I thought Governor Dewhurst's speech was all wrong. It was too long, too partisan, too campaign oriented. He had one foot off the platform on the way to Washington.
Sometimes the things he said made no sense at all. Speaking of the early settlers, he said, "Those men and women who made their way to Texas, who settled these unforgiving plains, who sought neither a handout nor a stimulus check -- they simply sought freedom."
Oh, please. Was Stephen F. Austin oppressed in Missouri? Was Davy Crockett in debtors' prison in Tennessee? Did Jim Bowie face constant harassment in Arkansas? Nobody came to Texas for freedom. They came for cheap land and the chance to make a better life for themselves. Texas is not about noble ideals. It's about making money.
Unfavorable references to Washington are laced throughout the text:
* In contrast to Washington, we offer limited government to create unlimited opportunities.
* Washington should listen to the people and look to the states--the laboratories of innovation and governing.
* In Texas, we will never concede our freedom to Washington.
(No, we'll just sue them. And lose.)
* Washington has run roughshod over state sovereignty.
* The only thing as outrageous as the amount of money Washington is borrowing from foreign creditors is the amount of money they withhold from the states unless we comply with their edicts.
(Yes, it's too bad the Founding Fathers stuck the supremacy clause in the Constitution.)
Dewhurst is following the Perry model: If you rail enough about Washington, you can make people forget about what is -- and what is not -- happening here. Which is: a humongous shortfall and a leadership that is willing, even eager, to wrap Texas in a fiscal straightjacket and throw it under the bus to benefit their own political ambitions.
His priorities, Dewhurst said, include securing our borders, encouraging
more job creation, passing Voter ID, improve our public schools because a quality education gives every child a chance to realize their dreams, continue building a world class transportation system, make healthcare more accessable and more affordable with better medical outcomes at a lower cost by passing reforms that will lead the nation...
Does he think we're all stupid? Does he think that anti-Washington rhetoric will make us forget that he is going to whack $25 billion out of the budget? There won't be enough money left to build a farm-to-market road, much less a world-class transportation system. Quality education with 30 kids in an elementary classroom? A more affordable health care system? More affordable for the state, maybe, after Medicaid has been cut to the bone, but not for you and me.
My reading of Dewhurst through the years hasn't really changed very much. It comes down to this: He wants to do the right thing, but he can never bring himself to do it. He perpetually runs scared, scared of the tea party, scared of Dan Patrick, scared of Rick Perry, scared of the Republican senators, scared of his own better instincts. And so we get speeches like this one, which doesn't ring true.
* * * *
Patricia Kilday Hart filed this report on Dewhurst's speech and its aftermath:
It was windy at the Inaugural today, but if you had looked closely you would have seen steam coming out of the ears of Democratic state senators during Dewhurst's speech.
I tried getting reactions from members of the Senate and the only on-the-record comment comes from Leticia Van de Putte, who said, "I don't think that there is any doubt about whether David Dewhurst is running for the U.S. Senate." From others, I got the complaint -- common to D's and R's -- that it was "too long" and "too disorganized." To that, Democrats added, "too partisan," citing lines slamming Obama and this one, which pertained to them:
"The Team Party, Independents, Republicans, and Conservative Dmeocrats should all be proud of Texas as a shining example of limited government, low taxes, and economic
growth." The carving out of conservative Democrats from the rest of the Democratic party was inappropriate. The timing of such a political speech does not portend for happy bipartisan times in the Senate. As some senators noted, Dewhurst used Inauguration Day to deliver a screed against Washington, instead of talking about Texas, and focusing on the legislative session. Poor choice. It doesn't help that senators have been conferring in party caucuses all day to work out their differences on Senate rules -- in particular, about Republicans once again adopting a "special order" for the Voter ID bill so that it will not require a two-thirds vote. Apparently, Senate Republicans are planning to move ahead with that proposal -- which should draw Democratic opposition. Last session, Voter ID set a hostile tone in the Senate for the entire session. Dewhurst's speech doesn't rise to that level, but it certainly planted a feeling of unease among Democratic senators that he will be playing to his primary base this session.
Times have changed a lot for Perry since he last took the oath of office. For the first time in his political career, he has a real constituency. You could sense the enthusiasm in the crowd.
His speech was short and rambling, touching on the things he cared about: his parents, Anita's family, veterans and their sacrifices, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and "the catastrophic events in the marketplace that have unleashed an economic recession unlike anything we have seen in 70 years."
For once, he didn't brag about Texas. "While Texas has fared better than most states," he said, "we have not gone untouched by this global recession, and we cannot forget those Texans who are dealing with the fear and uncertainty of joblessness." That was a sober sentiment far removed from his "what recession?" wisecrack of the primary campaign.
He mentioned a couple of issues in a modulated tone--finding cures for various kinds of cancers, creating a safe and secure border--but you could see that he was working himself up for a big finish. As he so often does, he transformed himself into the Aggie yell leader of old, and here it came, a complete and extemporaneous departure from the printed text:
"I believe Texas will lead the way out of this turmoil."
"Historians will look back and call this, the Texas Century."
"This is our time. This is our place in history. THIS IS OUR MOMENT. We must show the world the endless possibilities of freedom and free enterprise."
"TEXAS! TEXAS! TEXAS!"
- 1 week