Smitherman: It's Always The Quiet Ones

AG candidate flies to the far religious right

Commissioner Smitherman: Start breeding now, for the independent Nation of Texas.
Commissioner Smitherman: Start breeding now, for the independent Nation of Texas.

If anyone remembers Barry Smitherman from his time as Public Utility Commission member, they'll recall him as an uninspiring, pro-coal proceduralist. But now he's running for attorney general, he has suddenly morphed into an anti-sex, pro-secession radical. Who'da thunk?

Smitherman is one of Gov. Rick Perry's favored appointees, and as former chair of the PUC was a big cheerleader for coal as the solution to Texas' energy problems. Back in 2011, Perry transferred him as a suitably safe, pro-corporate pair of hands to run the Railroad Commission (which, to beat a dead naming horse, has nothing to do with railroads and actually regulates oil and gas production.)

In all that time, Smitherman has never seemed anything more than an uninspiring yes man. Now he has set his sights on replacing Attorney General Greg Abbott as the state's top lawyer, he seems to be making up for lost opportunities with a radical vault to the right.

Really, it started back in April, when Smitherman's official Twitter feed re-tweeted a list of pro-gun control Republicans with an image of a noose and the word "treason" next to their names. Hardly politic when heading into primary season, but some days it feels like no GOPer lost votes by boarding the radical express.

So with the "gun lobby pandering" box ticker, last week Smitherman went hunting for anti-abortion votes with the Texas Alliance for Life. In a long-winded speech that started with comments about oil production (one must imagine the fundamentalists were agog for this), Smitherman suddenly took a sharp veer into conspiracy theory, blaming President Obama for China's one child per family policy. That was just the beginning.

In an extraordinary grab bag of extremist talking points, Smitherman predicted America's economic collapse unless attendees "encourage those of childbearing age (WHO ARE MARRIED) to have lots of children, and then support policies that support having lots children." (Note: That's his emphasis, not ours.)

He had stuffed his policy blunderbuss with a plethora of applause points for the far right, not least that more fundamentalists breeding will cause the downfall of public schools. In Smithermanland, there will be new rules "making it easier for large families to leave failing public schools, pursue home schooling or online options, and eventually get a college degree.) Moreover, he argued that people who don't have kids should take the brunt of the tax code. He said, "we should incent marriage and dis-incent single family households. … The federal tax code should reward large families, whose children will eventually pay lots of taxes, by increasing deductions for children, or placing families with children into a lower marginal tax bracket."

And he wrapped this all up with a pretty bow, in case you missed his point. "Don’t’ have sex until you get married, get married at a relatively early age, and then have lots of kids."

Smitherman took a brief break from his "Broodmares for Prosperity" tour with a glowing write-up on ultra-fringe "news" site World Net Daily. It's mostly the general ubiquitous "down with the EPA" ramblings expected from Texas oil and gas advocates. But as it continues, Smitherman starts making the case for Texas to become the new Saudi Arabia, claiming that it can operate as a "stand-alone entity." He told WND, "“One of the things I’ve focused on in the last 10 years of my public sector life is preparing Texas to be a prosperous and safe place to work, regardless of what happens outside our borders."

Please note, borders. Not state lines. Borders. Yes, you can shudder now.

It's followed with a survey asking readers to "sound off on Texas preparing to become an independent state."

Is anyone surprised that Smitherman is running so far to the right? After all, he slumps in name recognition compared to his rivals to become AG and in power endorsements. Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, has got much of the Texas Legislature at his back, while Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, has the blessing of Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Institute, Americans for Prosperity chief Peggy Venable, and Texas Eagle Forum boss Cathie Adams (he also incorrectly claimed for a while that he has been touched by the hands of self-appointed king maker Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans.) But can Smitherman find a route to victory by riding on the fringiest of the fringe votes?

Who knows? After all, this is a GOP primary in the 2010s.

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