The Austin Chronicle

Tom Schieffer for Governor: The New Plain Vanilla

By Lee Nichols, May 15, 2009, News

If Texas Democrats were hoping that a figure with Obama-like charisma would propel them back into the governor's office in 2010 – well, Tom Schieffer will sorely disappoint them. And he's no Kinky Friedman, either – though given the 2006 results (when Fried­man ran and lost as an independent), that could be a good thing. No, the best description of Schieffer came from one of the activists in the crowd: "I think his strategy is to be the new Mark White," he cracked. That would be white as in plain vanilla.

Nonetheless, the former ambassador to Australia and Japan drew a respectable crowd to venerable Dem hangout Scholz Garten last Friday. He worried that the Texas kid entering first grade today won't be able to compete with her counterpart from India or China in 20 or 30 years. "We have a dropout rate in our public school system among Hispanic, African-American, and low-income white kids of 40 and 50 percent," said the brother of CBS newsman Bob Schieffer. "And if we're not going to be able to get those kids into school and get them at least a high school education, there is no way they're going to be able to compete with those kids that are coming out of Asia. This is a situation we can change. This is an agenda we can have, and leaders should have that agenda.

"Right now our politics is controlled by what occurs in a Republican primary, what's going to play best in a Republican primary," he continued. "And this silliness about secession [recently floated by Gov. Rick Perry] is just exactly the point that brings that home to me. When we have these serious challenges, somebody is talking about secession [as] an option. That's not a serious response. And most Texans, the overwhelming majority of Texans, don't think it is. But in the Republican Party, if you saw the [Research 2000] poll last week, secession led staying in the Union 51 to 45. Now that's not the way to address Texas' future."

One inevitable drag on Schieffer's run for the Dem nomination could be his well-known friendship with (and votes cast for) George W. Bush. "People have to make their own decision on that," Schieffer told reporters afterward. "The president asked me to serve the country [as ambassador]. I tried to do that. I told him I didn't want to be a Republican, and he never asked me to be a Republican, and I never did anything for the Repub­lican Party. I think people understand that when you're asked to serve the country, you should do that. The Obama administration has twice asked me to help on [intelligence] matters; I've happily done that."

Copyright © 2022 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.