The State of the Union Is … Weird.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, Greg Abbott and other kidnapped zoo animals
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Thursday, February 9, 2023
What a week!
State of the Union Ju-Jitsu
Last night, President Biden delivered his State of the Union address to a packed chamber of senators, representatives, Supreme Court Justices, Cabinet members, and gibbering baboons. In a strategy crafted by Speaker Kevin McCarthy shortly after he gave up all hope of corralling the GOP members of the House, the SOTU address turned into a duel of wits between Biden and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Space Lasers), with predictable results. For those of you that missed it, here’s the short version:
Biden: Some Republicans want to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
MAGA Caucus: Liar! How dare you accuse us of such a thing! Boo! Hiss!
Biden: Good. It’s settled then: no cuts to Social Security or Medicare.
MAGA Caucus: Uhhh… wait, what?
Speaker Kevin McCarthy contemplates the 694 days remaining until he gives up the gavel, if he lasts that long.
There’s a State of the State, too.
Life Its Ownself readers know that I harbor serious doubts about Greg Abbott’s chances of winning the presidency. As I wrote last July:
He’s giving it a good run, but everybody knows Abbott will never be President. He’s too “brittle,” to borrow a word someone used the other day in discussing him. He tries to talk tough but comes across as petulant. He tries to demagogue but sounds like he’s reading a script – poorly. He tries to throw red meat to the base, and comes up with whiffle balls like he can’t smell “freedom” in Austin. To paraphrase President Bush 41, he’s not very good at “the authenticity thing.”
Still, I have to admit that the Guv is sitting pretty right now. Circumstances have dealt him four Kings and an Ace. He won re-election handily last fall. The State is sitting on an improbable $32 billion surplus, and the Legislature, congenitally short-sighted, is willing to help him spend it in politically pleasing but ultimately insubstantial ways. They’re also willing to support his culture war initiatives like vouchers, book censorship and Drag Queen Story Hour bans. He's governor of the most important Republican state in the country, but has avoided lifting his head far enough out of the foxhole to make himself a target.
And so, you could say he has a chance.
This explains why Abbott’s next two years as governor will be mostly performative, with an eye on a national prize.
For instance, early in every legislative session the governor gives a State of the State address to the assembled members of the Legislature. The day of the address is a grand Texas event, a mini-SOTU. The House and the Senate convene in the majestic old House chamber. Court justices are there in their robes. The Governor is escorted to the dais by an honor guard of legislators. Staffers in offices stop what they’re doing to listen to the speech on closed-circuit TVs. The governor identifies legislative priorities and also emergency items he wants to push to the top of the calendar.
Governor Abbott is greeted by legislators at his 2019 State of the State speech.
Of course, the speech is typically forgotten almost immediately. Which may explain why Abbott has decided to change it up a little this year and (checks notes) … not actually address the Legislature. Instead, he will deliver a primetime address to captive TV viewers across Texas on the evening of February 16 from an undisclosed secure location in Hays County.
Just kidding! His speech will be delivered at a chamber of commerce venue in San Marcos. Although legislators’ presence will be tolerated, the press will be banned from the event. Presumably, the public will be so thrilled about seeing Abbott’s
campaign kickoff oratory that they will happily forego watching Young Sheldon and Hell’s Kitchen. This is not a bet I would take.
Abbott’s office, alarmed by focus group data indicating that ordinary Texans might find the State of the State address to be torpid and boring, sent out a wildly understated press release to build interest in the speech:
Texas is the apex of opportunity, where infinite possibilities allow our people to climb from humble beginnings to the heights of success. This 88th Legislative Session is an opportunity for the Legislature and statewide leaders to transform the lives of Texans for generations and build an even brighter future for our state.
Now that is some next-level chamber of commerce b.s. Will Abbott’s primetime address reach such soaring heights of rhetoric? Tune in next Thursday and see.
A City’s Crisis Brings Texans Together
Last week, Texans everywhere were gripped by the drama played out in one of its major cities – ice storms and freezing temperatures, property destruction, loss of power, forced relocations in the middle of the night, long waits for answers and a slow return to normalcy.
I refer, of course, to the Great Dallas Zoo Caper of 2023.
Let me summarize the crime spree and its victims:
· On January 13, a clouded leopard named Nova disappeared from his enclosure, but was found on the zoo grounds several hours later. Zoo officials believed his enclosure had been vandalized, and the cat either allowed or encouraged to escape.
· The next day, zoo staff found that the langur monkeys enclosure had also been vandalized, with a hole cut in the fence. Fortunately, all the monkeys were accounted for.
· A week later, a 35-year old lappet-faced vulture named Pin was discovered dead in his enclosure under suspicious circumstances. These vultures are considered endangered, and the loss of Pin, who had fathered 11 other vultures, was keenly felt in the lappet-faced vulture swinger community.
· Two weeks after that, two emperor tamarin monkeys were kidnapped from their enclosure and spirited off the property.
The latter monkey kidnapping helped break the case open. Alert zoo employees became suspicious when an individual asked “obscure questions” like, “Where can I get [an emperor tamarin monkey] and how do y’all get them in at night?” and “How do you catch the birds and where do they go at night?” Eventually their suspicions coalesced around the suspect. He was identified and tracked to a house in Lancaster where the missing monkeys were recovered.
The suspect, Davion Irvin, 24, is now detained in the Dallas County jail and has provided details leading police to believe he was involved in the clouded leopard and langur monkey episodes as well. To be fair, he did not harm the animals (his involvement in the vulture death is still under investigation) and seems to genuinely like animals and, naively, want them to be free. He’s even indicated that, once released from jail, he would steal more animals. This will probably not go over well at his bail hearing, but I am not his assigned counsel.
Check it out … Jim Moore has been covering Texas politics for almost 40 years now. He’s the author of several noteworthy books on the Bush-Rove era of Texas and national politics. He also tells terrific stories about his youth and his wanderings around Texas and the western United States, which are collected in his Texas To The World Substack page. Give him a read, and even a subscription.
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