Update at 5:10 p.m.
Ted Cruz Brings a “Dogfight” to David Dewhurst
Poor David Dewhurst. Try as he might, the lite-guv underwhelmed the tea party faithful today. Part of the problem: He’s running against a true-blue right-wing fanatic who Took on the World Court and who says things like, “Barack Obama is the most radical president this country has ever seen” with a straight face. Cruz fans are legion here, their allegiances worn on buttons, stickers, T-shirts and signs.
The other part of the problem for Dewhurst: He clearly doesn’t identify with the hoi polloi and struggles to make an emotional connection with the GOP base.
After Cruz’s barn-burner of a speech, in which he described the Cruz-Dewhurst match-up as “ground zero in the battle between the moderate establishment and the conservative tea party tidal wave that’s sweeping this country,” Dewhurst tried mightily to prove he can ride that wave too. Instead, he came across as lethargic, off-key and pandering.
Where Ted Cruz led the audience in a call-and-response (“Can we restore the U.S. Constitution? Yes we can!”) Dewhurst tried to convince the convention that he’s “running to blow up politics as usual” and that he would “turn congress upside down.” An anarchist, Dewhurst—former Air Force officer, former CIA operative, multi-millionaire—is not.
Throughout the speech, Dewhurst sounded like he needed a Red Bull, or a good night’s sleep. His applause points—”solving tough problems is what I’ve been doing all my life”—were mostly met with polite applause.
And when he attacked Cruz as “a lawyer who’s funded principally by Washington special interests” he was lustily booed by the crowd.
On that count, Dewhurst brought a scripted talking point when Cruz brought unvarnished truth-telling.
“We faced in this race over $10 million in nasty false attack ads trying to convince every Texan that I’m a red Chinese Communist that wants to eat your children,” Cruz said today. “And you know what? It didn’t work. And it didn’t work because of each and every one of you.”
Dewhurst tried to pitch himself as a trench warrior. “Every conservative victory I’ve had in Texas I’ve had to bleed and fight to accomplish it,” he said.
But Cruz made that bleeding and fighting the terms of his campaign against Dewhurst. The runoff, he said, is a “dogfight.”
“My opponent in this race is a good and decent man and he’s owed respect for his many years in public service but our nation is in crisis and we need a fighter,” Cruz said. “If conservatives come together we will win this race. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers will stick together and turn this country around.”
Update at 12:30 p.m.
The GOP Platform Goes Soft — Relatively Speaking — on Immigration
Republican delegates scuffled last night over the immigration plank in the Texas GOP platform. At one point, chairman Steve Munisteri had a mic turned off during a heated floor debate among delegates.
For some, the replacement of bombastic language in the 2010 platform with a so-called “Texas Solution,” which proposes a temporary guest worker program, was tantamount to capitulating to illegal immigrants.
Art Bedford, a man who says he volunteers with the Border Patrol, called the position “ambiguous at best and liberal at worst.”
He took particular umbrage at the phrase “undocumented individuals” — a term preferred by immigration advocates and the left. The hard-liners attempted — to no avail — to replace the “Texas Solution” with a long, rant-ish passage from the 2010 platform that decries “amnesty,” sanctuary cities and quotes at length a choice Teddy Roosevelt quote regarding “one nation, one flag, one language, one loyalty.”
But others, including several Hispanic Republicans who spoke last night, said that it was time for the GOP to be seen as offering solutions to immigration, rather than angry rhetoric. The 2010 platform, said Art Martinez de Vara, was “just a statement of frustration” but it “wasn’t a viable solution.” He linked the GOP’s lack of initiative on health car; to “Obamacare.” Similarly, if Republicans do nothing on immigration, “Obamigration” will result, he said.
The “Texas Solution” condemns “blanket amnesty” but nonetheless encourages “common ground to develop and advance a conservative, market- and law-based approach.”
Delegate Norman Adams rails against the 2010 immigration plank he says made the GOP “a laughingstock” among Latinos.
Defenders of the 2012 platform pointed to the retention of many harsh positions on border security and immigration. In a section on border security, the Party demands “100% border security and control” — a fantasy that could only be achieved, maybe, through massive spending and the imposition of a totalitarian security scheme.
Concerns about appealing to Hispanics was a not-too-subtle undercurrent to the debate. An older white woman sitting behind me muttered “too harsh” when the previous platform’s stance on immigrations was read. Later, she remarked, “Do you want Hispanics in this party?”
Republicans with that attitude — plus those who are simply loathe to vote against the will of the platform-writing process — prevailed handily last night on several votes. After a while Munistieri, who believes the future of the Texas GOP depends on Latinos, warned the opponents that theirs was a lost cause.
Of course, the platform is notoriously irrelevant to actual policy-making. So it’s hard to see how toning down the rhetoric just a bit will have much of a larger impact. Still, memo to Democrats, there are rank-and-file Republicans who do get it: Change or die.
Update at 9:00 p.m.
Rick Santorum Preaches to the Choir
Former presidential contender Rick Santorum just wrapped up his turn headlining the night’s VIP fundraiser. He worked with some broad material tonight, starting the time a dog peed in his crotch just before he met former Pittsburgh Pirates closer Kent Tekulve—and closing with the end of American life as we know it.
“Whether you believe it or not, we can lose freedom,” he said moments ago. It’s just that kinda party here in Fort Worth. And the ice cream socials haven’t even started yet!
I just can’t do justice to the story about the pitcher and the dog. Hopefully there’ll be video up somewhere soon.
But Santorum spent most of his time hitting the same notes everyone else has here—Obama is ruining America, but soon he won’t be president—but bashing the keys. He hit them like Jerry Lee Lewis, where David Dewhurst, say, had been channeling Yanni.
He hit on the nation’s spiral of moral bankruptcy, the possibility that we will lose our most treasured rights, and the historic loss that’s possible if November’s election doesn’t go Mitt Romney’s way. (He briefly mentioned Romney by name.) He quickly, oh so smoothly, mentioned PatriotVoices.org, the organization he launched earlier today, to promote “faith, family, freedom and opportunity.”
“That’s why when the left tries to drive faith out of the public square and oppress people of faith,” Santorum said tonight. “They don’t understand that at the core of America, we are a moral enterprise.” The Republican Party alone, he said, is committed to saving family and church life.
At various points, Santorum compared the present momen in American politics to the French Revolution, the American Revolution, and finally World War II.
“If we are not successful in turning his Obamanation around, then we will be the ones who will have to sit someday in years ahead. and look at our grandchildren in the eye and explain to them why you didn’t do everything you could do at a time when America lost its greatness.”
“Your life is not on the line. You’re not risking getting hanged for treason,” he said. “Not yet, anyway,” he added, to great laughter from most of the room, at least from those who chose to hear it as a joke.
Update at 8:00 p.m.
CliffsNotes to the GOP Platform
Let it never be said that the proposed Texas Republican Party platform lacks for subtlety. The writers of the 2012 platform refuse to take sides in that long-simmering debate between goldbugs and silver enthusiasts.
The proposed platform reads simply:
Sound Money — Our founding fathers warned us of the dangers of allowing central bankers to control our currency because inflation equals taxation without representation. We support the return to the time tested precious metal standard for the U.S. dollar.
Silver? Gold? Nay, friends. Let us unite simply against the fiat currency and for a return to a precious metal standard! Republican Unity 2012!
The platform, though generally useless for anything else, is nonetheless a view into the soul of the Party. Written in committees, the proposed platform will be voted on later tonight. There may be some bickering over the wording but more likely than not, it will pass mostly as-written. So, let’s take a look:
Gay-bashing? You bet:
Homosexuality — We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.
Controversial Theories — We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced.
The theory of “life changes,” I’m guessing, is evolution. The theory of environmental change, I’m told, refers to climate change.
And the Texas GOP platform wouldn’t be complete without some conspiracy-mongering.
It calls for the withdrawal of the U.S. from the U.N. and a belligerent statement about a complete non-issue:
United Nations Agenda 21 — The Republican Party of Texas should expose all United Nations Agenda 21 treaty policies and its supporting organizations, agreements and contracts. We oppose implementation of the UN Agenda 21 Program which was adopted at the Earth Summit Conference in 1992 purporting to promote a comprehensive program of sustainable development projects, nationally, regionally and locally. We oppose the influence, promotion and implementation of nongovernmental organizations, metropolitan and/or regional planning organizations, Councils of Government, and International Council for Local Environmental initiatives and the use of American (Texas) citizen’s taxes to promote these programs.
There’s even some Christian Zionism used to justify a hawkish Israel policy:
Our policy is based on God’s biblical promise to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel and we further invite other nations and organizations to enjoy the benefits of that promise.
Did ya hear that Palestine?
Update at 4:13 p.m.
‘Oust Straus! Oust Straus! Oust Straus!”
House Speaker Joe Straus suffered some mild approbation from a semi-organized anti-Straus faction as he addressed the convention this afternoon. The small group peppered his speech with chants of “Oust Straus!”
Over the “next five months our focus should be on one thing [chants of ‘oust Straus’] continuing our Republican success,” said Straus. “We must be united so our House Republicans remain strong.”
About 150-200 people marched out of the arena in protest, reported Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy. So much for that Republican unity. Still that’s just a small fraction of the 8,000 delegates here.
Straus has been the target of ultra-conservatives who consider the speaker to be insufficiently hard-line despite his presiding over enormous budget cuts and a suite of conservative legislation, including the sonogram bill, voter ID and the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
Straus opponents here can be easily spotted; they’re often wearing stickers in support of state Rep. Bryan Hughes, who’s already filed to run against Straus for speaker.
Update at 1:23 p.m.
Secret Liberals Setting the GOP Platform
Big John Cornyn was up onstage this morning making promises about a bright future without Barack Obama in the White House, but roving around the crowd with a giant sign on a stick, Jack Finger wanted to spread the word about sodomy, and a few other pressing matters:
“AMNESTY, SODOMY, TERM LIMITS MOTIONS COMING! LISTEN!”
Finger, wearing a cowboy hat, a white dress shirt and a short-sleeve white campaign T-shirt over that, strolled back and forth in the aisles until one of the green-shirted pages—the folks keeping order in the crowded arena—asked him to leave.
In the hall outside, Finger told me he just wanted to let delegates know that their state GOP platform was being written by a bunch of liberals, but that true conservatives like himself were hoping to “rectify it.”
“This time, a very liberal makeup of the platform committee is allowing a watering down of amnesty—a watering down of the fight against amnesty,” Finger said. “There’s even—we want anti-sodomy planks in there. They have taken out the anti-sodomy planks.”
Before the party platform gets approved this afternoon, Finger says someone—he doesn’t say who—will be grabbing a mic to ask delegates to toughen up the platform.
Finger, who came here from San Antonio, says he’s not with any particular group. He’s just a true conservative who’s worried the Republican platform has been hijacked by a bunch of lefties.
“We love homosexuals. We pray for them all the time. We want to help them lead their lifestyle. However, when they advocate for their lifestyle, put it into law, allowing their perverted sexual acts to be allowable in law…We know Lawrence vs. Texas allowed that to happen, but we still think that was wrongly decided.”
Some concern about the sodomy ban in the platform is that it wouldn’t just apply to the homosexuals Finger and his folks love so much. It would apply to heterosexual sodomy, too.
“It’s…uh, we—we let it stand as it says. we let it speak for itself.”
Dewhurst Meets the Base (and Survives)
The wi-fi at the Fort Worth Convention Center runs $99 so we’ll be tapping on mobile devices for the most part. Please excuse any instances of unusual brevity.
The big event of the morning was David Dewhurst’s speech before the convention. Yesterday, when Perry gave The Dew a shout-out, Dewhurst’s name was greeted with ‘boos’, presumably by fans of Ted Cruz.
When Dewhurst took the stage this morning, the boos rang out again. But they quickly subsided after some folks shushed the boo-ers. It also helped that Dewhurst mentioned his family right away. Who would boo family values?
The Dew gave a fairly anodyne speech, at least for this audience: a bill of particulars against Obama, who according to the lite-guv is waging a “War on Texas,” a laundry list of legislative accomplishments (voter ID, defunding Planned Parenthood, tax cuts, budget cuts and tort reform), some good ole Texas chauvinism (Texas leads the nation because “there are more Texans in Texas than any other state”) and some faithful genuflecting (“in Texas, God still has a place in our hearts and in our minds”). Also: mixed metaphors: “we’re way past a crossroads; we’re at a tipping point” at the “edge of a cliff.”
Dewhurst isn’t the greatest orator. He fumbled some lines and generally comes across a little wooden. But, then, Texans don’t seem to have a problem with dull senators. See: John Cornyn. The weirdest moment for Dewhurst came near the end of his speech when he called on the grassroots to “send Obama back to Chicago.” At least a couple people then cried out “Kenya.” Dewhurst looked a little confused, so the audience helped him out by yelling “Kenya” again. Awk-ward. Dewhurst looked mighty uncomfortable but recovered after a few long moments.
“Wherever he wants to go, fine.”