights, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and, naturally, Ronald Reagan, whose name in Republican circles calls for genuflection or at the very least Tebowing.

Cruz also shared his personal family history, all of which we’ve heard before, especially that of his Cuban father who fled to America with just $100 sewn into his underwear. He then muttered a few lines in broken Spanish to prove that he’s not really Canadian. (In an interview with WFAA News in Dallas yesterday, Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa questioned whether Cruz is actually Hispanic.)

Talking about his father gave Cruz a perfect opportunity to talk about his anti-immigration stance.

“Fifty-five years ago, when my dad was a penniless teenager, thank God some well-meaning bureaucrat didn’t put his arm around him and say let me take care of you. Let me give you a government check and make you dependent on government. And by the way, don’t bother learning English. That would have been utterly destructive.” Cruz also accused the Obama campaign trying to “divide America,” including “telling Hispanics that we’re not welcome here.”

Speaking of not rolling out the welcome mat, Cruz told Telemundo on Monday that he thinks Romney should immediately end the administration’s deferred action policy and reinstate deportations of undocumented young people.

Overall Cruz’s speech seemed awkward. He walked back and forth rubbing his hands together like he was interviewing for The Tonight Show, breaking into uncomfortable chuckles and smirks to polite applause. I would expect more from someone who’s won debate championships and successfully argued cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. But clearly humor is not Cruz’s strong suit. Earlier this week he made a joke to Republican delegates at a conservative rally saying, “We have so many things to be thankful for. So many blessings, including [that] we can be thankful for Hurricane Isaac. If nothing else, it kept Joe Biden away.” (Biden postponed his trip to Orlando due to the tropical storm.) Politics 101: If you’re not funny, don’t try to be. See Mitt Romney’s laugh-out-loud birther crack or any callous remarks by one-time comedian Dennis Miller.

Considering that the party’s main goal coming out of the convention was to have Ann Romney “humanize” her cyborg-like husband, Cruz was an interesting choice for prime speaking slot. Appearing on Meet the Press just two weeks ago, he expressed serious doubts about Romney’s chances.

“My view for months has been if this presidential race focuses on issues, if it focuses on the economy, on President Obama’s abysmal economic record, Republicans win. If it’s a battle of personalities, Republicans will lose.”

So much for the love story.

Cruz Lines

Republican Senate nominee Ted Cruz thinks he’s right for the Latino community. Do Texas Latinos think he's right for them?

The national Hispanic unemployment rate is at 11 percent and according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate for Hispanics is over 26 percent. A recent study conducted by the Texas Politics Project found that 25 percent of the Hispanic population in Texas is considered poor. But these depressing numbers don’t seem to faze the pull-yourself-up-by-your-Cuban-American-bootstraps Ted Cruz. Last week the former state solicitor general and Republican Senate nominee denounced the president’s welfare policies as keeping poor people “trapped in dependency” while attempting to gut the bipartisan welfare reform bill and welfare-to-work initiative passed under the Clinton administration.

“We are not doing anybody a favor by giving them welfare in perpetuity and making them dependent on government,” Cruz said. Apparently the clandestine radical socialist agenda being pushed by the Obama administration is slowly destroying the Latino community that Cruz purports to represent. Appearing on Fox News, Cruz stated with confidence that Hispanics share his conservative values and strong work ethic because he has never seen a Hispanic panhandler. This random non-fact serves to validate Cruz’s central argument that Hispanics may be unemployed, they may be struggling to put food on the table, they may have lost their homes but at least their cultural pride and sense of honor keep them from begging on street corners or, God forbid, accepting temporary government assistance. Throwing out unfounded quips about the ethnicity of panhandlers is just so much easier than addressing the real issues and challenges facing the Latino community. Especially when you’re a highly paid partner in a law firm with cushy benefits and health insurance.

The Texas Food Bank Network reported that 44 percent of its food applicants in 2010 were Hispanic. An estimated 38 percent of Hispanics in Texas lack health insurance. Naturally Cruz and his fellow Republicans have pledged to overhaul the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion even though 22 percent of Texas Hispanics are currently covered by the program. Does seeking assistance make Hispanics who were disproportionately hit hard by the economy any less honorable?

“[Cruz] is a pretty impressive gentleman with credibility and a great personal story,” said Brent Wilkes, the national executive director for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). “But we certainly have disagreements with him about the role of [government] programs and the role of government in our society. He seems very focused on eliminating programs that help people contribute to the economy and are very much worth the expense.”

Cruz’s controversial positions on a range of issues from immigration to voter ID could also make outreach to the Latino community a significant challenge. During his campaign he said he opposes so-called “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants and came out against the DREAM Act, a cause which our own governor championed. Cruz also intends to introduce a bill that would triple the size of the U.S. Border Patrol. (See? The federal government isn’t always bad.) As an adamant supporter of photo ID legislation Cruz points to voter fraud as the main threat to our democratic process. As opposed to, you know, encouraging more Latinos to participate in that democratic process.

Democrat-turned-Republican Aaron Peña, who did not seek reelection this year, views Cruz’s victory as a positive thing for the Latino community. “The election of Cruz and other Hispanic conservatives forces the Democratic party to come into the 21st century,” Peña said. “We win when they compete for our vote. Now we have a real competition and Cruz is part of that. This debate will transform both parties.” And in Peña’s opinion Cruz’s win is yet another example of Republicans breaking down institutional barriers.

But LULAC’s Wilkes believes that more Latinos would support Latino candidates like Cruz if they weren’t so divisive. “On the issue of immigration, there certainly can be some argument on what the right level should be but you get the distinct impression that [Republicans] don’t like Latinos,” he said. “The way they talk about some issues like English-only legislation, they’re really talking about the [Latino] culture being inferior. They come across as a party pushing Latinos away.”

Perry’s Titanic Blunder

The governor rejects Medicaid expansion and then embarrasses himself on Fox News

To expand Medicaid is “not unlike adding 1,000 people to the Titanic.”—Rick Perry on Fox News, July 9

In a strongly worded and entirely predictable letter Monday to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Gov. Rick Perry announced his intention to reject any expansion of the Medicaid program in Texas or the creation of a state health insurance exchange, two key provisions of the Affordable Care Act that Perry refers to as “brazen intrusions into the sovereignty of our state.” Looks like it’s time to dust off the muskets and prepare to defend Texas’s sovereignty! Again!

“We in Texas have no intention to implement so-called state exchanges or to expand Medicaid under Obamacare,” Perry said in a statement. “I will not be party to socializing healthcare and bankrupting my state in direct contradiction to our Constitution and our founding principles of limited government. I stand proudly with the growing chorus of governors who reject the Obamacare power grab. Neither a ‘state’ exchange nor the expansion of Medicaid under this program would result in better ‘patient protection’ or in more ‘affordable care.’ They would only make Texas a mere appendage of the federal government when it comes to health care.”

As for the health care act being “in direct contradiction to our Constitution,” Perry clearly missed the part where the Supreme Court ruled that the law is…constitutional. Although the court did rule that the federal government couldn’t penalize states that choose to opt out of the Medicaid expansion, the implementation of health insurance exchanges is mandatory. States refusing to create the exchanges will see the federal government stepping in and doing it for them. How embarrassing. Not that Perry is easily embarrassed.

In an interview Monday on Fox News, Perry was caught off-guard by a hard-hitting question posed by one of the many interchangeable female blond newscasters there: “If part of your goal is to keep the federal government out of the lives of Texans, then why give them that power?” Perry responded by not responding, saying only that Medicaid is a failed program and increasing enrollment is “like adding 1,000 people to the Titanic.” When asked what his solution would be to the health care crisis, he suggested that if the federal government “was serious about working with the states” they would provide the funding in no-strings-attached block grants, the default conservative proposal on how to best fix (or, more accurately, cut) Medicaid. Block grant funding would provide Texas greater leeway in how it allocates its resources while stripping poor and disabled Texans of their benefits. Well someone’s got to be the loser.

But where Perry really got it wrong in the Fox interview was his assertion that “every Texan has health care in this state from the standpoint of being able to have access to healthcare.” That’s like saying that every Texan has food in this state from the standpoint of being able to have access to the grocery store. It doesn’t mean the more than six million Texans who are uninsured can actually afford it. And who but our governor has access to experimental adult stem cell spinal infusions? According to a new study released by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, Texas ranks dead last in health care services and delivery. Texas Medicaid is also one of the most limited and strictest programs in the country. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission projects that the state would actually see a net gain of $70 billion over five years if it expanded its Medicaid program. That sounds like some sort of trick.

In the end it looks like Perry would rather go down with the ship than work with the federal government on health care. And he’s taking millions of uninsured Texans down with him.

In a landmark decision this morning the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional, including the controversial individual mandate requiring most citizens to purchase health insurance if they don’t already have coverage. But what makes the ruling even more historic is that Chief Justice John Roberts joined the majority in its opinion. Sure, it’s not as unbelievable as Justice Antonin Scalia having drinks with Justice Sonia Sotomayor but it’s close.

Republican opponents had nervously awaited the court’s decision, their staff poised to send out one of two press releases, either praising the court for its infinite wisdom and undying patriotism or slamming the court for being stacked with liberal activist judges. Will Roberts replace Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote?  Even worse, will Obamacare now be known as Roberts-care?

In ruling that the health care act is constitutional, the court upheld not only the centerpiece of the law—the individual mandate—but also other key provisions such as protecting Americans with preexisting conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance. The mandate was upheld by the court as a tax. which would only affect a small percentage of the population. Americans who don’t buy health insurance will face a penalty of one percent of their income. Employers who don’t offer insurance could also face penalties. While most people would argue that the individual mandate is a huge victory for President Obama, Republicans can also claim victory by repeatedly referring to it as a tax, thereby providing a new mantra for the conservative media.

Naturally Texas Republicans in the House quickly weighed in on this national travesty, just as they did following initial legal arguments back in March. (These actually may be recycled press releases, slightly edited for content.) Congressman Pete Sessions said that he’ll continue to fight for a full repeal to “restore the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship and put an end to Washington bureaucrats’ power.” Congressman Sam Johnson cited the law’s $500 billion in tax hikes. (See? At least someone has read the footnotes!) Congressman Jeb Hensarling upped the ante by saying that the Affordable Care Act “assaults religious freedom” in some kind of inane shout-out to the Conference of Catholic Bishops.

So what does the decision mean for Texas, the state with the highest percentage—one in four—of uninsured people in the country? Apparently the prospect that more Texans would be eligible for Medicaid, enabled by increased federal funding, was bad enough that Attorney General Greg Abbott joined 25 other states in suing the federal government over the expansion of the program.  The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Medicaid expansion, but ruled that the federal government cannot penalize states who opt out by withholding their existing Medicaid funding. This means that Texas can continue screwing Medicaid patients at will despite the new Medicaid expansion. Everyone’s a winner!

Leave it to Gov. Rick Perry to use the most forceful albeit absurd language in his official statement:

“This ruling will be a stomach punch to the American economy. It is a shocking disappointment to freedom-loving Americans desperate to get our country back on track … Americans have made clear their overwhelming opposition to its convoluted, burdensome and overreaching mandates. 

“Freedom was frontally attacked by passage of this monstrosity—and the Court utterly failed in its duty to uphold the Constitutional limits placed on Washington. Now that the Supreme Court has abandoned us, we citizens must take action at every level of government and demand real reform, done with respect for our Constitution and our liberty.”

Does anyone else smell another golden opportunity for secession?

The – A Word

Last Friday the Obama administration announced that it would ease enforcement of current immigration deportation guidelines to allow certain young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to apply for work permits, effectively bypassing Congress. The Congress, of course, hates being bypassed. It makes small and insignificant elected officials look small and insignificant. Take Congressman Lamar Smith, who immediately responded to the policy change in a same-day op-ed (no doubt activated by the emergency anti-immigration press release template) blasting the president for granting amnesty to potentially millions of immigrants. If you look in the Republican dictionary, the definition of “immigration” is “amnesty.” The definition of “amnesty” is “terrorist plots carried out by well-trained anchor babies.” Don’t even get them started on “backdoor amnesty.”

“The administration’s amnesty policy…is a magnet for fraud,” Smith said. “Many illegal immigrants will falsely claim they came here as children or are under the age of 30 and the federal government has no way to check whether their claims are true.” He’s right. How could an amateur government agency like the Department of Homeland Security possibly tell if a 50-year- old man is trying to pass himself off as a tween by sporting a Justin Bieber t-shirt?

Not surprisingly most Texas Republicans had similar reactions, according to the Houston Chronicle. Congressman Ted Poe likened the change to an “imperial decree,” making the president sound somewhat Darth Vader-ish. Congressman Michael Burgess called it a “reckless decision” and Congressman Kenny Marchant called it “appalling.” If you’re being called imperial, reckless and appalling by the Texas congressional delegation, you know you’re doing something right.

But it’s really Lamar Smith who has taken this on as his own personal crusade. In a letter to the president on Wednesday, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee complained that the administration’s decision “raises serious constitutional questions about the legitimacy of the policy.” Smith is asking for “any legal opinions from the Justice Department regarding what authority the Administration has to impose immigration policies without congressional approval.” Lucky for Smith, the House is already holding Attorney General Eric Holder hostage so that should make the interrogation much easier.

As with any hot-button issue, you can’t fully analyze the pros and cons without considering the Gohmert angle. Appearing on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal this week, Congressman Louie Gohmert expressed grave concern that the president’s latest move is simply “another incentive to come in here illegally and vote for [him] illegally.” He’s right. Most undocumented immigrants can’t wait to show up to the polls.

Gohmert did say, however, that he “really sees the Hispanic culture as being able to get us back to embracing the things that made us great.” The congressman is also sensitive to the needs of the African-American community. When a listener called in wanting to know why there is a Congressional Black Caucus but not a Congressional White Caucus, Gohmert responded that there would never be a Congressional White Caucus because “there’d be too much fussin’” but quickly added that it would be a bad idea. Hopefully he doesn’t find out that there’s a Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

According to statistics from the Immigration Policy Center, more than 16 percent of Texans are foreign born. Forty-one percent of immigrants are Latino or Asian and 32 percent are eligible to vote. Over 87 percent of children in Texas with immigrant parents are U.S. citizens. No wonder the Republicans are terrified.

Electile Dysfunction

In July, Texas will face off with the feds over the state’s voter ID law, one of the most stringent in the nation. Our governor deemed voter ID an emergency issue during the last legislative session and a more-than-willing Legislature passed the measure. In March, the law was blocked by that perennially overreaching and meddling Justice Department which cited discrimination against minorities in general and Hispanic voters in particular. Rick Perry blasted U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision, saying that the law required nothing more than the type of photo ID needed to board an airplane, receive a library card or secure a concealed handgun license. (People who don’t carry shouldn’t be allowed to vote anyway.) At the time Sen. John Cornyn claimed that the decision “reeked of politics” and was intended to help the president’s reelection campaign. Clearly the administration was also using the issue to sink Perry’s campaign. It worked nicely.

“The Texas proposal was based on a similar law passed by the Indiana legislature, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008,” said Congressman Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “The administration’s actions aren’t just wrong, they are arrogant, undemocratic and an insult to the rule of law.” Curious use of the word undemocratic, which at its core refers to something not based on the principles of democracy and social equality. Like, perhaps, the right to vote.

Texas is one of 10 states that passed new voter ID laws in 2011 or 2012, and far from the only one battling it out with the Holder. This week the Justice Department filed a high-profile lawsuit against Florida’s controversial “voter purge,” which would remove voters that “may or may not be citizens” from its voter rolls, saying it violates federal law. The state of Florida then filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for refusing to provide access to a database that could help them hunt down those elusive potentially-ineligible-but-potentially-eligible voters.

The Texas voter ID lawsuit will be heard by a three-judge federal panel on July 9. State Attorney General Greg Abbott sought to block the Justice Department from deposing lawmakers involved with the voter ID bill. However bill authors Sen. Troy Fraser and Rep. Patricia Harless, along with other lawmakers, have already been deposed. No doubt they will be treated as hostile witnesses.

Naturally both Senate candidates looking to take Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat and become Cornyn’s junior have weighed in on the issue. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz feature online petitions on their campaign websites encouraging their supporters to oppose the actions of the Justice Department and the Obama administration. As solicitor general, Cruz successfully defended a lawsuit filed by the Texas Democratic Party to prevent the enforcement of the voter ID law or, as he refers to it, the “voter fraud” law. He also defended Indiana’s photo ID law before the Supreme Court. Point Cruz.

Meanwhile, voter ID finally passed the Senate under Dewhurst’s leadership after he aggressively pushed for it over two legislative sessions. Counterpoint Dewhurst. Clearly this is an issue close to their hearts and one that will surely win over the Hispanic voters their party is so desperate to reach.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, roughly 11 percent of eligible voters do not have a government-issued photo ID. Whether or not the new law could be implemented here in time for the general election remains to be seen. But it sure would be a bummer for Republicans to see that 11 percent show up at the polls.

How Cruz Compares to Kay Bailey

One of Texas’ U.S. Senate seats could soon shift to the right.

Call it the runoff heard round the state and beyond. Last week Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst failed to hit the 50 percent benchmark to avoid a final showdown with former solicitor general Ted Cruz. The Senate race is another fight over who owns the Republican Party. Is it the grassroots-grown angry citizenry wielding pitchforks and out for blood or is it the old stale establishment seeking to preserve the status quo? These lines were somewhat blurred when Gov. Rick Perry, supposed hero of the tea party and the man who once stoked secession talk, endorsed the very establishment lieutenant governor over scrappy insurgent Cruz. Of course, a Perry endorsement hasn’t brought good fortune of late. Just ask Rudy Guiliani and Newt Gingrich. Though Dewhurst spent $15 million of his own money on his campaign (chump change), Cruz was backed by uber-conservative groups FreedomWorks and Club for Growth, which hammered away at Dewhurst for being a “moderate.” Calling a fellow Republican a “moderate” in Texas is kind of like calling him a “serial killer.” Looks like it worked.

After primary night, Cruz immediately challenged Dewhurst to five debates between now and July 31st. Cruz certainly has the debate chops to make Dewhurst look like Perry. While at Princeton, he finished first in the 1992 U.S. National Debate Championship before attending Harvard Law School. Is the tea party citizenry aware that they’re lining up behind a two-time Ivy Leaguer who graduated with honors? Isn’t that against their code of ethics? As Rick Santorum, a Cruz supporter, would say, what a snob. Meanwhile a reporter from Univision (perhaps prompted by Dewhurst) has suggested that the two candidates participate in a debate conducted in Spanish. Dewhurst, who learned Spanish in his CIA days while in Bolivia, seemed amenable to the idea. Whether Cruz, who admits that his Spanish is more like “Spanglish,” despite the fact that his father is from Cuba, has enough time to complete the Rosetta Stone speed course remains to be seen.

Beyond the theatrics of the race, a Cruz victory would have important policy implications for the state and the U.S. Senate.

If Cruz is the one who replaces the relatively moderate Kay Bailey Hutchison, who’s retiring, he would be a very different senator, beholden to very different interests. (A widely cited—not to mention glowing—profile in the National Review lays out Cruz’s positions on certain key issues.) While Hutchison has never truly been the moderate that she’s been made out to be, she has provided a somewhat bipartisan voice in an extremely partisan Congress.

Hutchison has never fully convinced voters of her pro-life credentials, partly because she has been historically vague on the subject and whether she supports repealing Roe v. Wade. Many political observers have long suspected that, deep down, she’s pro-choice. She has voted in favor of embryonic stem cell research. Cruz, on the other hand, is “unapologetically” pro-life, supporting a ban on partial-birth abortion (Hutchison makes an exception for the mother’s life), which he successfully defended in court as solicitor general. He also successfully defended parental consent laws and the prohibition of state funding of abortion. For his part, Dewhurst can tout the passage of the sonogram legislation, which requires doctors to provide pre-abortion sonograms, and the defunding of Planned Parenthood while presiding over the Texas Senate last session. In other words, they’re both more pro-life than Hutchison.

Both Cruz and Dewhurst oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants—although Dewhurst claimed that his opponent favors amnesty—and both oppose in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants, though Cruz claimed that Dewhurst supports it. Don’t worry. Neither one of them will get the Hispanic vote so it’s pretty much a wash.

It goes without saying that both Cruz and Dewhurst have vowed to defeat “ObamaCare” in favor of a “free-market” system. On behalf of Texas and four other states, Cruz sued the federal government to strike down portions of the Medicare Prescription Drug program. (For someone who supposedly favors tort reform, Cruz sure does like to sue a lot.) Due to Cruz’s opposition to what he sees as government overreach in health care, one can only assume that he would not be the strong proponent of Children’s Health Insurance Program, which Hutchison has consistently supported.

As a proud Tenth Amendment scholar, Cruz wants to eliminate the Department of Education, Commerce and the IRS. No wonder Ron Paul supports him.

Although Both Cruz and Dewhurst are adamantly pro-gun, Cruz has been honored by the National Rifle Association not once but twice for his role in defending the Second Amendment before the U.S. Supreme Court.

On social issues, not only does Cruz oppose same-sex marriage, he apparently also has a problem with gay pride parades, criticizing his one-time opponent Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert for marching in them. So apparently Cruz will be fighting to expand the ban on gay marriage to include marching down streets carrying rainbow flags. The lawsuit will be filed any day now.

And, most importantly, let’s not forget that Cruz has always been a champion of such signature conservative issues as defending the display of the Ten Commandments on state property and preserving the words “Under God” in the pledge of allegiance, which he did as solicitor general.

If our Ted Cruz turns out to be our next senator, he’s going to make John Cornyn look like, well, Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The Texas Senate Race: Right, Righter and Rightest

The close Republican battle for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat has become a race for high profile (and low profile) endorsements.

What has happened between Rick Perry and Sarah Palin? They used to read each other’s minds, finish each other’s sentences, appear on stage together beaming like the prom king and queen. The one-time shooting star of the Republican Party proudly endorsed Perry in the last gubernatorial election, calling him the “true conservative” as opposed to that faux conservative Kay Bailey Hutchison who finally has the decency to vacate her Senate seat. But now the two soul mates find themselves on different sides of the Texas Republican primary race for Hutchison’s U.S. Senate seat, which begs the question, how well can anyone really know anyone?

Perry is backing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst while Palin has endorsed former state solicitor general and, more importantly, Tea Party Express darling Ted Cruz. (You know you’re a tea party darling when you’re endorsed by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, the designated Mad Hatter.) This week the Dewhurst campaign released a new ad featuring a strangely orange-faced Perry saying that “our country needs him and so does Texas.” For her part, Palin made a robocall calling Cruz “a conservative we can trust” who has “defended the Constitution and U.S. sovereignty.” Wow. Can Dewhurst say that? (Although some of Palin’s robocalls for Cruz evidently went to people in Kansas. Oops.)

Palin’s melodic voice is also featured in a new ad called “Fighter,” which starts with Cruz’s Cuban father being imprisoned by a “dictator.” (The ad is supposed to make you think Cruz’s father was some freedom fighter jailed by Castro. But that’s not actually the case. Cruz’s father was on Castro’s side and was imprisoned by the Batista government that Castro later overthrew. Details, details. The ad later credits Cruz with taking on the United Nations. So there’s that.)

And on Thursday, former senator and failed presidential candidate Rick Santorum announced his endorsement of Cruz on Glenn Beck’s radio show, calling him “spellbinding, a tremendous orator and principled.” (Cruz, not Beck.) If you’re keeping score Cruz has now secured two endorsements from failed presidential candidates—Santorum and Ron Paul. Dewhurst has been endorsed by Perry and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, but Huckabee’s so 2008. Does Santorum, the devout Catholic, realize that he’s endorsing a Southern Baptist, not to mention a candidate who, according to the Dewhurst campaign, wants to send every single American job to China?

When Cruz is not busy defending the Constitution, he’s being forced to defend himself against the Dewhurst campaign’s negative attack ads. An ad released in April suggests that Cruz helped put a U.S. company out of business by representing a Chinese firm that apparently stole some manufacturing blueprints. (Politifact rated the assertions “mostly true.”) Cruz complained about the “nasty, false attack ads trying to convince every Texan that I’m a red Chinese communist who wants to eat your children.”

In a profile of Cruz, The Texas Observer’s Anthony Zurcher writes that his Republican supporters view Cruz as the next Ronald Reagan, which is just as good, if not better, than being the next Jesus Christ. But, as Zurcher notes, Mr. Cruz has to actually win an election first. There’s the rub.

In the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, Dewhurst is leading the crowded primary, which includes former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert and ESPN analyst Craig James, with only 40 percent. If Dewhurst can’t win more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, which looks increasingly likely, he and (presumably) Cruz will face each other in a runoff in July. The conventional wisdom says Dewhurst could be in serious trouble if he finds himself in a runoff with Cruz.

No matter who wins, one of these guys will replace Hutchison, which means there will be one less kind-of-sometimes-semi-moderate member of the U.S. Senate. And that, in itself, is something for conservatives to celebrate.

Texas Republicans Go Quiet on Gay Marriage

With President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage, Republican opponents need to choose their battles wisely, no matter how much it pains them.

Some culturally divisive issues are viewed by Republicans as so potentially dangerous to the moral fabric of our society that they demand an emergency response (see: Texas’s new ultrasound law). The volatile issue of same-sex marriage has been at the forefront for years, as evidenced by countless ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments at both the state and federal levels. But following last week’s historic endorsement of same-sex marriage by President Obama, the majority of Republicans seemed willing to leave same-sex marriage alone, choosing instead to bite their tongues in the hopes of winning those coveted swing voters.

According to a new Gallup poll, which was conducted prior to Obama’s endorsement, the country is split on same-sex marriage with 50 percent of Americans supporting it and 48 percent against it. Of that number, a significant 57 percent of registered independents support it.

In an attempt to assure voters that this election is solely about the economy, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn told CNN that the president was trying to “raise divisive issues up to solidify his base and to divide this country,” adding that we should be focusing on jobs, not social issues. Yes, in times like these Americans need to put their partisan differences aside for the good of the country. Just like Cornyn did in 2004, when he helped introduce a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, declaring that it amounted to an economic emergency:

We know from some of the social experimentation that’s occurred in Scandinavia and elsewhere that when same-sex couples can legally marry, that essentially what happens is people quit getting married across the board, and more people raise children outside of marriage at higher risk for a whole host of social ills, placing additional burdens on the government and the taxpayers that support that government.

Clearly the senator no longer cares about the taxpayers.

Although Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions in 2005, a Texas Tribune poll conducted last year found that those views were, much like the president’s, evolving. Currently 61 percent of Texans support legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships with 30 percent supporting same-sex marriage and 31 percent supporting civil unions.

Most Texas Republicans have remained relatively quiet concerning this latest development. Earlier this year Congressman Louie Gohmert slammed the reversal of California’s Proposition 8, explaining that marriage should be about the sacred relationship between a loving egg and a willing sperm. “Nature seemed to like the idea of an egg and a sperm coming together because of pro-creation,” Gohmert said. “Apparently [the appeals court] thought the sperm had far better use some other way biologically, combining it with something else.” (The “something else” remains undefined.) Yet despite his impassioned plea for the woefully underrepresented egg and sperm, Gohmert now says that same-sex marriage is “not something we’re focused on right now.” Congressman Ted Poe, a two-time co-sponsor of the Marriage Protection Act, even attended a Log Cabin Republican meeting in Houston this year. Congressman Kevin Brady, however, did respond to Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage on Facebook, the poor man’s version of a press conference: “I suspect the President’s flip-flop on gay marriage is driven by his election fears rather than his principles…In my view, marriage is a sacrament from our Creator, not merely a law created by man.”

Looks like someone didn’t get the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Same-Sex Marriage memo. And he wasn’t the only one. Gov. Rick Perry’s spokesperson referred to Obama’s endorsement as “election-year politics” and reiterated that Perry is committed to the “sanctity of marriage, defined as a union between one man and one woman.” Not that the governor has ever been shy about his disdain for gay rights. In his controversial campaign ad released last December, Perry said, “There’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.” And that’s just the military. Imagine what same-sex marriage could do to Christmas.

Whether the issue of gay marriage will have an impact on this election remains to be seen. But the fairly muted response by Republicans, especially in Texas, hints that this is an issue they don’t want to touch. For now, anyway.

Cornyn and Friends Take On Modern Family Planning

Texas’ congressional delegation has met the enemy, and it is Planned Parenthood.

Last year the Texas Legislature sent Planned Parenthood to death row by trying to defund it. Planned Parenthood, feeling that it had been wrongly convicted, appealed the ruling and received an eleventh-hour reprieve. But an emergency motion filed by the attorney general put them back in jeopardy. The crime? Planned Parenthood deigns to provide affordable health screenings and access to contraceptives to lower-income and uninsured women through the Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program. Last session the Legislature singled out Planned Parenthood by passing a bill banning any clinic “associated with abortion providers” (otherwise known as guilty by association) from the program.

On Monday a federal judge ruled that the state of Texas couldn’t enforce its ban, which was likely unconstitutional. On Monday night Attorney General Greg Abbott, taking a brief break from working on his gubernatorial acceptance speech, filed an emergency motion to appeal the ruling and was granted an emergency stay by an appellate court judge. Yes, this is what constitutes an emergency in this state. Texas may have just saved some low-income woman from getting her annual breast cancer screening. She can thank Abbott later.

Earlier this year the Obama administration decided to halt federal funding of the Women’s Health Program because Texas had violated federal rules in banning Planned Parenthood. Realizing the magnitude of the issue, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey urged Governor Perry to work with the administration so Texas would not lose much-needed funds. Naturally Perry chose to ignore her advice.

For their part, Republican members of the Texas congressional delegation wrote a strongly worded letter accusing the president of “supporting a pro-abortion agenda.” (Never mind the fact that federal funding cannot be used to fund abortion services.) This wasn’t a surprising move considering they were all supporters of last year’s amendment—cosponsored by Congressman Ted Poe—to defund Planned Parenthood completely.

It’s not often that one of the Texas senators makes the House members look sane. But this time, in an interview with the Texas Tribune, Senator John Cornyn decided to align himself with the patently false comments of Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona regarding family planning services provided by Planned Parenthood. Kyl had claimed that “well over” 90 percent of its services were abortion-related, a statement he has since disavowed as “not intended to be factual.” Cornyn, however, still has questions, saying that he’d heard that 98 percent of services provided to pregnant women are abortion-related.

“I went on Planned Parenthood’s website…to see if I could get some good information,” Cornyn said in the interview. “I came up empty.”

Cornyn couldn’t have looked too hard, so I’ll make it easy for him. Go to Click on About Us. Click on Annual Report. Select 2009-2010. Open document. Scroll to page five. View colorful pie chart. “Abortion services: 3%.” Takes approximately three minutes. You’re welcome.