Saturday, May 26, 2007

Caesar Leaves the Forum Alive

Photo by Matt Wright/Texas Observer

When Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick ignored then chased away his parliamentarian and refused to recognize Fred Hill or other members for a motion to vacate the chair, he essentially declared himself autocratic ruler of Texas' lower chamber - a man above the rules.

I've tended to mind my own criminal justice business on this blog and leave the hot and heavy Speakers race antics to others. But I was horrified and angered by what took place on the House floor last night, and I think every Texan should be, regardless of party or creed.

Parliamentary rules are the bedrock of democracy - in fact the only way real democracy can function. Rules matter.

Modern parliamentary rules in every American legislative body (and also Robert's Rules, for that matter) are based broadly on the set of rules Thomas Jefferson wrote when he was the first US Vice President and thus President of the US Senate. Jefferson said his main goal in creating parliamentary rules was to ensure the chair’s authority could not be “irregularly exercised” or exert an unduly “powerful effect on proceedings and determinations.”

Mr. Craddick flouted those restraints last night. He entered the evening the chair of the Texas House - by the time he left, he was Caesar. If the members had all pulled out knives and stabbed him to death, IMO they would have been justified.

Kids are dying in Iraq and being told it's to preserve democracy, but when democracy was trampled last night in the Texas House of Representatives, not a drop of blood was shed.

UPDATE: Bigjolly at the Lone Star Times editorialized for keeping Craddick and thought this post was over the top; we've been discussing the relation between democracy, elections, and parliamentary rules in the comments at LST, for those interested. Also Kuff has comments from Burt Solomons that I think are on the mark: He authored the current House rules and says he's "stunned" at the Speaker's interpretation of his own power. Me too.


Anonymous said...

And we can do what about this? Please tell me what to do and I'll be most happy to...this is just one of the outrageous acts I have witnessed during this legislative session. I only wish I had taken the time to familiarize myself with the legislative process years is funny how we have become so 'reactive' in this state and this country. Whatever happened to proactive?

Craddick has been out of control for years. He has just made himself the biggest bully on the block. What are we going to do about it? I don't know about you, but I've had it with the bullies!!!!

PDiddie said...

Ron Wilson, lobbyist, there behind him.

It's a violation of the House rules for a lobbyist to be on the floor of the House while it is in session.

Wilson's in blue jeans, which of course is in violation of the dress code which was instituted when former Rep Ron Wilson kept showing up in jogging outfits.

You can't make shit up this ridiculous and expect anyone to believe it.

Anonymous said...

can craddick be impeached?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Craddick basically dared them to impeach him. Keel ruled it was the only way to get him out. It requires specific charges and a 2/3 vote.

Anonymous said...

Comrades obviously you have not read the autocratic rules of parliamentary procedure! Comrade Craddick is our leader. If you can not understand this, then maybe we should discuss your ignorance at the local gulag.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Here's Craddick's parliamentary justification for refusing to recognize the motion - you can see he's literally saying impeachment is the only way to get him out.

Matt said...

The absurdity of Ron Wilson up there with Craddick not withstanding, jeans are OK on the floor of the House, as this journalist understands it. Coat and tie are the main requirements for the fellas.

As for Craddick and his new parliamentarians, I overheard one rep use a pretty good analogy: It's like going to trial and your opponent's lawyer is also the judge.

(P.S., Grits, no biggie, but a photo credit would be appreciated on my shot.)

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I apologize Matt, I'll add it. They actually didn't give you one on the Observer site, either. My usual, de facto, policy is that if I'm linking to the piece I don't mind 'borrowing' art as I'm promo-ing the the work, but I'll certainly add the credit. It's definitely a good and telling pic!

Matt said...

Ah, yes, not a problem. That blog post was kind of a group effort so we didn't use individual attributions. It somehow escaped my attention that you'd linked back to our posts. Anyways, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Push has come to shove, they need to impeach him. ACT NOW.

Anonymous said...


Is there a web site that shows the histories of elections in this state? If so, would you post it? Thanks

Unknown said...

"If the members had all pulled out knives and stabbed him to death, IMO they would have been justified."


Anonymous said...

Craddick (state) = Abu Gonzales (national)

Impeachment is the only way to get us out. Got a 2/3 + 1 majority? Aww, you don't?

neener neener

Damned R's - didn't these SOBS
tell us back in '01 that the "adults were now in charge"?

Anonymous said...

It made the news on yahoo yesterday too, and they said that Craddick would have to recognise the person to speak in order for the person to propose Craddick's removal. Cant see him doing that somehow.

Anonymous said...

Another example of why Republicans simply cannot be trusted with the responsibility of governing. They have no respect for the law or the rules. This is as close to anarchy as I have seen in this state.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't think it's evidence Rs can't be trusted - I can name plenty of Rs who would never have considered doing this, as well as Ds who are plenty ruthless enough to do it.

On this stuff, R or D really doesn't matter so much - character and integrity matter most, and on that score both parties too often suffer a deficit when those qualities would impede vain ambitions for power.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Oh, and whitsfoe I didn't answer your question. See if this site gets you what you want. On Houston and statewide candidates, Charles Kuffner (Off the Kuff) often does more detailed precinct level breakddowns, so you might search his archives, too, depending on what you're looking for.

Anonymous said...

Hey Grits (Scott), Maybe Craddick took lessons from Bexar County's Chief Probation officer W. Fitzgerald. He doesn't seem to care about the rules of law either. Talk about out of control, he is trying to get info from Google on the names of all ANONYMOUS posters so he can continue retaliating against his offiers.

Anonymous said...

"You Texans seem to really have this government thing working real smooth here," said Nelon dela Vega, 61, rolling her eyes Saturday as House members yelled and booed each other on the floor below. "Where's Jerry Springer?"

We're putting on a show for the country and looking like a bunch of 'hicks'. The elected officials need to grow up and behave. The legislature is beginning to look like a Kindergarten playground without a principal.

Anonymous said...

David said...
"If the members had all pulled out knives and stabbed him to death, IMO they would have been justified."

That might be the only thing that could possible save Texas now, is for the last words from House Speaker Tom Craddick's mouth to be "Et Tu Brute?"

Anonymous said...

I also find Craddick's behavior abominable. However it mirrors George W. Bush's.

I hope they change before it's necessary to do what President Jefferson said.

"The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time by the Blood of Patriots & Tyrants."

Anonymous said...

Some of the parliamentary rulings that have been made boggle my mind. For that matter, I don't understand why the body hasn't taken the matter into its own hands, if only so it could 1) more smoothly operate in its last day or two and 2) make this all perhaps look a bit less like a spectacle.

I did a bit over on the Texas Blue about the parliamentary rulings. I'd appreciate it if you'd take a look and tell me what you think.

And on a tangent, who has ever heard of a chair recognizing a member "...for the purpose of" a particular motion? Isn't this a blatant attempt by the chair to limit members' floor rights?

Anonymous said...

There once was a Speaker named Craddick

He didn't get his way- threw a tantrum and let others have it

He yelled at the floor that he's in control of this tug-o-war

"And if you don't like it, kiss my ass and hit the door!"

The fine members hissed and booed the Caesar's wrath

They cried out, "Are you insane? 2/3 vote we will cast"!

"Kiss your ass? We think not. Untie your panties from that knot"

"And remember WHO YOU ARE and who you're not".