Ron Kirk Could Come Home and Teach Texas Dems how to Win, but Don't Bet On It

Categories: Schutze

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What will Ron Kirk do when he returns to Dallas after leaving the Obama cabinet next month? If I had to bet, I'd say he won't return to Dallas, which will be a shame. If he did come home, maybe he could do something about these local Democrats.

Former Dallas mayor Kirk is getting high marks from both the president and some Republican business leaders for his tenure as U.S. trade representative and the only Texan in the cabinet. Before leaving Dallas in 2009, he was a partner with Vinson & Elkins, a law firm.

The problem with getting him to come home is this: Kirk can stay in Washington and make about 18 zillion bucks a year as a lobbyist. He started his career here as a lobbyist for the city, and people who worked with him in the crazy atmosphere of Austin said he was kind of the Yo-Yo Ma of lobbying. Never missed a note.

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So why wouldn't he pick it up again in D.C. and cash in on a life of public service? He's got a certain side to him, you know. He said once his secret ambition was to be a car dealer.

But let's say for whatever reason he does come back and he does ask himself the all-important WWJSTMTD question (what would Jim Schutze tell me to do?). Get back here and clean up the damned Texas Democratic party!

Kirk was quoted last week in a story about one of the inaugural balls saying it's only a matter of time before the inaugural balls of Texas will turn blue. Forgive me, by the way, if I messed up the metaphor there. Kirk was predicting that Texas in the not too distant future will be a Democrat-majority state, full of pent-up potential Democratic ... energy.

That might seem like great news for a lifelong Democratic activist like Kirk. But nobody would know better than Kirk what a mess it could be actually, if the Texas Democratic Party remains what it is today. Don't turn your back!

Take our own city, for example. The most powerful elected Democrat in the county, County Commissioner John Wiley Price, in all likelihood will be indicted on sweeping federal corruption charges this year, at least in part based on allegations that he sold out his own community in deference to the business interests of right-wing Republicans. If and when that indictment happens, it won't be a shock to Kirk. When Kirk was mayor, I never heard him say anything about Price, but he did tell me personally once I was a liberal sucker about some of the speakers who appeared regularly during the public comment portion of City Council meetings supposedly representing the interests of black South Dallas.

I always called them community activists. Kirk said some of them -- not all, but some -- were just hand-out crooks. In the long view of things, he was right, I was wrong.

Later after he left City Hall, there was a specific instance Kirk could not have missed that demonstrated how the local party works. Kirk worked for Obama big-time in 2008. The presidential election circus came to Dallas during the Democratic primary when Obama was in pitched battle with Hillary Clinton for the nomination and Dallas was a trove of important Democratic votes.

The Clinton campaign here was run by Price though his favorite operative, political consultant Kathy Nealy. The Obama campaign was run by all these smart sharp young people from somewhere whom nobody had ever seen before.

Nealy, also now a target of FBI interest in the same probe shadowing Price, ran the worst campaign since Clayton Williams refused to shake hands with Ann Richards in 1990. It was not just dumb and dumber but also slack and slacker. At one point she had Bill Clinton -- BILL CLINTON -- standing in the back of a pickup truck speaking to a crowd estimated to be in the tens of people. Had I been there, I might have cast off my journalistic objectivity (assuming I could find it) and called out, "Please, President Clinton, you do not have to do this!"

Meanwhile those Obamatoids swept in here with an entire playbook of what were then brand-new high-tech organizing tricks, utilizing social media, micro-polls and other means of laser-focused targeting to get out their vote. They beat the socks off Price and Nealy in Dallas and in the process made a mockery of the local Democratic organization.

And then they disappeared. I hate to say it, but they took their votes and ran. As soon as that primary was over, the local party reverted to type. Ever since, it has been the same assortment of shakedown artists and over-the-hill 1970s folk singers it was before Obama came to town. The smarts blew town. Now what we have instead is an organization that must devote most of its energy to its defense fund.

You really want to do something for local Democratic officials? Send them cartons of cigarettes so they can make new friends where they are going.

And it's not just Dallas. For reasons plain to see and easy to understand, the Democratic Party in Texas is made up mainly of people who have mastered the art of losing well. That's great. Better to lose well than poorly. But losing well doesn't happen to entail the skills involved in winning.

If Kirk is right -- and all the trends say he is -- then Texas is not too far away from shucking its rural Republican straightjacket, stepping out from behind the oops image and emerging as a Democratic force. But what will that avail, exactly, if the party is still in the grip of the slack-and-slackers?

Nobody -- not one single person on Earth -- is better positioned personally or politically to reshape and transform the Democratic Party in Texas than Ron Kirk. He's smart as hell. He's tough. He can be charming. He knows exactly how the cow ate the cabbage, where the bones are buried and what to watch out for. He gets it done.

Plus, I don't believe that car dealer stuff. I think he just says that. Kirk knows how things should be, and he hears a call of duty beyond self-aggrandizement. If he does come back, he could help Texas turn blue the right way. I'm so serious about it, I have decided to omit another blue balls joke here to show you what good taste I can have. Is that a new trend too? Eh, don't hold your breath.


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24 comments
scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

Kirk KNOWS how to run a campaign and how to lobby.  All that know how doesn't mean he has a stitch of integrity.  Kirk and Obama are two peas in a pod, and if his version of "Democrat" wins, we might as well stay red.  I'm really bothered you failed to mention that Jim.  In the end, Kirk is just a much slicker JWP.  I know Kirk, and he's very likeable.  Again, his integrity is the problem, he'd compromise principle to win a Pyrrhic victory.

WakeUp
WakeUp

@MikeWestEast I think you and everyone needs to watch all 5 seasons of the wire, take a step back, then start writing some smart commentary.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

You answered your own question when you said Ambassador Kirk is smart. While you have nothing else to occupy your time as you live your pipedream, he has always gone with the smart money. You want someone to lead a charge and labor in the vineyards for 10 to 15 years when maybe Democrats might elect at least one statewide officeholder. He knows better and can count votes. He has better things to do with his time left.

f11westland
f11westland

@James080  per Wikipedia ....Laura Miller serves as Director of Projects, Texas,[3] for Summit Power Group, a Seattle-based developer of wind, solar and gas-fired power plants. 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

By the by... What's with the nameplate in the pic?


Who the hell is Hon Kirk?

OakParkStudio
OakParkStudio

Just what is it about former Mayors Kirk and Leppert that gives local media types the quivers every time either of them takes a breath or has a case of self-imposed flatulence?

Leppert served and conducted a failed run as Kay-Bay's replacement. No shock. Kirk served, faded into the background of Obama's cabal and is now on his way out.

Little if ever mentioned is the whereabouts of former Mayor Laura Miller. Might be interesting to see what she's up to other than supporting the man who should have been Mayor, our former Police Chief. Perhaps that was the biggest crime in some circles.

Inquiring minds want to know.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

I'm honestly more preoccupied currently about whether to have a cuban sandwich from Jimmy's or a meatball sub from Cigarz for lunch.

We all know in 8-12 years Texas will be a Democratic state barring Dem idiocy. Which is fine, but it does concern me that if the Democrats control CA, NY, and TX that would make the US essentially a one party system.

animas
animas

I thought that you believed all lobbyists to be venal...

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@scottindallas 

You make an important point. It is true, I believe that both Kirk and JWP are black. Good catch.

observist
observist topcommenter

@SuperfuzzBigmuff If I were you, I'd get the Cuban sandwich from Cigarz or the meatball sub from Jimmy's.


JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@animas 

Absolutely not. I look on lobbyists as Mississippi River pilots. If your boat is bigger than a canoe or worth more than you can afford to lose *,  you better get one.

*not to mention your life. 

James080
James080

@JimSX @OakParkStudio  

Laura Miller doing the bidding of big coal is on par with Ann Richards shilling for big tobacco in her last years. If I recall, Miller's husband made a fortune representing asbestos plaintiffs and in the process bankrupted almost every business even remotely connected to the sale of asbestos containing materials. Last time I checked, coal still causes lung disease, acid rain, CO2 emissions and spews mercury into the environment (and into the food chain). Damn progressives. Al Gore sells Current TV to Al Jezerra (owned by OPEC member Qatar), Ann Richards promoted tobacco companies, and now Laura Miller shills for the coal industry. If form follows, Ron Kirk will start lobbying for Chinese exporters and Jim Shutze will become managing editor of the Park Cities News.

animas
animas

    Jim-

Kirk was effective as mayor of Dallas, and was one of the high profile Democrats (almost-see below-) everyone respected. He is smart, accomplished and well educated.  He obviously also knew how to work with people (and judging from the JWP vignette above ) knew who the phoneys were.  Since you have been at DO for some time, perhaps you can answer a question which has bothered me for a while.  Why did Laura Miller carry out a high profile feud via endless  written crtitques (in the  Dallas Observer) of Kirk while  he was  mayor?  If you know the inside story, can you tell us or are you saving the scoop for your memoirs?

James080
James080

@JimSX@James080 

Rove now serves on the University of Texas Chancellor’s Council Executive Committee and on the Board of Trustees for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the Texas State History Museum Foundation. He's also speaking and promoting a book he wrote.

Rumsfeld and his wife run the Rumsfeld foundation, which provides help to military families and academic fellowships and scholarships to Asian and American youth, as well as making micro financing for the working poor.

Dick Cheney seems to be retired, but still doing a lot of public speaking and network interviews, and he's probably preparing for next hunting season.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@James080 

So Rumsfeld, Rove  and Cheney should be doing what by now ... lobbying for diplomacy over war?

_mm_
_mm_

@animas Apropos of nothing, but she's also smoking hot.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@animas 

Yeah, that's a really good call. Davis does seem like a star and just what the doctor ordered.

animas
animas

Your colleague, Ms. Merlan just wrote an interesting piece today on the (potentially) next woman governor of Texas:  Wendy Davis.  She is a gifted politician also smart, educated, and very media savvy.  She also gets public backing whenever she runs circles around the fat white guys who oppose her.  The more they attempt to disenfranchise her, the more the public likes her and supports her.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@animas 

I think they fought on the issues. Kirk and I did not get along, and it had everything to do with the Trinity River Project, where he was absolutely shut down and closed to any sort of honest debate. Miller fought him stalwartly on that and other issues. Of course, later when she became mayor, the Trinity River Project Demon invaded her body, her head spun around a couple times, and she was for it.  Kirk ain't perfect. He takes poorly to direct opposition sometimes.  And, you know, for Miller that's like a red cape in front of a bull.  They have a lot in common. I was always waiting for the moment when they would exchange a long stare, call out, "Ron!" "Laura!" ...then run across the room to each other, hold hands and fly off to Spain together. But, you know, when you have to sit through a lot of city council meetings, the mind  does wander.

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