Sunday, March 18, 2007


Billy Clyde has a hard-and-fast rule against commenting on national political stuff. Mainly because he knows as much about U.S. politics as he knows about soccer. But this has enough of a Texas angle to pass the BC Test.

The Sunday morning clips brought us several stories about our learned lawmakers moving up the primary date so that us Texans can better compete with Iowa hog farmers, grumpy New Hampshire white people and Nevada blackjack dealers. Billy Clyde has exactly zero interest in this subject, except to point out that the Legislature has been a tad schizo on this front.

A few sessions ago, the House approved a bill by Austin’s own Sheri Greenberg that would move the primary to, if I recall, May. The bill cleared Senate committee and reached the floor, where some brutally honest debate in that chamber ensued.

Several Senators got up and pointed out, right there in front of God and everyone, that a May primary would give potential challengers more time to organize, raise funds, campaign and perhaps even beat incumbents. Senators started thinking – and flaking. I love it when that happens.

Because the Senate by tradition and for practical reasons has to operate on basically a unanimous-consent basis, Senators always feel odd when they have to reverse course when a bill hits the floor. So on those rare occasions when actual debate moves a Senator to start reconsidering his or her position, the conflicted Senator feels an obligation to announce that, while his or her word is generally the gold standard that you can take to the bank, mark down in ink, carve in stone, etc. ... well, for today only, I am flaking. It may confuse the pediatric nurses and the Liberty High School debate team in the gallery, but Billy Clyde finds it endearing.

Honesty and integrity are not lost values in the East Chamber. When a Senator lies, they tell the world. They just shout it out. Good for them.

Anyway, the bill died right there on the floor. That happens every few sessions.

The reason Texas has a March primary is because Senator Chet Edwards was part of a group of Southern legislators who apparently got to visiting at a hotel bar one night during some conference and decided to create Super Tuesday so that presidential candidates would not simply pander to Iowa pig farmers and New Hampshire hardware stores owners but also to North Carolina tobacco farmers, Texas oilmen and Mississippi plaintiff lawyers.

It made a lot of sense at the time – I mean, who DOESN’T want presidential candidates pandering to them – and the bill passed and state legislators decided to become Presidential Power Players.

Representative Tom Craddick organized the Republicans and all but one or two of them came out for Vice President George H.W. Bush. Granted, it was not a particularly risky position to take, since Bush was already predestined to win Texas. But it represented more actual Capitol presidential action since Governor Shivers endorsed General Eisenhower because of the tidelands issue in 1952.

The Democrats did their part, too. Speaker Lewis came out strong for this obscure Senator from Tennessee who recently won an Academy Award for some porn flick he made – or something like that. Representative Rick Perry, whose nose was rarely more than a few inches behind the Speaker’s butt and who REALLY wanted to be Calendars Chairman, quickly followed suit and claimed to run a lot of the day-to-day Gore operation in Austin. Representative Hugo Berlanga, whose nose was rarely more than a few centimeters behind the Speaker’s butt and who wanted Calendars every bit as much as Perry (and actually got it in the end) also signed up with Gore.

A few of the Speaker’s key chairman, in a fairly gratuitous move designed to demonstrate that they had no interest in what Gib’s butt smelled like, signed up with an obscure red-headed Congressman from Missouri. If I remember correctly, Representatives Pete Laney, Bruce Gibson, Stan Schlueter and others flew around the state campaigning for Gephardt in a brave show of independence.

Meanwhile, newly elected Railroad Commissioner John Sharp took another tact that caused his friends to speculate that he was completely off his rocker and went out and endorsed and campaigned – in a big way – for some really short, boring, obscure Massachusetts governor, who actually won the nomination. Proving once again that Sharp is pretty good at the politics deal.

None of this really matters, because (1) the race was over before (not-so) Super Tuesday and (2) Bush, as expected, won Texas without lifting a finger. Let’s face it: if an unknown welder from Matagorda County named Nasty Dripping Skanky Bush put his name on the presidential ballot, he would win Texas.

Texas has played a role in exactly zero presidential primaries in Billy Clyde’s brief lifetime and just one general election (Humphrey vs. Nixon in ‘68.) Jacking around with the primary dates won’t change things.

Texans should just continue to write checks and raise money and then assume our roles in the Cabinet and run things like we’ve always done.

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