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November 12th, 2009
Senate hopeful swings through San Marcos

Houston Mayor Bill White, left, spoke to two groups in San Marcos Wednesday as he campaigns for a likely opening in the United States Senate. Photo by Sean Batura.

News Reporter

A leading Democratic candidate for a Senatorial seat that’s not even open swept through San Marcos Wednesday, speaking separately with Texas State students and the San Marcos Area Democrats (SMAD).

Houston Mayor Bill White, a Democrat, expressed support for federal funding of “clean energy” technology and for making education the “number one priority” of the federal government.

White’s bid for one of two Texas seats in the United States Senate is contingent upon incumbent Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison leaving her seat for a gubernatorial run against Governor Rick Perry in next spring’s Republican primary.

White leveled criticism at the former Bush Administration for increasing the federal budget deficit and for using what he said were appeals to fear and greed to get political support for policies such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the Bush tax cuts. White asked attendees to imagine what the trillion dollars spent in Iraq could have been used for in the United States, and he said most citizens in his neighborhood are more concerned about illegal drug trade-related violence than terrorist attacks.

“It was easier to appeal to fear rather than courage,” said White at the SMAD event.

White said his experience as young legislative assistant who helped institute federal fuel efficiency standards, as Bill Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of Energy, and as mayor of a city nationally recognized for its support of renewable energy make him qualified to effectively champion energy independence for Texas and the United States. White said such energy independence would create greater economic benefits.

“(In Houston) we adopted the most aggressive, far reaching energy codes for new construction,” said White at the College Democrats event at Texas State.

White said that as mayor of Houston he was “tested” by the influx of refugees from Hurricane Katrina and Ike, which, he said, makes him qualified to effectively lead in crisis situations. Houston has no city manager, which, White said, means he literally runs a city that has built up budget surpluses for four years. White said his experience as mayor, in addition to his work in the Clinton administration, make him qualified to champion sound economic policies in the U.S. Senate.

“By managing government wisely, managing expenses and revenues, we turned those into record surpluses for this country, the likes of which have not been seen in a century,” White said.

White said he would have voted against the recently-approved federal stimulus package, which he compared to a tsunami. He condemned federal economic policies, which, he said, encourage people to “spend everything” rather than to save.

Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle), Hays County Court at Law Judge Anna Martinez Boling, Kyle Councilmember David Wilson and Hays County Sheriff candidate Bill Huddleston joined White at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 3413 on Hunter Road, where SMAD offered refreshments and screened the Terry Kelly music video “A Pittance Of Time” in honor of Veterans Day.

White and the attendees at the SMAD event applauded for Bob Barton, father of Jeff Barton, and for Wilson in honor of the two men’s military service during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, respectively. White mentioned that his nephew recently arrived home from two tours in Iraq. At the College Democrats event an hour earlier, White said his father is a disabled military veteran who received a master’s degree at Texas State on the G.I. Bill. White said his family has a generations-long tradition of military service.

White encouraged attendees at both events to support his campaign by using the Internet and email to coordinate activities and gain more supporters. White said that all of the posts on his “wall” are genuinely his own and are not posted by members of his staff.

White told students at the College Democrats event that he would support using tuition costs as one basis for allocating Federal Pell Grants, and said there should be a way for students to work off their loans by doing community service in places like health clinics. White said the federal government should enable people to attend college without fear of going hopelessly into debt.

“I think we ought to do anything we can to remove any barriers,” White said at the College Democrats event.

At both events, White blasted Perry for suggesting that Texas might someday secede from the union and said he would love to turn on Fox News to see the television network declare that Texas had elected a Democratic senator.

At the College Democrats event, a student asked White what his stance on the “Arab-Israeli conflict” was, and how he would resist the “pro-Israel lobby” if elected to the Senate. White said there is “no easy answer,” though he expressed confidence that both sides of the conflict are realizing they must work harder toward reconciliation.

“No senator is going to cast a vote for peace for people who don’t want peace,” White said.

White said economic conditions in the Gaza Strip must be improved, and he criticized the surrounding Arab countries for not doing enough to ease the hardships of Palestinians.

“I do believe that Israel has a right to survive,” White said. “We will stand by the survival of Israel.”

When asked by a student how the U.S. should proceed in Afghanistan, White said policymakers must work to implement the most “practical” or “minimum success scenario,” rather than “wait until there’s no poverty, illiteracy or opium production” before ending the U.S. military occupation. White said an acceptable minimum objective for Afghanistan would be to root out terrorist training camps, build some capital infrastructure in the country and ensure elections are conducted with a high degree of fairness — higher than what occurred in Florida during the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, he added.

White recommended attendees read the New Republic article “Is There a Middle Way?” by Stephen Biddle, which White said he does not totally agree with but finds a “better analysis than most” — good enough to post a link to it on his Facebook wall on Sunday.

“What the President needs to do is give a fair amount of deference to those who have operational responsibilities in the field,” White said of Afghanistan policy.

Asked by a student what his stance on gay rights was, White replied that he was “honored” to be named “Person of the Year” by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization. White said that during a time when there is a global recession, when there are people who can’t afford college, and when veterans are returning home without limbs, the government should be less concerned about what he said are private matters.

White said he was once asked why he chose to participate in a gay rights parade in Houston.

“I said, ‘I thought it was my job to work for all people,'” White said. “Basically, that’s the way I perceive my job.”

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18 thoughts on “Senate hopeful swings through San Marcos

  1. Bill White was a good mayor of Houston. We could do a lot worse than him. But please, some show me in the constitution where it says education is the responsibilty if the federal government, much less the number one priority?

  2. Bill White IS the mayor of Houston. He’s currently in his third term.

    As to your second point, try Article I, Section 1 (legislative powers of the Congress), Section 8 (provide for the common Defense and general Welfare…)
    When a state takes federal funds for education, the Congress has a right to impose standards. And yes, I am aware that those federal funds represent are taxes.

    Quite frankly, if you left education solely to the states, there would be more than a few states with quite a number of illiterate people. And Texas would probably be one of them. And certainly, you would still have segregated schools without the intervention of the federal government. Having an educated electorate is absolutely essential to the success of a Democracy (or a Republic…). Education matters. A lot. And it should be a high priority for everyone. Even strict constitutionalists.

  3. I would think that a well educated populace is the foundation for maintaining a strong economy and technological superiority (or at least parity), which are fundamental to our defense and general welfare.

    Er, wait, is that what Lila just said?

  4. I actually have an issue with the concept of a well-educated populace as a foundation for a strong economy. I mean, yeah, that’s true enough. But I find myself an idealist where education is concerned. I believe that we should value education beyond just churning out a good work force for America. We should be proud of our ability to be able to establish an educational system that actually produces citizens who know how to think; who can analytically approach a problem – with the hope of actually solving it; who are knowledgeable about and who can appreciate the arts, simply because they are an important part of what makes us human; who like to read and have a lifelong desire to continue their learning – just for the sake of learning – not because it will get them another raise or another step up the ladder of success.

    And I don’t mean to downgrade financial success or our capitalist system by saying this. But I really feel that we do a disservice to education when we over-emphasize education as merely a means of supporting our economy and as a way of getting a good job. I think it is much more than that. Maybe that’s why students just don’t want to learn anymore. It’s become like a 9 to 5 job – rather than a true learning experience.

    Sorry. I’m old and miss graduate school…I want to go back…

  5. I agree with Larry. A reading of defense and general welfare to allow education to be the number one priority of the federal government is too broad. Education is the province of the states, where government is more responsive. The federal government occassionally has a role, such as in the 1950’s South to push for equal protection, but the role should be limited and temporary.

  6. I knew thay had just had a mayorial election in Houston, I was jumping the gun on the “was mayor” part. When the federal government in the 60s finally drug the South kicking and sceaming into the 20th century by forcong intergration, it was finally getting around to enforciing the 13th and 14th amendments, which had been ratified just after the civil war.

    If you interpret the constitution’s common defense and general welfare clause to mean the federal government should fund education, you have esentially said that nothing should be off limits to the federal government. While reading the constitution, you should also read the 10th amendment.

    If Mayor Bill White wants to make education his top priority, he should be running for governor. In fact I wish he would, it would give me an alternative in November should the Republicans be crazy enough to renominate Perry. Plus his administrative skills in running Houston, which does not have a city manager form of government, would be far better suited to being a governor than a senator

  7. Lila, I guess we don’t agree after all. While there are many reasons to value education, including those you cite, I do not believe national pride is an argument for federal involvement in education.

    I still stand by my position that it plays a critical role in the defense and well being of the country. To what extent the federal government can make a meaningful contribution is another matter. Some states do a far better job than others and there may be things the federal government can do to goose the underperformers along.

    It is also possible that the best thing the federal government can do is stay out of the way. Just because one is allowed/empowered to do something, does not mean that one should do something. I was only offering a position on whether the federal government is empowered.

  8. Larry, I am familiar with the 10th amendment, thanks.

    Tying education to general welfare and defense is not saying that nothing should be off limits. Asserting that it is, is little more than the old “slippery slope” argument and is just a lazy way of trying to end the discussion.

  9. At least we agree on one thing – I too wish Mayor White would run for governor. And since it looks like Miss Kay won’t dare give up her seat until after the primary, I would say it’s a pretty safe bet that Senate seat is not going to be available after all. Her campaign has been one of the lamest I have ever seen. No, I take that back. Palin’s was worse – albeit Palin is a better speaker with tons of charisma. Senator Huchison lacks both.

    I’m really sorry that people find it necessary to hide behind the Constitution to promote their ideology of “less government is better government.” If we were still a people on the edge of a frontier, that might ring true. But we’re not. Life is much more complicated in the 21st century than it was in the eighteenth century. I guess I will just never understand the people who want to place the Constitution in such a vice-grip. Perhaps I have secret fear that, if it were left up to you, I would never have had gotten the right to vote because of your “strict” interpretation of the Constitution.

    I usually enjoy a good dialogue with someone who doesn’t agree with me. But on this topic, I just want to shut down. The only good thing is this whole ridiculous debate has led me to learn more about the document and its history. And for that, I am grateful to you crazy people. But that’s about it. Think whatever you want. Don’t care…

  10. I’m not sure why one would be put off by one of the few discussions here that does not include personal attacks (up until you made yours), pointless comments about party affiliation, or bizarre conspiracy theories.

  11. Because as a historian, I get frustrated much too quickly by what I consider frivolous interpretations of a truly great American document. Everyone has something that pushes their button. This one pushes mine. It’s totally personal. I’ll admit it. I mean, come on, we’re blogging (or whatever you call it). The discussion here is not exactly at a scholarly level. Nor should it be. But a discussion of the Constitution should be at that level.

    It’s probably best to keep these types of conversations at the more superficial level of politics… or bizarre conspiracy theories.

    You know – we should have a party where we all attend and show ourselves out in the open. Just a thought…

  12. I just re-read Hamilton’s position on the issue, as well as Joseph Story’s Commentaries, which I have to admit I selected because I felt they supported my position. I could have dug up the opposing views posed by Madison, but I am in a hurry to get out of here and get some dinner.

    Still, I feel scholarly enough. I’m sorry I insulted you with my country-bumpkin interpretation (I assume I am the rube, since I believe John and Larry are attorneys and probably studied the constitution extensively).

  13. Thank you. So much. You get it. But no, you weren’t the one who I found insulting. Which is why you are responding.

    So, what do you think about the party idea?

  14. Lila, at least we can always agree on O’Dell. The federal government has extended itself into things the founding fathers never intended it to get into. Your criticism of the state’s poor effort in education through the years is valid. That is not a reason for Washington to advance into every area of our lives. As far as “less government is better government” that is not necessarily how I feel. I do feel that the federal government has it’s constitunal role, national defense, foreign policy, regulating commerce between the states, and state government has it’s role, one of which is education.

    And as for what else the constitution vests on the federal government, it is equal protection under the law, and the right to vote. The state does not have the right to abrdge these things. “if it were left up to you I would have never gotten the right to vote because of your strict interpritation of the law” That is ridiculous, it is almost O’Dellian.

  15. “That is ridiculous, it is almost O’Dellian”

    Larry wins today’s price for the most creative use of the term O’Dellian” Your prize is a free ticket to the next 10 County Commissioners meeting.

    I am not coming to the party if you guys invite O’Dell.

  16. LOL. Larry – I agree to disagree with you. And I do respect your views. You state them in an articulate, concise and logical manner. I appreciate that.

  17. Hmm, Bill White thinks education is a federal responsibility … (checks my copy of the Constitution) … nope, don’t see it.
    Hmm, Bill White blasts Perry for even mentioning secession … (again, checking my copy of the Constitution) … hmm, I see nothing prohibiting it, and at the same time I see nothing there which grants the federal government ANY authority to bail out banks, regulate the economy, impose socialism, run the nation’s auto and health care industries, and hundreds of other things it’s doing.
    I’m no fan of Perry, whose comments on secession were grandstanding, nothing more. But I will NEVER vote for Bill White, who like every other Democrat thinks that More Government can cure anything.

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