- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2000

Criticize a good ol' boy, scuff up his boots, holler at his dog. But don't you mess with Texas.
In its zeal to escalate an already ill-mannered campaign, the Democratic National Committee has been talking trash about Texas in order to criticize its governor. If any of 'em range west of Texarkana, they better look out.
The DNC would have folks believe that the Lone Star State has become a trash heap under George W. Bush's tutelage, and they have attacked his policies on health care, the budget and the environment.
Bash Texas and bash Bush, they figure.
"If they can make the state of Texas look bad, then they make Bush look bad," said a Republican strategist. "But their reasoning is flawed … many of the policies they're attacking were instigated by the Democrats."
Of course, this is what the Republicans did to Arkansas in 1992, and in the years after that (with a lot of ammunition supplied by a certain incumbent).
"We're not against Texas, we're not against Mr. Bush personally," DNC spokeswoman Jenny Backus said yesterday. "We want to draw attention to his choices and his priorities, which we don't think are in the interest of the working families of Texas."
Whatever the motives, the DNC's political maneuvering on behalf of Vice President Al Gore has raised plenty of ire among Texas officials, observers and aficionados alike who have not taken kindly to the official-sounding hearsay and clever packaging.
Like portraying Texas as a hotbed of tropical fevers, for example.
"We highly recommend that those traveling to Texas immediately check to ensure their immunization shots are current before entering the state," warned Laura Quinn of the DNC, which sent out a phony "travel advisory" July 7, warning unvaccinated tourists to stay clear of the state.
The committee extrapolated this conclusion from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, which stated that 75 percent of Texas children between the ages of 19 and 35 months are immunized. The national average is 80 percent. The CDC report also noted that 67 percent of the children in Houston have been vaccinated.
DNC officials later said the advisory was "tongue in cheek," and "a parody." Spokeswoman Backus noted that "it seemed to strike a real raw nerve with the Bush campaign."
But the prank came with a price.
"Too bad the DNC couldn't immunize local Democrats from the unintended consequences of its recent 'travel advisory' for Texas," noted the Houston Chronicle in an editorial yesterday. "As for the DNC, unfortunately there is no vaccine against lame political pranks."
"Public health is too serious an issue to politicize, particularly the health of our children," said Kathy Barton of the Houston Public Health Department.
Among other things, the DNC in news stories and press releases also portrayed Texas as the second-worst state in the nation in hunger, called the rural towns of south Texas "a national tragedy" and stated that "Texas has shortchanged more than one million low-income children."
The state's Republican Party spokesman, Robert Black, calls it all "petty potshots," and added, "Texans don't appreciate it."
And they don't.
One high-powered group of Texas he-men formed the Proud of Texas Committee to defend the state's honor now that politics has slammed her into a dramatic and often unfair spotlight.
The group "united informally because we don't want the state of Texas to suffer damage from the kind of political firestorms that often are driven by national campaigns," said organizer Michael Levy, publisher of the Texas Monthly.
His bipartisan group includes former state officials and lawyers from both sides of the fence who want their beloved Texas left out of the fray. The committee sent letters to both the Bush and Gore camps, asking that Texas be treated "fairly."
Mr. Gore was told that he appears "to have extended considerable effort attacking the way our state operates." The letter offered a list of the "misrepresentations."
Will Mr. Gore mend his ways? We'll find out soon. In a sudden change of plans, the vice president was scheduled to take a quick detour today to San Antonio to hammer upon reports that Texas has a huge budget shortfall because of Mr. Bush's tax cuts.
Mr. Gore lit upon the theme last week when Texas reported $610 million in cost overruns even though the state still has $1.1 billion in surplus. The state comptroller immediately came forward to reassure taxpayers and the public alike that all is well, money wise.
But Mr. Gore has not let up. "We have to have responsible budgeting," he told reporters late yesterday in Missouri after announcing his new itinerary.
"We will welcome Al Gore with open arms to the land of low taxes and budget surpluses," said Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer, who categorized the visit as a "distort and destroy mission."

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