Come on Texas Republicans. What a bunch of snowflakes. OK, that could cover a lot of ground. I’m referring specifically to the “Public Admonition” of State Senator Sarah Eckhardt by the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct. It is for actions Eckhardt took while she was County Judge of Travis County, not a judicial position, although under state law it’s still called a County Judge.

For the record, I am not absolutely certain that every member of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct is a Republican. Six judges are appointed to the Commission by the all Republican Texas Supreme Court. Two attorneys, who are not judges, are appointed by the State Bar of Texas. And, six citizen members, who are neither judges nor attorneys, are appointed by the Governor. A Republican has been Governor since 1995. So it is at the very least safe to say that the Commission is Republican dominated.

Now, here are the “Findings of Fact” laid out against Eckhardt in the official Public Admonition, the lowest punishment she could get, if she had to be punished:

“1. At all times relevant hereto, the Honorable Sarah Eckhardt was the Travis County Judge, Austin, Travis County, Texas.

2. On January 24, 2017, Judge Eckhardt wore a pink knitted beanie with cat ears, referred to as a ‘pussy hat’, while presiding over a meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court.

3. When Judge Eckhardt introduced a proposed proclamation supporting reproductive health care, Judge Eckhardt adjusted her hat and said, “Get my cat ears going here for this one.”

4.  In 1984 a large tree limb fell on Governor Greg Abbott’s back while he was jogging, leaving him forever paralyzed from the waist down.

5. On September 27, 2019, while appearing on a panel discussion at the Texas Tribune Festival, Judge Eckhardt made the remark that Governor Abbott “hates trees because one fell on him.”

6. Judge Eckhardt expressed remorse for making the comment about Governor Abbott’s disability and later sent Governor Abbott a letter of apology, which she posted to her social media accounts and disseminated to local news outlets.”

State Senator Sarah Eckhardt

The above stipulations were the Commission’s summary of an anonymous complaint brought against Eckhardt. Eckhardt’s attorney Jim Cousar argued in a brief that the Commission does not have jurisdiction over Eckhardt because she did not serve in a judicial role and performed no judicial duties: “While serving as County Judge, Senator Eckhardt’s duties and activities were entirely within her constitutional legislative role, as one of five members of the County Commissioner’s Court, and her constitutional executive role, as the chief administrative officer of Travis County.” Cousar added that Eckhardt “neither sought nor accepted the annual salary supplement that the Legislature provides for County Judges who do exercise judicial functions.” Cousar also argued, that even though Eckhardt was not in a judicial position, the First Amendment rights of judges are still protected. On this Cousar cited, among others, an opinion from the late Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia in a Minnesota case: “The Minnesota Supreme Court’s canon of judicial conduct prohibiting candidates for judicial election from announcing their views on disputed legal and political issues violates the First Amendment.”

The Commission, however, ultimately determined that Eckhardt “should be publicly admonished” because wearing a “pink knitted beanie with cat ears referred to as a ‘pussy hat’ during a public meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court . . . could be perceived as undignified, offensive and inappropriate.” Also, the remark about Abbott “could be perceived as offensive, demeaning, and derogatory towards the governor and others with physical disabilities.”

Wearing a “pink knitted beanie with cat ears referred to as a ‘pussy hat’ during a public meeting . . . could be perceived as undignified, offensive and inappropriate.” State Commission on Judicial Conduct

OK. Eckhardt shouldn’t have made the joke about Governor Abbott’s disability. That’s something she realized quickly and apologized for, even before leaving the stage at the Tribune Fest. She then called the Governor’s office to apologize. She was unable to reach the Governor, but apologized to his staff and asked them to pass it along. She also apologized on Twitter.

By the way, two Republican operatives last year were caught on tape making jokes about the Governor’s disability. I know; two wrongs don’t make a right, and those two guys are not judges and thus not subject to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. As noted above, however, it is very questionable whether Eckhardt falls under the Commission’s purview either.

Then there’s the hat. Those hats got their name because of a taped remark Donald Trump made while he was a reality TV star; oh, forgot that he still is. Trump said his fame allowed him to grab women by the genitals, but he used the word with which the hat is named. So, let’s review. Trump gets elected president after that remark becomes public and Eckhardt gets admonished for wearing a cattily named hat in protest? Like I said, what a bunch of snowflakes. 

Eckhardt is appealing. The appeal will be heard by a panel of judges appointed by the Texas Supreme Court.

Meanwhile in Washington

I wonder if any of the pillars of rectitude at the State Commission on Judicial Conduct have anything to say about Donald Trump trying to hold on to office by pressuring and threatening state and local officials in swing states, or by his constant lying about voter fraud and thousands of other subjects. Of course Trump also made fun of a handicapped journalist with no consequences except for criticism from Democrats and what he calls the “fake news” media.

Oh, that’s right, Trump is not subject to the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct. One place they seemingly would have jurisdiction is if someone filed a complaint about the baseless lawsuit that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed seeking to throw out election results in other states. For now we can only wonder how that would land on the Commission’s sensitivity scale.

Speaking of Republicans being snowflakes, , including Trump, that’s one element of why so many Republicans are refusing to admit that Trump lost the election. Another way of looking at it is they are accomplices to attempts to destroy American democracy, stage a coup, and disenfranchise tens of millions of American voters. Those are all true and the struggle will reach a new peak, or low, in the next few days. For the moment, however, let’s recall how many Republicans in the early weeks after the election were arguing that people should just give Trump the time and space he needs to come to grips with his loss. Ever heard them argue that when a Democrat lost? Or even another Republican for that matter?

Perhaps the scariest and most demoralizing part of it all is that our country actually elected this guy in the first place. Then, after watching him govern for four years, 74 million people voted to give him a second term. That brings us to another important fact that Trump can’t accept; Joe Biden got seven million more votes.

So I want to offer my psychological analysis of all that. Keep in mind that I am not a professional psychologist or psychiatrist. I have just lived a long time and tried to be observant. I hope there’s not a state board that is going to admonish me, but I think that a lot of what is going on is that Donald Trump is just a spoiled brat who was never told that he could not always have his way. It also appears as if tantrums must have worked for him as a kid. On top of that he spent his life branding himself as a “winner” and those who opposed him, or tangled with him, as “losers.” So now, on a scale about as big as exists, Trump is sulking, refusing to acknowledge defeat and rejection, and insisting that the election was stolen from him. He and his attorneys have failed to provide any credible evidence of election fraud and have lost in court after court — including before several judges appointed by him.

As most folks already know, Trump will make another stand on Wednesday as Congress meets to certify electoral votes. He is also summoning supporters to demonstrate in Washington. And, although top military brass have made clear that they do not swear allegiance to an individual, Trump has installed loyalists in a few key Pentagon positions. There is enough concern about some sort of Trump attempt to use the military to keep himself in power that all ten living former Secretaries of Defense (those who were confirmed by the Senate) signed an oped that appeared in the Washington Post Sunday night. They warned: “Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory.”

Signers included Trump’s two departed Secretaries of Defense Jim Mattis and Mark Esper, along with several Secretaries from Democratic administrations and even Republican former Vice-President Dick Cheney, who served as Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush.  

According to a Post story about the statement, Cheney was instrumental in it being drafted. It’s good for the country that he did that, but it is also terrifying that the Republican Party and the country have reached a point where Dick Cheney has to step in and say it’s not morally right to go any further.

It is terrifying that the Republican Party and the country have reached a point where Dick Cheney has to step in and say it’s not morally right to go any further.

Meanwhile, at a lower level of development, Texas Senator Ted Cruz is clawing desperately to be right up at the front of the potential coup. In his latest move Cruz announced that he will join the challenge against electoral votes from other states on Wednesday. He is also calling for a 10 day audit of voter fraud, for which he provides no evidence. Instead, in the type of naked disingenuousness for which Cruz is famous, he claims the investigation is necessary to restore confidence in the electoral system — not mentioning that it is the ceaseless and baseless claims by Trump and his lawyers that is creating that loss of confidence.

Of course Cruz’s real motive is to play to Trump’s base, looking ahead to the 2024 presidential campaign. Cruz also obviously sees the need to elbow Missouri Senator Josh Hawley aside as Hawley panders to to the same base. 

Another aspect of all this is that it has been a very rapid fall for Texas Democrats who just over two short months ago were giddy over the prospect of carrying Texas for Joe Biden, defeating several Republican Congressional incumbents, and taking a majority in the Texas House. This publication was among those heralding these possibilities. None of that happened. Soon afterward Paxton filed his lawsuit, which is already known as, and will be known to history as, “The Texas lawsuit” —the one to overturn more than two centuries of American democracy. Making it even more humiliating, the “Texas lawsuit” was filed by an Attorney General under indictment for corruption and under further investigation by the FBI for different corruption allegations.

But, What About Chip Roy?

There’s one Texas Republican, however, who is deserving of a little praise, although he might not necessarily want it from here. I’m talking about none other than Congressman Chip Roy, who represents part of Austin and has come in for critique in these pages before. Roy also once served as chief of staff to Ted Cruz.

Congressman Chip Roy
Congressman Chip Roy

A few weeks ago Roy said that he would not be joining a herd of his Republican House colleagues in opposing certification of the electoral college votes. Over the weekend Roy took it a step further by objecting to the seating of members of Congress from swing states where other Republicans are challenging the outcome in the presidential race. The states are Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, with 67 Congressional seats in total — many of them Republicans. Roy reasoned in a statement, “those representatives were elected through the very same systems — with the same ballot procedures, with the same signature validations, with the same broadly applied decisions of executive and judicial branch officials — as were the electors chosen for the President of the United States under the laws of those states.” Consequently, continued Roy, “It would confound reason if the presidential results of these states were to face objection while the congressional results of the same process escaped public scrutiny.” Roy’s move forced a House vote to allow Speaker Nancy Pelosi to swear in the new members from those states.

Although we cannot be absolutely certain, it appears that Roy may be engaging in a practice that has become increasingly rare, and even unrecognizable: that is, sticking to his principles. So let’s give Chip Roy credit for that.

While I’m gushing about Republicans I want to note that Gerald Daugherty has now left the Travis Commissioners Court. He did not seek reelection. When Daugherty first got elected I worried that he would be a one issue Commissioner, that one issue being opposition to light rail. Daugherty continued to be against rail, but he turned out to be a hard working Commissioner who conscientiously dealt with the myriad of issues that come before the Court. He was even conscientious about protecting endangered species and complying with the City and County permit with the Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Daugherty is also very straightforward. You always know where he is coming from. And, he always seemed to look for opportunities to agree with, and work with, people with whom he differed philosophically. Perhaps most notable were his sometime alliances with fellow Commissioner Brigid Shea. He also has a good sense of humor as reflected in his self deprecating campaign ads. So best wishes to Gerald Daugherty.


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