TIME ebola

Dallas Keeps Calm and Carries On After Ebola Arrives

Dr. Edward Goodman, left, epidemiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, points to a reporter for a question as Dr. Mark Lester looks on during a news conference about an Ebola infected patient they are caring for in Dallas, Sept. 30, 2014.
Dr. Edward Goodman, left, epidemiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, points to a reporter for a question as Dr. Mark Lester looks on during a news conference about an Ebola infected patient they are caring for in Dallas, Sept. 30, 2014. LM Otero—AP

Officials search for answers and urge calm in Dallas

A Dallas hospital patient is battling Ebola, it emerged Tuesday, the first victim of the deadly disease to be diagnosed on American soil. But Texans have resisted the urge to panic at the news, and, contrary to type, have so far been subdued and measured in their public reaction.

Within minutes of the news that a man who had flown from Liberia to Dallas had fallen ill with the deadly virus, a chorus of Texas officials took to the airways to call for calm and insist that this invasion would be defeated. “Take a deep breath,” urged Jay M. Bernhardt, PH. D., director of the University of Texas Center for Health Communication. The former director of the National Center for Health Marketing at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested on Austin television that the state’s media had a responsibility to be measured and informative in its response — a stance most media outlets appear to be taking, so far. The Dallas Morning News urged readers to take a calm approach to the alarming news: “Time for panic? Absolutely not. This is a time to stay informed and follow the instructions of health professionals so they can ensure that the virus doesn’t spread.”

Even Texas Gov. Rick Perry, usually a ready voice when it comes to expounding on the issue of the day, be it Iranian nukes or border security, took a decidedly low key approach. No immediate statement was forthcoming from the governor’s office, but he did offer a few offhand comments in New York –“we will continue to monitor the situation” — while campaigning for New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astarino.

But while the call for calm has gone forth, questions are beginning to pile up in Texas — the most serious being why was the patient was originally sent home after initial treatment. The patient first came to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Sept. 26, and was treated, given antibiotics, and discharged, according to numerous local news reports. He then returned on Sunday, Sept. 28. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings confirmed Tuesday that the EMS crew that transported the patient back to the hospital after his condition worsened had been placed in quarantine and the ambulance decontaminated. It also was unclear how the patient had travelled to the U.S., what his itinerary had been, and what were his activities upon arrival.

Texans were given some assurances Tuesday. Health officials had been on alert for the possibility of an Ebola outbreak, they were told — after all, the state is home to two significant African immigrant communities in Dallas and Houston, both home to major international airports. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where the patient presented himself, had a run through of Ebola-response activities last week, according to hospital officials.

“We were prepared,” Dr. Edward Goodman, an epidemiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian, said Tuesday in a news conference. “We have had a plan in place for some time now in the event of a patient presenting with possible Ebola. We are well-prepared to deal with this crisis.” The Texas Department of State of Health Services also had been alert to the possible crisis and was certified to do Ebola testing on Aug. 22, David L. Lakey, state health commissioner said Tuesday, enabling a speedy analysis of the patient’s blood.

The news that Ebola had landed in Dallas, while anticipated in an abstract sense by the medical community, was little surprise to some in Dallas’ African immigrant community. Dallas is home to a vibrant African immigrant population, many of them well-educated West Africans who have escaped the poverty of their ancestral homes to build new lives in the U.S, often as healthcare workers or small business owners. The community includes between 5,000 and 10,000 Liberians, according to one Liberian community group, many of whom regularly return to the African country that has been worst hit by the disease. Carolyn Woahloe, head of the Dallas Liberian Nurses Association told KXAS, the Dallas NBC affiliate: “We have people going and coming every day, so like I said, this is shocking, because they take all the necessary precautions over there at the airport and even when they get here.”

But for another established member of the Dallas community, there was a sense of inevitability about this week’s developments. Foday Fofanah has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, and recently returned from his native Sierra Leone after burying his mother. Over the years, he has built up a non-profit, dubbed Sankofa, to help pull his native county out of extreme poverty, and lately he has focused on the impact of Ebola on one of the world’s poorest nations. Sierra Leone has 2,021 cases of the disease and 605 deaths, according to the CDC.

Fofanah told KTVT, the Dallas CBS affiliate, that he wasn’t surprised by the arrival of Ebola in Texas. “There are 5,000 Sierra Leonians in the Dallas area. They know about Ebola,” he said. “I just knew it was bound to happen because people travel every day. It’s a small globe. It was bound to happen.”

TIME States

Rick Perry Digs in for a Fight

Texas Governor Rick Perry acknowledges the crowd after being finger printed at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on Aug. 19, 2014 in Austin.
Texas Governor Rick Perry acknowledges the crowd after being finger printed at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on Aug. 19, 2014 in Austin. Stewart F. House—Getty Images

2016 presidential hopeful pleads not guilty in abuse-of-power case

Rick Perry isn’t going quietly. In fact, he says he’s not going anywhere at all.

The Texas governor pleaded not guilty Wednesday in the abuse-of-power case against him, waiving a formal arraignment that had been scheduled for Friday and signaling again his readiness to fight a prosecution that he has decried as a “farce.” This after Perry, who just days ago was barnstorming Iowa as he weighs a 2016 presidential bid, strode up to the Austin courthouse here on Tuesday to be booked and fingerprinted—and looking every bit the congenial, confident, quintessentially-Texan politician he has played with success for 30 years.

“I’m here today because I believe in the rule of law,” Perry said after having his mugshot taken Tuesday for booking.

“Like a true West Texan, in the face of adversity Rick Perry is doubling down and meeting his critics head on,” Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said. “Unlike most politicians facing indictments, Perry is reaching out to the media as opposed to running away from it.”

That approach led Perry’s lawyers to hold a briefing on Monday at an Austin hotel, unveiling a stellar team of star lawyers, and advising the media well in advance Tuesday that the governor would be turning himself in for the obligatory mugshot. After the booking, like the good Texan that he is, Perry made a point to thank the Travis County sheriff’s deputies who booked him—evoking a contrast with the torrent of abuse an intoxicated Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg unleashed on deputies and jail guards when she was booked on a DUI charge in April, 2013.

Perry’s response to a video of Lehmberg’s tirade, which prompted calls for her resignation from both Democrats and Republicans, is at the heart of the indictment against him last week. Prosecutors say he abused his power by threatening to veto funds for the Public Intergrity Unit she heads if she didn’t resign, an assertion that Perry and even some liberals have warned constitutes prosecutorial overreach into policing even the most basic posturing in modern politics. But Lehmberg is also at the center of Perry’s public relations strategy so far.

“If I had to do so, I would veto funding for the public integrity unit again,” Perry told a cheering crowd of supporters Tuesday. “I’m going to fight this injustice with every fiber of my being. And we will prevail.”

For Perry, this is a black hat-white hat YouTube range war, with a vodka-guzzling, out-of-control, drunken Democratic prosecutor on one side and a self-styled champion of the people and the rule of law on the other. Perry’s political action committee, RickPAC, unveiled a new ad Tuesday featuring, of course, the Lehmberg video.

“Governor Perry’s public relations strategy is to present this indictment as one blow, low and foul, in an ongoing fight between a disgraced, partisan, Democratic, district attorney and a Republican governor fighting for common decency, the rule of law, and the sanctity of the Texas Constitution,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University and longtime observer of Texas politics. “This framing is working pretty well, especially among Republican leaders and activists, but it is at best a short term strategy that will be of no use at all if the case goes to trial.”

Perry’s only hope of remaining a viable presidential candidate for 2016 is to get the charges dismissed before trial, Jillson said. “But if he goes to trial, there will be weeks of testimony from Austin insiders describing in most unappetizing terms precisely how the political sausage was made,” Jillson said. “If that happens, it will make Chris Christie’s ‘Bridgegate’ troubles look like a walk in the park.”

Some Democrats have pressed the argument that Perry’s attempt to dethrone Lehmberg was aimed at derailing an investigation into connections between Perry campaign contributors and the Cancer Prevention and Research Insitute of Texas (CPRIT). But other Democrats see the indictment as baseless, including David Botsford, a prominent Travis County Democrat and a member of Perry’s legal team. He was the first to greet Perry at the podium with a handshake and an embrace Tuesday.

Perry’s legal team is a mix of colorful, political, heavyweight and well-connected lawyers. Botsford is regarded as a top criminal lawyer in Texas, but also someone who knows the inner workings and politics of the Travis County courthouse. Lead lawyer Tony Buzbee, who said the Perry prosecution is an example of “banana republic politics,” is a charismatic Houston plaintiff’s attorney. Also on the team are two star Washington attorneys—Ben Ginsberg, who represented President George W. Bush in the 2000 Florida recount, and Bobby Burchfield who has led the Republican National Committee’s successful legal fight against a key campaign finance law. The goal is likely to get the indictment thrown out as quickly as possible, and to get the case moved out of Travis County, where the judges and the majority of jurors are Democrats

While Perry’s stellar legal team plots the maneuvers ahead, Perry needs to focus on a different jury, political analysts say. “The principal problem for Perry is not so much how the indictment is being viewed by Republican caucus and primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and elsewhere, but rather the doubts it is creating about Perry’s political future among major donors as well as political elites whose endorsements Perry needs to be viable, especially in the early caucus and primary states,” Jones said.

“Both the donors and elites are thinking far more about the long game of winning not only the GOP primary, but especially the general election, and are quite likely to view the indictment, regardless of merit, as a significant political liability,” Jones said. “If Perry cannot get the charged dismissed, the indictment will be a dark cloud following any Perry 2016 presidential campaign.”

TIME

Rick Perry Indicted in Politically-Charged Texas Battle

Rick Perry
Governor Rick Perry pauses as he addresses attendees at the 2014 Red State Gathering, Aug. 8, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Tony Gutierrez—AP

Gov. Rick Perry was indicted on two counts of abuse of power Friday by a Texas grand jury, in the latest chapter of a long-running politically-charged dispute between the Republican and his Democratic opponents.

The indictment revolves around Perry’s veto of $7.5 million in funding to state’s public integrity unit., based in the Travis County district attorney’s office. District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who ran the unit, was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in 2012. Perry publicly demanded that she step aside. When she didn’t, he vetoed the unit’s funding.

At the same time, the unit, long a weather vane to Texas politics, was investigating one of Perry’s signature achievements, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, for alleged mismanagement. Texans for Public Justice, a left-leaning watchdog group, filed an ethics complaint over Perry’s public veto threat.

At the request of Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum, a Travis County grand jury returned felony indictments against Perry on two counts, abuse of official capacity, which carries a penalty of five to 99 years in prison, and coercion of a public servant, which carries a penalty of two to 10 years.

Central to the case will be whether Perry’s threat to veto, an act authorized by the state’s constitution, constituted a misuse of state property, and whether his calls for Lehmberg to resign rose to a level of coercion. Both counts are likely to prove difficult for prosecutors to make.

In a statement, Perry’s general counsel Mary Anne Wiley defended the legality of the veto and pledged to fight the charges. “The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution,” she said. “We will continue to aggressively defend the governor’s lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail.”

“I am outraged and appalled that the Grand Jury has taken this action, given the governor’s constitutional right and duty to veto funding as he deems appropriate,” added David L. Botsford, Perry’s personal attorney. “This clearly represents political abuse of the court system and there is no legal basis in this decision. The facts of this case conclude that the governor’s veto was lawful, appropriate and well within the authority of the office of the governor. Today’s action, which violates the separation of powers outlined in the Texas Constitution, is nothing more than an effort to weaken the constitutional authority granted to the office of Texas governor, and sets a dangerous precedent by allowing a grand jury to punish the exercise of a lawful and constitutional authority afforded to the Texas governor.”

Perry did not testify before the grand jury and he was not subpoenaed to appear, though members of his staff did.

McCrum told reporters he will be working with Perry’s attorney to set up a time for Perry to be arraigned and booked. “I feel confident with the charges that have been filed,” he told reporters.

A noted San Antonio criminal defense attorney, McCrum was appointed as an assistant US Attorney by President George H.W. Bush. In 2010 he was nominated in President Barack Obama to be U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, but he withdrew his name after his nomination stalled.

Texas Democrats quickly released a statement calling on Perry to resign. “Governor Rick Perry has brought dishonor to his office, his family and the state of Texas,” the party said. “Texans deserve to have leaders that stand up for what is right and work to help families across Texas.”

The indictment comes as Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history, is set to step down in January after 14 years in office. The failed 2012 Republican presidential hopeful has been traveling the country in recent months in preparation for a second run at the White House, most recently returning to Texas from a four-day trip to Iowa on Tuesday.

TIME politics

Wendy Davis Is No Ann Richards

Wendy Davis
Wendy Davis Eric Gay—AP

After waffling on open carry gun laws and battling accusations of embellishing her bio, Davis might want to take a look at how some famously fierce Texas women have ridden to victory

Wendy Davis was always facing an uphill fight in her bid for the governorship of Texas, that reddest of red states. Nonetheless her entry into the race was hailed by the state’s Democrats as game-changer, a tide turner. She had become national star thanks to a 11 hour abortion rights filibuster in the Texas senate. And the party hoped she could tap into Texas’ longstanding fondness for strong outspoken and, yes, attractive women. The key to her gubernatorial campaign was to engage suburban women voters much as Ann Richards, the last and legendary Democratic governor did –hence the shorthand bio that told the tale of a bright, hardworking mom who climbed out of the dust of a Fort Worth trailer park to earn a spot at Harvard Law and launch a career.

With that inspiring Texas-style feminist fairy tale, Davis hoped she would be thought of as sprung from the same psychic soil as Richards who famously once said: “After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.”

But in January, that way too easy version of Davis’ early life fell afoul of fact-checkers who found discrepancies in the dates of her divorce and called into question what kind of mother she was while in law school. After two weeks of media skewering Davis’ story, which Davis blamed on her likely opponent, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott — a claim rejected by him — Abbott is saying it’s time to move on. But the damage may have been done.

Post “trailergate,” even friendly forces are losing faith in Davis’ ability to manage her communications team and to woo the suburban women who should be drawn to her bootstrapping biography. The Texas Observer, a longtime progressive stalwart publication, has chided the campaign for mismanagement of its media operation, and said it was hurting her candidacy.

Ma and Pa Ferguson
From right: Ma and Pa Ferguson. Bettmann / Corbi

Campaign operational changes are expected, but getting women to see her as the next in that long line of tough Texas female politicians, may be harder now. Texans have had no qualms about voting sassy, strong, but usually centrist, women. Whether Davis, whose sudden national debut included a Vogue profile that revealed she loves Louboutins and Miu Miu heels and whose filibuster wardrobe included an Escada coat, is cut from the same cloth is the question. The first woman elected to high office was Miriam A. “Ma” Ferguson who, in 1925, succeeded her husband who had been impeached. The genteel, educated Miriam cast aside her chic hats and became “Ma” who posed with the chickens wearing a borrowed sunbonnet. Her slogan: “Me for Ma, and I ain’t got a durned thing against Pa” summed up the two-for-one approach that won Ferguson two terms.

But it was in the last three decades of the 20th century that women stood tall on the Texas stage. They include: Republicans Kay Bailey Hutchison and Susan Combs; Democrat turned Republican turned independent Carole Keeton Rylander Strayhorn; Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordan who left the statehouse as the first African-American state senator since 1883 and went to Washington to make her mark; and the legendary Ann Richards, a Democratic darling and the inspiration for a Davis’ bid.

When Davis was given Richards’ shotgun at an Austin fundraiser earlier this month– the event was closed to many in the press, feeding what has become media dissatisfaction with her campaign — she posed with it and declared the Republicans were “messin’ with the wrong gal” and promised “to kick some ass.” The twang may have been inspired by Richards’ famous Waco accent, but it didn’t pack the same acerbic punch Richards’ one-liners commanded. An example: “I get a lot of cracks about my hair, mostly from men who don’t have any.”

“She should have seen this attack coming,” says Cal Jillson, political scientist at Southern Methodist University, “everyone else did, so the fact that she and her team have handled it so badly is troublesome. She has tried, saying recently that Abbott ‘has messed with the wrong Texas gal,” but it lacks the snarl that Ann Richards or Carol Rylander would have brought to it.”

“One tough grandma” is the way Carole Keeton Rylander Strayhorn labeled herself during her long career in Texas politics — it helped with her image as a tough centrist, and also helped voters struggling to remember her changing surname. Born Carole Keeton, she married a McClellan (mother to four McClellan boys, including Scott, sometime spokesman for President George W. Bush), then a Rylander and then a Strayhorn. Her politics shifted along the way also from Democrat to Republican, as she climbed from Austin mayor to insurance commissioner, to railroad commissioner to comptroller. When she took on a bid for governor in 2006 in a six way race for governor against incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry, she ran as a centrist independent.

Former Gov. Ann Richards in New York City, on Sept. 10, 1994. Ron Galella / WireImage / Getty Images

Strayhorn’s journey mirrored the path for many Texas Democrats. Richards’ win in 1990 marked the last major victory for the party. Once an umbrella party that dominated the state since Reconstruction, Democrats ran the gamut from liberal to so-called yellow dog conservatives.

Richards hailed from the liberal wing, but in her demeanor, and on some issues, she was decidedly tough and Texan. She celebrated her 61st birthday during her unsuccessful bid for a second term with a dove-hunting trip. Guns inevitably play a role in Texas politics and despite Richards’ easy familiarity with a shotgun, her veto of a concealed weapons bill is considered to have cost her votes in her second bid for governor. Davis joined Abbott in supporting an open carry law for licensed gun owners, raising some eyebrows among the Democratic Party faithful, and then suggested cities and businesses could opt out of the law. She also told the Dallas Morning News she would have supported a 20 week ban on abortion if the law had allowed more input from women and their doctors.

“Richards was successful as a moderate-to-liberal Democrat in an era when more Texas voters identified with the Democratic Party than with the Republican Party,” Mark P. Jones, Rice University political scientist says. “Conversely, Davis is making her run at the governorship as a moderate-to-liberal Democrat in an era when more Texas voters identify with the Republican Party.” In 1990, 40% of the voters self-identified as Democrats and 36% as Republicans. Twenty years later in 2010, Jones notes, 39% of the voters self-identified as Republicans and 28% as Democrats.

“Women who have succeeded in politics have ranged from the calm, even sedate, problem solvers (Kay Bailey Hutchison and Susan Combs) to the more boisterous and gruff (Ann Richards and Carol Rylander),” Jillson says. “What you do not find in Texas, except in some fairly yeasty pockets, are feminist movement politicians.”

That may be part of the problem for Davis. “Wendy Davis’s strategic dilemma is that she came to broad public attention as a feminist movement politician with her famous filibuster against more stringent restrictions on abortion, but she knows she has to run her campaign on issues like education, roads, and water – mundane stuff that does not scare moderate suburban women away from her candidacy,” Jillson says. “The very effective, but entirely predictable, attack on her life story has stopped her transition from feminist fighter, (so-called) ‘abortion Barbie’ …to moderate, pragmatist and problem solver in its tracks.”

Women have made it to the top in Texas by stressing their problem-solving, practical skills. Richards was a county commissioner, then state treasurer before running for governor. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a University of Texas cheerleader, television news reporter, became a member of the Texas House of Representatives in 1972, where she served for four years, then went on to serve in the federal government, build a business and stay active in party politics, later winning a bid for state treasurer in 1990. She won big in a 1993 special election for the U.S. Senate and throughout her 20-year senate career Hutchison continued to win by overwhelming margins, always over 60 percent.

At one point Hutchison received over four million votes, more than any top of the ballot candidate except President George W. Bush. It was only when she decided to return to Texas and challenge Gov. Perry that her pragmatic approach and somewhat ambiguous views on abortion led her to run afoul of the rising Tea Party.

“One common characteristic that Kay Bailey Hutchison, Susan Combs and Carole Keeton Strayhorn share is all three were considered to be pragmatic centrists,” says Jones. Combs, a six foot tall lawyer with a degree from Vassar, has a resume that includes Wall Street, Madison Avenue, the Dallas prosecutor’s office, a stint in the statehouse, and authorship of a steamy romance novel starring a tall, brainy brunette. She also is a fourth generation Big Bend rancher who took command of the family’s cattle operations when her brother chose a different career path.

Combs took the GOP to task last fall, telling the Washington Times women voters care about three basic things — their families, their jobs and their futures. “Tell me that you give a flip about women’s interests,” she told the paper’s editorial board. “If all you want to talk about is my biology, ‘Gee what happened to my brain?’ That is my point. It is not all south of the waistline.” Combs decided to forego a bid for the lieutenant governorship this year in a Republican primary dominated by four conservatives that has been described by one Texas political wag as a race to the 19th century.

Democrats are hoping that the swing to the hard right will be a turnoff for Texas women. “The 1990 Richards campaign for governor was about suburban women,” Richards top aide Mary Beth Rogers wrote in the Texas Observer last fall. “We developed relevant targeted messages and voter contact activities aimed at moderate suburban women. It paid off on election day.” Citing a June 2013, Texas Tribune/University of Texas poll, Rogers noted only 38 percent of suburban women identified themselves as Republican, compared to 50 percent in 2010. On the other side, self-identified Democratic women increased from 37 percent to 46 percent. However, four months later, the same polling group found while Democratic share of suburban women remained at 46 percent, there had been a surge in Republican Party identification among suburban women to 45 percent, likely due to national issues such as Obamacare — statewide, the poll found more women, 68 percent, than men, 62 percent, opposed to the individual mandate.

As for abortion, the poll found 40 percent of Anglo women supported no restrictions, 41 percent of African-American women in Texas shared that position, but the number slipped to 32 percent for Hispanics. In a June, 2013 Tribune poll, 62 percent of Texans opposed abortions after 20 weeks — the issue at the heart of the Davis filibuster. Unlike the women who have gone before her — Richards, Hutchison, Strayhorn and Combs — Davis is not a familiar face to many Texans, and she does not arrive armed with kitchen table issues. There is no doubt she tackled those issues as a city councilwoman and later state senator in Fort Worth, but it was not her filibuster of cuts in public education in 2011 that launched her statewide bid, but her nationally-covered 2013 abortion rights stance.

A lot has changed in Texas since the early 1990s when Davis struggled to balance family and career, and Richards was winning her place in Texas political history. “The ‘D’ next to Richards’ name in 1990 represented an electoral advantage that mitigated the impact attacks on her for being ‘too liberal,’ ” Jones says. That ‘D’ label is now a disadvantage, one Davis must overcome without the distractions of campaign missteps and fuzzy bios. It is a tall task. “I suspect were Ann Richards running for governor today she very well might face even longer odds than Davis in a bid to defeat Greg Abbott,” Jones added. As for Abbott, campaign finance reports filed for January revealed he had raised a little over $3 million in January and had some $29.4 million on hand, while Davis had raised just under one million and had $10.2 million in reserve.

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