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A bad weather system swept across Texas this week, dropping tornadoes, hail, wind and rain in the central and southeast parts of the state before moving east to cause more damage in Louisiana.
The only good news is that he didn’t hurt more people or do more damage than he did.
The aftermath included, as always, official assessments, disaster relief, people putting things right, and government officials going to the hardest-hit places to offer comfort and assistance.
This latter group – governors, legislators, mayors, etc. – does what people expect. There’s a political payoff to that, in doing the job the voters elected you to do, even when it’s a disruption of what was before the storm.
In this case, it was particularly beneficial as it diverted attention from the news that was bubbling before the weather got ugly.
Politicians are annoyed by news interruptions as often as they enjoy them. Weather and other events turn heads. Public leaders are constantly interrupted when talking about pet projects, campaigns, political rallying points or important policy debates.
Governor Greg Abbott conducted a disaster tour of the state after storms this week, part of his job with which he has become both comfortable and comforting, through weather, shootings and more disasters. It’s when governors take off their business jackets and don field jackets with state crests, changing from boardroom attire to casual disaster attire.
It can get them excited if things aren’t going well, as Abbott learned repeatedly after COVID-19 hit Texas. Some of his recommendations and orders on masks, business closures, and public safety and health have backfired, setting him on a roller coaster that’s up and down with the ups and downs of the pandemic.
This week, however, he’s walking away from trouble with his $3 billion effort to police the Texas-Mexico border. According to new reports from the Texas Tribune, ProPublica and The Marshall Project, claims about the success of state efforts to keep people and drugs out of this border have been exaggerated. National Guard troops on the border told the Tribune and the Military Times of issues such as not being paid, being deployed on a mission that makes no sense, and being sent to guard private ranches that already have private security.
In an election year, a governor would rather help people in the throes of climate catastrophe than defend a costly operation with so many flaws.
Ken Paxton, a Republican who is trying to win a runoff in May in his bid for re-election as attorney general, will be in the town of Carbon on Friday, to speak about the Eastland Complex wildfires that have driven people from their homes. homes and their businesses there.
Paxton has mastered the art of interrupting bad news, recently asking the Texas Supreme Court to let him pursue investigations into transgender families and to fight the Austin School District during a Pride Week celebration.
These are great distractions to avoid being forced into a second round by voters of one’s own party. Or tell Texans about whistleblowers at his state agency who sparked federal investigations and lawsuits alleging he was using his public office to benefit a political donor. Or more talk about a nearly seven-year-old securities fraud indictment that still hasn’t gone to trial. Or the Texas State Bar complaint accusing him of professional misconduct for suing to have the 2020 presidential election results overturned.
All of those accusations and allegations might come to naught, but no candidate wants to talk about things like that during a campaign — especially when there are red meat cultural issues and wildfires to address.
Who wouldn’t appreciate a change of subject?
Disclosure: State Bar of Texas financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list here.