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MOLLY IVINS Interesting Times Austin Sheesh. Sest lah vye, Mabel. I’ll say one thing for the results of the recent plebiscite: It is sure as hell going to be interesting for the next couple of years. What an utterly fabulous cast of characters. Strom Thurmond, 92, chairman of Armed Services. Jesse Helms, chair of Foreign Relations. Alphonse D’ Amato, chair of Banking. Orrin Hatch, chair of Judiciary. And in the House, Speaker Noot. I must confess that once the election started to break Republican, I was rooting for all of them and was terribly disappointed when both 011ie North and Michael Huffington bit the dust. You have to think entertainment at times like this, and the rule is: The more outrageous, the better. It brings to mind the glory days of the Reagan era, when he kept appointing people like James Watt to jobs like Secretary of Interior. You could never tell whether he meant it as a joke or not. One thing we can say in favor of the results is that at least it will clear up the confusion on the Blame Patrol. We’ve all been pointing fingers in 360 different directions, and now it’s simple: We get to blame the Republicans. Texas is in relatively good shape. There’s nothing actively wrong with Shrub Bush, and as we keep reminding you, the governor of Texas does not have much power. We blow some great chances for entertainment here. At one point, it looked as though we might get Marta Greytokknown in Public Utility Commission circles as “Attila the Bun”for land commissioner, but no, you put boring old Garry Mauro back in, and all he’ll do is run around trying to save the environment, to the general annoyance of all who profit from its rape. And darn, no Gene Fontenot out of Houston, the guy who had God for an interior decorator. Ken Bentsen, indeed. You know perfectly well that none of those Bentsens has an ounce of Elvis. On other hand, we have managed to put Steve Mansfield on the Court of Criminal Appealsthe fellow who suffers from, ah, rsum problems. Mansfield was endorsed by the victims-rights group Justice for All, but they suspended their endorsement after learning that Mansfield seems never to have practiced criminal law. It’s Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. not just that Mansfield put stuff on his rsum that’s not true; it’s the stuff he left off that’s sort of interesting, too. He seems to have lost two races for Congress in New Hampshire, and we’re not sure what he did in Massachusetts. Is it time to consider appointing judges instead of electing them, team? And despite the best efforts of an alert gone and put three of those stealth Christians on the State Board of Education, giving the Republicans a one-vote majority. Don’t say we didn’t warn you about this one. You get careless in those down-ballot races and the weirdest stuff happens. Newt Gingrich’s Contract with Americathe one that promises a balanced-budget amendment, tax cuts and more military spending in the first 100 days of the next sessionprovides us with a substantial snack for thought. What should a patriot do? Try to stop it? Let them be hoist on their own petard? It is tempting to envision a strategy of Democrats’ sitting on their hands while the Republicans cut Social Security and otherwise endear themselves to the populace. But as Milhous Nixon once said, it would be wrong. Clinton is an incurable compromiser anyway, so he’ll be GATTing with these guys and telling us all what statesmen they would do well to try a little carpe diem. One thing this election proves is that we’re all sick and tired of this whole disgusting political mess. Now is the time for campaign finance reform, spending limits, PAC limits, the whole package. My own Modest Proposal is as follows: “No candidate for public office shall be permitted to buy either time or space in any news medium. Compensatory time and space for the purpose of debate on the issues shall be provided by the media.” Do I think that Gingrich, the man who killed lobby reform and then bragged about it to lobbyists while he hit them up for big bucks, is going to do this? No. But we’ll know where the blame lies. Given the fiscal irresponsibility of Republicans, Clinton should also remind these folks that the economy is now growing \(and would be doing better if the Fedthe deficit is going down, and any change in those conditions will be on their heads. Aside from that, I look forward to a fantastic display of gooniness, spiced, of course, by the piquant sight of our newly elected Republican leaders trying to kill each other off as they vie for the nomination in 1996. A people whose stomachs were strengthened by the Reagan years should be able to get through this laughing all the way. Return Power to Whom? I listen to Republican rhetoric about how power should be returned to “the states” with some degree of alarm. It sounds so good in the abstractby George, gummint should be closer to the people, those beanbrains in Washington don’t know anything about our problems here. But then one realizes what that means in specific is the Texas Legislature. They want to give more power to the Texas Legislature. Yep, that same old collection of guys with pots on their heads. I regret to report that familiarity with the Texas Lege does not breed respect. But I am happy to report that many of the new members of the Lege give promise of upholding the old standards. For example, the new state senator from Carthage is Drew Nixon, who was arrested last year in Dallas with three prostitutes outside his car. He pleaded no contest to a weapons charge. You can tell Nixon will be a great state senator: Not one prostitute but three. This is right in the old “Too Much Is Not Enough” tradition. Overall, the Democrats, who had hoped to pick up a couple of seats in the Senate because of redistricting, wound up losing one, for a 17-14 partisan split. Lite Guv Bob Bullock can also call on a couple of Republicans when he,’ s got a have-to deal. The House also had little change in its profile: net loss of one Democratic seat. Speaker Pete Laney told the press with straight face that the House has never been out of touch with the conservatism of Texas voters. I’d say so myself. Actually, there weren’t a lot of seats in play this year. Redistricting left the House with a bunch of safe seats on both sides, so nobody did much candidate recruitment. Among the notable losses: Tony Parra, who got elected by dragging a large wooden cross around El Paso but never contributed much thereafter. Betty Denton of Waco, who always voted right but earned a reputation as the Carlos Truan of the House. Many a time we , have heard a desperate lobbyist plead, “Betty, please don’t get up to speak for our side. Please don’t get on the mike.” In the Senate, Steve Carriker lost to Republican Tom Haywood, who has Parkin THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11