"Journalistic malpractice"
Sat February 12, 2011 11:35 am

Dr. Richard Murray, the University of Houston professor, pollster, and political commentator, accused TEXAS MONTHLY of “journalistic malpractice” in a recent column published on the Web site of KTRK, Channel 13. Here is what he wrote:

The February issue of Texas Monthly featured its 2011 list of the twenty-five most powerful Texans. Neither Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, nor Lt. Governor David Dewhurst made the cut. Maybe omitting Joe Straus is warranted because of his junior status, laid-back style, and the serious flaw lines that cut across his 150 member body. But leaving David Dewhurst off the list is journalistic malpractice in my opinion.

As noted last week, the Lt. Governor is a savvy veteran entering his fifth regular session with a deserved reputation as an effective inside player in his 31-member chamber. With Texas facing huge issues that require legislative action (as much as a 27 billion dollar budget shortfall, and fitting four new congressional districts into the state map, to name two), for the Monthly to leave out the most powerful legislator in the Lone Star State is bizarre to say the least. No other Austin player figures to have anywhere near the same positive impact in shaping budgets, redistricting maps, and resolving dozens of other difficult issues as the incumbent lt. governor.

I have great respect for Dr. Murray, but I don't think he makes his case(s), either the case for David Dewhurst, nor the case against TEXAS MONTHLY. Read the previous paragraph, and you will not find a single citation of what David Dewhurst has accomplished. True, Dewhurst is positioned to do a lot of important things. But will he do them? Has he done them in the past?

It is true that Dewhurst occupies the office that has traditionally been regarded as having the most influence over the passage of legislation. Dewhurst’s long-serving predecessors, Bill Hobby and Bob Bullock, dominated the Capitol in their day. But Dewhurst has not filled their shoes, not even close. What has Dewhurst put his stamp on? Hobby greatly increased the state's commitment to health care. Bullock settled a lawsuit that resulted in greatly increased support for higher education in South Texas, and (along with Pete Laney) mentored George W. Bush. The three of them made the Legislature run better than it has before or since. But Dewhurst's leadership style has ranged from indifference--in past years, he was often absent from the podium while various senators presided—to micromanaging his job, sitting in his office reading bills (which drove senators nuts). His working relationship with senators, even those in his own party, has been rocky. He has carried out the agendas of others, such as congressional redistricting, a substantial property tax cut, and Voter ID, but he has exercised little leadership in his own right. What does Dewhurst have to show for his four sessions as light gov? He did propose some interesting health care initiatives at the end of the 2009 session, too late for them to move through the process, and he has fought to keep the two-thirds rule in the Senate. He guarded the Rainy Day fund in 2009, thus preserving it for use in the fiscal crisis of 2011. He has spent much of his time contemplating higher offices, not that he is alone in that quest. He’s more of a wonk--and a good one--than a powerhouse politician.

 In the power article, we explained why Dewhurst was not on the list:

Some very powerful men have held this position, but Dewhurst, for all his brains, is not one of them. “I don’t think he knows what power is,” one senator told us. Enough said.

TEXAS MONTHLY pleads not guilty.    

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