Thursday, November 10, 2005

He’s So in Love!

We marked today, Friday, on our calendar because it’s the day that Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey promised to reveal why Bill White might be able to defy the traditional wisdom that holds a big-city mayor can’t win a statewide office such as governor or U.S. senator.

That heart-shaped promise was etched in the newsprint of his Wednesday column, wherein Casey ambled on for 17 or so inches on the subject (we fully read about 10 of ’em, including the first and last ones, thus more than qualifying us to issue the forthcoming predictably damning judgment ), quoting a political scientist or two and the former mayor of …. was it Seattle? Yes, it was Seattle. The city in Washington. You were riveted, weren’t you?

In other words, Casey found this to be a topic of such abiding interest that he stretched it over a two-part series, with a slow-motion wind-up and delivery. It comes hard on the heels of his last two-parter, which was mostly devoted to his reminiscences of the judge from San Antonio who’s been named to preside over the Tom DeLay trial. That’s San Antonio, where Casey used to ply his trade and apparently still gets his mail. A Chapter 11 filing of intellectual bankruptcy appears imminent.

(After skimming this week’s first installment, we finally realized that encroaching senility is the defining characteristic of the species Chroniclus columnisticus [with apologies to the senile portion of our readership, which breaches the potentially fatal 75 percent mark, according to the Audit Bureau of Bloggery and Bullshit], a proud tradition dating back beyond Allison “The Motorman” Sanders and through Thom Marshall and Leon Hale. [Other notable characteristics: You have to be older than 50, have virtually no clue what’s going on in the city, be a white male [not that we have anything against white males], never piss any one off too too much, and no habla espanol … We’ll exempt under-50 business columnist Loren Steffy from this broad brush, as he’s far and away the paper’s best columnist, and probably bound for a more prestigious posting before too long, we’d bet.])

We’ve never gotten much of a rise one way or another from Casey since the adenoidal martinet who runs the editorial operation imported him from San Antonio, where we remember occasionally reading his column. To an out-of-towner Casey seemed to offer a pretty good inside-ball take on doings in city government there, something like Tim Fleck could be doing for the Chronicle if the paper had had the stick not to consign him to the anonymity of the editorial page. In San Antonio, Casey seemed to know his stuff. Here, he seems lost, tired and supremely uninterested (and uninteresting).

But we’ve noticed there is one subject that raises Casey’s ardor, that brings a flush to his heavily bearded cheek and a bounce to his step, one that doubtless makes him feel young again and perhaps evokes his days of glory in Old San Antone. That subject is Bill White, who, Casey wrote Wednesday:

…even if he becomes recognized as one of the greatest big-city mayors in U.S. history … has an even greater hurdle than most accomplished, ambitious politicians in reaching higher office.
We’re much too blunt to detect the delicate irony that we’d assume plays along the edges of such a sentiment, so let us just say that there will in fact be no way that Bill White will be “recognized” as a great big-city mayor, if only because of the pedestrian reality that he’ll have only six years in the office, if he so chooses and is so granted, and the terms limit sorta puts a crimp in the “greatness” attainability (at least for the recognizers who can maintain a modicum of critical distance).

Casey also relates that

…Big-city mayors deal with practical problems more than issues, but they also must appeal to an electorate that is generally more, well, urbane and more diverse than suburban and small-town electorates.
To which we can only say, well, “No shit?”

And looka here:

So Bill White makes a name for himself by getting control of a runaway budget, by making a dent in Houston's notorious traffic, by cleaning corruption out of a famously pay-for-play City Hall, by generously and efficiently leading the welcoming committee for Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
Has he done all that already, after less than two years as mayor? (We missed the front-page headlines about cleaning the corruption out of City Hall.) Or is this the Casey-projected White record after six (or four) years, which still may not be enough to elect White governor, Casey suggests, even though the columnist apparently plans to tell us otherwise in today’s installment?
Or do you think there’s an opening for another flack at City Hall? (That’d be our guess.)

Hey, we like Bill White OK. We’ve voted for him twice---considering the pair of stumps who ran against him two years ago, you’d have to be in chronic identity-politics denial or not care much about the city’s future to have voted for anyone but White---and we think he’s done a decent job, even if we’re a bit put off by that overweening sense of intellectual superiority that he can barely contain behind the Jimmy Stewart mask (and which will be his undoing, if he’s ever undone, which we hope he won’t be).

But, still, we just can’t get all moony over the guy.

It’s unseemly for a man our age.

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