Richard Greene

February 22, 2014

Abbott blunder means advantage Davis

Campaigning with Ted Nugent was a mistake the attorney general must promptly get behind him.

There seem to be all kinds of explanations going around about why Greg Abbott has been campaigning with Ted Nugent.

Only one thing seems clear right now: It’s all worked out to Wendy Davis’ advantage.

Since Abbott is ahead in the polls and already assured of getting the votes from Texans who like the plainspoken country music rocker, you have to wonder why he took the risk that landed him in hot water last week.

Most speculate that the attorney general’s strategy was to pump up his core supporters. I’m uncertain if that outcome has been achieved, but it sure seems to have handed Davis a welcome opportunity to rally hers.

“Greg Abbott’s embrace of Ted Nugent is an insult to every Texan — every man, woman, husband and father,” she very quickly declared. “If this is Greg Abbott’s idea of values, it’s repulsive.”

Even a fellow Republican — Lisa Fritsch, one of Abbott’s opponents in the gubernatorial primary — condemned the association by saying he should “know better than to keep company with a noted misogynist and bigot. …”

Within hours, news media throughout the state and around the country eagerly followed up with a reminder of all the sensational things Nugent has ever said, including particularly incendiary characterizations of President Barack Obama.

Wolf Blitzer over at CNN devoted a whole segment of his broadcast to drawing parallels between Nugent and German Nazis.

By week’s end, Democrats were celebrating, regardless of how premature it may seem, how Abbott had just handed Davis the keys to the Governor’s Mansion.

The question now has become how Abbott deals with this fallout beyond his early response to questions, saying he was unaware of Nugent’s past comments: “I know nothing about that.”

By the time you read this, he may have already moved in the direction of putting some distance between himself and Nugent by some kind of disassociation declaration.

If he has, he will have appropriated exactly the course of action taken by the person he says is the most disliked man in Texas, Barack Obama. If he hasn’t, he ought to swallow hard and follow the president’s example of overcoming a similar problem during his 2008 campaign.

When Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, went around accusing the United States of engaging in terrorism, using the AIDS virus to commit genocide against minorities, and declared from his pulpit, “God damn America,” the future president responded with convincing anger.

“His [Wright’s] comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate,” and “They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs.”

Obama dealt pretty much the same way in separating himself from domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, aggressively denying the claims of their relationship or that Ayers was some sort of mentor for him. He specifically denounced Ayers’ violent radical activities.

Whether Abbott can bring himself to emulate Obama’s way of surviving judgment by the company he kept is the question of the day.

It’s a tough choice for him, but he should remember this: Barack Obama effectively took the issues of his association with miscreants away from his opponent and celebrated victory on Election Day.

Greg Abbott needs to do the same thing, put this uproar behind him, and see if he can regain the offensive.

Abbott’s campaign stumble put Davis’ tortured explanations of how she has defined, redefined and defined again her positions on critical issues in the rear-view mirror this past week.

He needs to get them back out front right away.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

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