Mike Kueber's Blog

November 30, 2010

The DREAM Act is heating up

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 10:05 pm
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The DREAM Act is heating up in San Antonio.  Yesterday, fifteen sit-in protesters were arrested at the local office of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, according to the San Antonio Express-News –    http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/police_respond_to_dream_act_rally_111008674.html.  I found several interesting aspects to the story: 

  1. Maria Berriozabel.  One of the arrestees – Maria Berriozabel – is a former San Antonio City Councilperson.  Leading up to the sit-in, most of the arrestees have been engaging in a 20-day food strike, but Berriozabel confessed to the media that she didn’t have the “courage” to join in the strike.  Since when does a food strike take courage?  Discipline – yes; commitment – yes.  Unless Berriozabel has undisclosed health issues, she comes off as an attention-seeking dilettante.   
  2. Scofflaw.  One of the protesters is a self-proclaimed illegal immigrant.  While I respect her willingness to take a stand based on principle, I believe the federal government (Obama) has obligation to stand up for principle, too.  Enforce our immigration law.  Don’t tell us you are too busy to deport someone who is openly daring you to enforce the law of the land.
  3. Hutchison’s opposition.  The protesters are focused on Kay Bailey Hutchison because she has waivered on her DREAM Act position and is considered a swing vote.  According to a press release from the senator, “Senator Hutchison has been consistent and clear about her position against the current DREAM Act legislation, particularly her concern that the current bill goes far beyond the intended group of children who grew up in the U.S. and attended primary and secondary schools here.”  What is clear and concise about that?  I look on her website for a clarification, but found nothing there.  I surfed the internet and found only evasive vagueness.  Only when I read comments from readers of the E-N article did I notice a significant issue that Hutchison might be referring to.  The readers are concerned that U.S. immigration law currently allows citizens to sponsor relatives for citizenship (e.g., anchor babies).  Thus, by bestowing citizenship on all of these students, we will eventually be bestowing it on their extended families.  That fact militates against one of the principle rationales for the DREAM Act – i.e., the children shouldn’t be made to pay for the sins of their smuggling parents.  Well, the DREAM Act would not only absolve the kids of any sin, it would ultimately inure to the benefit of the lawbreakers.  That doesn’t make sense.          

Of the people, by the people, for the people

The cover story in Time magazine this week – titled “Time Frames” – reviews the first decade in the 21st century.  (The argument about whether the 21st century started in 2000 or 2001 is conveniently ignored.)  The lead story by David Von Drehle summarizes the decade by saying:

“Again and again, the system was tested and the system failed: 9/11, WMD, Katrina, subprime, BP…. [T]he lack of trust fosters a suspicion that we now have a government of the feckless, by the crooked, for the connected.”

As a discerning reader, I noticed Von Drehle’s play on words.  The famous expression is “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”  That expression is not a part of the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence; it was delivered in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address.  Lincoln apparently was inspired to draft this expression after reading a lecture by an abolitionist minister that read, “Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, for all the people, by all the people.” 

According to Time magazine’s Von Drehle, American government is no longer “of” the people; rather it is “of” the feckless – i.e., incompetent, ineffective, irresponsible, lazy.  Sometime it seems that way. 

American government is no longer “by” the people; rather it is “by” the crooked – i.e., not straight, dishonest, immoral, or evasive.  Charlie Rangel?  Chris Dodd?  Rod Blagojevich?  Tom DeLay?  Need I go on? 

American government is no longer “for” the people; rather it is “for” the connected – i.e., having social and professional relationships, especially with influential and powerful persons.  Goldman Sachs?  AIG?  General Motors?

The Tea Party claims that it wants to “Take Our Country Back.”  But in order to do that, we the feckless (conservatives and liberals) need to quit electing crooks who cater to the connected.  We need to shun politicians who secure large campaign contributions and be wary of deep-pocket advocates.

The three Cs of insurance claimshandling

Filed under: Business,Finances — Mike Kueber @ 12:45 am
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During my insurance career, I was blessed to work for two exceptionally reputable companies – State Farm and USAA.  Both companies are owned by their policyholders – one is a mutual and the other is a reciprocal – and perhaps that enabled them to develop company reputations that differ from the reputations of most stockholder-owned insurance companies. 

According to a recent survey, the insurance industry finished last among thirteen American industries that can be trusted “to do what is right.”  Actually, it was tied for last with media companies and just ahead of banks.  Insurers had a similar reputation when I started handling claims almost 30 years ago.  Dissatisfied claimants would often tell me that insurance companies were crooked, but I was always able to respond that my company never told me how much (or little) to pay on a claim.  To the contrary, my company always gave me the discretion to pay what I thought was fair.  So if a claimant had a problem with our payment, their problem was with me, not my company.

When I relocated to Texas in 1987, however, I became exposed to the claims practices of other, less reputable insurance companies.  These companies attempted to succeed, not by running an efficient business (with sound underwriting, pricing, and claimshandling), but by paying as little as possible for claims.  One of my mentors at USAA succinctly described their practice as the Three Cs of insurance claimshandling – contempt, concern, and capitulation. 

  1. Contempt.  Discourage claims from being made, and if a claim is made, disparage or discredit its validity.
  2. Concern.  If claimants can’t be convinced that their claims have no merit, concede that they might have some merit, but attempt to low-ball the value.
  3. Capitulation.  If claimants insist that their claims have merit and are threatening to talk to a lawyer or the insurance department, pay whatever is needed to make the claimants go away.

Unfortunately, some insurance companies can make a living by practicing the Three Cs.  They will never have a good reputation, but their customers shop by price, not by reputation.  If you are making a claim with such an insurance company, you need to know the merits of your claim (sometimes you truly don’t have a valid claim).  If you aren’t knowledgeable about insurance, talk to someone who is.  This doesn’t have to be a lawyer, who typically handles only big-dollar claims and takes a large cut.  The state insurance department is always available, and most of us have friends who can help.  Lean on them.

November 28, 2010

Income inequality in America

Income inequality is growing in America, and virtually everyone wishes it wasn’t so.  The question is whether government should do something to reduce that inequality, and if so, what. 

If you are searching for an answer to those questions, don’t turn to NY Times columnist Bob Herbert.  In a column earlier this week titled “Winning the Class War,” Herbert did nothing to improve understanding of the questions.  Instead he charged that the rich were waging war against everyone else, and they were winning.  As proof of this inflammatory claim, Herbert put forward a report that American companies had earned more money in the third quarter of 2010 than in any previous quarter in American history, almost $415 billion.

Huh?  How does profitability for American companies equate to class warfare?  Is it the role of American companies to ameliorate income inequality by making less money?  I agree that the long-term prospects for American companies depend heavily on the American consumer making a recovery, but that should not lessen the salutary effects of profitable companies.  It is not only the “corporate fat cats” who benefit from companies with record profits; so do the employees and everyone with a 401k.  I know my 401k looks a lot better than it did a year ago.

Herbert hypocritically concluded his column by lamenting polarization, all while categorizing people as either working Americans or aristocrats.  His answer – working Americans need to unite to work out “equitable solutions”:

  • Extreme inequality is already contributing mightily to political and other forms of polarization in the U.S. And it is a major force undermining the idea that as citizens we should try to face the nation’s problems, economic and otherwise, in a reasonably united fashion. When so many people are tumbling toward the bottom, the tendency is to fight among each other for increasingly scarce resources.  What’s really needed is for working Americans to form alliances and try, in a spirit of good will, to work out equitable solutions to the myriad problems facing so many ordinary individuals and families. Strong leaders are needed to develop such alliances and fight back against the forces that nearly destroyed the economy and have left working Americans in the lurch.  Aristocrats were supposed to be anathema to Americans. Now, while much of the rest of the nation is suffering, they are the only ones who can afford to smile.

It is apparent that Herbert wants government to redistribute wealth in America.  That puts him in agreement with President Obama, who famously told Joe the Plumber that America would be better off if it spread the wealth around.  I disagree because that proposal is creeping socialism, and as most reasonable people understand, socialism is fine until you run out of other people’s money to spend. 

I believe there is no short-term answer.  Yes, progressive taxation is a reasonable action that will ameliorate income inequality, but that does not change the underlying fundamentals that are causing the growing inequality.  Our country has to improve the opportunity for social mobility – i.e., the ability of those in the lower class to move up.  In the past, that mobility has been achievable through a strong work ethic, but that is no longer true.  Today mobility requires a good education, and our government needs to focus on helping its people get better educated.

Gerrymandering in Texas

Every ten years, the federal government spends billions of dollars conducting a census.  This activity is not caused by idle curiosity; it is a constitutional mandate.  According to the 14th Amendment, congressional seats must be apportioned every ten years “among the states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.”  This amendment was required because the original language in Article I of the U.S. Constitution provided for “adding to the whole Number of free Persons… and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” 

How do illegal immigrants factor into the decennial census?  Historically, they have been counted, and because of this counting, states that serve as magnets for illegal immigrants – like New York, Florida, California, and Texas – have been awarded more than their fair share of congressional seats.  Congress has the power to modify this practice, and many conservatives have this modification on their “to do” list.

But the act of counting of illegal immigrants is a side show compared to the nationwide redistricting that follows every census.  In about ten states, redistricting is performed dispassionately by a nonpartisan or bipartisan group, but in most states it is passionately conducted by the state legislature.  Unfortunately, Texas is one of those states where the legislature jealously guards its privilege to create districts that serve their political interests.  In such states, redistricting becomes gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is almost as old as the United States.  It started in Massachusetts in 1812 (Governor Gerry shaped a district to look like a salamander), and it has continued unabated to this day.  It is one of those practices that all good-government types can agree to hate – things like vote-trading, omnibus bills, deficit spending, and straight-party voting – but can never eradicate. 

How effective is gerrymandering?  Highly effective.  For example, because Texas congressional districts were gerrymandered to favor the Democrats, the 2002 congressional elections resulted in 17 Democratic wins and 15 Republican wins, even though Republican candidates received 59% of the total votes and Democratic candidates received only 40%.  Then the Republicans (at the behest of Tom Delay) gerrymandered the districts in 2003, and the next election resulted in 21 Republican wins and 11 Democratic wins, although the Republican candidates received 58% of the total votes against 41% for the Democratic candidates.  (Personally, the 2004 results don’t seem significantly gerrymandered in favor of the Republicans.  A presidential candidate who wins the popular vote 58%-41% would be expected to win at least two-thirds of the states or congressional districts.)

Just a few weeks ago at the fitness center, I bumped into a good-government type who started talking politics and redistricting.  Surprise – he had a simple solution, which was to program a computer to design the Texas districts to minimize the length of the district boundaries.  (He liked his idea so much that he resisted my suggestion that the computer would also have to be programmed to comply with the Voting Rights Act requirements vis-à-vis minority-majority districts.  In 2006, the VRA was extended was 25 years, so it is not going away anytime soon.) 

I like my friend’s objective of minimized boundaries, and this conforms to the legal term “compactness.”  Unfortunately, Texas law, unlike the law in many other states, does not require or even suggest compactness as a desirable result in redistricting.  Furthermore, any map of congressional-district boundaries in Texas shows that compactness was not even an afterthought.  The only time that compactness is relevant is when the federal government reviews minority-majority districts.

The Texas Republican gerrymandering in 2003 that was designed to reverse the Texas Democratic gerrymandering of 1990 was reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006 – League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry.  Although the Court held that the redistricting of Congressional District 23 violated the Voting Rights Act, it also held that a state can redistrict as often as it wants (presumably anytime a political party retakes control of the state legislature).  Unfortunately, it deferred deciding whether partisan gerrymandering was unconstitutional. 

Although I hate gerrymandering, I would prefer that politicians resolve these matters instead of turning them over to judges to decide whether the practice violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.  One of San Antonio’s politicians is attempting to do this, as reflected in the following SA Express-News article.  I wish him success.   

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/wentworth_bills_aim_to_ease_partisan_battles_110882074.html.

November 26, 2010

Sunday book review #2 – Fed Up by Rick Perry

Fed Up is a remarkably simple and straightforward book (only 188 pages).  Its singular objective is to show how government in America is deviating dangerously away from the path laid out in the Constitution by our Founding Fathers.  Author Rick Perry, Texas Governor, uses the term “federalism” so often in the book that I’m surprised he didn’t use the title “The Federalist” – except that title was already taken in 1787-88 to describe the 85 essays published to advocate ratification of the U.S. Constitution.  Paradoxically, federalism at that time meant strengthening the national government, whereas today federalism means strengthening the state governments.   

Fed Up makes essentially two arguments in favor of shifting responsibilities from the national government to state government:

  • The Tenth Amendment.  This amendment provides, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Fed Up makes a relatively brief legal argument that the national government in Washington has amassed too much power that constitutionally is reserved to the states
  • Better, more effective government.  Regardless of the Tenth Amendment, it makes practical sense for power to be shifted to the states because they can do a better job than the federal government in most areas of governmental responsibilities and, just as importantly, be less threatening to individual liberties.

According to Perry, America’s Founding Fathers wisely assigned the national government the responsibility for dealing with external matters (defense, diplomacy, immigration) and matters involving multiple states (interstate commerce), and reserved most other matters to the states.  Unfortunately, the national government is often distracted from performing its assigned responsibilities because it is preoccupied with performing the states’ duties. 

Perry describes several reasons why the federal structure works better than a more centralized government:

  1. Federalism enables people to vote with their feet.  If each state is allowed to govern differently, people will naturally gravitate towards those states that govern best or in a way agreeable to that voter.  “If you don’t support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol, don’t come to Texas.  If you don’t like medicinal marijuana and gay marriage, don’t move to California.”
  2. Laboratories for democracy.  If each state is allowed to govern differently, they will be able to experiment with ideas.  And if they are successful, other states will be able to adopt ideas that they like.  For example, Massachusetts adopted universal health insurance a few years ago, and if it proves successful, other states may choose to do the same thing or some variation.  Conversely, nationalized ObamaCare is one-size fits all that is a huge gamble when done across the country all at once.
  3. Closer to the people.  Leaders in the state and local government are more accessible than national leaders, and this causes state and local leaders to be more responsive and much less likely to infringe on individual liberties.  This accessibility also encourages active involvement in the process, which results in independence and self-reliance.  “The people of Texas do not want to be told by Nancy Pelosi, Dick Durbin, Henry Waxman – or for that matter, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, or any other Republican from another state – what to do.  And we certainly don’t want to place that kind of control in the hands of nameless, faceless, and unelected federal bureaucrats.”   

A major problem with the national government is that it tries to maintain its popularity by spending irresponsibly.  One of Perry’s pet peeves it that the national government borrows money to give to the states, but only with the condition that states perform its duties in accordance to national preferences.  Examples of this include (a) a requirement to raise the drinking age to 21 upon a threat of losing highway funding, or (b) a requirement to meet Race to the Top rules upon a threat of losing education funding.  Perry also mentions earmarks as a corrupting influence against restrained, disciplined spending.

When attacking excessive spending by Washington, D.C., Perry expresses his displeasure about some things that Bush-43 did, especially the unfunded Medicare prescription law and No Child Left Behind.  But contrary to reports that Perry trashed Bush-43 in this book, I found that Perry treated the former president respectfully and made only substantive, serious criticisms of Bush’s record.  “He famously said in a moment that caused many of us to cringe, ‘I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.’  But what he intended to do on a temporary basis, the current regime is pursuing as permanent policy.”

How does Perry propose that America fix this mess?

  1. Repeal ObamaCare.
  2. States need to govern better – pro-active and innovative.
  3. Start a national dialogue about limited government.
  4. Elect leaders who respect limited government.
  5. Adopt certain structural reforms:
  • Restrict federal spending by constitutional amendment;
  • Reduce the power of courts, either by eliminating lifetime appointments or establishing a process for clarifying amendments.

When I was running for Congress against an opponent, Quico Canseco, who was a self-proclaimed Constitutional Conservative, I took essentially the same position that Rick Perry takes in Fed Up – namely, I argued that we shouldn’t waste time debating whether it was constitutional for the national government to have a Department of Education.  Instead, we needed to persuade the voters that the state governments could better handle that responsibility.  Most voters don’t consider constitutional niceties; they will go with whoever does the best job.  

Fed Up was reportedly ghost written by a group of Perry lawyers, but it certainly doesn’t read that way.  The legal arguments about the Tenth Amendment are relatively brief, and there is much more focus on the practical argument – i.e., the nationalization of America’s federal government is damaging its effectiveness.  Yes, the book is full of statistics and footnotes that Perry certainly didn’t marshal, but he specifically notes in the Acknowledgement section that several lawyers provided research assistance.  Fed Up is written for lay people, not lawyers. 

In an Author’s Note, Perry commends the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) as a group that is doing great work to promote conservative principles in Texas government – liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.  Perry is especially encouraged by a new policy center that the TPPF opened earlier this year called the Center for Tenth Amendment Studies.  Its first report, issued only a couple of weeks ago, is titled, “Reclaiming the Constitution: Towards an Agenda for State Action.”  The report is structured much like Fed Up, except the report was written by lawyers and therefore focuses on legal arguments that oppose the nationalization of American government.  It proposes an agenda for state action that is more legalistic than Perry’s grassroots proposals:

  • Interstate compact for health care reform;
  • Constitutional amendment for a balanced budget;
  • Acting in a coordinated way with other states to reject federal bribes;
  • Lawsuits against national government; and
  • Congressional legislation.

November 24, 2010

My favorite John Wayne story

As I was growing up, my five favorite movies were Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Shane, and Centennial.  A few years ago, I realized that the storyline with all five movies shared a remarkable similarity.  While you think about that, I will tell you my favorite John Wayne story. 

When John Wayne was a young actor, he was being interviewed by a producer for a movie.  The producer had heard that Wayne was a big drinker and was concerned that this vice might interfere with the production of the movie.  Instead of beating around the bush, the producer spoke directly, “Duke, I’ve heard that you’re a big drinker.  Is that true?”  The Duke responded modestly, “Yes, I don’t like to brag, but I can hold my own with most men.” 

Those were the days when men were men (i.e., hunters and chest beaters).  Speaking of which, my brother Kelly formed the charter D.A.M.M. society in Fargo, N.D.  The acronym stands for Drunks Against Mad Mothers.

Getting back to my five favorite movies – the similarity in their storylines is that the heroic, individualistic, all-American man is rejected by the woman of his dreams in favor of a more civilized, political, and often effeminate man.  In Casablanca, Ilsa Lund chose Victor Laszlo over Rich Blaine; in Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara chose Ashley Wilkes over Rhett Butler; in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Hallie Ericson chose Rance Stoddard over Tom Doniphon; in Shane, Marian Starrett chose Joe Starrett over Shane; and finally in Centennial, Clay Basket chose (sort of) Alexander McKeag over Pasquinel.

This storyline suggests:

  • The American hero has difficulty maintaining a relationship with the opposite sex.
  • Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by an individual who can labour in freedom – Albert Einstein. 

All of this helps to explain why those of us who hero-worship John Wayne are lousy at knowing how to treat a woman.  We have been brought up to see the lady’s man as the villian.

November 23, 2010

Creeping socialism?

During the ObamaCare debate, conservative pundits on FOX News, like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, started asking guests whether Barack Obama was a socialist.  My first reaction was that the question was their typical inflammatory stuff.  Although politicians shy away from being labeled the “L” word (liberal), being a socialist in my world is tantamount to being unAmerican.  You can imagine my surprise at learning, according to a 2010 Gallup poll, 36% of Americans consider socialism favorably, and that number increases to 61% for self-described liberal Americans. 

Upon further reflection, those numbers are less surprising.  I believe the fundamental difference between a conservative and a liberal is that a conservative believes in individual freedom, especially free enterprise, whereas a liberal believes that individual freedom is a dangerous thing that must be controlled by government. 

This generalization is supported by additional numbers from the Gallup poll.  Only 30% of self-described conservatives have a favorable opinion of the federal government, while 65% of liberals do.  By contrast, 57% of conservatives have a favorable opinion of big business, while only 38% of liberals do.

The Gallup pollsters pointed out that their results were affected by the fact that they did not provide a definition of socialism and that different people might have significantly different definitions.  That is something that O’Reilly and Hannity had to address when they were exploring whether Obama was a socialist.  O’Reilly used a strict, classical definition, which is someone who advocates public ownership of the means of production.  By that measure, O’Reilly concluded that, although Obama might believe in a welfare state, he was not a socialist.  Hannity’s definition, however, was not so strict.  Instead, he suggested that a socialist is someone who favors state control of capital within the framework of a market economy, and based on that definition, he concluded that Obama was clearly a supporter of creeping socialism. 

“Creeping socialism” is a good description of the American economy.  For example, there was an article in the SA Express-News last week lamenting the high cost of homeowners insurance in Texas, but instead of examining the reason for the high cost, the article focused on consumer advocates arguing that we need “comprehensive homeowners insurance reform that requires insurance companies to justify rates before they go into effect.”  The TDI explained the numbers by saying that most Texans have an unusual policy and Texans have unusual exposure to “hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather.”  Only in the last paragraph did the article quote an industry advocate – “Despite Texas weather, nearly 100 companies continue to sell homeowner insurance policies in the state, which makes for a competitive market and stable rates.” 

Requiring businesses in a competitive industry like Homeowners Insurance to justify their prices to a regulatory agency is a big step down the road toward converting America into a socialist state.  Ditto for ObamaCare and the GM/Chrysler bailout.  And as Rick Perry noted in his book Fed Up, this didn’t start with Obama.  Much responsibility rests with Bush-43, who said, “I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”  While Bush was reluctantly reacting to a crisis, Obama has decided to take advantage of the Great Recession, just as FDR took advantage of the Great Depression.  To paragraph his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste on America’s road to serfdom.

College politicians and Kay Bailey Hutchison

During my congressional race earlier this year, Will Hurd and I interviewed with the Editorial Board of the San Antonio Express-News for their endorsement.  At the end of an extensive interview, the Board asked Hurd if he had anything negative to say about my ability to be an effective congressman, and Hurd declined.  Then they asked me the same question, and I accepted. 

I suggested to the Board that student politicians like Will Hurd, who had been a student-body president at Texas A&M, should have a life outside of elective politics before entering the political arena.  By starting a career and family prior to elective politics, a prospective candidate will have a better understanding of the challenges faced by everyday Americans.  More importantly, the time away from elective politics will enable the prospective candidate to develop core values instead of learning to think in terms of what is politically correct. 

Earlier this week, while doing some research on Kay Bailey Hutchison, I stumbled across an interview she did for HarperCollins, and I was surprised to see she shared my sentiments almost exactly:

  • Q: What is your best advice to young women starting in politics?
    A: Don’t go into politics too early. Obtain real world experience in a profession or business. You will be more effective, have better goals, and know what your core principles are when you have been in the work place for 10 years or longer.

In the case of Kay Bailey, that advice clearly falls under the category of “do as I say, not as I do.”

November 22, 2010

Kay Bailey Hutchison – a prevaricating, country-club Republican

An article in the Texas Tribune today asked, “What will Kay Bailey Hutchison do next?”   

http://www.texastribune.org/texas-representatives-in-congress/us-congress/what-will-kay-bailey-hutchison-do-next/.  To borrow a line from Don Imus, I suggest that she get off the stage. 

I have written previously about my opposition to country-club Republicans leading the party.  See my post on Joe Straus – the post-partisan, patrician Speaker.   https://mkueber001.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/joe-straus-the-post-partisan-patrician-speaker/.  But there is something that I like even less, and that is career politicians who profess not to be.  Kay Bailey is guilty on both counts.

Country-club Republican

 

There can be no question that Kay Bailey is a country-club Republican.  She attended UT as a cheerleader and sorority girl, married a medical student, and earned a law degree.  Instead of practicing law, Kay Bailey became a TV reporter in Houston, divorced her husband, and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives.  There she met Ray Hutchison, a Republican bigwig in the legislature who was a partner at the Vinson & Elkins law firm and a candidate for governor of Texas.  After Ray’s failed run for governor (against Bill Clements) and her failed attempt to move up to Congress, Kay Bailey took a patronage job in Washington (vice-chair of National Transportation Safety Board) before returning to Texas to become General Counsel of a private bank that subsequently failed.  Kay Bailey’s Nixonian political comeback started in 1990, when she was elected to an obscure state-wide position – state treasurer – and then to U.S. Senator in a 1993 special election against an incredibly weak field.  This brings us to my second pet peeve.

Lying career politicians     

When Kay Bailey ran in the 1993 special election to replace Senator Lloyd Bentsen, she promised to serve no more than two full terms.  At the time, term limits were the craze and ultimately became a provision in the Republican’s Contract with America in 1994, so it’s fair to say that this pledge helped her in defeating the appointed Democratic Senator Bob Krueger, who refused to take the pledge. 

But when 2006 arrives, after Kay Bailey has served two full terms, she decided to renege on her pledge.  She argued that, since the term-limit provision in the Contract with America was one of the few provisions that did not become law, she would not leave the Senate because doing so would unilaterally hurt Texas at the expense of other states in the seniority-driven institution.  Didn’t she realize that when she made her pledge?  Isn’t that true of every term-limit pledge?  It’s so easy to make promises that you don’t have to pay until much later.  And it’s so easy to renege on promises that you made many years earlier. 

What will Kay Bailey Hutchison do next?

As the article in the Texas Tribune makes clear, the only thing we know for sure is that we can’t rely on what Kay Bailey says.  In mid-2009, as she started planning her campaign to defeat Governor Rick Perry, she promised to resign to campaign full-time.  Then in November of 2009, she declared:

  • “Let me also be crystal clear about one thing: I will be resigning this Senate seat.  For all of the good Republicans out there who plan on running for my seat next year, make no mistake. This is going to happen. It just isn’t going to happen until after health care reform and cap and trade are finished. And that will be after the primary.”

Finally, after getting trounced by Perry in the March 3 primary, she reneged again, saying that Obama’s agenda was “taking away the essence of America,” and that the “stakes in the Capitol have never been higher.”  Who is she kidding? 

I don’t think there is any question that Kay Bailey’s time has passed.  She could have gracefully exited the stage with her run for governor, albeit with already diminished integrity, but now she is left the same fate that befell ND Senator Byron Dorgan earlier this year.  He read the polls that revealed he was suddenly out of favor, and instead of being kicked out of office, he declined to seek re-election.  I expect Kay Bailey will decide to spend more time with her family (which includes two small children).

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