Dunnam: The Democrats' view
Thu January 15, 2009 10:53 am

I received the following e-mail from Democratic operative Glenn Smith as a response to my post about Jim Dunnam's statement yesterday. I will comment at the conclusion of Glenn's remarks.

Paul, as much respect as I have for you, as much as I value your respect (I think I have some, at least), I have to strenuously object to your ongoing attacks on Jim Dunnam.

It has all the appearance of a vendetta, Paul.

Announcing from the House that there are deep concerns about the Senate adopting Craddick-style, partisan rule trashing is good politics. Suggesting that the House might adopt its own special rule on voter i.d. brightens the spotlight on the issue of continued anti-democratic actions from Republican leadership.

In any case, choosing to attack (again and again) Dunnam on a day when Dewhurst earned a spot in the Worst Hall of Fame looks petty, thin, and biased. As an aside, the moment Dewhurst protested loudly to Whitmire that he had nothing, nothing, nothing to do with Williams' rules proposal is one of the saddest and most outrageous I have ever seen from any legislative leader. As a display of spinelessness, it's unmatched. As a transparent lie, it might also be unmatched.

Dunnam's underestimated by many. Let me tell you because I was present through all of it, his holding together the 64 Democrats and ultimately providing graceful and friction-free pathways for the so-called Craddick Ds to vote for Strauss was simple awesome. It took diplomacy, patience, trust, discipline, and savvy. He pulled off the same magic during the 2005 DeLay/Craddick/Dewhurst redistricting fiasco.

I do not criticize reporters often, especially about opinion pieces. But I don't think I would be an honest friend if I didn't tell you this. You should stop it.

Sincerely,

Glenn

* * * *

To Glenn and Readers --

I choose what to write about based upon the merits of issues, not upon whether I like or dislike personalities. As I saw it, Mr. Dunnam's statement raised the issue of what role the chairman of the Democratic caucus would play in a coalition bipartisan speakership. That is what I found interesting. I did not criticize Mr. Dunnam's motives. I did criticize his judgment. I stand by that criticism. He issued a statement threatening to take certain actions, which could have adverse consequences for the coalition he did so much to put together. He wants to see that coalition hold together, and so do I.

Mr. Dunnam had good reason to criticize what David Dewhurst and the Senate were doing. I did not take issue with his criticism. I took issue with his attempting to make policy for the House, and the effect that might have on the Straus speakership. I made no ad hominem attack. My remarks were strictly on the merits of the issue.

I must take issue with your characterization of my "ongoing attacks" against Mr. Dunnam and the "appearance of a vendetta." To the best of my knowledge, the only time I have mentioned Mr. Dunnam by name recently came in a response I made to a comment (not in the main part of the blog). I related an anecdote, based on a conversation Mr. Dunnam and I had had during the previous speaker's race. Mr. Dunnam felt that I had misquoted him. We remembered the conversation differently. He felt that my version undermined his bona fides in supporting Mr. Straus. I updated the post ("Did the Democrats Make a Mistake?"), dated January 8, to reflect his version of the conversation. I did so in a completely respectful way. He sent me an e-mail, which I offered to post without editing or a response from me. He did not respond to my offer. I phoned his office to repeat my offer and was told that he didn't really intend for the letter to be public.

Lest this seem too cryptic, here is the beginning of my January 8 post, later updated, which I saw as one of life's little ironies that so often seem to occur in politics:

I wonder if any Democrats are having second thoughts about supporting Joe Straus for speaker. Do they realize what they have done? They have removed from public visibility the number one villain in Texas politics, Tom Craddick, whose moss-draped political philosophy was out of touch with anything east, west, north, or south of Midland, and who was totally incapable of governing the House. Craddick was the Democrats' meal ticket. The chaos he created fed the opposition party's resurgence. It is no coincidence that the only footholds the Democrats have in Texas are urban courthouses and a near-majority of the House. In Craddick's place, the Democrats have helped to install an intelligent, public spirited, moderate Republican aristocrat whose family has resources to use in political campaigns that dwarf Stars over Texas. Straus is perfectly positioned to build a mainstream Republican majority that can last for years. And who is upset about this? Not the Democrats. It's the Republicans! ....

At the risk of boring readers with further discussion, I do want to respond to one further statement in your letter:

In any case, choosing to attack (again and again) Dunnam on a day when Dewhurst earned a spot in the Worst Hall of Fame looks petty, thin, and biased.

Patricia Kilday Hart did a magnificent job of covering the Senate yesterday. I was with her on the floor much of the time. I did not post about the Senate because she had said everything that needed to be said, including Dewhurst's perfidy. When the Legislature is in session, she covers the Senate and I cover the House. The biggest news out of the House yesterday, in my view, was Mr. Dunnam's statement. That's why I wrote about it. It's not personal; it's strictly business.

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