If I were asking the questions...

Stop beating around the bush folks, and hold their feet to the fire.

If I were asking the questions...

In my years as a broadcast journalist, which is what a semi-retired news guy calls himself, I fancied myself a decent interviewer. And what has frustrated me over the years as I watch my cohorts talking to politicians of various stripes, is the failure to ask the simple, obvious questions. So I'll attempt to ask them now. And let's face it, this is the easy part because these guys aren't here to evade and force me to improvise, or even worse, take pity because they are so unarmed when it comes to a tough inquiry.

That actually happened, by the way. I recall talking to a candidate who was so unprepared and ill-informed that I ended the interview early because I just couldn't do it to him anymore. Think Herschel Walker facing Jake Tapper.

OK, where do we start? Oh, what the hell, let's go with the former President. I mean, we can't make him go away, right?

Right now I'm using incredible mental powers to declassify something.

Were I to sit in Leslie Stahl's chair on 60 Minutes, in addition to changing out of a skirt, I'd start with the varying stories about the FBI visit to his Florida pied-a-terre, which seems more like a corrupt third world palace, Mar-a-Lagos? I thought that appropriate since he contended that's where President Obama hails from. So, what was the story about the classified documents he refused to return and were found in the search?

Firstly, the claim was "I had no documents that needed to be turned over." Then, it was, "the FBI must have planted them." Then, he had a standing order that anything he took home was automatically declassified. When aides confirmed that was baloney, we got into the metaphysical with the declassification by mere thought. So, the question is, Mr. President, if you now claim they were declassified, why did you earlier claim they were planted by the FBI? And if the government demanded them back, why did you tell your lawyers there was nothing left to return, thus setting them up for disbarment? And if they were declassified, that means you indeed had them. Why did you deny that? And why didn't you send them back when asked? And why did you want them in the first place? Hannity will only ask about Melania's closet, so somebody has to.

And a question for the FBI. when you searched the place, why didn't you take off your shoes? Were you born in a barn, for crying out loud?

What kind of Philistines are you people? 

And now for the only Governor we have, Greg Abbott.

I know, I know, but this is the only smile I have.

Of course, he is locked in a  titanic struggle he will no doubt win with former congressman Beto O'Rourke. So, let's start with the border. Yes, O'Rourke has a position on the border that takes a college senior's term paper to explain, which is why so many democrats lose. But you have commercials running that emphasize why it is crucial to border security who we vote into the governor's mansion. Well, Republicans have been there since 1995, you have sent a small, no, a large army down south and this is what we have. Why is that?

An additional question. You cite figures that indicate a record number of people crossing the border this year. There are indeed a record number of encounters with migrants, but the actual number of people is down. From the Pew Research Center...

While the number of encounters was the highest on record last fiscal year, the number of individuals encountered was considerably lower. That’s because more than a quarter of all migrant encounters at U.S. borders in both fiscal 2021 and fiscal 2020 (27% and 26%, respectively) involved repeat crossers, according to CBP statistics.

So, Governor, a big part of the problem is people trying over and over to cross, not a huge wave of new people. Why are you hiding that fact?

You cite in your commercials the number of Fentanyl seizures at the border as a big problem. Drugs are indeed and always have been a smuggling issue, but these were seized by authorities. Isn't that a good thing? Isn't that proof the system is catching the bad guys?

And then there's the myth that individuals from south of the border are swimming here with the stuff, a myth clearly implied in your commercials. From NPR...

Victor Manjarrez served in the Border Patrol for more than 20 years, retiring as the sector chief in Tucson. Manjarrez says it's true that fentanyl is crossing the border - a lot of fentanyl - but it's not coming over on the backs of migrants, who are often turning themselves in to seek asylum.
MANJARREZ: The probability they're going to carry some kind of illicit narcotic is probably close to zero.
NPR: Manjarrez says some fentanyl is brought in by cartels who are using migrants as a distraction, but the vast majority is smuggled through official ports of entry, hidden in cars and tractor-trailers.

So, Governor, why are you perpetuating this myth?

Now to law enforcement. Governor, you have a commercial airing on radio all over the state that has a recording of Beto O'Rourke supporting defunding the police. As an old broadcasting veteran I can hear the edit in the quote. It's frankly clumsy. I'd fire the guy who edited that tape. O'Rourke never said he supported defunding and eliminating police departments, and the commercial is extremely deceptive. Why the lie in your ads?

On guns, you have mischaracterized court rulings on age limitations for buying a firearm. Several states have set the age limit for purchasing, or in some cases, even possessing a long gun at 21. Those laws have not been overturned. Did you simply not know that or are you simply not telling the truth?

Minimum Age | Giffords
Universal background checks save lives from gun violence.

On abortion, why is the state health department delaying a report on the numbers of deaths due to pregnancy complications, particularly those that might have been prevented by early medical intervention to end the pregnancy? Why haven't you insisted those statistics be made public? Are you afraid the law you backed may be too broad and too severe and ultimately scare doctors away from procedures that could save women's lives?

Finally, in your "debate" with Beto. Why did your team insist on no audience and the opportunities for interaction between the candidates were laughably limited, reportedly at the request of your campaign. Why? In a contest like this, voters want to see candidates mix it up and question each other. We got canned responses that looked, well, canned. The prep for you was excrutiatingly obvious.

When questioned on your response to the big freeze a couple of years ago, you were completely disingenuous about the moves to prepare for another one, why you left the natural gas providers out of the mix of new regulations, and republican campaigns against any renewables when they saved our bacon this summer.

Now to our AI generated RFK, Beto O'Rourke.

I know, Kennedy vibe, eh? Well, except that they won. 

I watched your debate on Friday, and was frankly underwhelmed. Firstly, on abortion. You danced around the idea of any limitation. When asked the, admittedly loaded, question about supporting "abortion on demand," you gave a completely evasive answer. You could have called the reporter out. Every abortion for whatever reason is, "on demand." It's a time-tested phrase that doesn't truly describe the question of whether there should be any limits on that 9 months where you say "it's too late." Why didn't you just correct the questioner and answer the damned question?

On guns, Abbott is right about one thing. You have flipped on that one, buddy. the clip from the presidential debate, you know, that half hour you were still a candidate, was clear. You wanted assault guns off the street. Now, I have written about that and basically agree, but now you are, oh what's the word? Oh yeah, weaseling on it and it's painfully obvious. I know it's Texas and all, but you're not going to get those guy's votes anyway.

And if you'd done some more research, a new study of Texans across the political spectrum would have backed you up, at least partially. From the Houston Chronicle, courtesy of the Quorum Report...

"The majority of Texans across both parties agree on certain gun restrictions – including raising the purchasing age of firearms from 18 to 21, according to a new survey from the University of Houston and Texas Southern University. Researchers found that, overall, Texans support a variety of different proposals related to gun control, even as Republicans in the state Legislature decline to entertain many of the ideas. While the Democrats who were surveyed had much stronger support for gun control measures – they said they agreed with all 10 proposals posited by researchers – the Republicans who were surveyed still supported six.
“Finding the right balance between gun safety and gun rights will continue to be a major issue in our society,” said Michael O. Adams, a Texas Southern professor of political science who conducted the study. “However, I think gun ownership in Texas has become somewhat synonymous with the state (identity). There is a potential for consensus to address some of the issues.” The policies with bipartisan support were: Banning the possession or purchase of a gun by anyone with a restraining order filed against them for domestic violence or stalking; Mandating criminal background checks for all gun buyers, regardless of venue; Allowing judges to take guns from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or to others; Raising the age to purchase an assault rifle from 18 to 21; Raising the age to purchase any firearm from 18 to 21; Requiring a mandatory waiting period between the purchase and possession of an assault rifle."

On the border, you simply punted with the standard democratic bowl of gruel about establishing a "pathway to citizenship" or some other platitude. Why aren't you more defiinitive about your stand when confronted by Abbott as advocating "open borders?" Or do you?

You did bring up the electric grid, but again didn't home in on the gaps in legislative responses to the tragedy. Why? Perhaps a bit more research and then aggressiveness on your part might have helped. Were you purposely low key to avoid any characterization that you are some wild-eyed radical? Why the lack of emotion on issues that are frankly emotional? You had one shot at a statewide audience. Showing an energy level that would embarrass a AA battery, do you agree you blew it? I think the late, great R.G. Ratcliff was right in the title of one of his 2018 Texas Monthly columns, "The Texas Democratic Party Has Lost the Ability to Sell it's Brand."

Now to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and honestly, where do you start?

I completely understand. Punchable, right? Vote for me anyway.

Hydroxychloroquine? Really?

After the 2019 El Paso shooting, Patrick listed factors that he believed contributed to the shooting, starting off with video games, saying, "We've always had guns, always had evil, but I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill." They have video games all over the world, but they make kids kill only in the US?

In an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson on March 23, 2020, you stated that you were willing to risk your life from the COVID-19 pandemic if it would avoid an economic shutdown, which you said would negatively impact subsequent generations. You also stated that you thought many grandparents agreed with you on this. A million people died in the US during the pandemic, so do you stand by that and on what do you base that opinion?

At a political rally for President Trump on October 17, 2019, you told a crowd of 20,000 that liberals "are not our opponents, they are our enemy." Do you really believe that and if so, how can you work with democrats in the legislature? That is part of your job.

Do you still think the 2020 election was stolen? Was President Biden elected President fairly? You said you would pay up to $1 million for reports of voter fraud across the country. In October 2021, you paid the first reward of $25,000 to a Pennsylvania poll worker who reported a man that voted twice. That man was a Republican. Do you still contend there was massive voter fraud?

This is from your Wikipedia entry...

In 2020, Patrick referred to vote-by-mail expansion efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic as a "scam by Democrats to steal the election."
In 2021, Patrick presided over the passage of legislation in the Texas Senate that restricted voting rights, including prohibiting local boards from sending applications for mail-in ballots to voters.
In 2022, Patrick's campaign sent out a mass mailing to Republican voters across Texas with inaccurate instructions on how to send requests for absentee ballots. The mailing included return envelopes that were addressed to the Texas secretary of state's address when they should have been to local election offices. Patrick's campaign defended the inaccurate instructions, saying it "gave voters an added layer of comfort" not to have to mail sent to "Blue County election officials."

Do you still contend all these things?

Reportedly, there are only 32 trans athletes in the entire country who have competed openly in college sports. Do you still think this was worth all the attention paid to it in the legislature, or was it simply a good issue for the conservative base?

And finally, on a personal note, did you get roaring drunk with me at Astros Fantasy Camp and wander down the halls of the Astroworld Hotel shouting lines from a John Wayne movie at each other? Oh, I can actually help you with that one. Yes.

Your impression sucks.

Then there is our ethically-challenged Attorney General Ken Paxton. And again I have to say, where do we start?

Elect me. After all, I'm not in jail yet.

The first question that springs to mind is, why are you even running for another term when this was reported just a few days ago. From the Daily Beast...

"A damning Associated Press investigation has uncovered a litany of serious missteps—from mass resignations to botched cases—that may threaten his chances of winning a third term in November. Paxton’s office is in disarray, the AP reports, with lawyers quitting over what they say is overly politicized work. One prosecutor who quit in January said he was pressured him to withhold evidence in a murder case. Paxton is also accused of utilizing his office to aid a woman he had an affair with, and hiring a donor’s son who would later display child pornography at a work meeting. In court papers filed Sept. 13, staff revealed that they were dismissing a slew of human trafficking cases because, in part, they had lost track of one victim. “For Pete’s sake, you’re the AG’s office. You can’t find the victim?” one Republican district attorney, Dusty Boyd, said."

Let's also ask, why you haven't dealt with an indictment that has been hanging over your head since you were sworn in. You were indicted for securities fraud in 2015. You claimed you wanted a speedy trial and verdict. It has been 7 years, two venues and 4 judges now. How can you declare yourself the chief law enforcement officer in Texas and evade a trial on this?

In the intervening years, you have drawn new scrutiny after eight of your top deputies accused you in 2020 of allegedly abusing your office to help a wealthy donor, Nate Paul, resist an earlier FBI investigation. Did you, and why, like the securities fraud case, have you delayed any resolution on this one?

And inserting yourself in the trumped-up (see what I did there?) controversy over the 2020 election when you represent a state where Trump won overwhelmingly? Isn't this just jingling a shiny object in front of voters like a toddler to distract from the above scandals?

Just look at this, not that.

Then there is simple lying. A process server tried to deliver a subpoena to your house and you ducked out the back and escaped in pickup like Jack Nicholson did in "Chinatown."

"Drop me off, Curley, and then go pick up Paxton."

You later claimed in a tweet that you didn't know who he was and were afraid for your family. But subsequent emails were released that showed you indeed did know why he was there. Why did you lie?

Now, while I'd like answers to all these questions, I'll stand by my predictions made in an earlier piece. All the incumbents will win, no matter how nonsensical that may seem given the performance of our state leadership.

And to answer your question of me, no, that's not encouraging.

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.