Political Intelligence

SHOOT LOW SHERIFF.

In our December 10 issue, we reported the life and times of Trans-Pecos drug warrior Gary Painter, and raised the question about how Painter’s questionable attempts to remain a player in the drug war that would affect his effort to hold onto the office he has occupied for fourteen years (see, “The Law West of the Pecos”). Sources in Midland report that Sheriff Painter’s January campaign filings reveal he has raised less than his two Republican primary opponents. Now a fourth candidate — with an intriguing past — has thrown his hat into the ring as an independent. He is Joe Lozano, an appliance service store owner in Midland. After he was caught with five pounds of pot in 1986, Lozano told the Midland Reporter-Telegram, he was “showed the light” and gave his life to God. Gave it to Gary Painter, actually; Lozano became a long-time informant for Painter’s disgraced and dismantled operation, the Permian Basin Narcotics Task Force. After a lengthy investigation by the FBI and the Texas Rangers — which uncovered allegations of fraud, theft, evidence-tampering, and bribery — the Governor’s office shut down the old task force. The real question is why Lozano quit working for Painter a few years before things turned sour, and what he knows about the behind-the-scenes goings-on in the old days (for which no indictments were ever returned). Lozano did not return calls.

McCAIN’S APPEAL.

Progressives turned on by the John McCain candidacy see his campaign finance reform proposal as a sign that he might be a closet progressive. A look at the short list of McCain’s foreign policy advisors suggests otherwise. One of his advisors is Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.N. ambassador and one of the foreign-policy architects who helped Ronald Reagan and Ollie North implement the low-intensity conflict that destroyed Central America’s political left and much of the region’s economic infrastructure. McCain is also advised on foreign policy by the patriarch of low-intensity conflict: Henry Kissinger’s dissertation made the argument for a new kind of war, in which U.S. surrogates would wage long-term “brush wars” in places such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. And Mark Slater, the campaign speechwriter who helped write McCain’s autobiography, left Jeane Kirkpatrick’s staff to work on McCain’s Senate staff, according to The New York Times.

THE GRAMM CONNECTION.

Texas Republican Senator Phil Gramm is supporting George W. Bush, and the Senator recently played his Texas card as he dismissed Bush’s stunning loss to John McCain in New Hampshire. “No Texan has ever done well in New Hampshire. Those people expect candidates to grovel. Texans have many skills. Groveling is not one of them.” (Gramm, a Georgia native, didn’t do so well groveling and got only 9 percent of the New Hampshire vote, before ending his high-dollar, low-performance 1996 campaign for the presidency.) But it was Gramm’s field director who dreamed up the McCain presidential campaign. John Weaver is the San Antonio political consultant who ran Gramm’s presidential campaign, and his senate campaign against pickup-driving high school teacher Victor Morales. (Weaver said at the time of the Senate race he would have preferred Dallas Congressman John Bryant as an opponent, because unlike Morales Bryant had a record and could have been caricatured as a “Washington liberal out of touch with Texas voters.”) Weaver, who once served as executive director of the Texas Republican Party, was also responsible for the costly and failed effort to bring the Republican National Convention to San Antonio in 1996. Weaver was also Gramm’s field director during the Iowa caucus, when corporate chartered buses — including charters paid for by Iowa Beef Packers, where Gramm’s wife Wendy serves on the board of directors — ferried Gramm supporters to the caucus to cast their votes.

GWB AND BOB JONES.

Bill Bradley took an unexpected swing against Republican candidate George W. Bush, leaving his Democratic rival Al Gore outside the political boxing ring for a change. Bradley took Bush to task for his campaign stop and speech at Bob Jones University in South Carolina, where on February 2 Bush addressed more than 5,000 students. Bob Jones lost its tax-exempt status in the seventies because of a campus policy that prohibits interracial dating. “We had to fight to deny tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University unless it changed that policy,” Bradley said in a San Francisco speech quoted in The New York Times. “And yet the Republican candidate for president yesterday goes to Bob Jones University to make a speech about what conservatism is in this country. Well, ladies and gentlemen, that is what conservatism is, Bob Jones University, and it should be rejected.” The Times noted that Bradley has previously criticized Bush on racial issues. During the 1999 legislative session, Bradley traveled to Austin to criticize Bush’s refusal to support hate crimes legislation.

THE FARRELL FACTOR.

Did John Aloysius Farrell defeat George W. Bush in New Hampshire? During the past year, The Boston Globe political reporter has doggedly reported on Bush. Among Farrell’s articles in the largest-circulation newspaper in New England are reports about the Bush Pioneers, who pledge to raise $100,000 for the candidate. (“He has invited polluters to craft air pollution standards in a state that is facing federal sanctions for its dirty air.”) There is a “think piece” that informs readers that the Governor’s office in the state of Texas is a weak office. (“It’s probably the weakest governorship in the country,” former Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson tells Farrell.) There is a piece on the Governor’s pursuit of soft money. (“A Globe study of Federal Election Commission records shows that Bush’s fund-raisers have worked diligently at raising the unlimited, and virtually unregulated, donations known as soft money for the GOP.”) Another article by Farrell takes a critical look at Bush’s property tax cut in Texas, an achievement oft repeated by the Governor. (“Many taxpayers didn’t get the tax break, however, because the assessed value of their property was rising quickly in the booming economy, or because local officials raised their rates.”) And there was a look at Bush’s complaints about John McCain flying on corporate jets. (“F.E.C. records show that the Bush campaign has used corporate jets more than three dozen times. The Bush campaign, for example, used the Enron Corporation’s corporate airplane on seven occasions. Enron is a Houston-based energy giant that has had extensive dealings with the Texas government over utility deregulation and air pollution controls during Bush’s terms.”) Farrell’s work has a little more edge than the industry standard, but it’s all built on a foundation of extensive reporting, which is laid out in each article. His work also began to resonate beyond New England. In December, New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis cited a story by Farrell that observed that Bush had at the time presided over 113 executions, “more than any governor in modern times,” and that in the coming weeks Bush would preside over the executions of five additional men, “one of a prisoner with a mental age of seven, and two others who committed their crimes as juveniles.” Farrell seems to have followed the fundamental rule of political reporting — look at the record — and New England (and therefore New Hampshire) readers were probably better informed about Bush than many who read newspapers in his home state.

GITCHER HIGHTOWER HERE.

Jim Hightower’s latest magnum opus, If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates (the man has a thing about long titles) is now available in bookstores. Ergo, the author will also be available in bookstores, and radio stations, and TV studios, and whenever a progressive populist talk-show host will be allowed to flog his books. The early tour flows through New York, Virginia, D.C., and the west coast, and for those of you in Texas, Jim will be at BookPeople in Austin on February 17. At press time, the schedule was still building: for more information, or to schedule Hightower for a speech or booksigning in your area, call (512) 477-5588, or e-mail [email protected]

OKIE DOKIE?

If by his friends you shall know him, Governor Bush may wish to buy back his introduction to Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating. Keating is chairman of the Bush presidential campaign in Oklahoma and is reportedly lobbying for an appointment as Attorney General in a Bush administration. But he was in hot water recently, after he told an audience at Oral Roberts University January 31 that the best way to deal with the state teachers’ union is “homicide.” He also endeared himself to Democratic legislators by suggesting they need to “get religion,” that Democrats had kept Oklahomans “ignorant and poor,” and that Christian morality requires “small government.” As reported in the Tulsa World, “Keating’s mostly charismatic audience gobbled up his message that good citizenship, obedience to God and small government was the road to ‘deserved’ wealth.” Reporters did note that after the enthusiastic laughter in response to his “homicide” remark, Keating added, “Seriously, I think teaching, next to parenting, is one of the greatest callings a person can answer.” He later insisted his remarks were made in jest.

Democrats and teachers were not mollified, and several noted that students or teachers have incurred suspensions or even arrest for similar “jokes.” At the opening of the Oklahoma Legislature a few days later, some legislators boycotted Keating’s opening speech, and outside the Capitol, union members were calling for his resignation. Legislators suggested that like Atlanta Braves’ pitcher John Rocker, Keating needs insensitivity counseling.

Asking for help from baseball commissioner Bud Selig, one said, “Governor Keating has referred to teachers as ‘slugs,’ labeled low-income Oklahomans as ‘white trash’ and suggested that many rural Oklahomans are either ‘illiterate or are on drugs.'”

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