Lawmakers were divided this week over an unexpected attack on a powerful political figure, taken down in a seemingly impulsive act of aggression that threatens to inflame an already bitter and deep-seated conflict. But perhaps unsurprisingly, most Texas Republicans thought Ricky Gervais was great. The British comedian, known for his outspoken thoughts on atheism and gun control, became the unlikely hero of the reddest-blooded American conservatives with his Golden Globes monologue on Sunday, in which he mocked celebrities for their hypocrisy and the presumptuousness of their “woke” political speeches. Naturally, it was a big hit with the sort of humble public servants who sneer at Hollywood elites in all their deluded vanity—the kind who mistake their celebrity for political savvy, while daring to challenge real policy wonks like President Donald Trump.
Chief among them were politicians like Congressman Dan Crenshaw, from the great district of Saturday Night Live, who cares so little about showbiz types that he’s barely even feuded with Alyssa Milano and only been on The View once. Crenshaw offered his tweeted support for Gervais before expounding on it for Fox & Friends as part of his weekly battery of TV appearances, where he commended Gervais for reminding all those opportunistic camera hogs that real Americans don’t want politics getting all mixed up with their entertainment. And they certainly don’t want to be told what to think by a bunch of self-important, script-following parrots attempting to sow divisiveness … unless it’s on a specific cable channel.
Gervais also earned the coveted endorsements of Texas state representatives Steve Toth and James Frank, as well as Senator Ted Cruz, who tweeted about the monologue no less than four times this week, twice deploying “fire” emojis in celebration. Of course, there’s something a bit rich about a guy like Ted Cruz luxuriating in the idea of Hollywood being taken down a peg, seeing as he’s spent so much of his career desperately attempting to tie himself to it—whether it’s shooting some basketball “rings” against Jimmy Kimmel, or through his regular invoking of beloved nerd properties as a means of fostering human connection. In fact, Cruz’s gleeful anti-Hollywood tweets came sandwiched between his umpteenth Monty Python routine and a Chris Rock GIF aimed at Nancy Pelosi. As always, there is an undercurrent of bitterness toward this world that Cruz so clearly loves, but so clearly doesn’t love him back.
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Still, it was obviously refreshing for Cruz, Crenshaw, et al. to see someone call out the political posturing of Hollywood liberals at awards shows—even if it was a Hollywood liberal who was politically posturing at an awards show. Gervais’s monologue may not actually change things, the way Crenshaw suggests it might, and his stint as a right-wing hero will surely be short-lived. But for now, the tinkling, spiteful laughter of Ted Cruz is his delicious reward.
Can You Smell What Tony Buzbee Is Cooking?
Another skirmish erupted this week along the ever-blurry lines between politics and celebrity—one that may have lacked the glamour of the Golden Globes, but which similarly carried the faint aroma of stale wine. It all started when mega-rich attorney Tony Buzbee reemerged this week from his failed Houston mayoral bid, proving that, like the shark that adorns his forearm, he can never stop swimming toward that proverbial 1980 glinting just over the horizon. Buzbee’s latest gambit is a new food show—titled, with admirable self-awareness, Uninvited—in which he’ll explore some of the deeper cuts from the Houston restaurant scene, offering his own, uniquely Buzbeean insight. Its soft launch was heralded by the debut of a (quickly scrubbed) placeholder website and a series of Instagram videos in which Buzbee gnaws on various types of fish, exclaiming, “Damn, that’s good!”
While Buzbee’s Bubba Trump gimmick failed to catch on with Houston voters, his newest incarnation as a sort of boudin Anthony Bourdain has already snagged the attention of at least one loyal viewer: Texas state representative Gene Wu, who’s been open about his disgust for Buzbee long before anyone had to watch him suck crawfish heads. Wu mocked Buzbee’s foodie ambitions from his Twitter account, igniting a feud that dragged on for nearly two days and across several threads, eventually widening to include just about anyone who dared wander into the fray. In addition to calling out Wu, a couple of reporters, actor/director Turk Pipkin, and assorted would-be constituents as “boobs” and “losers” who clearly envy his success—proving, as ever, that being a populist doesn’t mean you have to actually like people—Buzbee also said he would set his sights on unseating Wu, cryptically declaring Wu “a reported fraud and I’m told will soon be exposed.” He also repeatedly put the name “Gene” in quotes, without further elaboration (though the implication is pretty clear).
Seriously, your election night speech made more sense than this.
— Gene Wu (@GeneforTexas) January 8, 2020
Of course, as someone pointed out, Wu isn’t up for reelection until 2022, so here’s hoping Buzbee still remembers this spat two years from now—or even tomorrow morning. The good news is that the amount of hangover food required to soak up this little midweek bender could surely fuel the entire first season of Buzbee’s show.
Julián Castro Throws His Selfie Behind Elizabeth Warren
When it comes to rebounding from political defeat, it’s frankly a toss-up between “starting an internet food show” and “becoming a prop in a selfie line” as to which is more dignified. But at least Julián Castro appears to be tackling the latter with a sincere, if similarly self-preserving, enthusiasm, allowing barely any daylight between his withdrawal from the presidential race and his reemergence as Elizabeth Warren’s chief endorser—and, judging from his recent appearance on her campaign signage, her presumed running mate. Castro has even joined Warren’s blatantly misrepresented queue, where people pose next to the newly hitched political duo for photos that are clearly being taken by someone else.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 8, 2020
For Warren, Castro’s endorsement is symbolically huge. He brings obvious diversity to the ticket, attracting a bloc of voters who, as one woman told Mother Jones at their first joint rally, find him to be “one of the leading candidates on issues that affect people of color,” and he helps her stand in even starker contrast to Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. For Castro, too, it’s a win, allowing him to remain on a national stage where he struggled to find a foothold, even as he did plenty to reframe the debates that were held upon it.
Still, it’s got to be troubling for Castro that eight of his most prominent supporters in Texas—including five members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus—all responded to his Warren endorsement by immediately throwing their own behind Joe Biden. But hopefully Castro won’t allow such thoughts to cloud him; you have to put a brave face on these things, otherwise you’ll ruin someone’s “selfie.”
Beto O’Rourke: The People Person’s Political Action Committee
Meanwhile, Castro’s former presidential rival (and now official “Other Texan”) Beto O’Rourke is still filling his own considerable downtime by throwing his political weight behind other-progressive-candidates-not-named-Beto-O’Rourke back home. And today he’s doing it from behind his very own political action committee—the very thing he once swore off as a cornerstone of his campaign. As he recently announced in an email to supporters, O’Rourke has launched a PAC he’s christened Powered by People, which is devoted to “organizing grassroots volunteers” to knock on doors, make phone calls, help Texans register to vote, and otherwise perform “the tough, necessary work that wins elections” that someone inevitably has to pay for.
Powered by People helps Texans volunteer in critical races. Organizing grassroots volunteers is how we win the state house, overcome racist gerrymandering, defeat John Cornyn & help our Presidential nominee win Texas’ 38 electoral college votes. Join us! https://t.co/dIwobb5k0U
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) December 20, 2019
The irony of O’Rourke—who once ran under the slogan “All People, No PACs”—turning around and launching a PAC of his own certainly isn’t lost on O’Rourke (who, as a Gen-Xer, surely doesn’t miss the irony of anything). “There literally was no other legal organization that would allow us to raise money and spend money to help organize people in Texas,” he told the Texas Tribune, noting that Powered by People will cap all donations at $5,000 per individual per year, refuse money from corporations and labor organizations, and won’t make direct contributions to candidates, but rather focus on funding phone banks and the like.
Nevertheless, that certainly hasn’t stopped people like Texas GOP chairman James Dickey to blast it as “astoundingly hypocritical” for the anti-PAC guy to create a PAC himself, no matter how ethically it’s structured or vegan-co-op-innocuously it’s named. Dickey said he believes that the support of Powered by People will prove “toxic” for any Democratic candidate—although his condemnation would probably be stronger were it not coming from a guy who’s working beneath Karl frickin’ Rove.
Would You Dance If McAllen Paid You $485,000 to Dance?
Besides, when it comes to directing unseemly sums of money toward disproportionate payoffs, simply no one’s going to best the city of McAllen paying $485,000 for an Enrique Iglesias concert. Government officials there came under scrutiny this week after they finally released the contract the city signed with Iglesias back in 2015, when it hired the singer to perform as part of its taxpayer-funded holiday parade. The reveal was part of a newly implemented law that forces local and state officials to abide by public information requests on how taxpayer money is spent on outside contracts, ending nearly four years’ worth of inquiries into how the city could have lost some $765,000 on the celebration. And now we know: it was all blown on flying Enrique Iglesias in on a chartered jet, renting 24 hotel rooms for his entourage, and fulfilling a rider that demanded, among other things, backstage steaks, sushi, and two “EXTREMELY IMPORTANT” washed, king-size white sheets. You can’t expect Enrique Iglesias to perform without two king-size sheets! Who do you think he is—Ricky Martin???
As he did not long after the concert became a statewide scandal, McAllen mayor Jim Darling reiterated that hiring Iglesias was a mistake, maintaining that he didn’t see the details of the contract promising “booze and all that,” or requiring freshly baked cookies only on the dessert tray. And to his credit, the city has since gotten out of the promoter game, working with corporate sponsors on all parades since then. It’s also become something of a cautionary tale within the state, for any other city that might have been thinking of exploiting that now-closed loophole—or really, for anyone who’s ever considered booking Enrique Iglesias. The man needs sashimi platters, aloe juice (both with and without pulp), and 48 beers on ice just to sing “Hero”? Ricky Gervais was right; celebrities are the worst.