Every Thursday, we publish Bull Session, a roundup of the political odds and ends of the week, penning them all into one overstuffed corral.
It’s been an especially busy time for Greg Abbott, who, as the governor of Texas, naturally spent most of his week bouncing between Israel and Switzerland. First, Abbott dropped into Tel Aviv to chat up business leaders about technology opportunities back home, then he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where the two discussed the “unwavering bond between Texas and Israel,” as well as their “enduring friendship” that’s seen them through at least two separate photo ops now. Then it was off to Davos, where Abbott similarly rubbed elbows with sundry CEOs, then gave an interview to Fox & Friends, where, in a surprise change of heart, he welcomed any and all refugees to Texas with open arms—so long as they’re “fleeing” regulations and high taxes, and not, y’know, genocide. And while five thousand miles may seem a long way to go just for a few meet-and-greets or to get away from the homeless, it all paid off for Abbott with an actual hug from President Donald Trump, who called Abbott “my best guy, my best governor” and even offered to give him a lift home. Sadly, Abbott had to decline. After all, the governor’s right where we need him most in these trying times for the state, hobnobbing with billionaires in the Alps.
Besides, his time abroad in Trump’s shadow allowed Abbott to attend his most important meeting of the week, with another guy who doesn’t much like paying taxes: actor Wesley Snipes.
Hanging out with Wesley Snipes.
In his movie The Waterdance he uses a wheelchair as well as I do. pic.twitter.com/A5O9TbPSNb
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 19, 2020
Abbott and Snipes’ friendship appears to have endured across approximately two-and-a-half photos presumably snapped during some random encounter in an airport. And while it’s unclear what the two might have discussed while “hanging out,” the look on Snipes’s face suggests it was the fact that he was Wesley Snipes, that Abbott wanted a photo, and that Wesley Snipes had to go now. Nevertheless, Abbott managed to find some personal connection in the moment anyway, perhaps googling the fact that Snipes had once used a wheelchair in the 1992 Eric Stoltz drama The Waterdance. (If we checked, we’d surely find a few abandoned captions in the gov’s drafts folder. He played a vampire in Blade, and Austin has bats—so that’s something! To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Governor Abbott. I can’t believe that my homie was a rat, Nino Brown / And my dopeman still smokin’ crack, Nino Brown, etc.) It was surely a meaningful encounter for Snipes as well, right up there with his being rescued by a cartoon peanut.
Ted Cruz Is Too Busy for Stephen King
With the impeachment trial in full swing, Texas senator Ted Cruz has been right there on the front lines of each and every press scrum, even launching his very own nightly impeachment recap podcast to capture any leftover thoughts that didn’t find their way into a microphone. Cruz is so focused on becoming the impeachment’s very own Chris Hardwick, you can see how he’d have no time to engage in petty Twitter feuds—not even with Stephen King. The author has made frequent sport of Cruz before, and once, Cruz might have responded, like when he called King a “limousine liberal” in 2018. But the overbooked, newly civil Ted Cruz refused to take the bait this round, killing King’s cheap shot about his beard with kindness and a Bible verse.
Mr. King, you’re a talented writer. May blessings abound for you and your family. May love overflow in your life. I Peter 3:9 https://t.co/2dgfIOrgIY
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 20, 2020
If you aren’t familiar with the Good Book (after all, it’s been optioned for way fewer movies than Stephen King’s), 1 Peter 3:9 says, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” It’s a philosophy that Cruz has obviously taken to heart of late, having memorably repaid the man who spent years insulting him—calling him “Lyin’ Ted,” slagging his wife, and openly speculating that his dad may have killed JFK—by carrying water for his every bad faith argument. And while it probably would have been easy (really easy) to answer King’s crack about his looks with a nasty rejoinder of his own, kudos to Cruz for recognizing that resorting to such pettiness would be wrong—unless, as always, it’s in the service of that one guy. (Psalm 5:9)
Chip Roy Offers Bleak Vision of Austin’s Cool Future
In a tale of horror that Stephen King could easily crank out before breakfast, with the Hulu series arriving just in time for dinner, this week U.S. representative Chip Roy shared an ominous “glimpse into our national future if we don’t get serious about law & order again… and elect leaders who say so”: a New York subway train spray-painted stem to stern with a vibrant graffiti mural, pulsing with inner-city life. Gaze into the abyss of this terrifying street art, if you dare risk going mad.
— Chip Roy (@chiproytx) January 21, 2020
While Roy later conceded that “the art’s pretty good (as graffiti often is),” he reiterated that it’s “the law-breaking” he’s concerned with. His Nixonian/Trumpian invocation of law and order is directed at those defying rules that clearly forbid the beauty of spontaneous human expression in a cold, industrial world, and he even hashtagged the city of Austin to remind us that, unless we start cracking some skulls, the whole capital could tip over into becoming the kind of dangerous, thrillingly alive cesspit that New York was back in the seventies and eighties. Let’s hope for our sake that Roy’s vision doesn’t come true, and that the only “graffiti” allowed has been appropriately co-opted into ads for, say, Target.
Eliz Markowitz Borrows From Beto’s Songbook
The race for Texas House District 28 has become an unlikely national focal point of late, with thousands of voters already turning out for early voting in the special election, and hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring in from all over the country. All that attention probably has less to do with the contest between Republican Gary Gates and Democrat Eliz Markowitz, and more to do with its potential ramifications: some believe that turning the seat blue could lead to a domino effect that would help Democrats take control of the Texas House—giving them a seat at the table when legislative and congressional districts are redrawn. So it’s no surprise to see Markowitz receiving endorsements from the likes of Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Julian Castro, and, in particular, Beto O’Rourke, all of whom have a vested interest in finally flipping the state.
As we’ve previously reported, O’Rourke in particular has been a tireless campaigner on Markowitz’s behalf, proving there’s no amount of sidewalks he won’t pound or furniture he won’t stand on to see her to victory. His influence certainly seems to be rubbing off, as this week, Markowitz posted a video of herself playing guitar.
— Dr. Eliz Markowitz (@ElizMarkowitz) January 21, 2020
Markowitz’s rendition of Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” reimagined here as “Early Vote Again,” may lack some of the spirited, Sturm und Drang of O’Rourke’s past indie-rock endeavors—even if it is strummed on a cool, slightly out-of-tune guitar. Still, you have to admit it has a lot of the same undeniable, DIY charm. Hopefully this will motivate enough voters that Markowitz won’t have to bust out the skateboard.
Texas Pols Get Thirsty, Too
With so much unusually weighty business in the air, you can see why so many Texas politicians were just looking to unwind this week, with several of them engaging in that most classic of pastimes: dropping random thirst tweets. Take state representative James White, for example, who inexplicably retweeted this post from Clueless actress Stacey Dash, wishing herself a happy birthday. Dash is an outspoken conservative activist and, briefly, congressional candidate, which could explain White’s endorsement of her “birthday makeover” on his official account … we suppose. There are some similar ideological ties between U.S. representative Michael Burgess and former UN ambassador turned Fox News commentator Nikki Haley, which ostensibly explains why Burgess felt compelled to wish her a happy birthday while thanking her for her “leadership,” compete with the hashtag “#keepcrushingit”—despite, as far as we can tell, their paths never crossing in any significant way either. Anyway, hope she sees these, bros!
.@AmericaFerrera, would you be interested in coming to the State of the Union on Feb. 4, 2020 in Washington, D.C.? We'd love to host you!
— Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (@RepGonzalez) January 21, 2020
At least Haley “liked” the tweet—which is sadly more than can be said for U.S. representative Vicente Gonzalez, who this week extended a spontaneous invite to actress America Ferrera, asking her to be his guest at February’s State of the Union. Ferrara is an outspoken critic of Trump’s immigration policies, and a well-known activist behind movements such as Harness and Time’s Up, so there is at least some justification for Gonzalez reaching out, beyond just being a big Superstore fan. Unfortunately, Ferrera doesn’t seem to have noticed Gonzalez’s tweet, leaving his proposal just sort of dangling out there. It definitely doesn’t seem like they’re destined for that kind of tight, Greg Abbott-and-Wesley Snipes-style bond.