August 07, 2004
Herbert and Blakeslee

Atrios links to a Bob Herbert column and notes that he doesn't link to Herbert often enough.

Despite my odd reticence to draw attention to his work, Herbert should be in line for every humanitarian award there is for his critical role in bringing attention to the Tulia, TX injustices. Herbert's contribution to the cause of justice in this situation cannot be overstated. One would hope that some of his colleagues would look at his example and begin to understand the power for good they have at their fingertips (cough, Modo, cough).'

And, even writing that... I've not given him enough credit. If once in my life I could claim as an accomplishment what Herbert did with the Tulia case I'd consider it a life worth living.

There's no question that Bob Herbert did a lot to bring the Tulia injustices to the world's attention, but it must be noted that the story was actually broken in June of 2000 by Texas Observer reporter Nate Blakeslee. Here's the Observer's complete coverage of Tulia, starting with the June 2000 article that got the ball rolling. However much credit Herbert deserves, Blakeslee deserves more. Herbert had the bigger microphone necessary to make people hear about Tulia, but it was Blakeslee's words that he was broadcasting.

This is all of special interest to me now. Last week I got an email from Dr. Char Miller, one of my favorite profs from Trinity. He's the editor of a just-released anthology called "Fifty Years of the Texas Observer", a review copy of which sits in my hot little hands. I plan on reading it in my copious spare time over the next two weeks or so and writing a review here. Stay tuned for more.

Here's a little taste of what you'll find. From an October 30, 1964 editorial called "This Man George Bush", about that Senate race that year:

Presenting himself as "responsible", he says his conservatism is "compassionate", yet he has so little sensitivity for the feelings of the needy aged; he wittily compares medical care for the aged with a federal program to air-condition ship holds for apes and baboons, a program which he has dubbed "medical air for the caged".

Plus ca change, eh? I'll bring more such tidbits as a go through the book. In the meantime, remember the Observer, which started publishing 50 years ago this December.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 07, 2004 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack

It was also in his 1964 campaign that GHWB talked about how the civil rights laws couldn't change what was in people's hearts. He ran against the 1964 civil rights act to try and make up for the fact that he was a effete Eastern elite with a funny accent for a Texan. In one speech, he talked about judging people by what's in their hearts on questions of race, a theme his son used in the 2000 campaign. For the Bushes, being "right in the heart" makes up for being wrong on policy.

Incidentally, Bush got creamed in that Senate race.


Posted by: Jerry on August 8, 2004 10:02 AM

While I take nothing away from what Herbert accomplished, I found it necessary to write him several times (he never replied) reminding him of efforts by various groups right here in Texas that predated his own in the Tulia matter.

But claiming or accepting excessive personal credit was the least of his offenses. In some of his columns on the subject, he took broad swipes at Texas and Texans that were both unkind and unjust.

I understand his outrage and exasperation, but I would have thought that Herbert, of all people, would resist tossing out generalizations about large groups of people based on characteristics those people cannot change... in this case, being born in Texas. I still admire the guy, but now I do so with reservations.

Posted by: Steve Bates on August 9, 2004 10:52 AM