Guess who came to dinner? Houston The “Salute to John Connally” dinner in Houston on July 31 brought together more Democrats under one roof than have been seen since the last state convention. Law, there was a pile of meetin’ and greetin’ goin’ on that night. Roy Orr, former chairman of the State Democratic Executive Committee and incumbent Dallas County Commissioner, dined with Lew Sterrett, former Dallas County judge, and the lady who ran Hank Grover’s last campaign. Earl Luna, former Dallas County Democratic chairman, chatted amicably with Rep. Ray Hutchison, chairman of the state Republican Party, and that ol’ non-partisanship was running about thigh-high. Ben Barnes and Frank Erwin were much in evidence, but there were, alas, some no-shows. All four of the state’s top office-holders, Briscoe Hobby, Hill, and Clayton, appeared on the program as members of the extensive “host committee” for the affair. This fact had led Comptroller Bob Bullock to make several acerbic public comments about the muddle-headedness of Democrats who consider Connally non-partisan. Agriculture Commissioner John White, a great party loyalist \(he and Land Commissioner Bob Armstrong served as co-chairmen of the Texans for McGovern effort in ’72, while other state Democratic officials were avoiding that he hadn’t gotten an invitation to the Connally dinner and therefore had had no opportunity to refuse it. Billie Carr, the liberal Democratic National Committeewoman, said, “If any person believes that this money will be used for nonpartisan purposes, then he must also believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and Richard Nixon.” At the state AFL-CIO convention in Dallas, several speakers zinged the Democratic “hosts” for Connally: in fact, labor sentiment is still so anti-Connally that John Hill reportedly called Harry Hubbard the day before he was to appear at the labor convention and asked if he were still welcome. He was. 14 The Texas Observer Bob and Sara Roebuck Anchor National Financial Services 1524 E. Anderson Lane, Austin bonds stocks insurance mutual funds optional retirement program THE POLITICAL flak got so heavy that most of the office-holding “hosts” developed a sudden case of the busies right before the dinner. Briscoe was a no-show: according to his press secretary, Briscoe had never planned to actually appear at the dinner, in person, and had so informed the Connally folk from the beginning. Atty. Gen. John Hill, whom Connally had appointed secretary of state not so long ago, suddenly had urgent business before the Duval County grand jury. Speaker Billy Clayton, according to his office, had to be out of town for an important meeting and so missed the steak, spuds, and speeches. In fact, the palm for integrity that .night went to Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, the only one of the four with the grit to stand by his original commitment despite the political stir. It sounds kind of funny, but that may have been the gutsiest thing Hobby has done since he pleaded guilty to his DWI charge. Speaking of advanced forms of integrity, post-Watergate morality does not appear to have afflicted John Connally, despite his recent legal troubles over awkward appearances. What with between 3,000 and 3,500 people attending the dinner, not to mention the 1,000 fat cats who coughed up $250, $500, or $1,000 to attend that pre-dinner reception, the evening grossed more than $300,000. But Connally has no intention of telling anyone just how much more. In fact, when a Houston Chronicle reporter called Louie Welch, former Houston mayor and chairman of the dinner committee, to inquire about when the financial report would be made public, Welch more or less told him to mind his own business, that it was a private dinner, and he had no intention of making a report. Welch then reportedly called Connally to gripe about this journalistic impertinence and Connally in turn called Chronicle Editor Everett Collier to complain in person. Collier, who is ordinarily a Connally fan, reacted the way a journalist should, and apparently had harsh words with Connally in the course of standing up for his reporters’ right to ask whatever questions they wanted. Collier wound up getting so teed off with Connally that he himself didn’t attend the dinner. The pre-dinner reception was the classiest political do seen since pre-Preston Punch Briscoe days. The guests were all white, rich, and elegantly dressed. There was booze a-plenty and about 100 feet of super-munchies shrimp, crab, beef, ham, turkey, fruit, vegies, etc. Julian Read of Houston, Connally’s long-time political p.r. man, put the thing together. Leon Jaworski and AMPI lobbyists were not present. The dinner itself was a bit of a drag. The small fellow with the crewcut turned out not to be H. Ross Perot \(who was on the astronaut instead. Anna Chennault came from D.C., George Christian from Austin, and Sen. Bill Moore from Bryan; John Stemmons, Bob Cullum, Garry Weber, Trammell Crow, and Ted Strauss swelled the large Dallas contingent. Former Mayor Welch, of Democrats for Nixon fame, was the master of ceremonies. Connally managed to, dredge up four perfectly awful speakers about whom he said, “I have sat transfigured and enthralled by four of the most informed men of this nation . . . well-informed, knowledgeable, and courageous . . . [ they ] have completely captivated you. . . .” The speakers were dreadful plugs. that the Soyiets are embarked on world conquest and that their ultimate objective is to dominate the world. For some reason, this was applauded. He cited ominous statistics indicating that we’re falling behind the Soves in military strength and went on about how we mustn’t fall behind in the arms race and that will is very important. He was succeeded by Charls E. Walker, former Treasury Department undersecretary and now head of an economic consulting firm. Walker attempted to simplify international finance for the benefit of an audience composed in large part of those who run it. His speech included the following bits of enlightenment: “Marx’s Das Kapital was an economic tract. He drew his basic theory although incorrectly from the so-called classical economists . . . the old bromide that the world is getting smaller and smaller goes double in spades for economic relations . . . it takes two to tango. . . . As to our multinational corporations, they’re one of the greatest things since sliced bread.” I mean, he was a wow. NEXT WAS Dr. John J. McKetta, a professor of chemical engineering at our very own University of Texas, who is not happy with the country’s energy policy. He thinks the conduct of the Congress in relation to energy borders says the reason we’re in this mess is because of senseless, inflexible government regulations and the extreme demands of solutions, McKetta suggests an energy policy with teeth in it and a Czar who is
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