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turn it into a real marketing opportunity. Why not “Irish Night” on St. Patrick’s Day, for examplefind several death row inmates with Irish names to execute while playing a lively Irish jig. Maybe serve green beer all around. And since all executions are done in the name of the people, why shouldn’t the peo ple join in? July 4 seems like a natural have folks gather at the prisons, bringing their blankets, picnics and Frisbees. At some appointed hour, orchestras nationwide could play “The 1812 Overture” and the executions could begin, with fireworks going off above the prisons as each prisoner dies. States have become very clever at marketing their gambling programs, so surely they can design innovative and fun themes for executionsmaybe even have celebrity executioners: Is Sid Vicious still around? How about Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, Vanna White flipping switches on a special Wheel of Misfortune… MOLLY IVINS ‘Jerk’? That’s Nothing Gracious dearie me, who would have thought the sensibilities of Texas Republicans had become so delicate? They are in a tizzy, having the hot fantods, close to swooning because Gov. Ann Richards indirectly referred to Shrub Bush as “some jerk.” I distinctly recall having heard Republicans refer to their opponents as commies, queers, traitors, drug addicts and murderers during past campaigns. And of course what Texas Democrats have called one another cannot be repeated in a family newspaper. Those were the days, my friends, when Texas politics earned its reputation for hardball. And now we’re having the vapors over jerk? I especially appreciate the fine flush of indignation rising from Republican Party Chairman Tom Pauken, the man who taught Jim Mattox how to be mean. During two memorable Pauken-Mattox matches in the early 1980s, even grizzled veterans of Texas politics found the level of vituperation actually awesome. This is sissy stuff. Of course, it does require us to examine the timely question: Is Shrub Bush a jerk? In fairness to Richards, it must seem as though Bush is a jerk. If you had spent much of your first term building prisons and doing law n’ order stuffespecially at the price of not getting a raise for schoolteachers and other things you really wanted to do of course it would annoy you if some jerk came along and said that a drop in crime rates is unimportant. The jerk who actually said that was George W. Bush’s campaign adviser, Karl Rove, and I confess that jerk is not the word that came to mind when I heard himalthough that word also starts with a “j.” Shrub’s new TV ad only implies that the drop in crime rates is unimportant by announcing in a voice of doom that “the num Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist with the Fort Worth StarTelegram. ber of violent crimes is up.” \(Actually, even the number is up only in some categories. guess that makes Shrub Bush a jerk only be implicationor, as Richards’ campaign so genteelly put it, it was not a personal remark but was made “in a generic fashion.” That’s one of the funniest distinctions in the history of politics. Actually, this raises a profound semantic question: Can one act like a jerk or sound like a jerk without being a jerk? Can we hate the jerkiness but not the jerk? I leave this to theologians. The fact is that Shrub is not a jerk. It would be nice to dismiss him as a hopeless lightweight because he has no credentials. Ted Kennedy’s first opponent used to go around saying, “If this man’s name was Smith, nobody would vote for him.” Kennedy has since gone on to amass the third-longest legislative record in American historynot, one suspects, a precedent that the Republicans are happy about. But young Ted Kennedy, like Shrub Bush, was especially galling to his opponents because all he had was a famous name, and he hadn’t even earned it himself. It’s not as though Bush were Tom Landry or Willie Nelson or even Ronald Reagan, who at least earned his own fame before he went into politics. Had Bush’s name been Shrub Smith, he wouldn’t even have gotten the nomination. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s smart for the Richards campaign to try to dismiss Shrub as though he were some political pygmy, to be brushed off just because he’s never held office before. In the first place, pointing out that you have political experience and your opponent has none is not exactly shrewd politics these days. For veterans like Richards and Lieut. Gov . Bob Bullock, who know how hard it is to get anything done and who carry a lot of scars from the fights they’ve been in, the temptation to dismiss some puppy who’s yapping, “Vote for meI’ve never done anything,” is understandable. But folks are so fed up with politicians these days that anyone who can claim outsidership has a built-in advan tage. It’s the same impulse that drives the term limitation movement: The people who are in office have made such a mess, let’s put in a bunch of people who have no experiencethey can’t possibly do worse. \(Alth6ugh this flies in the face of a time-tested Besides which, as anyone who has met Shrub Bush will attest, he’s not a lightweight. He’s a lot brighter than some people who already hold public office, he’s working like a dog at this campaign and it’s real hard to dislike the guy. Now, I don’t think his ideas about state government amount to much. The very fact that he’s running around saying he’ll do this and that and the other if elected is proof that he doesn’t know how state government works. \(Welcome to the weak-governor system, one running for public office without making promises impossible to keep? In sum, let us put this teapot tempest where it belongs in the long view of Texas politics: Referring to your opponent as a jerkin the generic rather than the personal sense, of courseis gentility personified. THREE DECADES OF DOUBT 30th Anniversary of the Warren Commission Report A National Conference, October 7-10, 1994 Coalition on Political Assassinations Sheraton Washington Hotel, D.C. What’s New in the JFK Assassination Files? Medical, Photographic, Ballistic Experts Current Revelation in RFK and MLK Murders Call 202 -310-1858 for information. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13