By Greg Ritchie
Editor’s note: Greg’s Corner is an editorial (opinion) section where Messenger Reporter Greg Ritchie shares odds and ends from the job and unusual or interesting facts from across the world and across time.
MESSENGER OFFICE – Here at The Messenger, we do our best to keep it local. We stay out of politics – local, state or national – and try to let people know about our little communities and let everyone decide for themselves who and what is right in these strange times we live in. The recent impeachment and trial of Texas Attorney General was so odd and so many locals have weighed in on it, I hope you will indulge me while we stick our pinky toe in the deep waters of state politics this time.
The Texas capitol in Austin can be a strange place. The politics, seemingly dominated by Republicans in red Texas, can take some strange twists and turns. The latest news is that the building has been infested by crickets, which can be heard when the politicians are not busy speaking or voting on whatever business is at hand.
As state governments go, ours is pretty good. My few interactions with the Texas bureaucracy, for example, have always been quick and efficient – a government where real people still answer the phone and in my experience – get you help pretty quickly. Try that if you ever need assistance from Washington D.C.
Ken Paxton was reelected by huge margins to continue as the state’s Attorney General, after fighting off a tough primary and election. He is very conservative, very outspoken and one of the toughest attorneys general in the country when it comes to going after the current President and many of his policies.
So it was a big surprise when last spring, a large majority of state house representatives voted to impeach Paxton on a number of charges. The allegations seemed tough – getting his girlfriend a cushy job, using his office to benefit donors – everything we all hate about politics and corrupt politicians.
Paxton was immediately suspended, ordered not to speak about the case, not paid for the time he was suspended, forced to pay legal bills himself; all while the media gushed over how a mighty ally of former President Trump had been taken down a notch by his own wicked ways. Many conservatives were angry at Republicans who voted for impeachment, but if the accusations were true, Paxton should be impeached – we have to keep politicians accountable, no matter what party or ideology they represent.
I watched most of the impeachment hearing in the Texas senate. Finally, I thought, we will see what all the fuss was about. The trial in the Texas senate was, to say the least, brutal. Paxton’s attorney Tony Buzbee and his team took on the “whistleblowers” from Paxton’s own staff. They had gone to the F.B.I. with their suspicions while not having many facts, not much evidence and not really seeming to know a whole lot about the many accusations they themselves were making.
Buzbee accused them of “going behind Paxton’s back” and asking, “If you had these suspicions, why didn’t you first go to Paxton and ask him what was going on?” They squirmed, they tried legalese, they looked sheepish and really couldn’t give many answers. It looked like the Watergate hearings but without the break in.
The state senators weren’t buying it either, voting to to acquit Paxton on all the charges, who was immediately reinstated.
The gag order now lifted, Paxton lost little time in going on a media blitz, calling out his accusers.
“The sham impeachment coordinated by the Biden Administration with liberal House Speaker Dade Phelan and his kangaroo court has cost taxpayers millions of dollars, disrupted the work of the Office of Attorney General and left a dark and permanent stain on the Texas House,” Paxton said in a statement. “The weaponization of the impeachment process to settle political differences is not only wrong, it is immoral and corrupt.”
I take no side in this, but after watching the testimony, I get the feeling there is more here than meets the eye. Is this the future of our poor country? Impeach anyone you disagree with, whether there was an actual misdeed or not? We all saw the two impeachments of President Trump – love him or hate him – there wasn’t much meat on those bones, either.
It really does feel like a banana republic, where if you have the money and the media contacts, you can smear anyone for any reason and scandals fly much faster than the truth. And we wonder why good people rarely want to go into politics.
As anyone in Houston County knows, gossip and bad news get around pretty quick. As Winston Churchill famously said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
And support him or not, Paxton was elected by the people to represent us. If we are unhappy, we can vote him out. Our representatives, be it in Austin or in Washington, must be accountable to us and crimes committed by them should be punished. I just can’t find much in the last few impeachments that seemed very, well, “crimey.” We could probably all come up with a list of a few politicians who we think should be impeached.
In the end, after the months of accusations and all the time spent on the trial, the state capitol was left with what it started with…the sound of crickets.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]