A Cold Day in Texas

We call them blue northers; they are usually Canadian cold air or arctic weather systems that push far enough south to dramatically alter the weather in Texas. Often, a person can be standing outside in 80 degree temperatures and the cold can lower it as much as 60 degrees in less than an hour. The experience can be startling.

March is late for the phenomenon but they are hardly unknown for this time of year. As the redbuds blossom in Central Texas and bluebonnets rise along the Rio Grande, a brutal cold front with ice has covered the state making roads tricky and travel hazardous on primary Election Day. The four major population centers in Texas have ordered schools closed and a delay in the opening of government institutions. The weather will, inevitably, affect the turnout of voters.

Midwesterners would laugh if they could see us.

The weather is not all that is anomalous about this election. For reasons that continue to defy logic or explanation, the leading Republican candidate for governor essentially launched his campaign by inviting to the state a controversial musician whose background and public pronouncements are offensive to virtually every voter. Greg Abbott, who starts the run against his presumed opponent Democrat Wendy Davis, ahead by 10 points in most estimates, toured Texas with rock 'n' roll bad boy Ted Nugent.

Although the media have, in general, moved on from the public relations apocalypse, the decision and Nugent's background bear further examination. Both suggest Abbott's judgment might not be well calibrated for leadership. Democrat Davis was criticized for a clunky start to her campaign, early message choice and bad moves with the media, but nothing she did comes close to the absurd choice made by frontrunner Abbott, yet there seemed to have been more publicity about her stumbles than his grand offense.

Nugent, who called the Texas attorney general his blood brother, tends to offend the sensibilities of the conservatives Abbott is trying to court. Editorial boards across the state eviscerated the presumptive GOP gubernatorial nominee. The Waco Herald Tribune wrote, "Most outrageous of all, Abbott's claiming to reporters after an appearance with the Nuge that he didn't know what the rocker had said in the past. As our state's top law enforcement officer and former judge, he should have found out."

Or at least his campaign out to have briefed him.

The Dallas Morning News wrote that, "This misstep calls Abbott's leadership and judgment into question," and the Houston Chronicle said, "If Abbott thinks any Christians, other than the most craven political opportunists, are going to be OK with this kind of blatant sexual exploitation, he has another thing coming." Not a publication in the state defended the joint appearance with Nugent and Abbott.

The largest curiosity about the decision is the fact that Nugent so blatantly contradicts issues that Abbott has promoted as critical to his tenure in office. Abbott continually brags about how he has used the powers of his office to track down and retrieve millions from deadbeat parents who have not made their child support payments at the same time he campaigns with a man who has been sued for non-support of a child fathered out of wedlock, a type of behavior the Texas attorney general has made a central cause of his tough guy stance while in office, and a hypocrisy which he gets skewered for by the Lone Star Project.

In 2004, Nugent was sued by a Dover, New Hampshire, woman for not providing support for an 8-year-old boy. Karen Gutowski's lawyer asked a court to examine the rocker's income and order appropriate financial support. Nugent, who had never met the child but had acknowledged he was the father, apparently as a counter legal strategy, filed his own motion seeking visitation rights. He followed that with a request that the court delay any rulings until he could see the results of a paternity test.

Regardless of the outcome of that case, Abbott ought to be harmed by his association with Nugent and the hypocrisy displayed by letting the rock 'n' roll embarrassment speak for his campaign. Abbott, who is another in an unending line of Christian family values conservatives, brought out on the stump a man who bragged to the Washington Post, "I have nine children by seven women." Even the fact that Nugent uses the phrase to describe their mothers as "women" is a bit misleading. He has an acknowledged proclivity for underage girls, which he spoke about openly on VH1.

If Abbott's campaign is not sufficiently capable with opposition research that they cannot find this information with a search engine, then Wendy Davis' odds at success will continue to increase exponentially. And if they knew that Nugent had been called a pedophile in various publications and venues, and they still invited him to campaign with Abbott, they ought to be fired. They might have even considered listening to one of Nugent's albums; maybe the one with the song he wrote called, "Jailbait," which is an anthem to his lust for teenagers.

The top defender of law in the state of Texas, Greg Abbott, a man who would be governor, has effectively approved of Nugent's sexually predatory behavior with regards to underage girls by appearing at campaign venues with the rocker. The GOP candidate justified the association by explaining that Nugent is a big defender of the Second Amendment and gun rights and Nugent may end up being as good at killing political campaigns as he is shooting squirrels. Other than underage girls, there seems to be nothing he enjoys as much as killing things; might as well add Abbott's hopes for governor to the trophies on his wall.

Squirrels are easier to pot with a gun than enemies of the state, however. Nugent might like his guns but not enough to tote one into battle to serve his country. He went to extraordinary measures to avoid serving in the military, which is so critical to the values of his conservative compatriots. Prior to going in for his draft physical during the Vietnam era, Nugent radically changed his diet but never changed his pants. In an interview with High Times magazine, he said he shat himself for a week before he went to the induction center, allowed his own feces to crust on his jeans, and shat ooze into a cup and onto his arm and presented the feces sample to the medical examiner, instead of a urine specimen.

The army wouldn't have him.

But Greg Abbott would. He finally distanced himself from Nugent's description of the president as a "sub-human mongrel," a Nazi term used to describe Jews, but when reporters persisted in asking Abbott if he had made a mistake by appearing with the musician, he refused to admit to failed judgment on his part or the campaign's. "You don't look back," he said. Maybe not, but if you decision-making skills are this impaired, you ought not to be the person who is given the job of looking forward for the state.

Abbott still might become governor. But it's reasonable to think he's lost support over the Nugent nuttiness. And it will be a cold day in Texas in July before it is forgotten, or forgiven.