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Available for private parties 0 lik% I Unique European Charm 0 if & Atmosphere 0 0, ‘Special Low Spring & Summer Rates % Pets Welcome 61 ,1423 CS” Port Aransas, TX 78373 w $ cat/ for Reservations ,,1 OA,* ,….4g w , v s 1………. Ot Kitchenettes-Cable TV 0 Vir Pool O, e beside the Gulf of Mexico oa k . On Mustang Island MOLLY IVINS Balancing John’s Myth Austin DE MOIdUIS NIL NISI BONUM and all that, but the hagiographic slop being printed about John Connally has reached such a dangerous level, it seems to me we need to go back to try to take a balanced look at the man’s public life. Let me start by saying that I think John Connally was a good governor for Texas. His enduring legacy to the state was building and financing a system of higher education that occasionally threatens to move us into the first rank. Connally not only believed in first-rate higher education, but he also believed that it should be so inexpensive that even poor kids could afford to attend. His loyalty to his own alma mater, the University of Texas, benefitted schools all over the state. It’s one thing for a governor just to be for something so clearly in the public good, but Connally was also willing to put his political clout on the line to raise the taxes to pay for it. He had to fight off the know-nothingism and anti-intellectualism that is always easy Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. ob loomiN Sea *WO Horse Inn .1.4 to stir up here against “red perfessers” and such riffraff. And he also went to bat to convince his big-rich corporate buddies that it was in their own best interest to pony up for a good university system. One could attribute that success to his leadership or his charisma, but most of the credit probably goes to the “silver bullet” that hit Connally on November 22, 1963, in Dallas. That he was injured alongside “the martyred president,” as people used to say, made Connally politically invulnerable during his governorship. The dark side of the Connally years was race. Whether Connally was personally prejudiced against blacks and browns or whether he just thought that recognizing their citizenship was politically disadvantageous, I neither know nor care. Because in terms of public policy, that’s a distinction without a difference. Connally broke with his mentor Lyndon Johnson over the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act, the one that opened restaurants and other public facilities to people of any color. Texas was late and slow in recognizing civil rights in large part because Connally provided no leadership. I suspect that it was not so much racial prejudice as Ronnie Dugger’s old description of Connally: “He never messed with the topwaters,” the little fish that swim on the top of the pond. Connally liked to play with the big fish, the rich and powerful ones that swim deep. At least since he went to work for Sid Richardson in the early ’50s and got rich himself off Richardson’s estate, Connally had preferred the world of private corporate jets with leather seats and big players. Again, with the notable exception of his stand for public universities. ANDERSON & COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 512 453-1533 Send me your list. . Name Street City Zip Connally’s contempt for the topwaters was graphically demonstrated in 1966, when a poor, raggle-taggle bunch of farm workers from the Valley, headed by local priests, started to march to Austin to ask for an increase in the state minimum wage. Twentyfive cents an hour they got for stoop labor in the blazing Valley sun. All they wanted to do was present a petition to the governor asking for an increase; this was no labor movement, no Cesar Chavez deal. They marched hundreds of miles in the summer sun to get to the Capitol on Labor Day. Some people turned dogs loose on them; other Anglos kindly let them drink out of their garden hoses. Two days before they got to Austin, Connally, Ben Barnes and Waggoner Carr drove out in an air-conditioned Lincoln to meet the marchers. They shook a few hands, congratulated the marchers on their orderliness and then announced that they wouldn’t be in Austin to accept the petition on Labor they got back in their air-conditioned Lincoln and drove off, leaving the marchers there in the dust by the side of the road. Politically, Connally kept this a conservative, one-party state through the ’60s, mashing down liberal challenges with memorable ruthlessness. Liberals now recall those intramural donnybrooks with a certain nostalgic fondness, but they were less fun at the time. I covered Connally’s bribery trial in Washington. I thought he was incredibly lucky to have a defense lawyer as fine as Edward Bennett Williams. I’ve never doubted that he took the $10,000 from the milk producers or that he did not consider it a bribe. It was just the way things were done in those ethically challenged days. Connally believed the purpose of government was to help bidness. When he ran for president in 1976, almost every corporate chief in America was for him and no one else. He spent nearly $12 million and netted one delegate. All the bidness executives with corporate jets who wanted to look like the handsome Connally turned out not to be much of a political base. After his political career ended, Connally returned to his most valuable role as a public citizen, supporting higher education. As head of a citizen’s commission on tax reform, he even endorsed a state income tax, once again showing his understanding of the simple premise that if you want good government, you have to pay for it. 8 JULY 2, 1993 “.,.,,,’0, 4-.4,,