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brag-humor. Think how much better Walter Mondale and John Kerry would have done in politics if only they’d known how to brag on theirselves. This damn Scandinavian/New England-reticence shit has got to go. Did Bush hesitate to brag about being the Father of the Texas Patients’ Bill of Rights, even though he was its worst enemy? Of course not. What the hell has truth got to do with it? For me the real motherlode of Texas political humor is the thing itself, Texas politics. The Legislature is just so… representative of our state. Where else can you find entertainment this good? It runs from graceful quips to the slapstick, pratfall humor of the annual House duke-out. The old all-House duke-outs produced the tradition of the four members mounting the dais in mid-melee to sing, “I Have a Dream, Dear,” in barbershop harmony. These days it’s usually just one-on-one combat. The Legislature provides us with an array of verbal treasures. During a debate on a bill to stop out-of-wedlock children from getting welfare, Bob Eckhardt said, “It is not so much the natural bastards I worry about as the self-made ones.” Craig Washington, filibustering one of those idiot flagburning amendments, said, “I prefer those who would burn the flag and keep the Constitution to those who would tear up the Constitution and keep the flag.” After yet another unsuccessful effort to modify the Texas sodomy law, the authors of a successful amendment were slapping backs and high-fiving. A voice from the press box said, “Sergeant, you must go over and reprimand both those men. Because under the amendments just passed by them, it is now illegal for a prick to touch an asshole in this state.” The annual Waring Blender Award for Mixed Metaphor is always appreciated, as in: “If you throw the baby out with the bathwater, it will let the head of the camel into the tent!’ Then there was the special time we were having Disability Day to honor the handicapped, and Speaker Gib Lewis said to those in the wheelchairs wedged up into the balcony, “And now, would y’all stand and be recognized?” The misusage of language is so common in the Lege \(“I’m Gibber’s response to the English teacher who came up to him to complain about his syntax. “That’s not my sin tax, lady, I’m against all taxes,” he protested. Outrageous pranks that would embarrass the Kappa Sigs \(trying to piss on the Lone Star in the center of the rotunda from the second-floor balcony on sine die cies. Former state rep Bill Kugle of Athens rests in the state cemetery under a stone that lists his life accomplishments on one side, and this observation on the other: “He never voted for a Republican, and never had much to do with them either!’ The way the Freshman of the Year Award started was some 20-odd years ago on the occasion of Rep. Charles Gandy’s birthday. Gandy of Mesquite was called to the lobby by a page. He arrived to find it was a strip-o-gram sent by his thoughtful House colleagues. She began stripping while the members poured out to watch in glee and troops of interested schoolchildren were led past by horrified teachers. Unfortunate photos resulted. In an effort to console Gandy for the unhappy political consequences of this natal celebration, the House named him Freshman of the Year. Gandy lost anyway. Some forms of legislative humor should have died a much earlier death. During the ’80s, the expression “It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings” led to an excruciating annual performance by Rep. Ernestine Glossbrenner, a schoolteacher from Alice. She was one of the nicest humans ever to serve in the House, and also one of the most overweight. In the spirit of good sportsmanship, every year she sang as requested at the front mike on sine die. After several years of her enduring this soamusing humiliation, the rest of the House women marched on the mike and refused to let her sing without them. Liberals in the Lege have gone under various sobriquets over time: the Gas House Gang, the Shit House Liberals \(from their Dirty Thirty, the Gang of Four. To this good day, the advice given to every incoming member is, “Vote conservative, party liberal!’ Quite simply, we are always much more fun than the other guys. From Eckhardt and Maury Maverick to Malcolm MacGregor of El Paso and Whiskey Bob Wheeler from Tilden. From Carl Parker \(“If you took all the fools out of the LegisCaldwell \(founder of the Old Forts, a group of liberal former \(who christened the tort defendants’ corner of the gallery “the Among the Lege’s more blissfully comic moments are its biennial efforts to proceed with more dignity. Speaker Pete progress in this regard, but I am pleased to report the House has since lapsed into an awesome degree of asininity. Among other results, this caused the Bolt to Ardmore in the summer of ought-three. The Observer was embedded with the troops in Ardmore and can assure you that it is not a destinationvacation spot. Many in the current Legislature remind us of William Brann’s great line, “The trouble with our Texas Baptists is that we do not hold them under water long enough!’ The Observer has been watching Texas politics for 50 years now and as the sorority girls say, we’re, like, “You think you can top this?” Bring it on. We know pols in other states do foolish things and get caught in hilariously compromising situations. For 40 years, I have been involved in political storytellin’ contests with other political writers in bars all over this country. I can get a close run for my money in Louisiana, New Former N.M. Gov. Bruce King, a Texan at heart, was once accused of breaking a promise: “A promise,” said he with dignity, “is Tuesday, and Bill Clements twice a week. I have never lost a political storytellin’ contest in any category: crooked pols, dumb pols, out-goddamned-rageous pols. We winand we never have to make up anything. How can I lose with mate -continued on page 28 12/3/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7