Bud Kennedy

2009: It was the ‘Rumble at Romano’s.’ But what were Texas Republicans thinking?

In 2009, Grand Prairie Republican Dorrie O’Brien gave a talk about “Muslims in America” at a north Tarrant County Republican club.
In 2009, Grand Prairie Republican Dorrie O’Brien gave a talk about “Muslims in America” at a north Tarrant County Republican club. Star-Telegram archives

Sometimes I really miss President Bush.

Monday was one of those nights. A Republican club in Fort Worth chose up sides and debated whether American Muslims are (1) good religious conservatives or (2) “sleeper cells” hiding in wait to overthrow America and impose Islamic law.

In front of Muslim Republican business owners and government officials, a spokeswoman for a Florida-based activist group asked Republicans to stop the “Islamization” of the U.S. and protect religious freedom by refusing to allow observances of Islamic holidays.


Our Dallas neighbor, George W. Bush, used to have a blunt message for those like Dorrie O’Brien of Grand Prairie, who once picketed Six Flags over Muslim Family Day.

“Ours is a country based on tolerance,” Bush said in 2002.

“We respect the faith and we welcome people of all faiths in America. And we’re not going to let the war on terror or terrorists cause us to change our values.”

Four months after his retirement, what’s changed?

“There’s no more Republicans in power saying things like that,” said Mark Hanson, an Arlington optometrist and president of the Arlington Republican Club.

“There’s no Republicans in power at all.”

Some remaining Republicans seem determined to chase away conservative Muslims. And conservative Hispanics. And also LGBT conservatives who think marriage and commitment are conservative principles.

At this rate, pretty soon there won’t be enough Republicans left for a radio talk show.

Dr. Nizam Peerwani said all child deaths are peer-reviewed by the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office’s seven pathologists, as well as the senior forensic department staff. Ron T. Ennis Star-Telegram archives

There were enough to fill a party room Monday night at Romano’s Macaroni Grill in far north Fort Worth, where the North Tarrant Republican Club gathered to see O’Brien, 61, and 30-year Tarrant County Medical Examiner Nizam Peerwani in the “Rumble at Romano’s.”

“I just found out that I am part of a sleeper cell and that I am going to declare jihad,” Peerwani said.

“News to me.”

O’Brien complained that some American Muslims don’t “assimilate.” (That always means they don’t act like the person complaining.)

“They don’t grow up singing ‘Pop Goes the Weasel,’ “ she said during a slideshow presentation from Act! for America (American Congress for Truth). “They don’t understand ‘Anchors Aweigh’ or ‘to the shores of Tripoli.’ “

That reminded me of one of our own Marines.

Lance Cpl. Saeed Jafarkhani Jr. of North Richland Hills, an American of Iranian descent, died in a 2005 helicopter crash in Iraq.

“We just called him ‘J.R.,’ “ said family friend Jessica Ledbetter of Crowley.

He was 24. He wanted to come home and become a Fort Worth police officer.

“He wasn’t for anything he saw in the Middle East,” she said: “He was thankful to be an American.”

He might have made a pretty good Republican.

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Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 16 Texas Legislature sessions. First on the scene of a 1988 DFW Airport crash, he interviewed passengers running from the burning plane. He made his first appearance in the paper before he was born: He was sold for $600 in the adoption classifieds.