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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Miers' campaign contributions to Gore and Bentsen

For the primary benefit of my out-of-state readers: Eloquent and politically knowledgeable left-of-center Houston blogger Charles Kuffner, despite being a skeptic of Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court, absolutely nails those on the right who're all aflutter about Ms. Miers' 1988 contributions, presumably made as a sober, mature woman, to Democrats Al Gore and Lloyd Bentsen (links in original, boldface mine):

Listen to me closely, because I'm just going to say this once: Rick Perry, our beloved-by-the-conservative-base Governor, a man for whom anyone who is anyone in the Republican Party was doing their level best a few months ago to persuade Kay Bailey Hutchison to stay away from [in] next year's gubernatorial primary, was the Texas state chairman of Al Gore's 1988 presidential bid. He was 38 years old at the time (how sober he may have been is a question I am unable to answer adequately). I'll freely admit we know a lot more about what Rick Perry stands for than we do about Ms. Miers, though there's a pretty simple way to resolve that particular conundrum. My point is just that Texas was a very different place in 1988 than it is today. If you don't understand that, you should probably yield to someone who does.

(For extra credit, buy yourself a copy of Fifty Years of the Texas Observer and read about what the liberal wing of the Texas Democratic Party thought of Lloyd Bentsen in 1970, when he successfully ousted progressive hero Ralph Yarborough in the primary.)

Ayup. What he said. And to save you the cost of the Observer, the liberal wing thought Bentsen was a fascist tool of the banking and insurance industries. The broader story it tells over the last fifty years is how conservatives and liberal/progressives, nominally Democrats all, have battled tooth and nail through the decades when Texas was an overwhelmingly one-party (i.e., Democrat-only) state. It is a great story, albeit a politically (and sometimes literally) violent one. Just remember that this is a state in which Lyndon Baines Johnson — who was probably the most wickedly gifted and giftedly wicked natural politician of the Twentieth Century on the national stage — was considered to have only average intra-state political skills for much of his career.

Posted by Beldar at 07:58 PM in Law (2006 & earlier) | Permalink

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Comments

(1) Ironman made the following comment | Oct 12, 2005 9:08:13 PM | Permalink

Norm Coleman was a Democrat until 1997, Richard Shelby was until 1994. Gonna kick these two guys out of our senate caucus?

(2) craig mclaughlin made the following comment | Oct 12, 2005 10:31:08 PM | Permalink

I remember the 1988 Democratic national convention and the loud squawking from the left about the Bentsen choice for VP. P.J. O'Rourke, I think it was, had a pretty good line about how Dukakis was looking for a more liberal man from Texas to balance the ticket but George H. W. Bush was already taken. In 1988 Jesse Jackson was a legitimate force at the Democratic convention. And back in those days people actually seemed to care what Pat Buchanan thought. Times change.

(3) Lgl made the following comment | Oct 12, 2005 10:51:16 PM | Permalink

Phil Gramm was a democrat until 1983 when he resigned his house seat to run as a Republican (wasn't it great when we had guys like Phil Gramm and Dick Armey on our side?).

That Miers and Perry supported Algore in 1988 isn't very flattering to Miers. By 1988, we'd had 8 years of Reaganomics and muscular anti-communism. Algore was clearly on the wrong side, even then. It's no excuse to say that Texas was different in 1988. Hell, Texas had a native son running for president in 1988! Miers and Perry couldn't support George H. W. Bush? Remember that Bush 41 ran on the Reagan platform in 1988. (Yeah, I know, he went wobbly on us. That's part of my uneasiness now - is the son about to repeat dad's mistakes by supporting a wrong-headed subordinate, a la Dick Darman?)

I pray that Miers is not a republican in the Rick Perry mold. He's a $50 haircut with a $5 brain.

(4) paul in friendswood made the following comment | Oct 12, 2005 10:57:58 PM | Permalink

My uncle is a state judge in the NE corner. He runs as a Democrat - not all the yellow dogs are dead.

(5) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 13, 2005 1:01:30 AM | Permalink

I absolutely agree with you, Paul, and hasten to add (for those perhaps not familiar with the local political jargon): "Yellow Dogs" is a term of quasi-endearment used to describe those Democrats who traditionally said, or are today in the mold of those who once said, "I'd vote for a damned yellow dog before I'd vote for a damned Republican." There are indeed still pockets of Texas in which Democratic candidates do well, and certainly congressional districts that will continue to return Democrats to Congress until kingdom come or the expiration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Although Texas is now predominately a Republican state, it is nowhere nearly as uni-partisan as it was thirty-five or even twenty-five years ago, when the Dems had practically the only game in town (and in the state), and when securing the Democratic nomination was tantamount to being elected outright.

(6) DC made the following comment | Oct 13, 2005 8:41:06 AM | Permalink

Beldar,

1988 was one year after 1987, when Robert Bork was destroyed by Ted Kennedy, et al. And GHWB was going to run. He was beloved in Texas, and people lining up to run against him were few and far between. Unless they were liberals.

What your argument shows is two things: 1) The contribution wasn't forced or made via the firm, as the earlier line had it; 2) Miers was thinking about as much about the state of the judiciary and rectifying the wrong done to Robert Bork as was 38-year-old Rick Perry.

That's comforting.

(7) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 13, 2005 8:54:06 AM | Permalink

DC, do whut now?

Look, my gran-daddy was a Texas Republican in an era when it could have gotten him lynched. My Daddy voted for John Tower and GHW Bush before they were popular. I was one of approximately four, maybe five, GOP voters on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin-Berkeley/Sodom who voted for Jerry Ford in 1976, at a time when 18 year olds could still drink to drown their lonely sorrows.

Rick Perry didn't join me for that drink, but that's okay, neither did any of the roughly 40,000 other UT-Austin students.

(Yeah, yeah, I know that six or maybe eight committed hard-core Republicans will immediately post comments to this post, claiming to also have voted for Jerry Ford in 1976 on the UT campus. Whatever.)

I'm here to tell ya, 1988 was still a year when the Texas masses were saying, "Ummmm. Soylent Green is yummy!"

(8) Crank made the following comment | Oct 13, 2005 9:22:04 AM | Permalink

I'm marginally more concerned about her contribution to the DNC (post-Bork) than to Gore and Bentsen, but the donations are a pretty small concern overall. The broader concern is that her journey from D to R just as the state was doing the same smacks of a going along to get along mentality rather than the prickly independence we'd like from judges of any ideological stripe.

(9) DC made the following comment | Oct 13, 2005 11:08:04 AM | Permalink

Beldar,

I was on the UT campus, actually at Townes Hall, in 1988. The students themselves voted overwhelmingly for GHWB, as they had for Pres. Reagan in 1984. I know, because I was a columnist, a conservative columnist and one of the few and the proud, and the first, for The Daily Texan. So ... careful, there are people out here that know what you're talking about.

And ... my point was simply that, okay, so Rick Perry was still a Demo. He was hardly thinking about Robert Bork then. Because every one who was, every conservative I knew, was outraged over this.

But hey, in 1990, Harriet Miers is calling the Fed. Society too "politically charged" and the NAACP is not. Okay. I get it.

Have faith? No. In the courtroom we say, "Please put on your case."

(10) ScurvyOaks made the following comment | Oct 13, 2005 2:38:55 PM | Permalink

Now, Beldar, please don't exaggerate. Texas was by no means a one-party Dem state in 1988. Until 1978, when Bill Clements was elected the first Rep governor since Reconstruction, this argument has considerable force. By 1988, however, Texas was a very different place, genuinely competitive between the two parties.

(Regarding Rick Perry, I agree with the $50 haircut comment.)

(11) Patrick R. Sullivan made the following comment | Oct 13, 2005 3:18:11 PM | Permalink

Keep in mind that Al Gore was pro-life up to some time in 1988. The fact that Miers supported him in the Democrat primary isn't suprising.

(12) Lgl made the following comment | Oct 14, 2005 7:46:06 AM | Permalink

There was a HUGE difference between 1976 (when I, God forgive me, voted for Jimmy Carter) and 1988. Among others, the following world-historical events had occurred: Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; Iranian hostage crisis; second energy crisis; Nicaragua's fall to the Sandinistas ; Reagan's election, sweeping the Senate to Republican control for the first time in 25 years (George McGovern, Frank Church, Warren Magnuson and other liberal incumbents losing to Republican challengers); Reagan's first term supply-side tax cuts and de-regulation; Reagan's second (landslide, 535-13, 49-state) election; and yes, the Borking of Robert Bork in 1987. Algore was on the wrong side of all of these. Anyone who was paying attention would have known this. Rick Perry I understand, he's an intellectual lightweight. But Miers, who is supposed to be so smart and discerning, apparently was unaffected. Don't tell me she picked Algore because he was pro-life. Wasn't GWHB also?

My questions are, when (if ever) did Harriet Miers have a political epiphany? If not a conservative stalwart in 1988, what events since then convinced her she was wrong to support Algore in 1988?

I am willing to be convinced, but I haven't been yet.

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