Tuesday, June 4, 2013

When insiders and political experts really aren't.

One of the funniest, albeit rather new, recurring stories by Texas' Lockstep Political Media is the Texas Tribune's "Inside Intelligence" series.  The premise, in short, is that Ross Ramsey sends out a list of questions to Texas political pros (on both sides of the aisle) who will then regale us with their wit and insight into the Texas political process.  This exercise, along with Paul Burka's annual list of friends/enemies that is the Texas Monthly Best/Worst Of* frequently provides some of the most knee-slapping political humor of any Legislative session.

Occasionally, you have to wonder what the so-called "experts" are thinking when they issue their edicts. You also have to wonder who said it because the blurbs are presented anonymously by the Tribune.  Today's Inside Intelligence has just such a case....

Inside Intelligence: Grading the 83rd Legislature. Ross Ramsey, Texas Tribune

Who were the heroes this session, and who were the goats?

Goats have to include Sen. Davis and Rep. Wu (seriously, we don't need your comments on every bill)

I'm not sure who wrote this but I'm going to guess it was one of the Republican "experts" trying to get a cheap shot in at opposing party legislators.  Left out of this thinking is the reality that both Sen. Davis and Rep. Wu were busy all session positioning themselves for future runs at other offices.

Sen. Davis seemed to have two strategies this session.  One, speak as often as possible on a wide range of issues. Two, get the TLSPM squarely on her side.  On the first, the Senator was very successful.  Not only was she the go-to policy wonk for the TLSPM on a variety of issues, but she doubly succeeded at getting them on her side.  After extensive searching I was unable to find one story by the TLSPM that disagreed with Davis on any single piece of policy.  Rumor is Davis is not going defend her seat and will instead return to local politics for a while (Say, the Mayor of Fort Worth?) to better position herself for an eventual run at a State-wide position.  The leader in the clubhouse is Governor once demographics change and Perry is out of the picture.

Rep. Wu is gunning for the same thing, albeit I think it will even be further down the line for him.  I think he'll serve at least one more session in the Texas House and then make a play for Sen. Whitmire's Senate seat once the latter retires.  After that, if successful, I see him taking aim at Lt. Governor, again when the mystical demographic wave hits and several Democrats are presumed to be washed into state-wide office on it.

Either way it's imprudent to say either of these legislators were goats. They certainly weren't "heroes" of the 83rd as neither of them did much to advance progress in the body politic, but acting in one's political self-interest has a long tradition in Texas on both sides of the aisle.

Another popular choice as a goat was Euless Republican Rep. Jonathan Stickland.  Stickland was a Tea Party Freshman who did his best to upset the apple cart on numerous bills, much to the Twitter enjoyment of Rep. Wu.  While he was unsuccessful in all of his efforts (and on numerous occasions I find myself wondering what he was doing) at least he had the fortitude to stick up for what he believed in the face of defeat.  Compare this to Rep. Wu, whose argument against the bill authorizing some drug testing for welfare recipients was limited to: "It will bring a lawsuit, which we might lose."  Thank goodness Wu wasn't around to cast a vote on civil rights legislation back in the day or Texas might still be segregating schools.

To my mind it still seems way too early to name any Best/Worst or Hero/Goat Legislators because the 83rd Lege is still on-going in special session.  If anything, we are giving out incomplete grades that, at least in Burka's case, were probably preordained before the session started.

Such is the lean of TLSPM today however.  Reporting the news to you filtered, with a healthy dose of personal opinion, often incomplete, and usually truly devoid of actual fact and/or context.

Maybe it's the Texas citizen who needs a shield law from them?

*Increasingly, Burka's analysis of good/bad/furniture in the Lege seems to be based more around who pays fealty to him and his status than any actual success in legislating.

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