R.G.’s Roundup: Trump’s Words, U.T.’s Troubles, and Dyslexia Services
Our favorite political reads of the week.
By Marc Fisher
The Washington Post
In a nation where the Beltway journalists have become obsessed with every seemingly random tweet by President Trump, there is an underlying truth: Trump and his advisers have chosen their words carefully to appeal, not to the heads, but to the guts of those Americans who feel like the present and the future are leaving them behind. This Washington Post story is an excellent study of their words:
The official said that the rhetoric of the Trump administration is designed “to be neither left nor right but a common-sense approach that shines light on a very out-of-touch small group of people in a few big cities who have been the big winners and who try to portray the mainstream of America as being abnormal.”
“A lot of the language you’re seeing is about one question: Are we reindustrializing America or deindustrializing America?” the official said. “Sometimes the language falls into a left bucket and sometimes a right bucket, but the consistent theme is that the proper role of the American nation-state is to create more prosperity for American citizens.”
Buckets? Hmm. Where have we heard about buckets in the past? Actually, Democratic Hillary Clinton nominee used the term basket, but if you read a fuller version of her quote, there were two baskets. “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up, “ Clinton said. “But that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different.”
What Fisher writes is that Trump, through his words, is offering both baskets—to borrow a phrase from The Maltese Falcon—the stuff that dreams are made of.
As president, Trump has continued to make statements that are factually incorrect or are based on opinions he heard on TV. It is a pattern he followed throughout his business career. “I play to people’s fantasies,” he wrote in his first book, “The Art of the Deal.” “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.”
These selections give you just a hint of what’s in this excellent article. Though it won’t change anyone’s mind about Trump and his policies, it may make a difference in what you hear.
Ralph K.M. Haurwitz
University of Texas Chancellor Bill McRaven may have coordinated the Seal team that took out Osama bin Laden, but his plans to expand U.T. to Houston went FUBAR. In no small part, that was because he lacked the backing of Governor Greg Abbott.
What the chancellor didn’t mention was that the shared vision also needed to be with Gov. Greg Abbott. It would be difficult, for reasons both political and practical, to succeed in such an ambitious endeavor without the support of the governor. But Abbott never expressed support publicly for the project — or opposition to it, for that matter. His silence was telling.
However, the leaderless leadership posture has become a hallmark of Abbott’s administration. Whether it is the U.T. expansion or the so-called bathroom bill in the Texas Senate, Abbott seems to prefer staying silent to see if issues work themselves out without him having to take a position.
By Todd Ackerman
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, here’s more University of Texas news: the president of the university’s MD Anderson Cancer Center has resigned amid ongoing financial turmoil at the research hospital.
Dr. Ron DePinho resigned as president of MD Anderson Cancer Center Wednesday, ending a tumultuous tenure that began with high ambition and a “Moon Shots” promise to cure the disease, but which soon became mired in faculty unrest, questions of conflict of interest and financial difficulties…
But MD Anderson insiders said McRaven was less impressed behind the scenes. In a meeting with faculty two years ago at which he vowed to fix the “broken” relationship between the hospital’s leadership and faculty, he categorized DePinho as neither a born leader nor “someone who will never get there” but someone he hoped to be able to work with. The meeting was scheduled in the aftermath of a faculty senate resolution that stopped just short of a no-confidence vote, citing “a climate of fear” and “pervasive dissatisfaction” at the institution.
More than just DePinho’s departure, now that Vice President Joe Biden is out of the White House, what happens to those “Moon Shots” to cure cancer?
By Julie Fancher
The Dallas Morning News
This is one of those issues that hit home for me, because I am mildly dyslexic. Fortunately, I never had any trouble reading, but as a child my spelling and handwriting were terrible. There was no help available in the Dallas public schools. In second grade, a teacher threw one of my papers back at me with a disdainful, “Your handwriting is chicken scratch!” In third grade, a teacher asked me if I was stupid.
Fortunately, my parents got me help through the Scottish Rite Hospital. For five long years, I went to a small class of dyslexic kids for ninety minutes every day after school and four hours on Saturday morning. They were long hours of drawing circles and push-pulls and memorizing spelling tricks and suffering through the reading-out-loud period when those classmates who couldn’t read struggled with each and every word. As Jack Welch, the dyslexic chairman of General Electric once said, dyslexia isn’t so bad if you survive childhood.
For me, the blessing of dyslexia is that it taught me to be extra careful in my work—no name, no fact, no word is too small to avoid double-checking. So over the years, my mistakes have been few—though there was one whopper in Spanish.
Not all children have parents who can afford to pay for the extra training for their children, and in the Legislature, there has been a struggle to bring that extra effort into most classrooms:
However, dyslexia experts said that because federal guidelines to qualify for special education are so strict, many students with mild to moderate dyslexia were not being served.
“At that time, special education utilized a discrepancy model for the identification of children with learning disabilities,” said Gladys Kolenovsky, the administrative director of the Luke Waites Center for Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities at Scottish Rite Hospital, who helped write the state’s dyslexia law back in 1985. “What it meant was that particularly bright children, children whose parents worked with them every night, or children who had tutoring support did not fall far enough behind to be identified for special education — and federal dollars — until the third or fourth grade.
So in 1985, the Texas Legislature passed the nation’s first dyslexia law offering services through general education, which allowed more students to be served, Kolenovsky said.
I’m not going to be out there advocating for this funding, but it was interesting to me that the House included dyslexia training in its proposal for school finance overhaul. That funding would be directed at 154,000 Texas children. Who knows, maybe one of them, if helped, will be the next Richard Branson, Whoopi Goldberg, Kiera Knightly, Steven Spielberg, Tim Tebow or novelist John Irving.