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Permanent Values BY MOLLY IVINS My favorite thing at the Texas Republican Convention was the advertising in the back of the hall that constituted an almost perfect record of the major scandals, conflicts of interest, and bad public policy that have occurred during the W. Bush gubernatorial administration. There they all were, proudly displaying their gratitude to Bush and the party. It was a near-perfect metaphor for American politics today. Chemical had several of the small billboards for each part of the hall. Dow and the rest of the chemical industry were given onethird of the seats on the Texas equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency when Bush got into office. He appointed a lobbyist for the Texas Chemical Council to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. This citizen had spent thirty years working for Monsanto. He used his position as one of the top environmental officials of Texas to go to Washington to testify that ozone is benign, and to oppose strengthening federal air quality standards. Being in Houston during the lovely summer ozone season reminds us all how grateful we must be for this kind of zealous watchdoggery of our air quality. Also advertising its gratitude to Bush was TXU, formerly Texas Utilities, which under Bush’s deregulation scheme is trying to stick consumers with $3.7 billion in “stranded costs” a.k.a. dumb management decisions. Enjoy that on your summer utility bill. And how nice to see an ad from a grateful Metabolife. According to the May 22 issue of Time magazine, Texas was fixing to regulate ephedrine, an amphetamine-like stimulant widely used for weight loss. Ephedrine products had been linked to eight deaths and 1,400 health problems in Texas, so the health commissioner was ready to regulate. But according to Time, Metabolife International of San Antonio hired a San Antonio law firm headed by some of Bush’s closest political associates, and instead there was a meeting with the commissioner, who then decided to bring in an outside lawyer to more massive ritual just adjourning in the Convention Center. While one could argue that the protest group was undoubtedly more representative of what Jon Lindsay would call central Houston’s millions of “bad” voters than the gathered Republicans, the most forcible impression was that these two groups of Texans live on quite different planets, and never the twain shall meet. But for the moment, let’s Think Positive. David Dewhurst left us with the reassuring promise that in the new Republican future, we will all have “the opportunity to swim in the lake of [our] neighborhood, and eat the fish,” as well as “the opportunity to fill out a simple tax form” \(presumably with watertion the results of the Texas Exile program, the Bush administration’s pretense of gun law enforcement: “200 arrests of career criminals, and 600 guns confiscated” \(in the immortal words vice-chairman and fundamentalist Wallbuilder David Barton detory lesson, designed to prove by algebra that the largely deist Founding Fathers were in fact bible-beating presbyterians. And among the dozens of caucuses meeting throughout the cavernous building, one could hear committee representatives solemnly announcing the results of the platform deliberations: abolish the minimum wage laws; return to the gold standard; promote swift and unencumbered capital punishment; drive activist judges into exile; adopt “American English” as the national language; leave the United Nations; promote corporal punishment and prayer; and most urgently of all, prosecute President William Jefferson Clinton for all his real and imagined crimes, up to and including treason. A bit earlier, Rick Perry, who heretofore has had little opportunity to demonstrate a Bushean talent for malapropism, gamely congratulated David Barton as the Texas Republican who “literally launched a thousand ships,” and then introduced the lovely Anita beside him as “the love of my life, and the wife of my children.” Perry’s speech lurched and stumbled from Reagan, to Freedom, to that immoral usurper in the White House, to the “decencies and \(where the graves of soldiers are an “almost surreal reminder of Florence Shapiro “education, transportation, the Internet … and high-tech appliances.” One could even begin to hope that a Governor Perry administration whatever other consolations it will fail to offer would at least allow the \(almost possibility of maintaining the hallowed Republican political tradition of unintended stand-up comedy. /f Positive Thinking was one theme for Convention 2000, the Power of Prayer was the other. Since 1988, when fundamentalist Christian delegates rode Pat Robertson’s presidential cam paign wave into this same convention center in downtown Houston, the Christian Right has been a growing presence. In 1988, Christian Right delegates \(who congregated on the final day of the convention at a Christian Coalition prayer breakfast to hear Elizathird of the delegates. By 1994, when then-Lieutenant Governor of 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 7, 2000