Monday, January 20, 2014


Wendy with Maria Shriver at the trailer park on the TODAY Show
The Perry-Abbott machine is going berserk because Wendy Davis was two years older when she divorced. And apparently, she did not spend sufficient time living in a trailer park to suit their tastes. This avoids the important question: does she know what it is to be poor, to live under adverse circumstances? The answer: a simple, unqualified YES.

Now, can the same be said of Greg Abbott? To find out, it would seem that there's some details in his story that require clarification. There's a claim made in the cover story in Texas Monthly last Fall that DOES NOT ring true for me - and I think you'll see why.  

"His father, Roger, was a proud University of Texas graduate who worked as a stockbroker and insurance agent; his mother, Doris, was a homemaker....

When Abbott wasn't cleaning animal cages

The impression here is that Abbott's father's death left his family in financial straits. The future candidate and his mother had to fend for themselves. His mother, a "homemaker" was forced into the workplace to "make ends meet" while he had to pitch in by juggling multiple part-time jobs while going to school. 

Now, let's unpack this a bit more. Abbott's father, "a stockbroker and insurance agent," apparently didn't have much in terms of assets or carry a decent life insurance policy to take care of his family? Terrible for an insurance agent to be uninsured or under-insured! No family or family money either to help, I guess. At least they had Social Security survivor benefits, right? No help from Social Security either?

To be sure, losing your father young is a terrible thing. Adding financial hardship on top of that, worse still. But is this really the situation that Abbott "overcame" in childhood? The "worked his way through school" tale seems to taper off in the Texas Monthly account while he was an undergrad at UT.  

Now, maybe this is all true. Perhaps, penniless, Abbott had to scrape his way through. Or it is perfectly possible that Abbott is not responsible for this impression. Did Brian D. Sweany, the Texas Monthly reporter, fluff this up from biography into hagiography. Fact-check anyone? What IS the reality here? 

Since the Perry-Abbott machine wants to raise doubts about Wendy Davis' hardscrabble days, let's have a look at his! The important question: does Abbott, like Wendy Davis,  know what it is to be poor? 

An over/under man?
Meanwhile, there's ANOTHER detail from the Texas Monthly tale that seems dubious to me. Admittedly this may be picayune. But as a gun aficionado reading a story about a gun braggadocio... Again, I'm open to being wrong here but....

The story opens with the writer describing his adventure shooting clay pigeons with the candidate. This is the central metaphor for his portrait of an "overcomer" who had faced devastating setbacks and come out on top.

"What was notable was his endurance. Everyone else took breaks; Abbott just kept blasting away. His shoulder, I caught myself thinking, is going to be black-and-blue tomorrow."

Now, the cover photo for the issue shows Abbott with an over/under shotgun. Abbott's shooting habits would be masochistic if he were using full-house 12-gauge loads in an over/under. But that doesn't seem to be the reality. The over-under looks to be just for show. Other pictures indicate that the weapon he actually used when the reporter was on hand is a Remington 1100. This makes for a VERY different shooting experience than an over/under. The gas-operated autoloader soaks up a great deal of what could be a punishing recoil with an over/under. 

The missing detail here is what they were using for shells. If they were using skeet loads, then this business about Abbott's "endurance" under fire is, at best, mistaken. Skeet loads, designed for shooting clay pigeons, are light and pleasant to shoot. Yes, you can go round-after-round without flinching or fear of mangling your shoulder. 

Maybe Abbott isn't a masochist (is that a bad thing?) and this is just a clever public relations image cooked up to deliver the desired result.

And if Abbott really IS a masochist? 

Here's another thing I learned when I cut my teeth skeet shooting at thirteen. I also used a Remington 1100 with the aforementioned skeet loads. But I preferred using a 20-gauge. When I really wanted to challenge myself, I opted for a 28-gauge. You see, the smaller-bore shotguns make it more difficult to powder the pigeons. It makes it a true test of skill. Using a 12-gauge takes the sport out of it. 

Perhaps the TRUE image for Abbott here is a man of mediocre talent. The Texas GOP political machine does a great job covering this up, but the reality remains. The best he can do is blast away blindly with their blunderbuss of Far Right ideology. That will do little to provide real solutions to the challenges we face in Texas. 



This was one of my most popular pieces during campaign season.

Shortly after posting this, I followed-up by submitting the core of it to the Texas Monthly as a letter to the editor. The key question: does the candidate know what it is to have to make ends meet? 

The new boss at Texas Monthly
I was pleased and surprised when Sweany, the author and (at the time) the magazine's Senior Executive Editor, responded personally via email. We went back-and-forth several times as I tried to pin him down to answer the question. In short, the answer is no, Abbott has no personal experience of his mother facing financial difficulties after his father's death. Even so, he stands by his statement that she went to work at that time "to make ends meet." Apparently for Sweany, the phrase "to make ends meet," despite the commonly accepted meaning, does not imply financial hardship.

Also, in a follow-up phone conversation, I asked about the shotgun shoot that frames his story. I wanted to get the answer to the question I raised in the posting about the shells used. Sweany, as it turns out, isn't very knowledgeable about firearms. He did say that he saved one of the spent shells as a souvenir. He said he'd get back to me as to whether it was high brass or low brass (high recoil, full-power or light skeet loads). No follow-up. He did not provide the answer despite repeat requests.

Since, he has been promoted to Editor-in-Chief.

I should add that Sweany left the door open in our email exchange: "If you have new reporting, I'd love to hear it." Well, I made a trip to Duncanville, and found documentary evidence that raises questions about the fact-checking for his story. I wrote him about this - no reply.


Tips? Suggestions? Ideas? Drop a line to carl (at) inanityofsanity (dot) com.

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