Monday, April 23, 2007

Dewhurst twisting arms for Jessica's Law, risks fouling his own political nest

At Burkablog, Patricia Kilday Hart has the behind the scenes story of Lt. Governor Dewhurst's arm twisting to get senators to approve "Jessica's Law," HB 8, which as mentioned last week is pending on the Senate intent calendar and may be voted on this week. Writes Hart:
According to several senators, Dewhurst promised to generate thousands of phone calls to senators from supporters of the bill from their districts. And as negotiations continued this afternoon, some speculated that Dewhurst decided against naming his budget conferees until he had secured enough votes for Jessica's Law.
Dewhurst denied he was using the budget conferees as leverage to get votes for Jessica's Law, but if it's true that's definitely playing rough. As for the "thousands of phone calls," I think that support's soft. He may have people on a list because they support legislation against child molestation, but if they're told that prosecutors and victim advocates oppose the bill because it would make victims less likely to report crimes or potentially cause molesters to kill victims, in my experience the debate changes pretty quickly. People want what's best for kids and count on legislators to avoid obvious, unintended consequences.

Many have commented that Dewhurst's 2007 Lege agenda appears aimed at preparing his record for a statewide run, but in the criminal justice arena he's tripping over his own feet. He wanted new prisons so badly the Senate had to take the money from blind children to satisfy his demands. Now he's pushing for a version of Jessica's Law so harsh even Texas prosecutors oppose it.

In both these cases the Lt. Guv is taking issues he pursued for political reasons and turning them into a political albatross. Instead of looking tuff for building prisons he's set himself up to be the guy that takes money from blind kids. Instead of appearing as the defender of children from predators and molesters, his inexplicably harsh stance would risk child victims lives at the expense of his own bloodlust because of an irrational desire to expand the death penalty.

Personally I thought Lt. Gov. Dewhurst looked better as a gubernatorial or senate candidate when the former CIA spook turned millionaire politician assumed a more statesmanlike, centrist stance after 9/11. Somehow the tuffer-than-thou pose doesn't suit him - even if in theory it appeals to GOP primary voters, he isn't carrying it off well.

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