What a puff piece! 60 Minutes, which has eviscerated many a victim over the years, gave Ann Richards the royal treatment in its October 27 profile. When interviewer Morley Safer wasn’t rewriting history (blaming Clayton Williams’ rape gaffe for the unraveling of his campaign, when in fact Claytie maintained a double-digit lead in the polls for another half a year), he was asking Richards such penetrating questions as how she felt about her granddaughter. Richards came across as funny, folksy, and tough. Now, however, some political types are beginning to wonder whether the program was such a home run for Richards after all. In one scene, 60 Minutes showed her emerging from the governor’s mansion, holding a glass, to embrace and josh with political writer Molly Ivins. “She didn’t look very gubernatorial,” sniffed a Republican consultant. “She violated a basic political rule,” fretted a Democratic pro. “Don’t ever get yourself photographed with a glass in your hand.” (Because Richards freely acknowledges that she is a recovering alcoholic, the rule may not apply to her.) Another blemish was Safer’s spin on the Richards story: Texas politics is mean and dirty and she can beat the good ’ol boys at their own game. That is pure Texas stereotype—not the sort of message that Texans like to hear from outlanders, nor the sort calculated to enhance a Texas politician’s national stature. If Richards told CBS anything that advanced her theme of a New Texas, it perished on the cutting room floor.
Phil Gramm’s first step toward a possible Republican presidential nomination in 1996 turned out to be a pratfall. As the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign, Gramm is in position to gain friends in every state by helping Republican candidates win. Every state except Pennsylvania, that is. Not only did Gramm suffer a very public embarrassment when former U.S. attorney general Dick Thornburgh blew a forty-point lead in losing the November 5 Senate race to Democrat Harris Wofford, but Gramm personally alienated key Pennsylvania Republican leaders. The state Republican party complained bitterly that the people Gramm sent from Washington knew nothing about Pennsylvania, didn’t ask, and wouldn’t listen. Campaign mailings misspelled Thornburgh’s name and gave wrong information about when to return absentee ballots. Things got so bad that state party officials telephoned Gramm to protest. Nothing changed. The only solace for Gramm is that Pennsylvania Republicans assign more blame to Thornburgh’s operation than to Gramm’s.
Off and Running
Here’s the early line on Houston’s December 3 mayoral runoff between front-runner Bob Lanier and Sylvester Turner: Turner, seeking to become Houston’s first black mayor, will have to capture three out of every four votes that went to ousted incumbent Kathy Whitmire in the first election in order to overtake Lanier. He rates to capture at least two out of three. Turner will inherit Whitmire’s black support (he won more than 70 percent of the black vote on November 5; Whitmire got virtually all the rest). Lanier will pick up Whitmire’s Hispanic and affluent white vote, which, however, was surprisingly small. The runoff will be decided by Whitmire’s remaining white voters. If they are motivated by class—Turner will likely portray Lanier as a rich developer—then Turner wins. If they are motivated by race, then Lanier wins. This creates a dilemma for Lanier—how to appeal to swing votes without being accused of racism.
Lanier’s best issue is Houston’s obsession with violent crime. As the infamous Willie Horton ads proved, some white voters see crime as a race issue.
Did the Anita Hill hearings modify Clarence Thomas’ conservative views? Thomas sent an early signal by hiring brand-new UT law professor Gregory Meggs as a law clerk. Meggs, described by a colleague as “a very conservative young man,” spent the last year working for Judge Robert Bork.