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VIC HINTER LANG Lena Guerrero at the AFL-CIO Convention Making Claims and Taking Responsibility BY MOLLY IVINS Austin OOOOOEW, LENA! What a mess. One can find any number of excuses for the various claims that have been made by and for Texas Railroad Commissioner Lena Guerrero, but ultimately, her claim that she believed she was a graduate of the University of Texas is simply not credible. True, lots of people who go to UT never attend graduation ceremonies in cap and gown with proud family in attendance they go straight to work, leave town, whatever. On the other hand, when you have graduated, the school sends you a diploma. There is no disgrace attached to not being a college graduate; there is to lying about it. I suppose resume inflation is one of the curses of our time; someone did a study not long ago showing it was common as dirt. But in politics, when the stuff hits the fan, the only thing to do is come clean. Ask Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and a cast of thousands. \(On the other hand, if you want to ask George Bush what he knew about Iran-contra having claimed to be from a poor migrant family, etc. I have heard her speak at least 50 times over the years, often with her mother in attendance, and all she ever says is that she worked in the fields as a kid, which she did, in the summers. So do lots of kids. That doesn’t make them migrant workers. Richard Hamner, Guerrero’s longtime partner at Bravo Communication, says he is the culprit who wrote the campaign bio seven or eight years ago that claims Guerrero was in Phi Beta Kappa and makes it appear that she was a migrant worker \(though it does note that she and her brothers and sisters worked only nine children. Her father who managed a lumber yard, died of cancer when she was 11, and her mother went to work in the school cafeteria in Mission. I’d say she came up the hard way. There are assumptions that get made and repeated about people without their cooperation: I have heard myself introduced before giv Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, in which this originally appeared. Copyright] 992 Creators Syndicate Inc. 6 OCTOBER 2, 1992 ing speeches as “a native Texan.” That will happen if you have an accent. Actually, I was born in Monterey, Calif., and didn’t move here until I was 4, but I have never bothered to correct the introducer. On the other hand, no one ever introduced me as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. I think the Republicans are justified in saying, “If you take the credit, you take the responsibility.” That Guerrero has not claimed to be a college graduate on important documents, for example, on the filing form for her nomination to Railroad Commissioner, just makes her claim that she thought she was a graduate even thinner. Having parsed all that sorry hash, the next question is, should it make any difference? Bill Clements always claimed to have started as “an oilfield roughneck,” despite the fact that he grew up in Highland Park and went to Southern Methodist University. Lyndon Johnson claimed he fought in World War II, when he had only gone as a congressional observer. Ronald Reagan regularly claimed any number of dotty things, including that he had helped liberate concentration camps. I suppose Patrick Buchanan would say that’s an example of the dread moral relativism, but then, I’ve never felt inclined to take moral advice from Buchanan, who has made a career out of being as nasty as possible. In the larger scheme of things, of course, it makes no difference whether Lena Guerrero is a college graduate or a few hours short. It doesn’t change the kind of job she’s done as Railroad Commissioner, which is excellent. It doesn’t change what might usefully be done to revive the energy industry in this state. It doesn’t change whether or not trucking in this state needs to be de-regulated and, if so, how. It doesn’t change any of the important decisions she will make in the future. But it is a shame. Meanwhile, on matters electoral that do matter, we’ve been subjected to some particularly pin-headed discussion of the environment lately. George Bush was out in the Northwest to do a little spottedowl bashing and claim that “two-thirds of this country’s old-growth forest is federally protected.” It is enough to make one gag. The problem, friends, is that there is almost no old-growth forest left in this country. I have nothing against tree farms and think East Texas is a dandy place to raise pine trees we can sell to Japan, hopefully for exorbitant sums. But why in the name of God would we cut down what little remains of our old growth forests to make paper for the Japanese? The little old growth’ forest that is still being cut will be gone in a few yearsand I do mean a very few, especially if the Forest Service continues to subsidize logging by paying for the roads. Meantime, anyone who has been in the West lately will tell you we can continue to rake in cash from the Japanese indefinitely by leaving the forests untouched: Japanese tourists are crawling all over what’s left of our natural treasures, flooding the national parks, spending good tourist dollars to see Yellowstone and Glacier and everything else that remotely resembles a pristine wilderness. Forget the spotted owl, could we please just show a little sense about money here? ,t1 ,P We*: