I got up this morning and fetched the newspaper from the front yard. At the very top of the front page was a story that accurately reflected what I thought was just a bad dream. Either the Austin American-Statesman is playing a nasty psycho-terrorist mind game on Billy Clyde, or else your Texas House of Representatives has devolved into a state of utter dysfunction.
In any event, not exactly a win-win deal.
BC is one of those fellows who knows a very little bit about a whole lot. Not an expert in anything, really. But fairly conversant about a buncha stuff – most of it, frankly, pretty useless.
But BC was schooled in parliamentary procedure by none other than Robert E. (Big Daddy, Bevo) Johnson. It’s not a cliche to say he wrote the rules, because, uh, he actually wrote the rules.
For reasons that still elude me, Bob Johnson probably spent more time with me during the last five to seven years of his life than he did with his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his peers, etc. Looking back, it was kinda strange. I was 30 years his junior, not really in his class intellectually or professionally ... but he not only let me hang around, he actually seemed to want me around. Go figure.
Louis B pointed out something to me one day that should have been self evident were I more observant, to wit: Big Daddy would sit in his office playing computer solitaire for hours on end and never saying a word or interacting with us in any way; yet when we tried to leave, he would be offended. “Don’t run off mad,” he would say, whatever that meant. I think what it meant that he enjoyed our company; as goofy as it sounds, I take pride in knowing that Big Daddy enjoyed my company.
The point of this rambling nonsense is that (1) the House would not find itself in this situation if Big Daddy were still around; and (2) while Billy Clyde is generally a dumbass, he knows a little something about the House rules (so I got that going for me).
We can argue all day till we’re blue in the face about whether the Speaker’s absolute right of recognition supercedes any privilege contained in the underlying motion the seeker of recognition wishes to offer. Blah blah blah.
The real question is this: Just because, technically, you can do something or other, does that inherently make it right?
Billy Clyde is one of the few dudes around the Capitol these days who will freely say that he thinks Tom Craddick is a really good guy. He’s contributed a lot to the state and his community and is worthy of any and all accolades we can throw his way. Speaker Craddick is the sort of guy you ALWAYS want on your team.
But this battle isn’t about Tom Craddick. It’s about the House, as an institution and as a symbol of the people’s voice in state government. Far be it to me to suggest what path the Speaker should take – he was elected to the House before I entered first grade, for crying out loud – but Billy Clyde believes that mapping out an exit strategy or dignified departure (whether executed or not) only makes good sense.
We all do that kind of stuff every day. I don’t want to die, but I have life insurance.
Here’s the handwriting on the wall, as BC sees it. The Speaker’s floor leaders are people like Jodie Laubenberg, Bill Zedler, Linda Harper-Brown, Larry Taylor, Leo Burnam and Geanie Morrison. The opposing team has Brian McCall, Jim Keffer, Robert Talton, Jim Dunnam, Jim Pitts, Mike Krusse, Charlie Geren, Pete Gallego, Marc Veasey, Pat Haggerty, Senfronia Thompson, Todd Smith, Craig Eiland, Edmund Kuempel, Patrick Rose ... well, you get the point. Not a fair fight.
If there’s going to be a change in leadership this weekend, let’s not make it a zero-sum game. Spirit beats spite every time. When the end result is the same, what glory is there in rubbing someone’s nose in the rubbish?
There is no good reason to end a brilliant career in public service by throwing Speaker Craddick out on his ear in a painful fit of revenge and hate.
By the same token, there is no good reason – and this pains me to say – for Tom Craddick to stay in office.