Well, hasn’t this just been a frustrating few weeks for Texas Attorney General/Gov.-in-waiting Greg Abbott? Once again, President Barack Obama is doing everything he can to annoy Abbott. Obama pretty much does that by waking up each morning.
But this new White House strategy has got to be particularly galling to Abbott, who often offers this job self-description: “I go into the office in the morning, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home.” (Wow, this guy works even less than I do.)
Abbott’s made a political living out of suing the Obama administration. “My record against Obama Admin? 9 wins vs. 8 losses = step in right direction,” he recently tweeted. (Hmm, that record would get a Longhorn football coach a one-way ticket to spending more time with his family.)
You know how you hate it when people you don’t like agree with you? That’s what Abbott is enduring in a budding, if limited-purpose, bromance with Obama. Greg and Barack, just a couple of guys going hand-in-hand to the courthouse. (FYI, all seemed back to normal late last week when the feds sued to Texas over voter ID.)
Both current cases in which Obama and Abbott are on the same team involve the heavens. Abbott and the Obama administration this month filed separate briefs urging the U.S. Supreme Court to side with Greece (the town near Rochester, N.Y., not the country near Macedonia) in defense of the prayers that open its town board meetings, a practice struck down by a federal appeals court.
Also this month, and again looking skyward, the Obama administration and Abbott joined in a lawsuit challenging the proposed merger of American Airlines and US Airways.
Next: Cats sleep with dogs; Aggies marry Longhorns (though do not sleep with them); reporters agree with editors (there is some history of reporters sleeping with editors).
The prayer fight is an interesting one, especially for folks, like me, who’ve long been perplexed by the Texas Legislature’s practice of opening each day’s session with prayers that often are religion-specific.
Until 1999, Greece’s town board opened its meetings with a moment of silence, which is, of course, the way to do it. Since then, the town has been inviting local clergy to pray at the meetings. Until 2008, it was a Christian-only list of pastors who often mentioned Christ. The list has since been expanded. Prayers now have been offered by a lay Jewish man, the chair of a Baha’i congregation and a wiccan priestess. (It is my personal prayer than I’m on hand the day the Texas House opens a session with a prayer from a wiccan priestess.)
Greece’s prayer practice was challenged in court by two Grecians (one atheist and one who thought the prayers were inappropriate). A trial court sided with the town, but the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals (based in godless New York City) ruled Greece’s prayer practice “affiliated the town with a single creed, Christianity, in violation of the (Constitution’s) Establishment Clause.”
The case of prayers to a supreme being now is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, where Abbott and Obama are allied in their defense of public, sectarian prayer at public, non-sectarian meetings. They’re both wrong, of course, and I think they’d see the light if they had to sit through day after day after day of government-meeting prayers of a religion other than their own.
The briefs filed by the feds and Abbott (whose was filed on behalf of 23 states) rely heavily on the that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it line of reasoning, generally one of my favorite lines of reasoning but dumb in this case.
“Despite hundreds of years of established tradition and a Supreme Court ruling upholding the right of legislatures to convene each day with a prayer,” Abbott said in filing the brief, “the town of Greece, New York has been improperly prohibited from beginning their monthly town board meetings with a prayer.”
Said the feds in their brief: “When the First Congress met in 1789, among its first orders of business was to select chaplains for the House of Representatives and Senate.”
The newly forged Obama/Abbott alliance also was in sync this month in joining together in the lawsuit claiming the big-airlines merger would be bad for America. (Full disclosure: I’m for the merger because, though it very well might be bad for America, I think it could allow me to use my US Airways miles, which now have limited use for me, on more routes.)
Abbott’s announcement of the airline lawsuit noted that “the State of Texas, along with Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Department of Justice” had sued to challenge the merger. And good for Abbott’s folks, though relegating the U.S. Department of Justice to last in the listing, for not putting the federal agency in tinier type or noting that it is controlled by devil worshippers.
Are we in a new era of good feelings between Abbott and Obama? Doubtful. I’ll believe it when I hear this from Abbott: “I go into the office in the morning, I call Barack Obama to thank him for all the wonderful things he’s done for America, and then I go home.”