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The Republican war against Harris County

To be fair, it’s not just Harris County that’s in the crosshairs, it’s the big urban counties, and cities in general. But it’s real and it’s dangerous and it’s anti-democratic.

Republicans in the Texas Legislature are gearing up to bar local governments from hiring lobbyists, punish cities that reduce their police budgets and restrict county judges’ power during future pandemics when lawmakers convene in Austin later this month.

The measures are sure to escalate the long-running feud between Texas’ conservative leaders and the mostly Democratic officials who run the state’s largest cities and counties. And while higher profile items such as coronavirus relief and redistricting are expected to eat up much of the 140-day session, Republicans have made clear they will carve out time for items such as the lobbying ban.

“In terms of (taxpayer-funded) lobbying, it’s morphed into a kind of partisan struggle,” said Michael Adams, chair of the political science department at Texas Southern University. “The Dems were hoping, particularly in the House of Representatives, they would fare better (in the November elections). But that didn’t happen, and so we still see the dominance of the Republican Party in all branches of the state government. And certainly I think they will send a signal.”

Local officials have been bracing for an especially difficult session since October 2019, when House Speaker Dennis Bonnen was caught on tape saying he had tried to make that year “the worst session in the history of the legislature for cities and counties.” Bonnen said he made his goal evident to “any mayor, county judge that was dumbass enough to come meet with me.”

[…]

Last session, Republicans nearly ushered through a bill to prevent large cities and counties from spending tax revenue on lobbying, but the measure died in the final days when voted down in the House. Bonnen in 2019 announced he would not seek re-election after he was heard on the same tape recording targeting fellow Republicans who opposed the lobbying ban.

Though the Legislature does not begin until Jan. 12, lawmakers already have filed numerous bills related to cities and other local entities. State Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, has proposed making cities liable for damages if they release someone from custody who was the subject of a federal immigration detainer request and that person commits a felony within 10 years.

A bill filed by state Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, would prevent cities and counties from requiring businesses to adopt labor peace agreements — in which employers agree not to oppose unionization efforts in exchange for employee unions agreeing not to go on strike — in order to receive a contract. State Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, has filed legislation that would allow business owners to halt local laws in court if the law “would result in an adverse economic impact” on the owner.

Swanson also filed a bill that would abolish the Harris County Department of Education, unless voters decide to continue it through a referendum on the November 2022 ballot. Conservative lawmakers have long sought to shutter or study closing the agency, the last remaining countywide education department in Texas.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, filed legislation that would codify a Texas Supreme Court decision that blocked Harris County from sending mail ballot applications to every registered voter in the county ahead of the November election. Swanson filed the House companion bill.

That’s a lot, and it doesn’t count the revenue cap, or this little gem that I had been unaware of:

During the 2019 legislative session, Abbott quietly backed a bill that would have maintained the current system in Texas’ rural Republican regions while changing it in more densely populated, mostly Democratic counties. That bill, which failed, would essentially have allowed the Republican governor to pick judges in the state’s Democratic areas, while Republican voters picked judges in the conservative areas.

I have to say, on reading all this my first reaction was why would anyone in Harris County want to be governed by people who hate us and want to do us harm? Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if Harris County were its own state. We’d have something like ten electoral votes all on our own, and we wouldn’t have to deal with this kind of bullshit.

It wasn’t always like this, of course. It’s not that long ago that “local control” was a Republican slogan rather than a quaint idea. But it’s also not that long ago that Harris was a Republican stronghold, and the radical shift in philosophy isn’t a coincidence. It’s very much of a piece with the Trump administration’s attacks on blue states, and of the increasingly bizarre and undemocratic legal arguments being made about this past election, including the one that the Supreme Court briefly considered that federal courts could overrule state courts on matters of state administration of elections. It has nothing to do with federalism or “states’ rights” or local control or any other mantra, but everything to do with the fact that Republicans don’t recognize any authority that isn’t theirs. If they don’t like it, it’s not legitimate, and the laws and the voters can go screw themselves.

This, as much as anything, is the tragedy of Dems not being able to retake the State House. With no check on their power, the Republicans are going to do what they want, and the best we can do is try to slow them down. It makes the 2022 election, and the continued need to break through at the statewide level, so vital. I’ll say it one more time, nothing will change until we can win enough elections to change the balance of power in this state. And if someone can give me an answer to that “how can Harris County become its own state” question, I’m listening.

“Of course I didn’t say the thing that I totally said”

“You just weren’t supposed to understand it.”

Texas Republican Party Chairman Allen West said Monday he was not advocating secession from the United States in his response on Friday to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to refuse to take up a Texas-led lawsuit to overturn election results in four battleground states.

After the Supreme Court rejected the Texas case, West released a statement to the public expressing his frustration with the decision. But he included one line that caught national attention.

“Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a union of states that will abide by the Constitution,” West said.

But West said that was never a call for Texas to leave the Union like it did in 1861. In a message to Republicans on Monday, he said he’s still unsure why people think his statement meant he wanted Texas to secede.

“I am still trying to find where I said anything about ‘secession,’” West said.

Truly, it’s our fault for having sufficient reading comprehension skills.

Meanwhile

Texas Republicans on Monday couldn’t resist making one last futile stand for President Donald Trump even during what normally should have been a mundane and routine meeting certifying he had won the Lone Star State.

After 38 designated supporters of President Donald Trump cast all of Texas’ Electoral College votes, they went off script and crafted a nonbinding resolution calling on state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin to change their pick from President-elect Joe Biden to Trump in an attempt to erase the Democrat’s win.

The resolution, which doubled down on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s long-shot effort last week to undermine Biden’s win, also condemned the U.S. Supreme Court for “a lack of action.”

All of them need a snack and their nap pad. It’s just so, so sad.

Now we wait on SCOTUS

The state of Texas filed its reply to the defendants’ responses to its democracykilling lawsuit, and, well, it’s something.

Best mugshot ever

This brings us the Texas AG Ken Paxton’s reply–or, rather, replies, as there are multiple filings, including a motion to enlarge the word-count limit, a supplemental declaration dated today from Charles Cicchetti, and a new affidavit prepared yesterday from one Lisa Gage.

The first reply brief focuses on rebutting the factual and legal claims made by the four defendant states. The brief starts with the facts, and AG Paxton’s choice of emphasis here is quite interesting, as the brief leads with an extended defense of statistical stupidity contained in the initial filing and the Cicchetti declaration (hence the newly drafted supplemental declaration which is attached). Here, the Paxton brief argues “Dr. Cicchetti did take into account the possibility that votes were not randomly drawn in the later time period but, as stated in his original Declaration, he is not aware of any data that would support such an assertion.” In other words, because he does not know anything about the two sets of voters, it was okay to assume they were identical for purposes of assessing the statistical likelihood that they would vote differently. That this is the lead argument in the reply tells you most of what you need to know. (Well, perhaps not, as other parts of the factual discussion misrepresent claims made by defendant states or repeat claims that were considered and rejected in other suits over the past month.)

On the law, the Texas reply essentially argues that the handful of attorneys in the Texas AG’s office who were willing to sign on to the brief know more about the election laws of Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania than do the Attorneys General and Secretaries of State of those various states. It further argues that although state legislatures have “plenary” authority to set the manner in which states select electors, this somehow does not include the authority to authorize the involvement of courts and election agencies, and that the U.S. Supreme Court, not the supreme courts of the respective states, should be the final authority on the meaning of relevant state laws and constitutional provisions. (Yay federalism!)

The other Texas filing, styled as a reply in support of Texas’s plea for emergency injunctive relief, is not much better. It does, however, deploy a powerful use of capitalization in the Table of Contents (“Texas IS likely to prevail”). Note that Texas does not have to worry about any of the defendant states responding in kind (“Texas IS NOT likely to prevail”) because this is the last brief to be filed.

In this brief, Texas argues that it is not seeking to disenfranchise voters. Rather, Texas argues, “Defendant States’ maladministration of the 2020 election makes it impossible to know which candidate garnered the majority of lawful votes.” Of course, to the extent this were true, Supreme Court intervention would not be necessary. If the relevant state legislatures concluded that the results of the elections within their states were indeterminate–that the voters had failed to select electors on election day–they could act, but they have not. Here Texas repeats its arguments that federalism requires the Supreme Court ordering state legislatures to act and possibly even hold new elections because Texas does not like how other states have run their elections.

It’s already time for some tweets.

One possible way to avoid that outcome is for SCOTUS to shut this shit down hard.

The easy thing for the Supreme Court to do is simply deny Texas permission to file the complaint (and deny the motions to intervene as moot) and be done with it. No fuss, no muss.

But the court should do more. It is perfectly ordinary and appropriate for the justices to write an opinion explaining the various reasons why they are rejecting Texas’ request. Indeed, the minority of justices who think that the court is required to accept original actions like Texas’ may well write short opinions of their own or note that they think the case was properly filed. So there is nothing overreaching if a majority of the court explains why the case is meritless.

The justices’ decision whether to do that needs to account for this extraordinary, dangerous moment for our democracy. President Donald Trump, other supportive Republicans, and aligned commentators have firmly convinced many tens of millions of people that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. If that view continues to take hold, it threatens not only our national politics for the next four years but the public’s basic faith in elections of all types that are the foundations of our society.

A simple five-page per curiam opinion genuinely could end up in the pantheon of all-time most significant rulings in American history. Every once in a long while, the court needs to invest some of its accumulated capital in issuing judgments that are not only legally right but also respond to imminent, tangible threats to the nation. That is particularly appropriate when, as here, the court finds itself being used as a tool to actively undermine faith in our democratic institutions — including by the members of the court’s bar on whom the justices depend to act much more responsibly.

In a time that is so very deeply polarized, I cannot think of a person, group or institution other than the Supreme Court that could do better for the country right now. Supporters of the president who have been gaslighted into believing that there has been a multi-state conspiracy to steal the election recognize that the court is not a liberal institution. If the court will tell the truth, the country will listen.

I’m not so sure I share the optimism, but I agree it would be the best thing that SCOTUS could do.

More Republicans have lined up to join Paxton on his lemming suicide bomber dive, including some who are seemingly claiming their own elections are also tainted.

Maybe the most ridiculous thing about this ridiculous moment, is that among the 126 Republican House members who have signed on to a document that they know to be not just false in its content, but malicious in its intent, are 19 from states that are the subject of the suit.

So Representatives like Doug Collins and Barry Loudermilk in Georgia are arguing that their own elections were fraudulent. Except, of course, they’re not making that argument. They’re not making any argument. They’re just hoping to gain “street cred” from adding their signatures to a list of people who support Trump rather than America.

You know who else is on Team Dictatorship? Dan Crenshaw, that’s who. This Dan Crenshaw.

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw told Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie that a woman who reported sexual assault at a VA hospital had filed frivolous complaints when she and Crenshaw served in the same Navy command, according to testimony by several senior officials in a report by the agency’s watchdog.

Investigators said they were troubled by the way Wilkie and his agency handled the outcry of the woman, who is now a Democratic aide in the House of Representatives.

The Houston Republican’s link to matter, first reported by Newsweek magazine, was included in a report released by the agency’s inspector general on Thursday. The report details a number of apparent problems with the agency’s handling of complaints filed by the veteran, Andrea Goldstein, who alleged a VA hospital contractor “bumped his entire body against mine and told me I looked like I needed a smile and a good time.”

[…]

Senior VA officials told investigators that Crenshaw passed along information about Goldstein to Wilkie, the report says, which both Crenshaw and Wilkie have denied.

The report points to an email Wilkie sent Chief of Staff Pamela Powers and Brooks Tucker, assistant secretary congressional and legislative affairs, after a fundraiser that he and Crenshaw both attended. It said: “Ask me in the morning what Congressman Crenshaw said about the Takano staffer whose glamor (sic) shot was in the New York Times.”

While Wilkie told investigators that Crenshaw approached him at the December 2019 fundraiser and brought up the veteran, he claimed that Crenshaw merely told him they served together. When investigators asked Wilkie why that information was enough to merit the email he sent after the fundraiser, he responded, “Well, I don’t remember. I have no idea.”

Both Powers and Tucker, however, told investigators they recalled Wilkie making comments about the veteran’s reputation “based on information they understood he received from Congressman Crenshaw.”

The report also says Deputy VA Secretary Jim Byrne told investigators that Wilkie had “verified with Congressman Dan Crenshaw that the veteran had previously filed frivolous complaints when the two were serving in the same command in the Navy.”

Crenshaw and his staff refused to answer VA investigators’ questions about the matter, the report says. Crenshaw’s office did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

The Newsweek story is here. Remember Crenshaw’s craven refusal to answer questions about this the next time he tweets some garbage about how “all cases should be heard, all investigations should be thorough”. As a reminder, the Chron endorsed Crenshaw for re-election. The Orlando Sentinel has apologized for endorsing Rep. Michael Waltz, one of Crenshaw’s fellow members of the Sedition Caucus. I await the Chron taking similar action; merely excoriating Ken Paxton and Ted Cruz, without even mentioning Crenshaw for his role in this debacle, is insufficient.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock has observed, as part of his own amicus filing against the Paxton mess, that Texas did not include his state as a defendant even though Montana made the same kind of changes that Georgia et al did that Paxton finds so objectionable. Of course, Trump carried Montana, so it’s totally different. Governor Bullock also knows how to bring the snark:

SCOTUS may act on the Texas case even before I finish drafting this post, so let me wrap up while the outcome is still unknown. First, a few words from Adam Serwer about why Trump has so many rats following behind his rancid Pied Piper act:

To Trump’s strongest supporters, Biden’s win is a fraud because his voters should not count to begin with, and because the Democratic Party is not a legitimate political institution that should be allowed to wield power even if they did.

This is why the authoritarian remedies festering in the Trump fever swamps—martial law, the usurpation of state electors, Supreme Court fiat—are so openly contemplated. Because the true will of the people is that Trump remain president, forcing that outcome, even in the face of defeat, is a fulfillment of democracy rather than its betrayal.

The Republican base’s fundamental belief, the one that Trump used to win them over in the first place, the one that ties the election conspiracy theory to birtherism and to Trump’s sneering attack on the Squad’s citizenship, is that Democratic victories do not count, because Democratic voters are not truly American. It’s no accident that the Trump campaign’s claims have focused almost entirely on jurisdictions with high Black populations.

From Elizabeth Dye at Above the Law:

But perhaps we shouldn’t get waylaid in Constitutional and procedural niceties, lest we distract ourselves from the point that THIS IS BATSHIT. The state of Texas has filed a facially nonsensical suit purporting to vindicate the rights of the Defendant states’ legislatures from unconstitutional usurpation by overweening governors and state courts, a usurpation which supposedly violates the Elections Clause. And the proposed solution is for the Supreme Court itself to violate the Elections Clause by postponing the electoral college vote, thus usurping Congress’s power to “determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”

And instead of saying, “Slow your roll, Ken Paxton! We’ve been banging the drum about states’ rights for two hundred years now. It’s kind of our thing, you know?” the intervenor states are all in on this Frankenstein hybrid of vote dilution and anti-federalism. Rather than acknowledging the reality of Trump’s loss, these attorneys general would rather attach their names to a complaint which claims that it’s just mathematically impossible for Biden to have won those four Defendant states because, ummm, Clinton lost them. Don’t ask how Trump was able to flip Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan after Obama won them in 2012 and 2008 — that formula is still being calculated.

Never mind that Texas’s governor Greg Abbott extended early voting by a week, the same dastardly usurpation of legislative prerogative which supposedly voids the election in the Defendant states. Pay no attention to the fact that Mississippi also allows votes to be counted if they arrive within three days of the election, which Paxton argues is patently illegal. Or that Utah conducted this election entirely by mail, which is, according to the complaint anyway, prima facie evidence of intent to allow vote fraud. IOKYAR.

The Trump motion to intervene is little more than a cleaned up version of the president’s Twitter feed, drafted by John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University who is nonetheless confused about birthright citizenship and recently penned a racist Newsweek editorial wondering if Kamala Harris was eligible to run for president.

Mentioning this John Eastman character brings us to the final tweets, because all good blog posts about election theft end with tweets. These two are embedded in that ATL article:

As noted before, Lawrence Joseph is the outside counsel Ken Paxton hired for his lawsuit, since the Solicitor General declined to come on board. Wheels within wheels, y’all.

And finally, nothing could sum up this entire experience better than this:

From the neighborhood of New Heights in the city of New Houston and the state of New Texas, I wish you all a happy weekend. CNN has more.

UPDATE: Didn’t have to wait long, as it turns out.

The US Supreme Court on Friday rejected Texas’s unprecedented last-ditch effort to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, and Wisconsin by suing those four states in the high court.

At least a majority of the justices concluded that Texas lacked standing to bring the case at all, a threshold the state had to clear before the case could go any further.

“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections,” the court wrote in the brief order.

No justice noted that they had dissented from the decision to knock out Texas’s case from the start. It would have taken at least five justices to agree to hear the case, but the justices don’t have to individually indicate how they voted, so there’s no way to know the vote breakdown for certain. Justice Samuel Alito Jr., joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote that they believed the court had to allow Texas to file its lawsuit, but they wouldn’t have granted any other relief that the state requested.

It was a significant loss not only for Texas, but for President Donald Trump, who had asked to intervene in the case and spent the the past two days tweeting about why the justices should effectively hand him an election that Biden won. The court denied all of the other motions filed in the case as moot once it decided Texas couldn’t bring the case at all, which ended Trump’s bid to get before the justices.

There’s plenty more stories out there – go to Google News or Trending on Twitter if you haven’t come across any others. The Electoral College meets on Monday, and after that it really is over, though one presumes the delusions will continue. I’m going to finish with some more tweets. You should go outside and enjoy the day.

Not sure how I feel about this. It’s right there in the Constitution, but it’s also overturning the will of the voters, which is what the Sedition Caucus was trying to do. I am happy to have a discussion about this, however. Let these bastards explain why they haven’t violated the Constitution.

Speaking of bastards and being in opposition to the Constitution:

Yeah, I don’t even know what to say to that. But I would very much like to know what every elected Republican thinks about it. Let’s get them all on record, shall we? Rick Hasen has more.

The Russia-Texas-secession connection

So many people got played.

A sprawling Russian disinformation campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 elections found success with social media accounts promoting the idea of Texas secession, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Senate that was released Monday.

When it came to stirring up social divisions and exerting political influence, two accounts about the Lone Star State proved especially effective: a “Heart of Texas” Facebook page and a @rebeltexas account on Instagram.

Both accounts were created and managed by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company that’s been characterized by the U.S. government as a “troll farm” and was indicted by a federal grand jury.

Heart of Texas, which amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook, promoted an image of the state as a land of barbecue and guns while sharing posts that attacked immigration.

The page had the most shares of all IRA Facebook accounts, at 4.8 million, according to the report, which was prepared by an Austin-based company, New Knowledge.

“Heart of Texas visual clusters included a wide swath of shapes of Texas, landscape photos of flowers, and memes about secession and refugees,” the report said.

Posts by the Facebook page cited in the report include a truck with a giant state flag and a photo of Texas wildflowers as well as another laying out the “economic grounds for Texas secession.” The page also shared memes criticizing immigration.

You can read that report here. The extent of this activity is mind-boggling, and in just about any other context we’d call it highly aggressive, if not warlike. Every now and then I see one of these yahoos with a “Secede” sticker on their car, and I wonder if they have any idea. We’re doing this to ourselves, that’s the really scary part.

Hexit?

The Chron’s Ken Hoffman asks a burning question.

HoustonSeal

Just for fun, how would the vote go if Houstonians had a crack at “Hexit” – leaving Texas?

I don’t mean another “Brexit” – in which British voters elected to leave the European Union, but apparently many didn’t know what they were voting for or against or why.

There are plenty of reasons Houston might think, “You know, Texas, this relationship just isn’t working for me anymore. I mean, we can still be friends. We’ll still co-parent Sugar Land, but maybe we should go our separate ways.”

I was talking with some friends, including one who draws a government paycheck, and we wondered, “Could Houston go it alone?”

Texas needs Houston, that’s for sure. But the other way around? Are we getting out what we’re putting in?

[…]

No need to get into social issues, but Houston doesn’t look, vote, sound, cook or think like the rest of Texas. The top elected officials in Texas look like the board of directors of Bushwood Country Club in “Caddyshack.”

Houston’s city council looks like a casting call for “The Village People: The Movie.”

This is about Houston’s cultural might and economic power. “What if” and “could it” succeed independent from the rest of Texas?

One of my buddies, who knows a lot about transportation, said, “All those highway projects in West Texas and the Panhandle and other parts of Texas – they’re funded in part by state gas taxes. Where do you think that money comes from?”

So next time you’re stuck in traffic, about to blow your stack, burning gas going nowhere on Interstate 10, 610 Loop and the Southwest Freeway, remember that we’re paying for lonely, lightly traveled roads in other parts of Texas. That will calm you down.

Most of the rest is a paean to Houston and the ways that it ranks #1 as a city in Texas. Hoffman is a features writer, so when he says “just for fun” at the beginning of this piece, he means that. This isn’t a serious exploration of the idea, just a bit of blue-sky thinking with some jokes (the “Caddyshack” one cracked me up) thrown in. So take a deep breath and try to appreciate what he’s written for what it is.

That said, I will confess that I’ve had the same thought, and for the same reasons. Especially now with the Legislature hell-bent on meddling in local affairs, the idea of telling them to get bent, we’re out of here, has a deep appeal. Go back to “Caddyshack” and watch Ted Knight’s performance if you want an idea of what the reaction at the Capitol might be like to that.

However, this is a Serious Blog, so we must consider the reality of this, which gets pretty daunting right off the bat. Putting aside the legalities that I am not qualified to address – does the city even have the ability to do this? how exactly would we apply for statehood? – several practical issues jump out at me. Houston’s borders resemble a Mandelbrot set in their complexity. We overlap three counties. There are other, completely separate, municipalities that are entirely within our borders – do they have to come along for the ride, or would they represent “islands” of Texas within our new state? And not to put too fine a point on it, but there are parts of Houston that do look, vote, sound, cook, and think like the rest of Texas, and they may not be so hot for this idea. I’m sure at the first mention of the concept, Kingwood and Clear Lake would yell out that they never wanted to be part of Houston in the first place, and they want to stay right where they are in the Lone Star State.

I’m sure there are plenty more reasons why this would never get off the ground, but you get the drift. It’s a fun idea, but in the long run the way to go is to make Texas be more like Houston. The path to that destination isn’t any clearer, but at least we know it exists.

Just leave already

Seriously.

State GOP leaders, in a predictable but closely watched vote, have defeated a proposal to ask Texas voters whether they favor secession.

In a voice vote Saturday afternoon, the State Republican Executive Committee rejected a measure that would have put the issue on the March 1 primary ballot. The ballot language would have been non-binding, amounting to a formal survey of voters on whether they would like to see Texas declare its independence from the United States.

While the proposal’s defeat was expected, the measure had sparked some heated debate on the 60-member executive committee, the governing body of the Republican Party of Texas. Seeking to avoid a protracted fight, the executive committee voted earlier Saturday afternoon to cap discussion of the issue at 30 minutes then put it to an up-or-down vote.

Tanya Robertson, the SREC member who introduced the proposal, argued at the executive committee meeting in Austin that the measure would have been “harmless,” allowing voters to register an “opinion only.” She also suggested the ballot language would have helped “get out the vote” among some Texas Republicans who have been sitting out recent elections.

“The goal of these is to take a thermometer of how Texans feels about an issue, and what better issue for Texans to do that with?” she asked.

See here for some background. I fully support Tanya Robertson and all her likeminded colleagues leaving the country if it’s not to their liking. I merely object to them trying to take me with them. Sorry you didn’t get your vote, Tanya, but seriously: No one is stopping you from leaving. It’s a big world, I’m sure there’s some other part of it that will be better for you.

One more thing:

Earlier Saturday, the executive committee defeated another controversial proposal, one in favor of moving the party’s 2016 convention from Dallas to Houston. The proposal, which was shot down in a nearly unanimous vote, was inspired by opposition to Dallas’ updated non-discrimination ordinance. Leading the charge to relocate the convention was Jared Woodfill, a key figure in the successful effort to repeal a similar law in Houston and a potential challenger to Texas GOP Chairman Tom Mechler.

It is never wrong to point out that Jared Woodfill is an idiot.

My one piece of advice to Barack Obama in re: Rick Perry

By now you’ve probably heard about Rick Perry’s long-anticipated announcement that yes indeedy, he is running for President. I plan to avoid this subject as much as possible, because there’s only so much blogging about Rick Perry one can do before one’s brains begin to resemble a fried egg on the sidewalk, but there is one thing I want to say to Team Obama as a longtime observer of our only Governor. His great strength is that he steers the conversation to where he wants it to be, which enables him to define the issues to his advantage. He’s stepping outside his comfort zone now, and as the new kid on the scene it may take him awhile to get to that point with the national media. This is your chance to turn the tables on him. Now is the time that the surrogates for the Obama campaign should be asking the question why someone who wanted to secede from the United States now wants to be its President. Yes, I know that isn’t exactly what he said, but so what? Let him explain the nuance of his statements about secession. If you want to be hypertechnical, his claim about Texas’ alleged right to secede is historically wrong, too. Again, let him explain the subtleties of it all. While he’s at it, you can point out that he likes to pal around with some people that really really hate America and let him explain that, too. Take this opportunity to tie secession around his neck now, because you may not get the chance later. That’s my advice, and it’s worth every penny you’re paying for it. Good luck.

UPDATE: Like this. Just from actual Obama people, not from us annoying bloggers.

What Ron Kirk says

Ron Kirk, the former Mayor of Dallas who is now the US Trade Representative, was asked a joking question about Rick Perry and his earlier statements about secession after Perry’s win on Tuesday. His response is well worth reading.

“I just wish those of you in the press would then ask, even if it’s tongue-in-cheek, so what does this (secession) mean then?

“For a state that unfortunately ranks in the bottom in investment in education and health care for our kids, leads the nation in the number of people that are unemployed, and you want to pull out of the country? And tell me, where you going to find the money to pay for Medicare with one of the highest growing senior populations in the country,” Kirk replied, growing more angry.

“In a state that’s probably $2 billion underfunded in maintaining its own highways, and now you want to pull out of the United States and take away the billions of dollars you get from the federal government? How are you going to fix your infrastructure?” Then, Kirk added, there’s the historical context of secession.

“But the thing that frustrates me most in this sense with you all is, you know, all of this “You want to go back.’ To what? I grew up in the Jim Crow South. All this states rights, secession stuff, I know what it means for people of my parents’ generation and me. And we fought too hard to get me to this point for me to be amused even a little bit by any of this states rights secession stuff,” said Kirk, who’s African-American.

“That’s not an America that I want to go back to. I think America is a vastly richer country because of our diversity, because of our inclusion, because of our commitment to educating every child and giving everyone the opportunity to advance based on their abilities than the world some of these people want to go back to.”

Remember what the general reaction was back in 2004 when some celebrities said they were going to move to Canada in the event George Bush was re-elected? Boy, those were the days. Kudos to Ron Kirk for saying what needed to be said. May more people follow his example.

Retired general calls out Perry

Damn.

A retired Air National Guard general called Thursday with three worries.

“Something bad’s gone wrong in this country,” said retired Brig. Gen. Tom Daniels, 62, of Fort Worth.

“Something’s wrong in Arlington. Something’s wrong in Austin. And something’s wrong in America.”

He flew missions in Vietnam. In the Pentagon, he served proudly under President George H.W. Bush — “whom I loved,” he added.

“Now our country chooses a black man as president — and suddenly, the governor is talking about secession? And Arlington is boycotting the president? They won’t even let children see him in school?”

[…]

“All I know is, the black guy wins, and suddenly these nuts are out there on TV and radio preaching to long-haul truck drivers all over the country,” Daniels said.

“Somebody needs to start talking back. Where are the moderates in the Republican Party? Where are the people like George [H.W.] Bush who made sense? They’re letting the nuts lead them around by the nose.”

[…]

Daniels reserved special vitriol for Gov. Rick Perry.

“He’s Air Force. He should be ashamed,” Daniels said. “I’m ashamed of him.” Perry “should know better” than to float talk about Texas leaving the U.S., Daniels said.

“Even for a campaign, it’s the wrong thing to talk about,” he said. “That’s not our Texas. We love our country. We’re not going anywhere. We don’t believe in secession.”

He had one final question.

“When is somebody in Arlington or Austin going to stand up to these people?”

Well, there’s still room in the Democratic primary for Governor if you want the job yourself, General. Be that as it may, I look forward to seeing the sure-to-be respectful and reasoned response that his remarks will engender from the rank and file of today’s Republican Party, and which will undoubtedly do nothing, nothing at all, to prove his point.

Please go ahead and leave

Meet the real America haters. And remember that even though he wants nothing to do with them now, because it would look bad, these are the people Rick Perry was speaking to when he spoke about seceding. You can run from them, Governor Perry, but you can’t hide from what you said. Trail Blazers and Texas Politics has more.

Berman not running for Governor

That’s too bad, because it means the Republican primary won’t be as mean, nasty, and bats-in-the-belfry crazy as it could have been. But while Leo Berman won’t be in the race, Bermanism will be.

Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, strolled into the University of Texas at Tyler’s Ornelas Activity Center and were welcomed by a standing ovation from more than 120 attendees at an impromptu endorsement swap.

Berman, who had been positioning himself for a run at the governor position, officially dropped his name from possible contention for the Republican primary in March and followed it by endorsing Perry’s candidacy. He did, however, announce his intent to run for a seventh term as District 6 state representative.

Perry publicly agreed to pursue to continue Berman’s four platform items on which he would run for governor, including: assertion of state’s rights under the 10th amendment, challenging the federal government’s regulation of intrastate commerce, ordering all state agencies to remove illegal residents from state benefit programs and allowing the training of state law enforcement officers to legally enforce immigration laws.

In other words, Perry bowed to Berman. The State Rep dictated the terms to the Governor. Way to show him who’s in charge here, Rick!

Perry agreed that continued diligence on the border is needed but pointed out the need for the problem, which has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, to be addressed federally as well. The governor did express, much to the crowd’s approval, his opinion that continued assertion of state’s rights will be needed to maintain Texas’ position as one of just six states in the nation not in dire financial crisis.

That and about $15 billion in federal stimulus funds, which saved us from the same kinds of deep cuts that so many other states are making. Not that any of these guys would ever admit that.

Berman was elected in 1998, unseating four-term incumbent Ted Kamel, whom he blasted for not adhering to a promise to serve only four terms. During the campaign, Berman promised voters he would serve only four terms.

Prior to announcing his run in 2006 for his fourth term, Berman asked voters to allow him out of his term limits promise. He said he had learned that effectiveness in the Legislature is largely based on seniority. And following his re-election, he was appointed to his first committee chairmanship, heading the House Elections Committee.

At which he was a dismal failure, and as a charter member of the We’re Going Down With The USS Craddick club, he was relegated to the irrelevancy that he deserves and to which in a just world he will become accustomed. But hey, who’s counting?

Anyway. The Republican gubernatorial primary is now a three-way, with Perry, KBH, and Ron Paul disciple Debra Medina. With Berman in the mix, the potential for a screwy result, even the need for a runoff, was nontrivial. It’s still possible now, but distinctly less likely to my mind. All I can say is that I hope Perry dispatches Berman to speak on his behalf all over the state. He’s the true face of the GOP today.

You say “succeed”, I say “secede”

Bleah.

Lawmakers in the Texas House sent the U.S. Congress a message on Saturday to mind its own business.

But just so no one gets the wrong message, House Concurrent Resolution 50 now says that Texas is still proud to be part of the U.S. of A.

The resolution “is about succeeding in the union, not seceding from the union,” said Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, the resolution’s author. “It is not a slap. It is a reminder.”

Creighton objects to Congress handing down unfunded mandates, exploding the federal deficit and the intruding into the state’s authority.

The measure, which passed 99 to 36, reaffirms the state’s sovereignty and its rights under the 10th Amendment.

[…]

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, cautioned that Texans need to be careful when talking about “state’s rights.”

“Growing up in the South, there are certain words that bring up certain emotions,” Coleman said, emotions connected to the denial of rights.

More here, here, and here. What a pointless waste of time. To all the Democrats who voted for this, I say way to hand Governor Perry a PR victory.

What, me secede?

Shorter Rick Perry: “I never actually used the word ‘secede’.”

Fine, whatever. The judge grants your motion to dismiss on the technicality. But we all know that you’ve raised your national profile while gaining ground in the polls, because the voters you’ve been so assiduously courting like the secession talk just fine, whether you’ve been doing it explicitly or just making with the winks and the nudges. It’s been more than a month since the teabagging parties, at which the Governor didn’t quite say the word “secession” while addressing a crowd that clearly loved the idea, and he’s just now writing a letter to the editor to set the record straight? That’s some kind of decisive action right there.

RIP, statewide smoking ban

I thought it still had a chance after it finally passed out of committee in the Senate, but the statewide smoking ban is officially dead.

[State Sen. Rodney] Ellis held a press conference to announce the death of the statewide smoking ban in public facilities and indoor workplaces after it failed to get enough Senate support.

The announcement comes at the end of a dramatic last minute push over the last two days by Ellis and others, notably Rep. Carol Alvarado who got one bended knee and pleaded with Sen. Mario Gallegos to change his “no” vote. “If you watch the tape you’ll either think I’m a dancer or I was working votes,” said Ellis. “I can assure you, I had very little to dance about.”

Yesterday, Ellis said he was at 20 votes in the Senate, just one short of the 21 needed to bring a bill to the floor. But, things changed between the end of yesterday’s floor session and this morning. “Some of the amendments that I was inclined to take [yesterday] became even more Draconian overnight,” he said. Ellis opted to end the fight rather than “gut the bill to the point where it’s almost meaningless.”

Advocacy groups like Smoke Free Texas vows to continue their fight as they look forward to the 2011 session. “Two years from now, when the Legislature returns,” Smoke Free Texas member and government relations director for the Texas High Plains Division of the American Cancer Society James Gray said in a statement, “more states will be smoke-free, more Texas communities will have passed local moke-free ordinances – and thousands more Texans will be ill or dead from secondhand smoke exposure.”

I thought this was the year for the statewide smoking ban, but it wasn’t to be. It did get farther than last time, so you have to like its chances in 2011. Better luck then, y’all. A statement from Sen. Ellis about this is beneath the fold.

Meanwhile, in other legislative news and notes:

– The handguns-on-campus bill gets new life in the Senate after an identical House bill had been declared dead. I can’t say I’m crazy about this, but given that private schools can opt out, I’m not too worked up about it. I thought at the time of its passage that the original concealed-carry law would be a disaster, and that has not proven to be the case. I suspect in the end this will not be any different. This still has to pass the House, however, and as Floor Pass notes, it may run out of time before that happens.

– Congratulations! It’s a bouncing new state agency.

The Texas Senate, GOP-controlled and usually advocating smaller government, voted this afternoon to create a new state agency — the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles — to help streamline vehicle registrations in the state.

Earlier approved by the House, the measure includes only a transfer of registrations and three other functions from the Texas Department of Transportation.

It does not include vehicle inspection and driver licensing, which legislative leaders had earlier threatened to strip from the embattled Texas Department of Public Safety.

“Maintaining these functions under the TxDOT umbrella does not allow that agency to focus on its core mission” of building and maintaining Texas’ transportation system,” said state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, the Senate sponsor of the measure. “By separating these functions into a new agency, we can more rapidly automate the process.”

In addition to the Vehicle Title and Registration Division, the new agency will include the Motor Carrier Division, the Automobile and Vehicle Theft Prevention Division and and Motor Vehicle Division, Corona said. It will not include a transfer of overweight permits.

I thought this was a good idea when I first heard about it. I still do.

– Sen. Patrick’s slightly-watered down sonogram bill got somewhat undiluted in the House State Affairs committee. If we’re lucky, that will make it too rich to pass the Senate again.

HCR50, the states-rights resolution that Governor Perry embraced for the teabagging demonstrations, got derailed, at least for now, on a point of order.

– That burning smell you might have detected earlier today was TxDOT getting grilled by the House over HB300.

– A lot of good environmental bills are still alive.

– When you make a mistake, and you admit you’ve made a mistake, you try to fix it, right? Well, then you’re not the Texas Railroad Commission, which needs for the Lege to clean up after itself.

– And finally, it’s probably a bad idea to imply that your primary opponent’s supporters are somehow akin to prostitutes. Eileen explains. No, that’s not legislative in nature, but I couldn’t pass it up.

(more…)

I hate you! I need disaster relief!

Care to guess who is the biggest requestor of federal disaster relief funds since 2001? Why, none other than Governor Rick “Secession 4 Eva!” Perry, that’s who.

According to FEMA’s website, Texas has been the site of 13 “major disaster declarations” since Perry took office following George W. Bush’s departure in 2001. That includes five instances of severe storms and flooding, two tropical storms, one “extreme wildfire threat,” and Hurricanes Claudette, Rita, Dolly, and Ike. (Texas received significant federal assistance following Hurricane Katrina, but it did not appear on FEMA’s website in the “major disaster declaration” category.)

David Riedman, a public information specialist at FEMA, explained to me that a major disaster declaration is issued when a governor “determines the state’s resources are overrun.” From that point forward, the federal government, under federal law, is required to reimburse the state for at least 75 percent of the cost of recovery. Help is primarily targeted at rebuilding roads and bridges, debris removal, and reparing damage to public buildings. In the relief efforts that are still under way from the damage done by Hurricane Ike, the federal government is reimbursing Texas for 100 percent of all expenses, according to Riedman.

In fact, since FEMA’s record-keeping began, Texas has received federal disaster assistance more times than any other state.

Is it possible to wear out the word “hypocrite”. I mean, actually render it unusable due to too many invocations of it? If such a thing can be done, Rick Perry will be the cause.

By the way, even Sarah Palin is accepting stimulus funds for unemployment insurance. It’s just so hard to remain pure these days, isn’t it?

I hate you! Now gimme some money!

Damn those Washington elites! Always stuffing money into my pants campaign coffers!

Rick Perry has railed against Washington, but when it comes to campaign cash, the governor has raised far more than rival Kay Bailey Hutchison from the nation’s capital.

Perry has collected $2.7 million from Washington since becoming governor – four times more than Hutchison’s $670,000 from Washington during the same period, a Dallas Morning News analysis finds.

The money has come from political communities, lobbyists, individuals and interest groups.

[…]

Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner said the governor’s critique of Washington is limited to political spending, not political contributors.

“He’s talking about elected officials who vote for earmarks, bailouts and out-of-control spending – that’s what he’s referring to when he talks about the problems of Washington,” Miner said.

I got nothing.

I hate you! Please help me!

I hate you!

[Governor Rick] Perry will moderate a forum Monday on President Barack Obama’s first 100 days.

Expect more talk about out-of-control Washington spending, says spokesman Mark Miner, with much time spent listening to people at the Dallas-area stop on a tour by three conservative radio talk-show hosts.

Please help me!

Gov. Rick Perry has asked for 37,430 courses of anti-viral medicine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of the swine flu outbreak.

Damn that meddling, intrusive, too-expensive federal government! Always there when you really need them!

It would be OK with me if all those who favor it decide to leave

I ask a question about secession.

Is that really what the GOP base is about these days?

I get an answer.

Do you think Texas would be better off as an independent nation or as part of the United States of America?

US: 61
Independent nation: 35

Democrats: US 82, Ind 15
Republicans: US 48, Ind 48
Independents: US 55, Ind 40

That sound you hear is me officially ceasing any attempt to try to understand the mind of a Republican primary voter. Hey, remember when not wearing a flag pin meant that you were a traitor who hated America? Boy, those were the days.

There’s more polling data at that link, much of which is summarized by BOR. You can go there and see the numbers, for what they’re worth. I just wanted to marvel at this particular factoid.

Everyone has an opinion on Kay and Rick

Former Congressman Martin Frost thinks Rick Perry has a good shot at winning his primary against Sen. Hutchison.

Perry, who won with less than 40 percent in a four-way general election field in 2006, is not popular with the general voting public in Texas. He is, however, the darling of the far-right wing that dominates the Republican primary electorate. Chances are that he may defeat Hutchison in a mean, ugly, down-and-dirty primary next March.

Most of the piece is a 10,000-foot overview of the race and an intro to Tom Schieffer, and Frost never gives a reason why he thinks Perry might win, so take this for what it’s worth. For a Republican view of that primary as it stands now, here’s PoliTex:

In response to our earlier post, Matt Mackowiak, a former spokesman for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison sent us his thoughts on his old boss’s chances against Gov. Rick Perry next year. Mackowiak argues that Perry’s unlikely to beat Hutchison and his secession remarks have only hurt him.

“No one in Austin who is not employed by Gov. Perry thinks that he will beat Sen. Hutchison and there is a very large and growing number of skeptics who doubt that Perry will actually run for a third full term after ten years in office,” Mackowiak said. “Sen. Hutchison has higher approval ratings, higher name ID, will have more money raised, and she has an ability to bring new voters into an open primary in Texas that Perry will not have by appealing to a narrow sliver of the base with his recent ‘secession’ comments.”

Meanwhile, James Bernson, who was Hutchison’s campaign press secretary in 2006, says in a recent online column that, via his Tea Party appearances and secession remarks, “Perry has seized the momentum and is on fire with a large section of the Republican Party base, not just in Texas, but nationally. And it will be the wing of the party most important in the primary.”

Obviously, I’m a bystander to this fight. They’re not competing for my vote, and they don’t have any particular reason to care how I view them. So with that noted, let me say that this is looking a lot like a one-sided battle so far. Perry has been on the offensive, and has thrown all of the punches. I find it fascinating how little KBH has had to say about things like Perry’s rejection of the UI stimulus funds and more recently his whole bizarre secession obsession. I can understand the former – she did vote against the stimulus package, after all – but the latter just confounds me. Is that really what the GOP base is about these days? Is she really not capable of drawing a distinction between herself and Perry on stuff like this? Or does she perhaps think that it’s better to give Perry as much rope as he needs to hang himself. Staying quiet for now, not just on stupid things like secession but on just about everything – sending out tough-sounding fundraising letters doesn’t really count – may be the smart thing to do, but it sure strikes me as a deep position to take. Just seems like a risky strategy to let your opponent define the terms of the debate.

That’s my outsider’s view, anyway. I’ll add that while Perry is clearly taking the initiative, and is spending a bunch of time talking to his natural allies, it’s not clear to me that he’s reaching out beyond the base he already has. We know a substantial number of Republicans refused to vote for him in 2006. Have any of his antics brought them back into his camp, or have they reinforced the reasons why they abandoned him in the first place? I have no idea, and I doubt that publicly-available polling data will give us any insight.

And I still think KBH is going to do whatever it is she’s going to do for her campaign without resigning from the Senate. I think she’s boxed in on that, from her junior colleague Sen. Cornyn as well as from Perry, who I continue to believe would bash her relentlessly for putting the Senate in play for a filibuster-proof Dem majority. That, unlike the secession crap, is something that I think would play for a much wider audience.

Finally, I do think all this has the potential to be a real opportunity for the Democrats. That will require a candidate who can rally the troops, who can look good in comparison to the Kay ‘n’ Rick Show, and who can raise enough money to get that message out. Quite the tall order, but doable, at least this far out from November. Maybe that’s Tom Schieffer, as Frost wants you to believe – I’m keeping an open mind, but he’s got to prove it to a wider audience than me – and maybe that’s not. Maybe Sen. Van de Putte will run, and if so maybe she’ll have the fundraising chops to really compete. All I know is the sooner a Democratic candidate can start affecting the terms of the debate, the better. BOR has more.

Texas secession: Views differ

Looks like Rick Perry has found his audience for secession talk: Ron Paul Nation.

If you don’t feel like sitting through that (can’t say I blame you), Bud Kennedy gives the capsule review:

[Paul calls] secession “very much an American principle” and criticizing the idea of “one nation . . . indivisible” as something thought up by a “socialist.”

Secession is nothing new for Paul, who has waxed poetic in previous videos about an independent Texas with no income tax, no military draft and no interest in any military presence outside Texas.

I think that all pretty much speaks for itself, so for the pro-America response, here’s John Sharp:

I think that would be more salient as part of a gubernatorial campaign. Timely, too – is anyone really going to remember any of this in 2011 or 2012 when that Senate seat is finally on the ballot? Be that as it may, good on Sharp for stating what should be the obvious. Burka has more.

“With Brinkley and Huntley describing contrapuntally the cities we have lost”

From the “Be careful what you vaguely allude to in a plausibly deniable way in front of a frothing crowd that knows exactly what you’re talking about and is loving every word of it” department:

Rasmussen: “75% [of Texans] Opt to Stay.” But isn’t the lede here that nearly one in five Texans–18 percent–do want to secede?

Careful now, people. Consider the sort of nation Texas would become: bellicose, oil-rich, brutal–and with terrifying chemical and nuclear weapons stockpiles controlled by a dangerously irrational religious fanatic. By the political logic of Texas conservatives, that’s a pretty good formula for U.S. military action. (“Welcome to Austin, Mr. Bremer….”) Plus, Gates would certainly want it back–and he knows the geography well enough.

Apparently, Jay Leno made the same observation last night; others have since piled on as well. Isn’t it nice to be made a laughingstock? Thanks for reminding everyone that George Bush wasn’t an aberration as Governor, Rick. Evan Smith will be sending you a bouquet of roses to express his appreciation for making this year’s Bum Steer Awards edition write itself. Having Tom DeLay come to your defense while making John Cornyn sound statesmanlike, that’s just icing on the crazy cake.

All I can add to this is that the political logic noted above is not exactly unique to Texas conservatives. And that I’d bet the same poll in most other states would get a similar result. It’s not like we were the only ones infested with teabagger rallies this week, after all. The Crazification Factor suggests this; hell, if anything, that 18% number is on the low side. Hold still, you’ve got something in your eye…

UPDATE: Via Elise Hu, Rep. Jim Dunnam is trying to gin up support for HR1383, which states in part:

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the State of Texas reaffirms the pride of all Texans in both our one and indivisible National Union and in our one and indivisible State and the common heritage of both; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives expresses its complete and total disagreement with any element advocating the “secession” of Texas or any other state from our one and indivisible Union

So let’s see who’s for what. Seems an easy enough call to me, but clearly I’m not the patriot Rick Perry is.

Perry walks back secession talk

As the sun rises in the east, so do politicians who say stupid things revise and extend those remarks afterward when people start asking them questions about what they really meant. And so it was the case with Rick Perry, who insisted to reporters that he didn’t actually mean it when he said that Texas might look to secede if we got fed up enough with Washington, whatever that means. It might have been nice if the reporters had pressed him a bit more about the crowd to whom he made his initial statements, who were chanting “Secede! Secede!” in agreement with what they sure as heck thought he was saying, but I suppose you can’t have everything. Regardless, Democratic leaders such as Jim Dunnam and Rodney Ellis and gubernatorial candidate Tom Schieffer have rightly jumped on Perry for his idiocy, and I hope more will join in. (Anyone heard from Kinky Friedman on this?) It’d be nice if a few Republicans expressed some concern about making such intemperate statements, at least the ones who haven’t been busy making their own. Needless to say, I’m not holding my breath.

Of the many things that bother me about this, I think it’s the fact that once again a Texas Republican has made national news in a way that disgraces the state and makes us look like a bunch of rubes and fools. It’s been a nonstop parade of idiocy this year – Sharon Keller, the SBOE clown show, Louie Gohmert, Betty Brown, and now Rick Perry. I realize that there’s a lot of people who don’t care what others think about us, indeed who consider it a badge of honor to be looked down upon by the rest of the country and the world, but nothing good can come out of this. We can be as business-friendly a state as we want to be, but if people don’t want to relocate here because they’ve had such a negative impression of the place because of stunts like these it won’t do us any good. Exceptionalism isn’t necessarily an asset.

Most of all, I can’t believe I have to say any of this. Secession, for Christ’s sake. Because some people are unhappy that they lost an election. Remember how a bunch of celebrities whined to the press in 2000 and again in 2004 that they’d leave the country if Bush won? Remember how we all thought they were jackasses for saying that? Remember how Republicans in particular piled on them for their knavery? Boy, those sure were the days.