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Special Session Strengthened Speaker Joe Straus

Guest column: Whiney hineys that didn’t get their way

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Joe Straus in June 2017.
Photo by Anna Donlan

The responses from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to their failures in the recently ended Special Session are telling. Both men are acting like the proverbial spoiled child after getting their agenda mostly blown out by the Texas House under the leadership of Speaker Joe Straus.

Abbott blamed Straus of “dilly-dallying” on initiatives such as lowering property taxes and the bathroom bill. Patrick likened Straus to a coward in battle: “Thank goodness Travis didn’t have the speaker at the Alamo. He (Straus) might have been the first one over the wall.” Straus countered that the House “worked diligently in the special session, passing legislation that was in the best interest of all Texans.”

One of those three men sounds like a leader who wants what is best for the state. Two sound like whiney hineys that didn’t get their way. I’ll let you decide which is which.

Observing from a purely Republican primary point of view, it seems like Abbott is still frightened that Patrick is going to run against him. He acknowledges that Straus told him before he called the special session that there would be no vote on the privacy protection act (i.e., bathroom bill) yet he put it on the call for the session anyway. Can’t let Patrick get to his right, right?

And while Abbott rails against the failure of property tax reform, the truth is that the bill proposed by the Senate didn’t save anyone any property tax money; it might have slowed the growth of a few political subdivisions but on the whole, it did nothing. The plain fact of the matter is that in blaming the House for the failure of property tax reform, he is blaming the wrong chamber. The House actually passed a bill before adjourning while Patrick adjourned without taking a vote on it.

So how is Speaker Straus strengthened by all of this? Glad you asked.

First off, a lot more voters got involved in the special session because of Abbott’s decision to ignore Straus’ warning that there would be no vote on the privacy protection act, AKA the bathroom bill. And their involvement gave them a chance to see how the process works and how the way the three leaders handle themselves on policy issues. It showed those new activists that Abbott is actually a very weak leader, swaying with the wind.

It also gave them a good look at how nasty and petty Patrick can be when he doesn’t get his way. Those of us that have followed Patrick through the years are well aware of this tendency and didn’t need the reminder. But that crack he made about Straus at the Alamo was the bottom of the barrel as far as I’m concerned, especially given Patrick’s wearing his Christianity on his sleeve. A man of integrity would apologize for that. I guarantee you that the majority of the House members know that Patrick’s statement is far from the truth after seeing Straus take hit after hit and never backing away in his efforts to protect them from a vote that they didn’t want to make.

Second, it showed Straus’s constituency, the House members, that he truly does let the will of the House decide its course and the lengths to which he will go to absorb criticism to protect them. After a regular session in which I thought he had succumbed to ego and began believing his own positive press. He corrected that course and started talking about ‘we’ instead of ‘I’. Those members aren’t going to forget that.

The question is, what does he do with the increased strength? What are his political options?

I had to laugh when I saw that blogger Perry Dorrell suggested that in order to defeat Abbott, the Democrats would have to draft Straus. Bathroom-bill-itis must have blinded Dorrell to the conservative bills passed under Straus’ leadership the past five sessions. The idea that Straus would switch parties is laughable.

So that leaves the Republican primary for governor. Tough sell and I don’t think he’d make it but it would be interesting. I’ve wanted for years to see what would happen if November Republicans turned out in the primary. I think you would see very different, much better leadership and policy. Unfortunately, they don’t and without that, Straus would be spinning his wheels and wasting money and throwing away his increased  political capital. And if he did file, my guess is that Patrick would also join the race and win in a three way battle.

Now, a race for lieutenant governor between Patrick and Straus would be fun, but, again, without those November Republicans, Straus couldn’t win. It would be fun because of the contrast that Allen Blakemore, Patrick’s strategist, would create. He’d position Straus as an ultra liberal while Patrick is the ultra conservative on a white horse. In truth, while Patrick was still just a talk radio jockey, Straus had already worked for President Ronald Reagan pushing his agenda. Who is the Republican again?

Returning to the House is the most obvious landing place and where Straus can do the most good. The “Oust Straus” folks won’t have a chance to replace him and he can focus on finally getting school finance fixed. Obviously that will still be a mountain to climb with Patrick controlling the Senate, but it would offer the best chance for a real solution. Folks, our school finance system is a mess. At some point, we need to put pressure on the big three to find a solution that at least mostly cleans it up. No one is going to get everything they want but something has to give. We can’t continue with some kids using 10 year old information technology textbooks while other kids get iPads to take home.

If you’ve managed to get this far, then you obviously have the fortitude to hold your elected representatives accountable for your particular issues. And that makes me happy, even if you are on the ‘Oust Straus’ train. Mostly because I know your issue is going to go off the tracks but still, it’s good to see people involved in the process.

David Jennings is the founder of BigJollyPolitics.com and has been observing and writing about Republican politics for fifteen years. He is also the Republican Chair for Precinct 377 in Harris County.


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    OMG, two sensible GOPers is one week…..Could JJ be right about how the semi-mythical GOP “moderates”, “business conservatives” and “November Republicans” are on the march? It would be nice…but I still am waiting to see some evidence at the polls on primary day and at the GOP conventions that follow…Of course, it would help if some of them faced up to the fact that, even if they are “good listeners” some of those they are supporting are not on their side…

  • SpiritofPearl

    What’s with the Alamo slam? Patrick’s real name is Goeb and he’s from Baltimore.

    • BCinBCS

      Supposedly, Commander Travis gave anyone who wanted the opportunity to leave the Alamo. A man names Moses Rose took him up on the offer and left. Everyone else stayed and died. Patrick is insulting Straus by saying that he, too, would have left. When placed in the context of the sacrifice of the defenders of the Alamo his comment is a deep insult to a Texan.

      • Jed

        “hen placed in the context of the sacrifice of the defenders of the Alamo his comment is a deep insult to a Texan.”

        maybe if you took 7th grade history 70 years ago.

        i’d say now many would see this as a compliment. moses roe was apparently the smart one. the battle was not only futile, but more importantly it was strategically unimportant.

        • WUSRPH

          And, it might be noted that Sam Houston, as commanding general of the Army of the newly-declared Republic of Texas and a man with military experience—unlike Travis who was a South Carolina lawyer—had called for the abandonment of the Alamo because if was impossible to defend it against the force the size of Santa Anna’s.
          Travis, who commanded the small Texas Army part of the garrison, and Jim Bowie, who led the “volunteers”, instead chose to stay…and sent out calls for Texans to join them there. (Presumably they were showing some of the “independent spirit” for which we Texans are supposedly famous.) As a result the entire garrison (other than Rose) were massacred. (That included several Tejanos whose presence was denied for many years thereafter.)
          As to whether the battle was “strategically unimportant” some might claim that loses that Santa Anna sustained there weakened his force and/or that by keeping him in and around San Antonio for 13 days it gave Houston time to better organize his forces….However, in reality, Santa Anna’s total forces were still several times the size of ALL of the Texas forces even after the Alamo. and could still have succeeded in crushing the Texas’ rebellion if he had made two mistakes that Houston was able to size upon in order to win at San Jacinto.
          First, Santa Anna divided his force into three columns that moved separately eastward driving the Texans before them (“The Runaway Scrape”) which reduced the size of the force under his immediate command.
          And, secondly, watching the Texas run before him as well as Houston’s continued withdrawal (“retreat’) towards the Louisiana border, Santa Anna and his troops became over confident and let down their guard (even thou they knew that Houston was camped nearby) which gave Houston the chance for which he had been looking..
          Even then, we still could have “lost” had Houston given into the cries of his troops to hang Santa Anna….He, however, was smart enough to know that the only chance Texas had to prevail was if the two other Mexican forces still in the field withdrew from Texas….and that a live Santa Anna could give that order while a dead one could not…And, it was even more important to the outcome, that Santa Anna, although Houston’s prisoner,, still had enough authority over this army that those generals obeyed his order.
          It makes many proud to remember the valiant stand at the Alamo….and view it as Texas’s own version of Thermopylae and San Jacinto as our Salamis… but it was a lot closer thing that most today will admit.

          • BCinBCS

            When W and I wrote that all were killed at the Alamo, we were speaking mainly of the combatants. The wife and child(ren) of one of the defenders, I believe her last name was Dickerson or Dickinson, was allowed to leave along with a defender who was a black man that Santa Anna assumed was an unwilling participant (I vaguely remember that he belonged to Bowie). As a black slave, he and his name were not important so I don’t think that I ever was taught about him back a million years ago in 7th grade Texas history class.

          • BCinBCS

            When I wrote this reply, I had not yet read R.G’s next blog post “When Heroes and Despots are the Same Person”. In it he writes about the Alamo survivors Susanna Dickinson and William B. Travis’s slave Joe. I stand informed and corrected.

          • WUSRPH

            By legend or story, Mrs. Dickinson lived in Galveston after the war and the “Babe of the Alamo”, the young daughter you see in her arms in the John Wayne movie, died there…..Years ago a friend of mine spent untold hours trying to prove that and find and mark the grave…. I wonder if anyone has learned anything since then.

        • BCinBCS

          maybe if you took 7th grade history 70 years ago.

          Yup, that’s about when I took Texas history. /s/

      • SpiritofPearl

        Was Moses Rose Jewish?

        • WUSRPH

          I’ve never seen that question raised before….but probably not as his real name appears to have been Louis Rose although he may have been nicknamed “Moses” ..According to the Handbook of Texas, he was originally from France and he had been a soldier in the Napoleonic Wars was like most experienced soldiers throughout history didn’t see standing and fighting with no chance of victory and the near certainty of dying as being a sound strategy. The Handbook attributes his nickname to the having been awarded him because he was so much older than the rest of the soldiers..(“0ld as Moses”) .But with ant-Semitism being so common it might have fitted in with some minds that a “coward” had to be a Jew.

          One thing that Patrick–not being a REAL TEXAN–may not know is that Rose is only one a several who left the Alamo…The others left several days earlier under an armistice offered by Santa Ana for those who wanted to leave. This is usually conveniently forgotten although John Wayne in his movie version of The Alamo does include a short account….However, he plays up the angle that it was all women children overlooking the presence of several sturdy men among the small group of refugees from sure death.

          Rose did not go out with that group, but waited several more days until after Travis’s legendary famous “line in the dirt” gesture, which offered the right to leave to anyone who chose to do so.. Unlike them, he had to leave at night and slip thru the Mexican lines as the armistice had expired and Santa Ana had already declared that after the time had expired he would take no prisoners.

          Rose, also, did not slip out over the back wall when no one was looking…but apparently had a way out opened for him by those who chose to stay…By the way, we only know about Travis having apparently done so because Rose told people about it…as such, there is always the case that the famous line in the sand may never have happened but was invented by Rose to justify his action….That is just one of the many things about the Alamo we will never know.

          It might also be noted that, unlike the Spartans at Thermopylae or the French Old Guard at Waterloo, the defenders of the Alamo did not stand, shoulder-to-shoulder, back-to-back and go down to the last man as a group….In fact, during the battle a number are reported to have gone over the wall and trying to escape….but they were either run down and killed or captured by the Mexican cavalry which had been stationed outside the battle site for just that purpose.
          There are also fairly well documented accounts of several (12 or so) Alamo defenders being either overwhelmed and captured or having surrendered….including, by one account, David Crockett himself. They were all thought to have subsequently executed on Santa Ana’s orders—which may have involved them being bayoneted to death.
          Never-the-less what Patrick said about Straus was a clear and deliberate insult and an attack on his courage and, as they used to say, “his manhood”. Had this happen in good old days such an insult would have required something other than a verbal response by the party being insulted. In the South, if the two were of equal social/class status this could have led to a duel…but, since Patrick is clearly from a lower class level than Straus, Straus would probably have to have been content with either caning or horse whipping Patrick. Sometimes you almost wish someone would bring back the old traditions.

          • Kozmo

            There has been a lot of good, new Alamo research published in the last 30 years. Patrick has probably not even heard of these books or publications. Louis “Moses” Rose would certainly have been among the oldest Alamo defenders if he had been a veteran of Napoleon’s army (as the story generally places him). But the entire Moses Rose story is impossible to prove — it’s as much a legend as Travis’ line, if you judge from the facts and available primary sources. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you know what you’re talking about and don’t try to push fantasy over hard fact as an absolute.

            That said, don’t pass up the chance to listen to Carl Peterson’s hilarious song about Moses Rose (to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas”, you can find it on CD or the audio on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mM_SiX44vI8

          • WUSRPH

            As one whose family (like Dannie Goeb) came to Texas from Maryland, I might ask him where his ancestor was at the Battle of Bladensburg in 1814 and how far he ran that day….or what his ancestor did when the Maryland Line stood with its back to a swamp at the Battle of Long Island in 1776 so that the rest of Washington’s army could flee (call it a retreat).
            I did not have any ancestors at Blandensburg so I do not know if they would have cut and run to save their lives and be able to fight another day as so many did that day….But I do know that my ancestor stood his ground with the Maryland Militia at North Point, where the repulse of the British land force actually saved Baltimore…and of another who stood at South Mountain to keep the Union Army off the back of Lee’s forces as he gathered in his army at Antietam..
            But, or course, Dannie Goeb’s roots in America probably don’t go that far back…

            I could, however, ask him what he (and Trump) were dong during the Vietnam war….but then you shouldn’t question someone else’s courage….or even that of their ancestors…as we can not know (or judge) the circumstances and the situation that they faced.

          • SpiritofPearl


      • Donald Baker

        Straus is an insult to Texas

    • Kozmo

      I seriously doubt Patrick knows anything about the Alamo he didn’t pick up from John Wayne’s deeply flawed and unhistorical movie. He’s posturing, as usual.

  • BCinBCS

    Judging from this article, it would seem that WUSRPH and David Jennings have been talking to each other.
    (This shows that maybe JJ should reconsider his opinion of W’s political knowledge.)

  • PrattonTexas

    Laughable: “Special Session Strengthened Speaker Joe Straus”

    • WUSRPH

      It is probably too early to say just what the final impact will be….Abbott/Patrick/MQs and the radical right will certainly try to defeat Straus….and that could happen….but there will be no question about who is the winner, if come January of 2019 despite all their efforts, Straus is sworn in the for a record-breaking sixth term as speaker…

  • Hannibal

    I fully expect Texas Monthly to kiss Straus’ grits. Straus is Democrat dressed in an elephant costume, who wields the speaker’s power to thwart the will of the People. Texas Monthly is a left-wing rag.

    • michael williams

      I’m surprised that one who is an extreme right wing nut would even read such a left wing rag as you called it. Suggest you go back and crawl in your dark hole.

    • WUSRPH

      I had to interrupt you when you get going, but I still have this question you keep ducking….You know, like just which things has Straus “thwart(ed) the will of the People”….

      • Hannibal

        I’ve given you specifics in the past, especially committee assignments. Straus is speaker ONLY because he wields his power to keep weak reps in line AND has Dem votes. You can’t possibly not know that.

        • WUSRPH

          How I can not possibly know what I have written extensively about (including in my (in)famous legislative manual) escapes me….What you describe is what happens in representative bodies every day…(Whether it should is, of course, another question but that is the way “representative” democracy works unlike in the fantasy world of some sort of a “populist” assembly you seem to favor.)

          Of course, you tend to overlook the fact that Danny Patrick has substantially more power over what happens in the Senate than Straus does over the House and that he uses his power every day to stifle the will of any one who disagrees with him…But, then you apparently like most of what he does to suppress the will of at least some of the people.

          • Hannibal

            The difference is that Patrick, whether you like it or not, is representing the will of the People. People like me elected Republicans and Conservatives in both houses and the Governor. We have a right to expect they will govern from our perspective rather than from yours. Straus does not do that, he governs contrary to will of the majority. You can’t possibly not know that. I understand that you think Straus is the bee’s knees, but I don’t.

          • WUSRPH

            Vouchers, bathrooms. the total emasculation of the cities to represent their residents against developers? Those are the will of the people? Or maybe the will of some people? (Even Patrick, try as he did, was unable to force the ultimate anti-city bill through the Senate)…As to who I feel about Straus, if you would read anything in-between your drop byes to say the same thing every time, you would see that I do not totally share the view (more a hope) of some that he is some Horatius at the Bridge saving Texas from the onslaught of the barbarians….Too many things that I consider to be bad public policy have been enacted during his term as speaker for me to give him such a title of honor…He—recognizing the need to protect his members—just seems to be a little slower at doing some of these things than Patrick…But, I might again point out that ours is not a bicameral legislature….Whatever “will of the people” that has been passed in recent years also had to pass the House, where Straus is speaker….and much of it was in the form of House bill. However, you still have not been specific about just what of the “will of the people” he has not passed.

          • Hannibal

            The chances of us agreeing are slim indeed, but not as slim as the chances that I will pound my head against a pole in the form of trying to change your mind. You, on the other hand, write book after book of verbiage based on your assumptions (which are demonstrably wrong) and biases. I’m sure you will write 500 words in reply, but you probably should just let it go, as I’m done with you.

          • WUSRPH

            Nope. Only nine: Goodbye. You will not be missed.

          • BCinBCS

            Hannibal, your dedication and support of your POV knows no bounds.
            Your arguments in support of your position certainly changed my mind. /s/

  • Texas Publius

    Abbott = weak leader, sways with the wind (check!)
    Patrick = nasty and petty when he can’t control you (check!)

    Ever notice how Patrick rarely goes after Dems? His main target is almost always Rs. Clear violation of Reagan’s 11th commandment.

    He’s not a leader. He’s a divider. He is genetically incapable of operating within a democratic republic form of govt. He just wants to control every office and branch of state govt.

    • Sky Mirror

      Abbott’s favorite color is plaid.

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    • Donald Baker

      Abbott and Patrick are outstanding leaders for this state and they will have my vote again. Legislators who support RINO Straus are starting to face primary challenges and I suspect many of his henchmen will be defeated.


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    Did you see the Newsweek magazine cover of Trump wearing a military helmet bearing 4 stars? Too bad they didn’t show the bad feet that kept him out of Vietnam but seemed to become miraculously healed after his fifth draft deferment. But, then abusing the draft system when you have the ability to do so is nothing new in America….One of my great-grandfathers, just like Teddy Roosevelt’s father, bought his way out of the Union draft during the civil war by putting up $300 for a substitute to serve in his place, as was perfectly legal at the time. (He was in medical school and did not want to drop out to go to war.) The South also had a version of the substitute system and, to prove who really had stroke in the confederacy, automatically exempted anyone who owned more than 20 slaves. Which just goes to prove the old adage that money (or owning enough people) will buy you anything.

    • WUSRPH

      Okay, I admit it….Those complaining that I pick on Trump too much may have a point…I know, I know he is the president of the United States and for that alone deserves some respect. The problem is that, while I respect the office of president, I have no respect for him…

      Of course, nothing I have said about Trump comes close to what he (and JJ) used to say about his immediate predecessor on a daily basis..But, I guess that was different and not only because he was not even born in the USA.

      I actually have tried to, as it has been suggested, “lay off of him for a few days” but every time I do, he does something more that is particularly atrocious. I was never this mean even to Nixon (and, to my life-long disgrace) even voted for him (once)….And I even kind of liked Reagan (who couldn’t) and respected George WH for having the guts to drop “read my lips” when the best interests of his country demanded it…And everybody wanted to have a beer with George W…

      But with Trump it is somehow different….I suspect because it is so clear that he is the personification of the old line about how in America anyone could become president and that it could be dangerous to have one.

      But, I’ll try..

      • WUSRPH

        Why, you ask, didn’t I mentioned the rest of the presidents there have been in my lifetime? No real reason, but to cover them all.

        FDR: I was too young to develop a personal opinion of him…but, from what I have learned, a master manipulator who “saved Capitalism for (or from) itself” and stood to the challenge of tyranny in the world.

        Harry Truman–a “common man” who rose to the challenge, resurrected Europe after WW II and insured the survival of the West. Not bad for famer boy with a high school degree from Missouri.
        Eisenhower–American’s “father figure” who quietly steered the country through a period of great expansion and change.

        JFK—a playboy who was more image than reality, but, who when it counted in the Cuban Missile Crisis, rose above himself but whose presidency was cut too short to determine whether that would have made him a better president.

        LBJ—a gigantic character whom Shakespeare would find it hard to master…..who did as more for civil rights than anyone since Lincoln and who really cared about the conditions and lives of his fellow American…..who was drowned in the morass of Vietnam.

        Nixon—an evil spirt across the land, consumed by envy and fear but who still “opened the door to China” and make nuclear peace deals with the Soviets.

        Jerry Ford—a truly decent man raised above all his expectations (and perhaps abilities) and who could not escape the effects of his great gesture to “end American’s national nightmare” by pardoning Nixon.

        Jimmy Carter—a more than decent individual (an example to us all in his post-presidency years) caught in circumstances not of his creation (20% inflation, the Iran hostages, etc.) who could not work his way out of trying to master every detail to find solutions.

        Reagan–A man whose life and presidency were grounded in the myths of America…but, warm of spirit and not afraid to take steps to end the threat of nuclear war that would have resulted in teh labeling of any Democrat who tried the same as a traitor.

        George HW Bush—I’ve already said.

        Bill Clinton—in many ways a little boy who never grew up….but who, following on LBJ, took up the gauntlet of human and civil rights.

        George H Bush—the “guy” next door way in over his head who followed the lead of others into adventures in the Middle East with effects that the world is still struggling to contain.

        Barrack Obama—a man who planned his rise to the top from an early age (as do many others in public life) whose very election gave some truth to the myth of America being the land where all men are created equal but who faced an unyielding opposition to his very existence that may have denied him a place in the ranks of great American presidents.

        The Donald—-a megalomaniac engulfed by the need for worship; totally unprepared for the job and apparently not able or willing to take the steps to overcome that….

        You asked. I answered.

    • Donald Baker

      How interesting you have nothing to say about draft dodger Clinton

      • WUSRPH

        Nor did I say anything about former GOP US Sen. Phil Gramm and his FIVE DEFERALS or Donald Trump’s suddenly then but no longer now flat feet or even the many who rushed to join the reserves and the national guard safe in the knowledge that LBJ had said that those units would not be called up .like George W. Bush (who had an attendance problem when in the reserves) or even Texas Democratic Gov. Mark White…..(Those who joined the guard or the reserves back them were often called “Sunshine Soldiers”.) None of that was relevant to the post…..