January 22, 2014

#WendyDavis - not ready for the big leagues? Or, getting caught napping? (updated)

This piece by Wayne Slater, dean of the Morning News' political writers, tends to increase thoughts that I had since last December, with her pandering to moderates in Waxahachie, that she had some rough edges and time would tell how much she would overcome them.

UPDATED, Jan. 22: It's hard-hitting but straightforward, and in no way a hack job.

But, it was turned into a hack job by the Abbott campaign, of course.

James Moore says it is sexist, because Texans would be drooling over a similar life story from a man. I'll give him half a point there, and a full point for saying, "This is Texas, of course, and political idiocy is a bigger bumper crop than oil."

At the same time, as director of the Progress Texas PAC, Moore's got a dog in this hunt.

Per CNN, without a dog in the hunt, Jeff Davis is tired of the Abbott campaign attack dogs. And since, for better or for worse, Wendy has become political BFFs with folks like the Bass family, and Jeff surely still has connections, this could backfire.

One could argue Davis isn't ready for the big leagues; Moore says she could have done better than used "tighter language":
This isn't to say her campaign hasn't bungled a few things in its early stages. Details would have prevented the current attack. ...

The Davis Campaign should have come up with something considerably better for a response than having an articulate candidate say she needed to use "tighter language" because it suggests there is a marketing team at work and not a basic truth.
Or, one could argue that, given she worked hard enough to be Texas Monthly's "Rookie of The Year" in 2009 in the Texas Senate, graduated first in her class before going to Harvard Law and other things, that maybe she thought she'd get more of a pass from the media than she has, on her "loose language," her campaign finance reporting and more. Along the lines of Moore, who knows about packaging politicians, maybe it's not that there's a marketing team at work, but the WRONG one.

And, because I don't think Slater's original piece was a hack job, and while it may have been a bit sexist, it wasn't just that, and it wasn't that, that much, back to my original piece below the fold.

I think there's still enough to raise an eyebrow or two, and if the story isn't "tight" enough, how much of it unravels?

Slater focuses on her Today show appearance of last week, and notes that while many of the broad outlines are true, a number of the details aren't quite so true, and thus, neither is one part of the broad outline. And, that is that Davis might not have been so financially self-sufficient as she has claimed. 

Here's the set-up graf:
  • The basic elements of the narrative are true, but the full story of Davis’ life is more complicated, as often happens when public figures aim to define themselves. In the shorthand version that has developed, some facts have been blurred.

True? Davis herself indirectly admits so:
In an extensive interview last week, Davis acknowledged some chronological errors and incomplete details in what she and her aides have said about her life.

“My language should be tighter,” she said. “I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.”
I, in turn, raise at least one of my two eyebrows.

Davis is a lawyer. Graduate of Harvard Law, where our constitutional law scholar president attended. So, shouldn't she know more about tighter language? That said, as Dear Leader has repeatedly shown about things such as NSA spying, "tight language" is no guarantor of honesty, just harder-core spin.

That said, 

Per Slater, the biggest blurring, or, er ... fuzzy math? relates to the funding of her Harvard Law attendance. And TCU before that:
Jeff Davis paid for her final two years at TCU. “It was community resources. We paid for it together,” Wendy Davis said.

When she was accepted to Harvard Law School, Jeff Davis cashed in his 401(k) account and eventually took out a loan to pay for her final year there.

“I was making really good money then, well over six figures,” he said. “But when you’ve got someone at Harvard, you’ve got bills to pay, you’ve got two small kids. The economy itself was marginal. You do what you have to do, no big deal.” ...

Over time, the Davises’ marriage was strained. In November 2003, Wendy Davis moved out.

Jeff Davis said that was right around the time the final payment on their Harvard Law School loan was due. “It was ironic,” he said. “I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left.”
Wendy Davis said that as a lawyer, she contributed too.

“I was a vibrant part of contributing to our family finances from the time I graduated to the time we separated in 2003,” she said. “The idea that suddenly there was this instantaneous departure after Jeff had partnered so beautifully with me in putting me through school is just absurd.”
Slater's got bits on other things, including but not limited to her GOP leanings while on the Fort Worth City Council.

I support her looking for additional campaign issues beyond reproductive choice, including ones designed to appeal to centrist independents and moderate GOP leaners. But, I don't want that done at the expense of abandoning true liberal positions on social issues, nor failure to better articulate true liberal positions on economic issues.

And, one final aside. It's interesting, from the disputes with her second ex over how her TCU and Harvard education was funded (even if they're now making nice in public), through alleged conflicts of interest between her law firm practice and her service in the Texas Senate, on to Greg Abbott's claims of fuzzy math in financing of her education proposals, and culminating, so far, in her endorsement of Daddy Warbucks as her choice for the Democratic nomination in the U.S. Senate primary, how all of these stumbles are in some way related to money.

Whether it's old fear of money insecurity, money lust today, or what, I don't know.

I'm not sure what that means, but that's my observation.



Perry has two good points in comments. I addressed the one briefly, and the other indirectly and briefly, but want to do more.

Is it more than a molehill? I'd say a little bit, but it's still closer to molehill than mountain. Had I not connected it in my mind to other money issues, I'd probably have written less about it.

Is it sexist?

Some of it, I could say yes, period.

Other parts of it, I could say, yes,  but not *just* sexist.

Other parts, I could call "classist," and perhaps on Davis, not Slater.

Let me "unpack."

Exactly when she moved into the trailer home? That's nitpicking, and it's a level of nitpicking that no male candidate is as likely to face. So, sexism, and only sexism is arguably at p lay.

Her ex funding her TCU and Harvard work? Plenty of wives fund husbands' college or grad school. Arguably sexism.

But, if it's part of a candidate's narrative, a male candidate, or a female one, can always thank the spouse. And, Davis didn't.

That said, Jeff Davis is her ex, not her husband. As I said briefly in my response to Perry, I'll say here now. Maybe not all is hunky and dory on the Davis vs. Davis horizon. In fact, one wonders if Jeff Davis, or somebody who knows him, didn't take the lead in making contact with Slater, although I may be reading too much into things. (I've done that before.)

(If I'm not overreading too badly? Sexism, or not, there's still an element of realpolitik. Any politician who has an ex-spouse has to deal with it. Sometimes you get lucky. Ronnie Reagan and Jane Wyman were amicable, and she wasn't that interested in politics, anyway.

If the Davises still have any bones of contention, election day is still more than 10 months away. Wendy Davis will have to make sure that, if I'm barking up the right tree, or at least on the right lawn, this is a tree that doesn't bark more in the future.)

And, it's not just Wendy and Jeff. Perry points out this from Slater's piece, that I didn't jump on at first:
A former colleague and political supporter who worked closely with Davis when she was on the council said the body’s work was very time-consuming. 
“Wendy is tremendously ambitious,” he said, speaking only on condition of anonymity in order to give what he called an honest assessment. “She’s not going to let family or raising children or anything else get in her way.” 
He said: “She’s going to find a way, and she’s going to figure out a way to spin herself in a way that grabs at the heart strings. A lot of it isn’t true about her, but that’s just us who knew her. But she’d be a good governor.”
Well, hell. I agree with him to a fair degree on not liking anonymous sourcing. But, it's not a total slap. Let's call it a backhanded compliment. That said, former colleague? Well, it's obviously from Cowtown's City Council. But whom? Surely, speculation is running rampant, or will be?

Someone who agrees with her politically, but got personally shivved by her, I'll venture.

Per my note, she could have framed this in terms of Hillary Clinton's "it takes a village" angle, and noted the communitarian support she got from her ex. She could have also noted other untraditional things about her career path while still giving Jeff a stroke or two.

"Ex" explosions may not be as bad as bimbo explosions, but, more and more politicians will have to deal with them in the future.

Now, the "classism" issue.

The whole trailer issue. I don't know how good, or bad, the individual trailer or the trailer park were. It could be a rightful appeal to class. (In which case, then why did you endorse Daddy Warbucks, once again?) Both Davis, and reporters interviewing her, have to be careful about not perpetuating "trailer trash" stereotypes.

Finally, the "spinning." She is surely right on her helping pay off her Harvard Law loan. TCU may be different. One could arguably count "sweat equity" as paying together, but I'll assume TCU's finance department doesn't.


No, now final. THIS:

Per a Texas Trib profiler of a couple months ago, she sued the Startlegram and its corporate parents after losing her 2006 Fort Worth City Council race?

More and more, I'm looking at the Davis-Abbott race as two lawyers trying to outlawyer one another. And hence, unlike Perry, I'm not so harsh on the anonymous commenter. Maybe said person is afraid of getting shivved again. Or sued.

And now, Davis' mother's education is in the spotlight. Davis says elsewhere that she confused it with her grandfather's. And, yes, as weird as it sounds (I thought it was a Poe until I deleted the piece), her mom's name, after remarriage, is Cornstubble, per Jonathan Tilove.

He links to PolitiFact, which quotes Davis' father as having his ex remarry not just once, but twice, and with the second one being "Ira Cornstubble":
Russell said that his ex-wife remarried two or three years after their split and then another time later. He declined to elaborate. According to online Tarrant County records, Davis’ mother, Virginia, whom we failed to reach, married Ira Cornstubble in May 1994.
OK, now we're getting into bizarro world.

Yes, the confusion of Davis' mother and grandfather may be just that.

But, maybe it's another bit of spin.

And, per Tilove, I guess this Facebook page is authentic. It's weird to NOT have Davis' own pic among any pics in general besides the profile pic, or to not see Wendy Davis listed among her mom's family, or a personal Facebook page she might have listed as a "friend" of her mother's, on her mom's page.

So, I deleted the original post I had claiming it was a Poe.

And, I apologize to Ryan Rusak, and have done so by email already.

Instead, I'll probably work on another blog post, asking about her family.

Because, as I said in my deleted post about what I thought was a Poe, did anybody in the media try to call Davis' mom about any of this? I mean, before he died, her dad was being quoted all the time, but I never heard word one from Davis' mom.

Or word one from Davis ABOUT her mom.

So, Davis camp folks, I probably am going to do another piece, this one about another small piece of the puzzle, but still a puzzling one — what's up between Davis and her mom? In fact, I just emailed Tilove asking his thoughts.


PDiddie said...

It's not a quite a molehill. She should be getting her age at the time of her first divorce correct, but that's not a big deal.

I will wait -- but not hold my breath -- to see if any male candidate running for any office anywhere gets this level of scrutiny into his personal life (that does bring it upon himself with salacious behavior). There's a whiff of sexism demonstrated again in this journalistic exercise.

That's unfortunate but is also the standard. Davis should make sure she clears the higher bar set for women.

Gadfly said...

"It's not quite a molehill" is about right.

Misremembering 19 as 21 or whatever, doesn't bother me.

The money issues do, though, as a bit more than a molehill.

And, public smiley faces aside, not all is right between her and her second ex, twould seem.

As for "own two feet," she could have spun this, or presented it straight up, as a story of "it takes a village" communitarianism, government safety net aid and more.

PDiddie said...

"that does *not* bring it on himself" in the prior.