I owe the Indian nations and most of the United States an apology, because I’ve become a Texan. My family roots are in the Cherokee Nation, but I was raised just across the border in the Muscogee Creek Nation by grandparents who met on the Sac & Fox reservation back when it was still a reservation.
I was assigned to Baja Oklahoma by the military, lured by the University of Texas, and fell in love with Austin back when it was Tex-Mex and Shiner Beer and Willie Nelson.
Excuses, I know. Just excuses.
How about these excuses? I never voted for George W. Bush and I never voted for Rafael “Ted” Cruz. So why should I have to apologize? Regarding W, I said to anybody who would listen that even if the candidate were Ann Richards, being governor of Texas is not preparation to be POTUS.
Texas has a classic post-Reconstruction weak governor system. I can’t put the governor even in the top-three of people responsible for governing Texas. The governor is behind the Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House, the Comptroller of Public Accounts and the Inspector of Hides.
OK, I was joking about the Inspector of Hides, who as far as I know was in charge of regulating tanning booths like the Texas Railroad Commission is in charge of oil and gas. (The office was abolished by constitutional amendment in 2007, leaving Texas vulnerable to uninspected hides.)
My point is that the Texas governor does not have to make a budget or have a legislative program. The governor is without even a pocket veto—a bill passed but unsigned becomes law. Qualification to be POTUS is not tied to land area or GDP, and the required skill set for a Texas governor is too meager.
I assume qualifications still matter for that high office even though the claim to competence by the guy who leads in the Republican polls is making real estate deals and selling his brand...
We had two first-term senators running for POTUS this year and 20 years ago both of them would have been crackpots anywhere but the former Confederate states. Neither of them compare at all well to Barack Obama’s first term as a U.S. Senator. Obama did more legislating and, by the way, worked with Republicans like Tom Coburn and Dick Lugar.
But I digress from my mea culpa. Texas was, after all, a Confederate state, and it has moved so far to the right that a flaming liberal like George W. Bush would no longer have much of a base there. How far to the right has Texas moved?
Texas is the home of Rep. Joe Barton, famous for apologizing to BP because of the “shakedown” when President Obama’s administration wanted the transnational corporation to establish a fund for victims of the Macando oil spill. Only a socialist would think corporations have to clean up after their errors.
Texas is the home of Rep. Louis Gohmert, who nominated fellow lunatic Allen West for House Speaker after West had been defeated for reelection. Gohmert is known for asserting that oil pipelines are aphrodisiacs for caribou. He famously went off on a CNN reporter who had the gall to ask for evidence of Gohmert’s assertion that terrorists are coming into the U.S. pregnant so they can give birth to little terrorists with U.S. passports.
Texas is the state where the governor called out the State Guard to protect the citizens from Operation Jade Helm 15, a plot to overthrow state governments using weapons caches from defunct Walmarts. Of the Jade Helm threat, Rep. Gohmert opined, “patriotic Americans have reason to be concerned.”
Then there is Mary Lou Bruner, the leader going into the Republican runoff for Texas State Board of Education. Why should readers of this column care who sits on the Texas State Board of Education? Because that body selects textbooks for Texas public schools and, because of the size of the market, other states generally get to select only from books aimed at the Texas market. That is, Texas picks K-12 texts for much of the country.
That means science books skeptical of evolution are a given, but Bruner believes it to be historical fact that the KKK had noble roots standing up for law and order in the rural South. On Facebook, she has referred to President Obama as “Ahab the Arab” who “hates all white people.” I don’t know if she has noticed that would include his mother. Or that Arabs are “white people."
You might gather from this that Texas K-12 schools leave a lot to be desired. That is correct. However, the Texas Constitution mandates that the state support a “university of the first class” and dedicates a trust of public land for that purpose. As a result, Texas has two public research universities with international reputations: Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin.
Over the last 20 years or so, the legislature has opened the money spigots of the trust fund to the A&M and UT “systems,” creating a network of state-supported universities that is not supported to the level of the network of research universities that is the University of California system, but still provides opportunities for kids to start up the academic ladder. Texas has universities many states would envy at the top of a system that does not prepare K-12 students to take advantage of them.
UT was and is a football school, and the Longhorns won a national championship while I was there. I never attended a game because I thought football interfered with the all the reasons I wanted to be there. I also thought they should pay those guys.
Whenever a Longhorn varsity team in any sport, men’s or women’s, had a win, the UT Tower would be lit up orange. The tower went orange often, and I wondered whether that would happen to celebrate something important?
In 1977, Ilya Prigoine won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry… and they lit that sucker up! Yes! UT has had three Nobel Prize winners on faculty, and they are rock stars.
That rock-star status of Nobel winners made for an interesting situation when UT began to implement a new law allowing guns on campus in public universities. Private universities in the state could opt out of allowing students to pack heat, and most have.
The only living Nobel Laureate at UT is Steven Weinberg (Physics, 1979), and he has announced that he will not allow guns in his classroom. Even though he’s tenured, that’s a violation of the law, and he could be fired.
If I were teaching at UT, I would do the same thing – but I am not a Nobel Laureate, so it would be a lot easier to fire my ass. It did not escape my notice that when I taught at the San Antonio campus of the University of Texas and later at Indiana University, my classes dealt with highly controversial subjects. I’m betting my criminal justice students argued more heatedly than Weinberg’s students do in his physics classes.
I’ve never been a celebrity, but if I ever became one, I would enjoy using my fame for something useful. Keeping guns out of university classrooms strikes me as very useful.
Coming soon to a school shooting near you: student vigilantes returning fire while the police try to sort them out from the bad guys. I presume they won’t light the tower orange for that. Hook ‘em, Horns.
Lo siento mucho. Mea maxima culpa. I’m sorry.
Steve Russell, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is a Texas trial court judge by assignment and associate professor emeritus of criminal justice at Indiana University-Bloomington. He lives in Georgetown, Texas.