In the early 1990s, after it was apparent that the Superconducting Super Collider wasn’t going anywhere and the federal government was not inclined to reimburse Texas for our initial $150 million+ investment in the project, then-Governor Ann Richards traveled to the White House to pay President Bill Clinton a visit.
Richards confidant Shelton Smith, an attorney the governor had dispatched to Washington to oversee all things related to the Super Collider, recounted this story in Jan Reid’s book, Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards.
Richards and Smith met with the President in the Oval Office. The discussion became increasingly intense and ended with Richards giving Clinton an ultimatum: “I want you to understand something, pal. You owe me a lot of money, and if you don’t pay it back, I’m gonna sue you.” After some heated back and forth, Clinton relented, saying, “Well, Governor, I guess we’d better get you your money.”
Ann Richards and Bill Clinton were Democrats and political allies. However, as illustrated by this exchange, Richards’ role as the Governor of Texas was more important than politics – that’s why she didn’t hesitate to take on a president from her own party to do the right thing for Texas.
Fast-forward to 2018. If you’re looking for that kind of principled leadership in Texas today, you’ll be disappointed. As President Donald Trump routinely takes aim at Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick either praise him or shrink from the scene, too timid to utter a word of criticism or pushback. For example:
- On Fox Business last week, the anchor suggested to Abbott that he is Trump’s favorite governor. In response, Abbott “beamed” said that he and Trump, “work well together” and then went on to praise Trump for his actions, including inciting a near-trade war with China.
- As the 2016 Texas Chair of Trump’s campaign, Patrick is no doubt also a favorite. Patrick has called Trump one of the two greatest presidents of all time and said, “He is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met in politics, period. That comes from his business background, his media savvy. Everything that I’m hearing about this guy, I’ve never seen. He’s very impressive.”
All this adulation, while…
- Trump is adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census for the first time in 70 years. As a result, Texas’ population will be undercounted even more than before (we already rank #2 behind California in the number of people in “Hard-to-Count” populations), which will likely cost the state billions (more) in federal funds for about 300 programs, including Medicaid. For perspective, as a result of the last census, each uncounted person ultimately will cost Texas taxpayers $10,000. From 2011 to 2017, that’s equaled $45 billion. Money aside, the Trump Census plan could also result in fewer seats in Congress.
- In response to Trump’s tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, China acted in kind, announcing tariffs on 106 commodities, including sorghum, which is grown here in Texas. As we move closer to a Trump trade-war with China, many fear that beef, cotton and soybeans will be next. This could have a devastating impact on our Texas’ farmers and ranchers.
- Trump is sending over a thousand Texas National Guard troops to the Texas/Mexico border, even though arrests for illegal crossings are at a 46-year low and border leaders have denounced the move. Abbott and Patrick have both praised Trump for this needless and costly political stunt.
I wish Abbott and Patrick would take a page from Ann Richards’ playbook and fight for what’s best for our state, instead of just blindly following a president who is hurting Texas.
Apparently, being on Trump’s team is far more important to them.
P.S. This election year, I am focused on electing more Democrats to the Texas Legislature who will fight Trump’s assault on Texas. If you agree it’s important we push back on the dangerous Trump agenda, join me in this effort by clicking here.