Dog Day Afternoons: Kay and Rick On the Porch

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They are like two old show dogs sleeping on the front porch of a Classical Revival mansion while their owners sip Kentucky bourbon and bestir themselves with tales about the parlous condition of their portfolios.

I'm talking about Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison, the thoroughly domesticated governor and U.S. senator. I mean no offense. Both, after all, would prefer we assess their lengthy tenures in dog years. Perry's nine becomes a youthful one-plus and Bailey's 16 becomes a little more than two.

In this way these old curs can argue with long, straight faces that it's time to throw his/her mangy rascal of an opponent off the porch and hire someone who'll do the job right.

This is a bad time for old tricks. If 2008 was an election about change, 2010 is shaping up to be an election about spare change, as in do you have some.

Texas has lost more jobs than every state but California. The mailman brings nothing but bad news, including these mysterious toll road bills generated automatically when we drive to the corner store, thereby doubling the price of our lottery tickets.

The oil fields are playing out, the water holes are drying up, few can afford to see the doctor, and our state education leaders want to teach that Fred Flinstone and his pet dinosaur Dino were historical figures. We better not count on science to get us out of this.

And two of the old dogs that led us into this cul-de-sac are each baying about how it's all the fault of the other one. If this were more than a metaphor, the bear would have eaten them both by now.

Now, there's something to be said for experience. I wouldn't trade mine for a toll road transponder. But experience is one thing. Fleas are another.

The Republican gubernatorial primary really is something like a senior tour version of the Westminster Dog Show. It's got little to do with the real folk of Texas and everything to do with rival Republican kennels. Grooming the burrs out of Perry's coat are homebuilders and insurance companies. Hutchison's getting her hair teased up by more “moderate” bidness types who dab a little eau de public mindedness behind their ears before attending black tie charity events.

The Houston Chronicle's Rick Dunham captured all you need to know (actually, all there is to know) about the GOP primary with a blog post about a pissy little dog-walking dominance dance between the campaigns. Hutchison's 18-wheelers surrounded and hid a Perry truck hauling an anti-Hutchison sign thereby winning the daily message contest.

And you thought I was just being poetic with the dog thing.

The press doesn't much cover dog shows, and so they'll be hard-pressed (pardon the pun) to call this match-up what it is. Better it be seen as a clash of titans, or at least a rumble in the tumbleweeds.

Texas voters are so alienated from affairs in Austin that it's still up in the air whether Tom Schieffer or some new Democratic pup will emerge to show up the show dogs. They'd run away with it if Texans knew what was really going on.

You can't blame newspapers or local network television affiliates, really. Well you can, but what's the point. State government probably has more impact on the lives of people than government at any other level. But darn, it's expensive to cover and readership surveys just don't give it high marks.

So we train our eyes on the old front porch. Every once in a while one of the dog owners will toss a ball into the yard. A tail beats idly on the hardwood. Dog eyes get a “do I have to?” look. A dog rises slowly, shakes itself, and ambles down the porch steps.  The ball is fetched. Treats all around.


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