As a proud Texan, I don’t think Gov. Goodhair has done enough to cement our worldwide reputation as a bunch of barbaric yowps. Delighted as I am at the Ken Doll’s decision to continue executing people with IQs lower than those of a Labrador retriever, I think we could make ourselves look even worse. I recommend a bunch of drunken frat boys outside The Walls in Huntsville singing and cheering when Johnny Paul Penry dies, still believing in Santa Claus.
Goodhair’s Father’s Day Massacre of 78 bills demonstrates a method to his madness. The vetoes were either, a) anti-labor, b) pro-insurance or, c) bills the lobbyist Mike Toomey (our shadow governor) was hired to kill off. The only exception to the pattern is execution of the mentally retarded. In the face of world opinion (and at least 73 percent of all Texans also favor stopping such executions), our governor showed his backbone: It’s like a plank and runs straight up through his head, filling that otherwise vacant cavity.
There is no political percentage in killing the mentally retarded, though it must be noted that Penry was convicted of the rape and murder of a lovely young woman: She was recently married, just moved into a new house and was planning to have children. She came from a fine family in a small East Texas town, and her folks will be crippled by this crime until the day they die. Of course, Penry doesn’t know whether or not he did it. He’s not denying it, he’s not confessing it: he’s just confused.
Could Penry be faking retardation? Sure. If you ignore his entire history, which you don’t even want to know about because it’s so hideous. He probably takes out the coloring books he works on during the day, then at night, after the guards have left, commences to write learned commentaries on esoteric German philosophers.
And now to politics. The line-up of candidates for next year’s statewide elections are in the phase that looks like the beginning of a football play, where they’re all hunkered down, one of the guys on one side shifts, then the other side shifts, and so on for a spell. I am a late and reluctant convert to Tony Sanchez. Personally, I had been supporting Ken Lay, chairman and CEO of Enron Corporation, for the Democratic nomination for governor. First, he’s super-rich, so he’d be self-financing. Next, he’s given a lot of money to George W. Finally, even though his last name does not end with Z, it does end with Y, which is real close. The dream candidate, no?
Alas, we appear to be stuck with Sanchez–who else do you want? Ben Barnes? Marty Akins, bless his heart, is a no-hoper. His minions aren’t doing him any good by beating up the press for not taking him seriously: The press is quite simple-minded–a serious candidate is one with beaucoup de bucks. When we get public campaign financing, the Marty Akinses of this world will have a shot.
Meanwhile though, Sanchez is, horror of horrors, a banker. His bank, International Bank of Commerce, has an unusual reputation. It’s not the Grameen Bank (the famous one that helps poor people in Bangladesh), but it does make a lot of small loans in the Valley, getting capital to people who use it to start at the bottom of the entrepreneurial ladder. (One of the great ironies of politics is that Republicans, who are always carrying on about the critical importance of entrepreneurs, never seem to notice the only way to get access to capital is to have capital.) Sanchez has taken the pro-choice pledge and is otherwise quite presentable, so will all Democrats please cooperate and be good little boys and girls, just like Republicans, while the money people make this decision for us?
Remember, in the primary you get to vote your heart and not your sense. And keep working for campaign finance reform.
John Sharp, who is probably the best politician the D’s have left with statewide name recognition, is running for lite gov, where the most likely R is Sen. David Sibley of Waco, who played exceptionally hard ball on redistricting, which may yet work against the R’s.
The thrilling rumor that Phil Gramm might retire naturally causes all our hearts to beat faster, especially those of Republican politicos–they’re all into back-up plays on who will go for what if Gramm does retire. We should be that lucky. Meanwhile, Cecile Richards, daughter of Ann and David and long-time toiler in the vineyards for justice, wants to run for land commissioner. This may or may not be a problem for Mayor Wonderful, Kirk Watson of Austin, who has talked about both that race and attorney general. Mayor Wonderful is a specimen: absolutely everybody thinks he’s wonderful–including, I must confess, me. If you’re looking for an electable Democrat, you can’t do better.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ron Kirk of Dallas is on the list of what Art Buchwald calls The Great Mentioner. Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston, hero of the last session, refuses to run. Given the experience of Harvey Gantt in North Carolina (lost twice to Jesse Helms), I can’t honestly say I think Texas is ready to elect a black citizen to statewide office (God knows, Barbara Jordan never believed it for a minute). But I sure would like to see Ellis try. Maybe later.
All in all, the apparently dead D’s of Texas may yet produce an extremely strong rainbow ticket. Stranger things have happened. In fact, stranger things happen with great regularity in this state. O.K., team, now let’s get out there and kill more people for being mentally handicapped. Hustle!
Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated columnist. Her book with Louis Dubose, Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, is out in paperback.