The Biggest Wusses in Texas


I know it’s not polite to bring this up, but Dick Cheney is part-Texan by choice. When he was heading Halliburton in the 1990s, the Cheney clan occupied some 4,700 square feet of Highland Park until Dick convinced his li’l buddy to nominate him for vice president. Cheney then had to hastily re-establish his Wyoming citizenship to bypass-of all things!-constitutional complications. You can’t have a president and veep from the same state. Unfortunately, the founders did not consider the perils of having them hail from the same state of mind.

Ever since he began his post-VP transformation into the Nancy Grace of homeland security, the essential cast of Cheney’s thinking has been starkly laid bare. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former State Department chief of staff, has called him “a man who lives on fear.” Powell has decried Cheney’s paranoid “fever” over the terrorist threat. Those who’d known Cheney for decades, including the late President Gerald Ford, saw something frighteningly different in the fellow who cooked up the war on ­terror and the torture regime. “Cheney has become much more pugnacious,” was Ford’s mild way of putting it.

Which makes you wonder: Is it something he picked up through intimate contact with Texas Republicans?

If anybody can top Cheney for runaway paranoia, it’s the GOP honchos of Texas. As soon as the words “close Guantanamo” passed President Obama’s lips in January, Sen. “Big Bad John” Cornyn dashed off a letter to the commander-in-chief declaring he would “do everything in my power to keep those terrorists out of Texas.” Nineteen of Texas’ Republican members of Congress-with only Ron Paul abstaining-quickly followed with a missive to the same effect.

Obama had not yet revealed his plan to give Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a smart new suit and turn him loose in Abilene. But Texas Republicans were not fooled. “We will do everything in our power to prevent the transfer or release of known terrorists into the neighborhoods and communities of Texas,” vowed Rep. Lamar Smith, who’d previously turned heads by declaring that “99 percent” of Americans support waterboarding.

“Terrorists in Texas?” cried Rep. Pete Olson. “Not on my watch!”

Of course, the feds had been ­scheming for years to overrun the Lone Star state with radical Islamists. As Rep. John Culberson told a House panel in 2005, “you do not need to go to Baghdad to see the war on terror-you can go to Laredo.” Texas, Culberson said, was being innundated with terrorists who pretend to be Hispanic “to elude detection and blend into the flood of illegal immigrants coming across the southern border.”

Rep. Pete Sessions, for one, sees a bright spot in it all. The GOP, he told Hotline, can learn a lot from the enemy. Citing the Taliban as “a model,” Sessions said it’s time for Republicans “to start thinking of themselves as an ­insurgency.”

Which suggests a question: Are Texas’ Republican leaders really the world’s ­biggest paranoid wusses-or, as some have suggested, are they actually America’s canniest practitioners of the politics of fear?

Maybe it’s both. “The whole aim of practical politics,” H.L. Mencken once wrote, “is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins.” If that’s true, it’s no wonder such scaredy cats are dominating Texas politics. They don’t have to make it up. Their fevered brows just naturally swarm with hobgoblins.