By Alan Bean
Is Greg Abbott the Attorney General of Texas or is he a flak for the National Rifle Association and the GOP? He can’t be both.
If Abbott is Texas Attorney General (and in the picture to the left, he certainly looks the part) he represents and speaks for all Texans, not just those who voted for him. His public rhetoric should reflect that fact.
But on Monday night, Abbott told a partisan crowd in Waco that a group of Democrats working to turn Texas blue is “far more dangerous” than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
It’s okay for the crowd to be partisan; but Abbott came to town as a representative of the state of Texas. In theory, at least, he should be speaking for all Texans and to all Texans (unless an election in the offing). Associating the state democrats with the crackpot leader of a failed state suggests that Texans are either Republicans or they’re the enemies of all that is good and decent. This comes perilously close to denouncing the democratic system, in particular, and political pluralism in general.
In a state where the red/blue line breaks along racial lines, this brand of partisan bombast is particularly unwelcome.
But Mr. Abbott was just warming up. He drew repeated standing ovations by denouncing the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) recently adopted by the United Nations.
“We fought a war in 1776 to fight against foreign dictators telling us what to do, not now to turn around and give that power to them. That’s why I sent a letter to the president . . . informing the president that Texas is not going to tolerate this cession of authority to the U.N.”
When the measure came up for a UN vote in 2013, only North Korea, Iran, and Syria voted in opposition. Foreign dictators may not be telling Texans what to do, but they appear to be the only people who love their guns as much as we do.
The problem, of course, is that the Bush administration, eager to curry favor with the fearsome NRA, voted against an earlier version of the UN measure, while, under Barack Obama, the United States voted in favor.
Abbott says the U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty threatens to take firearms out of the hands of law-abiding gun owners in the United States. But, as he is fully aware, the language of the treaty explicitly states that the measure is designed to regulate the international arms trade while affirming that it is “the exclusive right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through constitutional protections on private ownership.”
Abbott knows nobody is coming for your guns, but the folks leaping to their feet in Waco apparently do not. Does it really take crude political pandering to keep Texas red? If public officials must spread lies cooked up by self-serving arms manufacturers to stay in power, they deserve whatever opposition they generate.
If it takes this kind of puerile posturing to follow Rick Perry into the Governor’s mansion, should we be surprised that a growing number of influential people are dreaming of an alternative vision?
We once had a term for politicians who rise above the strife of partisan politics: we called them “statesmen”. We need a more inclusive term to be sure, but we dare not abandon the concept.
By LOWELL BROWN
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told a Waco audience Monday he would sue the Obama administration to protect individual gun rights if the U.S. joins a United Nations global arms treaty.
Abbott also said a group working to make Democrats more competitive in Texas represented a “far more dangerous” threat than anything uttered by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The comments came during a lunchtime speech to the McLennan County Republican Club that featured frequent criticisms of President Barack Obama’s efforts on gun control, health care reform and environmental regulation.
Abbott, speaking at the John Knox Texas Rangers Memorial Center, said a U.N. arms trade treaty overwhelmingly approved by the General Assembly this month presented an “incredible danger” to the constitutional right to bear arms. Obama is expected to sign the treaty, but it would need a two-thirds majority vote to pass the U.S. Senate, where it faces considerable opposition.
Abbott, who has written Obama threatening legal action against the treaty, said the pact would empower the U.N. to regulate the sale and transfer of firearms and create registration lists of gun purchases.
“We fought a war in 1776 to fight against foreign dictators telling us what to do, not now to turn around and give that power to them,” Abbott said. “That’s why I sent a letter to the president . . . informing the president that Texas is not going to tolerate this cession of authority to the U.N.”
The stance won the Republican attorney general one of several standing ovations from the friendly crowd. It also echoed concerns raised by the National Rifle Association, which opposes the treaty.
Proponents say the treaty would tighten controls over the flow of conventional arms across international lines to keep them out of the hands of terrorists, drug traffickers and criminal cartels.
“By its own terms, this treaty applies only to international trade, and reaffirms the sovereign right of any state to regulate arms within its territory,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement after the U.N. approved the treaty. “As the United States has required from the outset of these negotiations, nothing in this treaty could ever infringe on the rights of American citizens under our domestic law or the Constitution, including the Second Amendment.”
Abbott also weighed in on Battleground Texas, a group formed by veterans of Obama’s presidential campaigns hoping to make Democrats more competitive in Texas, where the party hasn’t won a statewide election in nearly two decades.
“One thing that requires ongoing vigilance is the reality that the state of Texas is coming under a new assault, an assault far more dangerous than what the leader of North Korea threatened when he said he was going to add Austin, Texas, as one of the recipients of his nuclear weapons,” Abbott said. “The threat that we’re getting is the threat from the Obama administration and his political machine.”
Battleground Texas realizes Republicans can’t win a presidential election without Texas’ 38 electoral votes, which makes the state “the last line of defense” in protecting the country’s future, he said.
North Korea comment
In an interview after the speech, Abbott said he made the comparison to North Korea partly because he doesn’t think the country is a serious threat to the U.S. He also wanted to stress the idea that “complacency kills” in politics, he said.
“Republicans who are complacent are kidding themselves if they think Battleground Texas is not a threat,” he said.
Democrats hope demographic changes, especially a growing Hispanic population, will help them become more competitive in coming decades. Abbott said Republicans can combat Battleground Texas by connecting with Hispanic voters who share common values.
Abbott bragged that he has sued the Obama administration 25 times and highlighted his victories in killing environmental regulations he called unreasonable.
But he also has been on the losing end of several major decisions, including the U.S. Supreme Court vote upholding Obama’s health care overhaul and cases involving the state’s voter identification and redistricting efforts, which a federal court ruled discriminated against minorities.
Abbott’s lawsuits against the Obama administration had cost the state $2.58 million and more than 14,000 hours spent by staff and state attorneys as of September, the Associated Press reported. He has defended the costs as necessary to defend Texans’ rights, protect jobs and promote industry.
Abbott has collected millions of dollars in campaign funds and often is mentioned as a potential candidate for governor in 2014, especially if Rick Perry chooses not to run for a fourth full term.
Abbott declined to discuss his political future Monday, saying he was focused on the current legislative session, which ends May 27.
“We’ll think about politics after the session’s over,” he said.