Well, hell! God must have, considering the gallery of lunatics the Lone Star State has put into public office in recent years! I can honestly say I’ve never been more embarrassed to be a Texan (or an American, if you look at the current presidential race) than I am now. I opined two years ago that I hope Ted Cruz runs for president and gets his ass slaughtered in the process. So far, he’s one of only three survivors in the Republican field. I eagerly await the political bloodbath at the GOP convention in Cleveland this summer. I have a perverted fascination with seeing arrogance publicly butchered. Cruz has made a number of incendiary comments, including that the United States will collapse into the fires of Satan’s lair because gay marriage is now legal – as opposed to the centuries of European-induced Indian genocide and Negro slavery where nothing so calamitous occurred. There are too many idiocies that came from his mouth to highlight here. I mean, I wouldn’t know where to begin! But one recent revelation is that he tried to uphold a state law banning the sale of sex toys, which he said safeguards “public morals”; adding that “police-power interests” are a tool (pun intended) in “discouraging prurient interests in sexual gratification, combating the commercial sale of sex, and protecting minors.” That’s right. Cruz believes police have the power to invade your home and yank a dildo out of your ass or vagina! All in the name of protecting children, of course. Like so many right-wingers here in Texas, Cruz is willing to move heaven and Earth to protect children from wayward sexuality, while ignoring the fact most of those children are uninsured. Priorities, people! Priorities!
Canadian-born, Cuban-Italian Cruz certainly isn’t the first Texas official to spout out such twisted logic. This state has a long history of generating some colorful characters. During the 1990 governor’s race, Republican oilman Clayton Williams said, among other gaffes, that bad weather was like rape; it’s inevitable, so you might as well lay back and enjoy it. As you might expect, the old bastard also insulted Blacks and Hispanics. But here’s the sad part: he garnered nearly 40% of the votes. Fortunately State Treasurer Ann Richards won. Unfortunately, she lost four years later to the grandest of all Texas political goofballs: George W. Bush. It’s around that time when Texas politics began sliding into the surreal – enough to make Salvador Dalí jealous.
But the past decade alone has seen the dramatic rise of Texas’ quirkiest politics stars. I now present the following three jewels of cluelessness.
Ken Paxton – The state Attorney General has been in legal trouble almost from the moment he was sworn into office. In July 2015, Paxton was indicted on felony charges for repeatedly breaking state securities laws during his tenure as a state lawmaker. Then a new charge that he deliberately misled investors in a technology company arose. Amid raising thousands of dollars from the investors, Paxton supposedly also received commissions – something he didn’t reveal and something that’s, you know, kind of illegal. His attorneys tried to get all the charges dropped, but the judge handling the matter refused and ordered Paxton to be arrested in Collin County, just north of Dallas. Paxton had to undergo the usual rigmarole of fingerprints and mug shots. Whenever people in Collin County, Texas are arrested, officials wrap a white towel around their necks before taking the requisite glory shot. But, because Paxton is a high-ranking state figure, he got the anticipated special treatment and was photographed sans towel. (Trying to be discreet, Paxton had met with William Mapp, one of the energy company’s co-founders at a Dairy Queen in McKinney, which is in Collin County, in the summer of 2011. According to most Texans, Dairy Queen is a step above Burger King.) While Paxton is currently trying to stop a group called Exxotica from staging a sexually-oriented exposition in Dallas this summer, news reports now reveal that Paxton is still paying top aides who left the attorney general’s office more than a month ago. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating the investment deal, and Exxotica is threatening to sue the city of Dallas, if it violates their contract to proceed with the exposition. I truly hope the SEC wins, and then, I’ll join them at the Exxotica convention.
Louie Gohmert – The East Texas congressman takes outlandishness to a new level. As with most right-wing political figures, Gohmert doesn’t want anyone telling him what to do with their guns, but he feels the urge to tell people what to do in their own bedrooms. Aside from his staunch opposition to abortion (a given trait among conservatives), he’s compared limiting the size of ammunition magazines to bestiality and opposes gays from serving in the military because they’d spend more time giving each other massages on the front lines than fighting. (What the hell’s wrong with massages?!) In light of President Obama’s election wins, Gohmert has co-sponsored a “birther” bill that would require presidential candidates to submit their birth certificates as proof of eligibility to run for the White House. Recently he opposed a bill that would have directed education funding to recruiter more women in the sciences by claiming it’s gender-biased and that even Martin Luther King would have opposed it. Not knowing when to shut the hell up, Gohmert went on to add that such a bill would have distracted Marie Curie’s research and put “millions and millions of lives” in jeopardy.
Sid Miller – Like most politicians, the state’s Agriculture Commissioner has a penchant for travel. And, like most politicians, he claims it’s all done in the name of state business, and therefore, he’s justified in charging taxpayers for his expenses. But the $2,000 he spent on a 2015 trip to Mississippi to compete in a rodeo for prize money probably doesn’t fall into the business category. He engaged in calf-roping events and won $880. He tried to explain the trip’s importance by claiming he had set up a “work meeting” with Mississippi’s agriculture commissioner and other business people. But wait! It gets weirder. Miller also may have charged Texas taxpayers the $1,000 it cost to fly to Oklahoma to visit an old friend, Michael Lonergan, a discredited Ohio doctor, for a “Jesus shot.” Yes, Miller – who apparently suffers from chronic back pain – needed the spirit of the Lord pumped into his tired body via a concoction of unknown ingredients that’s injected into the upper arm. Lonergan served prison time in Ohio for tax evasion and mail fraud, before relocating to Edmond, Oklahoma. Miller is reimbursing the state of Texas for the trip “out of an abundance of caution,” according to his spokeswoman. But the Texas Rangers, a state police agency, is still investigating. My idea of a “Jesus shot” is a heavy duty screwdriver made with Smirnoff citron vodka and a bottle of baby oil; then shouting, “Jesus!” as I wipe my face. I have videos in exchange for contributions to a charity of my choice – mainly my freelance writing fund.
Mary Lou Bruner – The 69-year-old retired teacher is seeking to be the next president of the Texas State School Board, the entity that has made all of Texas the literal laughingstock of the nation. Bruner subscribes to the usual right-wing ideology: the Earth is only about 6,000 years old; there was a man named Noah who built a massive ark and that dinosaurs were among its passengers; climate change science is leftist bullshit; and 20th century liberals rewrote the history of the Civil War only to make it look like slavery was the root cause.
But, among her myriad Facebook rants is this lovely tidbit: “Obama has a soft spot for homosexuals because of the years he spent as a male prostitute in his twenties. That is how he paid for his drugs. He has admitted he was addicted to drugs when he was young, and he is sympathetic to homosexuals; but he hasn’t come out of the closet about his own homosexual / bisexual background. He hasn’t quite evolved that much! Since he supports gay marriage, he should be proud of his background as a homosexual/bisexual. He is against everything else Christians stand for, he might as well be for infidelity.”
Facebook forcibly deleted that post, and even some of Obama’s most ardent critics here and across the country thought that went too far. Of all the disrespectful crap lodged at our first biracial president, that’s the most slanderous. As far as I can tell, though, she’s never apologized for it. A spokeswoman for the Cherokee County, Texas Republican Party dismissed the response to Bruner as excessive; describing her as “a nice older lady who doesn’t understand social media and the impact that it can have.”
No one has to “understand social media” to realize calling somebody a prostitute and a drug addict is offensive and just plain stupid. Do you need a PhD in astronomy to understand that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west? What’s worst, however, is that – given Texas’ dismal voting record – Bruner stands a good chance of actually winning that coveted seat on the school board.
There’s also a good chance Paxton and Miller will both remain in office. In the U.S., a true double standard exists when it comes to elected officials facing criminal charges. People are routinely thrown in jail for possessing a pinch of marijuana or talking back to a police officer. Sandra Bland, anyone? But use your official power to skirt the system? Well… that’s up for discussion. I have no hope for the future, but will keep writing to avoid a visit from the FBI.
Although Texas gave the nation – and the world – Dick Cheney and Enron, it also produced the U.S. space program, Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, ZZ Top, Beyoncé, Eva Longoria, frozen margaritas, Shiner Bock, Whole Foods Market, silicone breast implants and, of course, Chief Writing Wolf. So, things aren’t that bad down here!
On a side note, I really do plan to patronize Exxotica and display my version of the “Jesus shot”: a bathtub filled with Mike’s HARD Lemonade; a liter of Red Bull; a sounding rod; heated Vaseline and a high-definition video camera. I’ll email copies to Bruner and Cruz to show what they’re missing while campaigning. After all, politics is bad for both body and soul. Yee-hah!