Kevin Eltife was the author of the resolution praising UT president Bill Powers. A love fest followed, in which most senators lavished praise on Powers, who stood on the Senate floor at the front of the chamber. Dewhurst’s effusive admiration for Powers was striking, particularly since the lite gov has generally been on the same page as Perry about most issues that arise.
Dewhurst got teary-eyed about Powers, saying, “We’re lucky to have you,” adding, “I believe in reform and I know that Bill Powers believes in reform. That’s why I’m particularly troubled when I see UT regents go around this man. I see them trying to micromanage the system.” Dewhurst was exactly right; that is precisely what the regents have been doing.
Dewhurst ventured into the realm of speculation: “I’ve been told of character assassination, which is unacceptable to the members of this body. There’s one thing I think all of us in politics appreciate, and that is, you can come up anytime, anyplace, anywhere and say whatever you want to about me—as long as it’s true. But if it’s not true, or if you so dare to mention my wife or my daughter, you will hear from me.” His voice broke when he spoke, but it was clear that Dewhurst was angry. “This man deserves better treatment,” he said. “There were some anonymous letters that may not be so anonymous, that were trumpeted, I’m told, by one of the regents.” He continued, “I just think that’s a very underhanded approach… . You leave family and staff out of it. I am really mad.”
The significance of today’s events is not difficult to discern. A bipartisan majority of the Senate is squarely behind Powers and against the regents. The Senate appears to be headed toward a showdown with Rick Perry, who is likely to promote several new regents to the board in the coming weeks and months. This would touch off a major confirmation battle. This situation is entirely of Perry’s own making. He is guilty of micromanaging UT.
I had a brief conversation with a senator today, at the rail, concerning what is likely to happen to the next round of Perry’s appointees. The answer: “That entirely depends on the type of people he appoints.”