How the Travis County GOP is defusing its Robert Morrow problem

6:43 p.m Wednesday, June 1, 2016 Local

With the exquisite care of a bomb squad, the Travis County Republican Party is seeking to defuse its Robert Morrow problem by crafting rules that will enable the party to function as normally as possible under a duly elected chairman who has described himself, with considerable understatement, as “Donald Trump on steroids.”

For a few earnest hours Tuesday night, about 50 precinct chairs gathered at St. Paul Lutheran School in Austin for a special meeting of the county party’s executive committee to discuss and tentatively approve changes in the bylaws to reclaim powers precinct chairmen had ceded over the years to the county chair without thinking that top post might one day fall to a man who tweets incessantly about his love of women’s breasts, the size of his penis and outlandish theories involving former presidents.

Morrow defeated James Dickey, the incumbent party chairman, in the March 1 primary without mounting a campaign, apparently on the strength of his common name and superior ballot placement. He quickly became a national sensation and the media darling of those who live to mock Republicans or Texas or both.

READ: Robert Morrow seeks to use his elected post to promote “alternative histories” on the Bush family, Rick Perry, Karl Rove and LBJ.

But, for all his bombast, Morrow has greeted the effort to circumscribe his power with equanimity, even approval — a reprieve from scut work — as long as party apparatchiks leave him with the title and the bully pulpit.

In other words, if they let Morrow be Morrow, he will let the Travis County Republican Party be something like a normal Republican Party, more or less, which is a relief for a party leaders for whom trying to remove Morrow would have probably only succeeded in generating more headlines.

“Attention is the last thing that any of us want,” Dickey said.

Like any bomb squad, the executive committee is tensed with apprehension that, at any moment, things could blow up.

But Dickey, who has been in conversation with his successor, sought to offer some reassurance.

“We don’t have a Machiavellian, power-hungry, abusive, wannabe dictator,” Dickey said.

Morrow, Dickey said, “doesn’t have anywhere in his list of priorities causing damage to the Republican Party of Travis County. It might be a side effect, but it doesn’t appear to be his goal.”

The precinct chairs laughed nervously.

Under state law, the county chairman is responsible for running the GOP primaries, including certifying results and signing the checks for those working on the election, and that can’t be changed. But Dickey said that Morrow told him, “Tell me what I need to do, I’ll do it.”

The bylaw changes must be formally approved at the regular executive committee meeting Tuesday, and then again when a new executive committee is organized and Morrow assumes the chairmanship on June 28.

The executive committee also voted to ask its rules committee to create a new entity — outside of Morrow’s control — to raise money, support candidates and control the party’s database and social media accounts.

As much as Morrow might appear to be a fringe figure on the political landscape, he is the co-author with Roger Stone, a longtime Donald Trump confidant, of the 2015 book, “The Clintons’ War on Women,” which already appears to be serving as a playbook for Trump in his attacks on Bill Clinton for alleged sexual misconduct and on Hillary Clinton for her alleged role in covering up for her husband.

Skyhorse Publishing describes the book as “the gripping true story of vicious sexual assault and rape of dozens of innocent women by Bill Clinton and the terror campaign by Hillary to discredit, degrade and silence them.”

On Friday, Morrow submitted the book for inclusion in the Texas Book Festival, which will take place on the eve of the November election.

“I am a resident of Austin, TX as well as the incoming chair of the Travis County Republican Party and I have been broadly covered in the media including by John Oliver of ‘Last Week Tonight,’” Morrow wrote in the submission letter. “Both I and Roger Stone would love to present our book, the ultimate demolition of Bill and Hillary Clinton, to the participants of the 2016 Texas Book Festival.”

In the meantime, Dickey closed Tuesday’s meeting with this benediction for the detente between the Travis County Republican party and its new leader: “Let him have his piece, and let him go in peace.”

Judging by his tweets Wednesday, Morrow was cool with the new rules.

“I will retain the Bully Pulpit and there is real power in that,” he tweeted at 2:09 p.m.

And, seconds later, “Travis County Republican party leadership will be very pro big (breasts).”