Jeb Bush 2016

The New York Times reports that former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) has taken the first decisive step toward running for president in the upcoming 2016 election. Bush created something called a “leadership PAC” that actively explores the possibility of running for president. It is tantamount in all but name to an Exploratory Committee, and few — if any — serious observers contend that there is a realistic chance he would not follow through and run at this time.

Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush and son of former President George H.W. Bush, is largely seen as the continuation of a quintessential Republican establishment dynasty. While the family may have been, in some circles, considered on the rightward periphery of the party in 2000, times have markedly changed since that time. Specifically, since the advent of the Tea Party, Bush has been lambasted by the base of his own party as insufficiently conservative on immigration-related issues. Earlier this year, he even suggested unauthorized border crossings were an “act of love,” drawing the ire of the right-wing. Bilingual and the husband of a Mexican-immigration (additionally the father of Land Commissioner-elect George P. Bush), Bush is seen as a uniquely formidable Republican opponent for Democratic presidential contenders, namely former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Prompted by Bush, a few other names have clamored to reiterate their longstanding almost-campaigns. The serious politicians who belong in that category include Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), among other less glamorous options.

Last month, I prognosticated that Cruz has the best chance of the pack to be nominated, and I reiterate that comment again tonight. Make no mistake, the ultra-conservatives (Tea Party) are in firmer control of the party now than they were four years ago. They have only been enraged over the years as their preferred candidates have been cast aside in favor of comparable-pragmatists, such as John McCain and Mitt Romney, who then fell in the general election. Bush — or Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), for that matter — will be shunned because he will be seen as a continuation of the “play it safe” strategy.

Of course, the success of a presidential candidate has little to do with ideology, because the American public does not care enough to understand said ideology. They care about the charisma and soundbites of the messenger. That is why Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in a way that Gerald Ford likely would not have, even though Reagan was significantly more conservative.

Much in the same respect, Cruz is a phenomenal messenger in a way that none of the other candidates are. Not since Joseph McCarthy have the Republicans had a national figure so comfortable with making things up and completely disregarding the truth without so much as a modicum of shame. The only difference is that the media is so impotent and feckless nowadays that there is no Edward R. Murrow to call him out. Cruz is confident, assured and smart, so the base in his party goes along for the ride, even though I think it is fairly obvious he would sell them out in an instant to further his own interest. When the time comes, I believe, the general public will similarly fall for him.

If the Tea Party is looking for a knight in shining armor, they will be sorely disappointed just about any way. Cruz may be appealing, quoting Cicero and all. But in the end, his most rapid supporters will just be muttering “Et Tu, Theodore?” At least Bush puts his cards on the table.

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Castro confirmed by the US Senate

The San Antonio Express-News reports that Julian Castro, the Mayor of San Antonio, has been confirmed by the US Senate to serve as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The Senate vote was overwhelming, 71-26, and Castro will take office upon his resignation from the Mayorship, which he has held since 2009. I wrote extensively on this topic back in May when President Barack Obama first nominated Castro for the post, and suffice it to say I was not really a fan of the move. But more on this later.

First things first, the obvious question is who will be the next Mayor of San Antonio? The City Charter holds that the Mayor Pro Tem, currently Councilmember Cris Medina, would immediately become Acting Mayor in the case of the Mayor’s death, resignation or removal from office. However, in San Antonio, the Council would then choose a new permanent Mayor from amongst its ranks until the next regularly scheduled election, which is in May 2015. A number of Councilmembers have expressed interest in the appointment, and a couple outside actors –namely State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-Bexar County)– have also announced their tentative candidacies. I am not very well-versed in any of the inside politics of San Antonio, so I cannot offer any truly educated predictions about what will happen. Just expect fireworks.

Click here to read more!

In re Bergdahl

Let me run through the facts of the situation, then do some rudimentary analysis. On the last day of June in 2009, a US Army Sergeant named Bowe Bergdahl was abducted off a military base where he was serving in Afghanistan (Editor’s note: This much is corroborated by the US Department of Defense, though there are others who dispute the military’s account). The Taliban had taken him as a Prisoner of War and held him indefinitely. Over the next five years, Bergdahl was held prisoner by the Taliban in deplorable conditions, the details of which have still yet to fully be released to the public. He attempted to escape his captors thrice, but always to no avail; he was dragged back to his prison.

A few days ago, Bergdahl was released by the Taliban in exchange for five of their especially heinous prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The five Taliban prisoners –called the “worst of the worst”– have been transferred into Qatari custody, where they will remain for at least a year. After that time, I presume they will be returned to Afghanistan. Since President Barack Obama’s administration personally negotiated for this prisoner-swap, the deal resulted in all of the vitriolic hatred one would expect from Republicans and conservatives. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the Republican nominee for President in 2008, alleged these prisoners were “responsible for 9/11” and that Obama had come perilously close to treason. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a prominent Republican on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, has asked for a Congressional investigation.

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Civil Affairs: Judges

CIVIL AFFAIRS

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Noah M. Horwitz published a weekly column, “Civil Affairs,” in a Boston newspaper from 2012-2014He has since transferred the column’s home to ‘The Daily Texan’ in Austin.

The first time I voted in a general election (2012), I was shocked at just how long the ballot was. The presidential election had obviously garnered a fair amount of coverage, as did local races for Congress, sheriff and the state Legislature. However, what took up the vast majority of the ballot were the myriad judicial contests. Pages upon pages of district and county benches were to be filled by the voters, in partisan elections. Democratic and Republican nominees had been selected in their respective parties’ primaries to run for the posts: civil, criminal, family, juvenile and probate courts.

Read the whole op-ed in The Daily Texan!

Six Debates

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Evidently, the Ben Hall campaign sent out a press release (please see image) this morning challenging Mayor Parker to six –yes, I said SIX– debates between Labor Day and Election Day. The exact text of the announcement goes as follows:

The Honorable Annise Parker
Mayor of Houston
901Bagby Street
Houston, TX 77002

Dear Mayor Parker,

I am writing to propose that you and I share our contrasting ideas and vision for the
future of this great city through a series of debates.

Three debates should be held after Labor Day but prior to the start of early voting
and three additional debates after the start of early voting and before our November
election. Too much is at stake for us not to share our plans for Houston with her
citizens, and I hope you agree promptly to debating six times this fall.

I have instructed my staff to contact your campaign staff to begin discussions on the
details.

Please accept this invitation.

Sincerely,
Ben Hall

I have a few comments on this. First, it makes absolutely no sense to have three debates during Early Voting. That is literally one of the worst ideas I have heard from the Hall campaign this year, and that is saying something. Over half of regular voters cast their ballots before Election Day, so including half of the debates during that time is a bad idea.

Second, and perhaps this is just my own personal preference, but I am disappointed in the no-debates-until-after-Labor-Day suggestion by Hall’s team. I leave for Boston on August 27th, and won’t be back until after the Runoff Election. However, I do tend to recall an August debate in 2009. That splits up the time a little more efficiently.  Cramming six debates into eight weeks reaches a point of diminishing returns.

Finally, the whole thing smells. Not the Texas Senate smell, but you get the point. I recall something similar back in 2008, when John McCain challenged Barack Obama to 10 town hall debates. The debates, of course, never happened, but there was one town-hall style debate between McCain & Obama. As I recall, Obama wiped the floor with McCain in that debate, as the old opponent had nothing memorable to say, with one key exception.

But the main point is that McCain was desperate, and so he blurted out this unrealistic goal of myriad debates, knowing Obama would have no choice but to rebuff his offer. For the record, McCain made the offer in June, not the last day of July. Ben Hall could be employing a similar tactic here.

I am looking forward to the Mayoral debates, though–although I would much prefer three debates: 1 in August, 1 in September and 1 in October. Parker has never been an especially adept speaker or talented debater. Ben Hall, on the other hand, is a somewhat good debater. I supported Gene Locke in 2009, based in large part, to his debate performance. In that election, however, all three candidates were an equal footing when it came to other issues. In 2013, that is simply not the case between Hall and Parker.

One other major point is who will be included within this debate. The 2009 debates included Brown, Locke, Morales and Parker. In that election, only three other candidates existed, and all of them were far fringe. It is arguable that Eric Dick, Keryl Douglas and Don Cook should be included in these debates.

Texas Leftist has more.

Big Government, Texas style

The GOP prides itself on two points. First, it is the party of less government, and, second, it is the part of local control. There are myriad exceptions to these points, however, specifically in examples where another platform of the party is threatened by either less government or local control. These usually have to do with social issues.

For example, Mitt Romney and John McCain frequently stated that they wanted “government out of your life,” but what they really meant is that they wanted it out of your checkbook. The GOP, especially in Texas, has no problem with entangling itself between a woman and her doctor, or between two consenting adults in a bedroom. Further, even though the GOP seems to love the mantra of “leave it to the states,” they have no issue with mandating federal regulations/amendments that would prohibit things like gay marriage or the legalization of cannabis, over the objections of states.

We see another good example of this from the Chron about a recent Senate bill. Senator Hegar introduced a bill, SB 987, which would prohibit cities and counties from regulating gun shows. Specifically, the legislation was raised over the idea that Austin and/or Travis County would ban gun shows from public buildings. In a classic example of the State Legislature bullying the Capital city, the Senate voted overwhelmingly (24-6) to prevent Austin, or any other municipality, from issuing meaningful gun reform measures.

What disturbs me the most about this vote (you know, besides my state’s unhealthy little juvenile obsession with instruments of death), is how many Democrats voted for the measure. 5 out of 11 Democrats voted FOR the bill, mainly the Rio Grande Valley ones (Whitmire, Ellis and Garcia voted NO). Interestingly, Wendy Davis voted for the bill. I like Davis, so I am going to excuse this stupid position as bandwagoning to join an otherwise inevitable vote, in light of her difficult re-election bid next year. Good to know, nevertheless, that the Houstonians are from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

UPDATE: Also, and I include it down here because I don’t have enough to say for a regular post, but WFAA (DFW’s ABC) is reporting that yesterday the Texas Senate voted unanimously to stop ticketing juveniles for classroom disruptions, instead focusing on counseling. It was proposed by Royce West (D-Dallas), and had bipartisan support because of the money it was projected to save.