Fri March 28, 2014 9:13 am By Brian D. Sweany

“Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.” Monday marks the anniversary of those words, spoken by Lyndon Johnson from the White House on the evening of March 31, 1968. It marked a stunning end to a singular political career: congressman, senator, vice president, and president. Johnson, of course, assumed the presidency in the midst of a terrible national tragedy, but in 1964 he went on to win the highest percentage of the popular vote in the 20th century.

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Fri March 21, 2014 11:05 am By Brian D. Sweany

“I’ve never been a long-term planner about anything,” George W. Bush told this magazine in a May 1994 cover story. “I have lived my life with more of a short-term focus—on the theory that other interesting things would come up for me to do.” That candor (Bush insists that he didn’t decide to run until June 1993) is a revealing part of his personality, and it was an important aspect of a feature written by one of Texas Monthly’s most celebrated profile writers, Skip Hollandsworth. As the 1994 general election geared up between Bush and the popular incumbent, Democrat Ann Richards, Hollandsworth saw part of the campaign’s dynamic this way:

Bush is keenly aware that a lot of people, even those who swear allegiance to him, don’t know a thing about him as a politician except that he is the former president’s boy. George the Younger, he’s called. The First Son. The Shrub. Regardless of how much George W. Bush wants to talk about issues, the decisive factors in many voters’ minds are likely to be how they perceive him to be like his father and how they perceive him to be different—whether they believe he has his father’s strengths or his weaknesses.

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Thu March 20, 2014 10:40 am By Brian D. Sweany

No less than former first lady Barbara Bush said of Strauss's death last night, "He is absolutely the most amazing politician. He is everybody's friend and, if he chooses, could sell you the paper off your own wall." Strauss, of course, was a Democrat who ended up on the April 1974 cover of Texas Monthly along with George H.W. Bush. As Al Reinert wrote in a piece titled "Bob and George Go to Washington, or The Post-Watergate Scramble":

In less than a week’s time during December 1972, two Texans were named National Chairmen of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Robert Strauss, the Democrat, was a lifelong friend of John Connally—law school classmate, hunting sidekick, co-tenant of a lakeside cottage—yet lost the former governor to the GOP soon after taking office. Republican George Bush—who generously traded to the Democrats one of his own schoolmates, fraternity brother (Skull & Bones) and New York Mayor John Lindsay—graciously welcomed Connally, who had been largely responsible (in Bush’s estimation) for Bush’s defeat in the 1970 Senate election. The winner of that race, Connally protege Lloyd Bentsen, had been Bush’s occasional tennis foe and confederate in the same country club, as well as the first U.S. Senator to call for the election of Bob Strauss.

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Wed March 19, 2014 4:19 pm By Brian D. Sweany

In the April issue, which went online today, I wrote a short piece about the search to replace outgoing UT System chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and the news that Governor Perry had indicated to the board that it should consider Kyle Janek for the job. My story went to the printer two weeks ago (ah, print journalism!), but I spoke to several sources close to the board, close to UT, and close to the governor’s office.

Though Janek’s office at the Health and Human Services Commission did not respond to a request for an interview, well-placed sources told me that he has indicated through back channels that he will not go after UT-Austin president Bill Powers. I think that Perry has come to realize that Powers is going to outlast him, and Janek presents an opportunity for the governor’s priorities to be carried forward after he leaves office but in a way that represents a change from the direct engagement we saw under Chairman Gene Powell. But unlike Paul, I don’t believe that Janek is a slam dunk. Far from it, in fact: I think the current board will resist any appearance that it will reflexively follow Perry’s lead:

[C]onsider that while Perry has the power to appoint the regents, he has not had a lot of luck in persuading them to pick his people to run our public universities. In 2002, at his alma mater, Texas A&M, he wanted Phil Gramm installed as president; the board selected Robert Gates. When the chancellor position at UT came open in 2009, he backed John Montford; the board tapped Cigarroa. And last year, when Texas A&M was choosing an interim president, he endorsed an old colleague, Guy Diedrich; the board chose Mark Hussey. It’s tough to imagine he’ll have any better luck when he’s got one foot out the door of the Governor’s Mansion. “There is a perception that Governor Perry’s power has eroded as he approaches the end of his tenure,” says H. Scott Caven, a former UT regent chair.

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Wed March 19, 2014 1:54 pm By Erica Grieder

Yesterday the Dan Branch campaign for the Republican attorney-general nomination sent out a press release that I found somewhat troubling.

The missive is a response to a request for comment campaign spokesman Enrique Marquez received yesterday from Michael Quinn Sullivan. Sullivan is best known as the president of Empower Texans, but recently he’s been moonlighting as a columnist for Breitbart Texas, and it was in that capacity that he emailed Marquez, seeking comment from the Branch campaign. “Pro-lifers say Branch’s amendment in 2005 would have allowed third-trimester abortions of viable babies,” wrote Sullivan. “…They further note that only pro-abortion Democrats and a few moderates supported his amendment in 2005, as evidence that it was a bad amendment.” Did the campaign have any comment, he asked?

The issue, for the Branch campaign, was that in his capacity as the president of Empower Texans, Sullivan had endorsed Ken Paxton, Branch’s opponent, and the Empower Texans PAC has given a lot of money to Paxton. In other words, Sullivan is clearly not an unbiased reporter. That was the issue the Branch campaign emphasized in the headline of the press release: “Branch Campaign Responds to Michael Quinn Sullivan Acting As Reporter For Breitbart News.”

That’s not, however, what I found troubling.

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