One of the Capital City’s most curious features is how often an event takes place here that collides two direct cross-purposes: the real-life equivalent of an oxymoron. The U.S. Senate, for instance, often convenes just so that one senator can use procedural arcana to prevent the body from voting; while out in the lobby, myriad mysterious organizations regularly issue press releases specifically timed so as to garner as little media attention as possible.
Such a structural contradiction was elaborately in evidence March 2, as the D.C. Chapter of the Texas Exes (U.T.-Austin’s alumni organization) marked Texas Independence Day. The annual event formally serves as a fundraiser for the endowment of the Barbara Jordan Scholarship Fund. The scholarship allows one student, each year, to attend the LBJ School of Public Affairs — a student who shows the potential to follow in Jordan’s sizable footsteps by providing leadership on civil rights issues. But this year, the occasion also served as a forum to honor retiring arch-conservative Congressman Bill Archer (and to feature unfortunately-not-retiring scheduled keynote speaker, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison). U.T. Vice Chancellor Mark Franz also announced plans for the University’s Bill Archer Center — to be built in Washington, and in theory to serve as a D.C. base for U.T. students working in the Capital. How this transparent boondoggle will actually relate to U.T.’s educational mission remains somewhat speculative, but Left Field is confident it will provide a handy venue for visiting U.T. System administrators on tour for a bout of congressional arm-twisting — not to mention after-hours congressional elbow-bending.
The Army and Navy Club is already a posh address, just a block from the lobbyists in the legendary power alley of K Street. The Exes assembled in the John Paul Jones Ballroom, a long parquet-floored rectangle bedecked with oil paintings of distinguished naval heroes (but nary a Lone Star flag). As busts of Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman stood guard outside the doors, once-and-forever Longhorns circulated and schmoozed, grazing on fried crab balls and fresh eggrolls. The drinking was restrained (cash bar), and only Heineken and Miller Lite ready to hand. (A six-pack of Shiner Bock longnecks sat teasingly nearby, but it was only winsome decor for the silent auction.)
The Club’s lobby directory had misidentified the gathering as “The Texas Executives”; that turned out not so far from the truth. The crowd was dominated by graying white men, hairlines receding and waistlines expanding. Here and there strolled a few ladies with high-dollar ‘dos, and a smattering of dapper youngsters, although the entire crowd soon coalesced into a shimmering blur of Burnt Orange: a vibrating, school-spirited wave of orange ties, orange hats, orange vests, orange scarves, orange handkerchiefs, orange everything.
The tables teeming with auction items underscored the local demographics, not to mention the University’s most noteworthy educational distinctions: a mini-basketball signed by Coach Rick Barnes, a football signed by Coach Mack Brown, a hat signed by Coach Emeritus Darrell Royal, a football autographed by every member of the 1999 team. There were U.T.-logo golf balls, U.T. cufflinks, a copy of golf guru Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, a pass to stand next to “Smokey the Cannon” at next fall’s U.T.-A&M football game (during which the discriminating fan will certainly require some burnt orange ear plugs), a pass to sit in the dugout for a U.T. baseball game, Christmas lights in the shape of the sacred Longhorn Logo. The list went on, and included at least one obvious non-sporting item: a model jet signed by Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger (whose Fort Worth district is home to various aircraft factories, which Left Field guesses made the jet politically correct).
As the proceedings turned from networking to speechifying, the going got stranger. The sports motif persisted, as Terry Orr, former U.T. and Washington Redskins football star — and apparently the only African American (other than the waitstaff, of course) in attendance — read aloud the legendary epistle written by Colonel William Travis from inside the besieged Alamo. Loyal Left Fielders should recall this hallowed text: it was most recently employed by Governor Bush to gamely inspire the desperate U.S. Ryder Cup golfers to their heroic comeback as they beat back the impertinent Limeys.
Orr was clearly touched by the prose of Travis, a portentous combination of maudlin and machismo. As he came to a close, he added, “This is my favorite part: ‘p.s.: The Lord is on our side. When the enemy appeared, we had only three bushels of corn, but since then, we have found in nearby deserted houses another seventy or eighty bushels.'” Orr spoke of his reverence for Travis, his admiration for Congressman Archer (not, so far as Left Field could determine, present at the Alamo), and his honor at being invited. Orr never mentioned Barbara Jordan.
This apparently anomalous omission quickly became the implicit but unspoken theme of the evening: to attend the event, 175 people had paid between $35 and $1,000 each, a donation clearly identified on the invitation as a contribution to the Barbara Jordan Scholarship Endowment — and no one said a single word either about the Endowment, nor about the African-American Congresswoman in whose honor it is named.
No one mentioned Barbara Jordan. Not the chapter president when he spoke. Not Terry Orr. Not U.T. Vice Chancellor Franz. Not Bill Archer. Kay Bailey Hutchison was detained by a series of Senate floor roll-call votes, but it is Left Field’s considered and deliberate opinion that had Hutchison made it, she too would have failed to mention Barbara Jordan.
Bill Archer did get a bit misty about the entire occasion: “I am emotionally touched by tonight, for a variety of reasons.” Barbara Jordan was not among them. William Barrett Travis was — as was Terry Orr, and the Washington Redskins, and U.T. (“I have no greater emotional attachment in my life than to the University of Texas,” Archer said, moments later remembering to add the caveat, “except my family and my God.”) Archer did address the importance of diversity of opinion: “I believe we should respect those who disagree with us, and those who stand up for what they believe in.” One might guess this rhetorical flourish perhaps to be an elliptical mention of Jordan, but one would be wrong: Archer had in mind Travis (whose opinions were not notably at issue at the Alamo). Archer closed with his admiration for Thomas More (not a registered Texas Ex, but definitely raw Longhorn material), as rendered in the film, A Man for All Seasons.
The audience clapped politely, though not quite as politely as it had for Terry Orr. It was time to sing “The Eyes of Texas,” concluding with thunderous applause; then the U.T. fight song — followed by even more thunderous applause, accompanied by a good bit of semi-discreet foot-stomping.
The event was noisy enough for an Austin beer bash. Yet as Left Field departed, the silence surrounding the absent name of Barbara Jordan reverberated into the D.C. night.
While President Bush preferred pork rinds and the Oak Ridge Boys when he wanted to get down, George W. requires a little more sabor. Emilio Navaira — a one-namer, “Emilio,” like the late Selena — is Bush’s Latino pop icon. For the ’98 governor’s race, Emilio reworked a Bush campaign version of the hit “Juntos,” a ballad about two lovers so devoted to each other that they remain together (juntos) in Heaven. And as recently as the Iowa straw poll, Emilio was the Latino hat act in Bush’s C&W road show which (mercifully) does not include the four-ball, basso profundo drone of “the Oaks.”
But it could be that Bush and Emilio are juntos no más. As Ramiro Burr recently reported in the San Antonio Express-News, Emilio’s career and personal life seem to be on the skids. It’s not likely that Bush will drop Emilio just because he wasn’t even mentioned — for the first time in a decade — in the nominations for this year’s Tejano Music Awards. There’s another problem. Emilio has gotten crosswise with the law, in a minor domestic dispute that involves throwing a set of keys at his girlfriend in a public place, and perhaps even worse as potential attack ads go — kicking a dog.
A little dog.
A little dog, from Mexico.
And Emilio has used the dog’s Mexican pedigree to justify kicking it.
Emilio’s domestic violence charge, and a divorce from his wife of ten years, presents Bush with a minor “domestic” problem. Perrogate is an “international” incident that could dog Emilio and cause problems for Bush.
Emilio says he didn’t “kick” the dog. “My girlfriend has a little schnauzer,” he told Ramiro Burr. “We were in the hotel lobby, and the dog is from Mexico. So he didn’t know about automatic doors that close. The door opened and the dog wanted to run. I said ‘This guy is going to get run over.’ So I stuck my foot out to stop the dog while I was trying to walk.”
Left Field has learned from informed sources that there are automatic doors in Mexico. Miguel Váldez is the co-owner of Herrería Váldez, a Saltillo, Coahuila, business that manufacturers door and window frames. “Well, yes, we have automatic doors in Mexico,” Váldez said in a telephone interview with Left Field. Váldez said his small company manufactures metal doors, not automatic doors. But he recalls seeing his first automatic door some twenty years ago. “The first automatic door I saw was at Autodiscuenta, when I was in high school,” Váldez said. Autodiscuenta is a grocery chain controlled by former Mexican President Luis Echeverria. More recently, market penetration by the U.S. businesses that rushed into Mexico after NAFTA has resulted in the spread of automatic doors.
Vàldez suggested that unless Emilio’s girlfriend’s schnauzer is from a very small town or village, where there are no automatic doors, the “Mexican-dog-in-an-automatic-door” defense might not hold up.
Emilio’s February trial in San Antonio, on charges of assault and resisting arrest, has been rescheduled until August. He claims that he is “factually innocent of all charges.” And the Bush campaign, bogged down in its daily attack pages aimed at Al Gore, has had no comment on Emilio’s canine conundrum. But an Austin journalist watching the Bush campaign thinks it might be over for Bush and Emilio.
“Bush will drop that guy faster than Clinton dropped Lani Guinier,” the source said.