I am a big fan of D Magazine, and every once in a while, they show me some love too, even if it’s to bust my chops because of our differing politics. But I am always up for that, and I proudly display the 2014 “Best Local Tweeter” I won from their readers in “Best of Big D.” Overall, the relationship has been: I occasionally talk about stuff they write, and they occasionally post about stuff I say on the radio or write in the Dallas Morning News. All good.
Until things get ugly, which happened this morning in a most surprising form: a snotty tweet from a guy I really respect, D editor Tim Rogers. His @timmytyper twitter handle is one of my favorites, filled with visitations on local politics and culture. So imagine my surprise when this talented man reacted to my Dallas Morning News column with a combination of sloppy assertions and outright venom. But not to worry, there has been healing. I thoughtfully replied several times as to what I think he got totally wrong, and he thoughtfully replied back, eventually posting a piece recounting the whole thing, which is very entertaining and even kind at times but still confoundingly misstates some of what I said.
But enough setup, here’s what you need. My column:
And Tim’s account of our Thursday morning Twitter dance:
Tim’s annotation technique is effective, so I’ll borrow it:
Tim neglects to share with you his tweet that got the ball rolling, in which he says I “equated” rioting with sideline protests, which is wholly false. They are both forms of lamentable misdirected excess, but one is criminally violent and the other just repulsively obnoxious. But whatever. Snarky tweets are a fun part of every day. Here’s what stood out: “Mark Davis is a right-wing profiteer. That the Dallas Morning News publishes his dreck is regrettable.”
Wow. Hard to know which is more peculiar, the “profiteer” slur or the notion that certain points of view should not be in the newspaper. A journalist says this? (By the way, “dreck” was no problem at all. if he simply hated what I said, that line is long with every column I write.)
Anyway, to the text. In reply to my distinction between the rioting and the sideline protests (proving that I did not “equate” them, as he insists on repeating), Tim wrote:
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hang on. The sideline protests seem polite because they are. And by politely protesting, these athletes are engaging in one of the most American things they can do. That’s not disrespectful at all.
Then, what’s the deal with that last part? They have the freedom to speak out any time they wish — as long as it’s on their own time? I’m confused. Can they do it any time or can’t they?
If gestures of rank desecration of our patriotic traditions are “polite” and “not disrespectful,” words have lost their meaning. Not all forms of protest instantly become praiseworthy as “American.” And this is not a freedom issue, it is a propriety issue. NFL quarterbacks and high school volleyball teams are “free” to engage in whatever hateful antics they wish; they will not be fined or hauled off to prison. The problem is that such behaviors are tolerated and even welcomed by people who think it’s fine for activists to mount a behavioral soapbox any old time they please, turning a sacred occasion of community recognition of national pride into personal performance art.
Tim also believes, as do many, that when grand juries do not do what they wish, that means the system does not work:
Jokes aside, this is the paragraph that set me off. No, America is not prepared to get to the bottom of shootings like these. That’s what the sideline protests are about. In America, people are getting killed by police way too frequently. A disproportionate number of the bodies are black. Tamir Rice was 12 years old, for crying out loud. A cop shot and killed him within two seconds of getting out of his squad car. A grand jury thought it was justified. The killings continue. Getting to the bottom of them seems a long way off.
It seems “a long way off” only if one thinks one knows more than grand juries do. The Tamir Rice jury said officers did not act criminally for their split-second action upon seeing someone with a gun, a nightmare scenario cops endure all the time, which editors and talk show hosts have no concept of, something we would do well to remember before twisting off as if we know everything. I trust all of the folks who see an obstructionist white conspiracy have noted that Tulsa Officer Betty Shelby has been charged before her gun fully cooled.
Tim wraps up with an admission that his initial tweet was in the throes of an angry reaction to my column. Okay, we’ve all been there. He then reverts to the guy I recognize, sharing an affinity for me that I have for him as well:
Last night, those equations led me to fire off a tweet that was a bit strident. It led to the following exchange between me and Davis, who, I should say, I have met and found to be delightful. I just think much of what he writes and says is distasteful.
Well, thanks, I guess.
But here’s the point. What happened here was a pretty meaty and worthwhile exchange of ideas, of the type that would be beneficial across the nation if conducted in an atmosphere of goodwill. But that becomes difficult when one side suggests that the opposing view is not even fit to see the light of day (okay, he distanced from that one). “Distasteful” is interesting. So I have to accept pampered athletes and local school districts screwing up moments of collective patriotic respect— but my column criticizing that is “distasteful?” That’s jacked up.
So anyway, good times. The folks at D have cranked out some words about me and my views that have struck me at times as completely wrong-headed. Ultimately my reaction is the same: I appreciate them for consuming my work and deeming it worthy of attention. So in the spirit of playing nice, I offer one of the most wonderful things Tim ever wrote, from three years ago: the story of an entire summer month in Dallas wearing a tuxedo:
The final 100 days of the presidential campaign will be filled with enough contentious moments. It is the height of unfortunate circumstance that we have burned the last few days on a firestorm that was wholly preventable, and which has been miscast from its inception.
The origin of the story has been obscured by posturing and blathering by all sides. The basic foundation is this: In Khizr Khan, the Democratic National Committee found the most sympathetic figure possible to launch a baseless, insulting attack on Donald Trump.
Everyone respects the Khan family’s sacrifice. The DNC knew they were giving podium time to someone who could not be rebutted on equal footing. Throw in the hyper-reactive instincts of Trump, and they crafted a sublime trap that the entire GOP seems to have walked into.
The days of hand-wringing over who does and does not value their son’s service have been a complete waste of time. No one, not Donald Trump, not his voters, not a single voice of consequence in conservatism, fails to honor the Khan family for what they have endured. This is not the point.
The point is: Does his pain entitle Khizr Khan to falsely attack Donald Trump from Hillary Clinton’s convention stage, without response? He has the right to say whatever he wishes, of course. But if Mr. Khan chooses to wrap his gripes about Donald Trump in the honorable cloth of his Gold Star family status, that cannot stand. There is nothing about his loss that gives him a basis for the derisive and inaccurate verbal assault he launched from the stage in Philadelphia. Democrats knew exactly what they were doing. Their entire convention had been a broad slander of Trump as some racist, misogynist monster. But put those words into a speech by a grieving father, and they are much harder to counter. For his part, Trump did a predictably terrible job in a response that completely armed every critic of his with further evidence that he is incapable of nuance.
So here’s the proper answer to Mr. Khan: All Americans honor you and thank you for raising such a wonderful son, and we grieve with you. However, in taking on a sharply political role at a political event to level a bitter personal attack, you invite reactions that necessarily and unfortunately take us away from that goodwill. Your aggressiveness toward Mr. Trump is wildly misdirected. He is simply not talking about you, your son or any Muslim-American citizen. His immigration policy is born of a desire to lessen the risk of further deaths by the spread of Muslim jihad. You may disagree with his position, but to characterize it in the dark and condemning tones you chose cannot go unaddressed. Millions of Americans agree with Mr. Trump while harboring no grudge against you. Would you characterize those millions of Americans in the same cruel tone you reserved for him?
See? It is not difficult to identify a political attack while making clear that a response to it in no way disparages what the person at the source of the attack has been through. But this is one skill set Donald Trump has not honed, so while the initial offense is the DNC decision to use a Gold Star family as a delivery device for a blatant reputational assault, Trump bears responsibility for not handling it more deftly. That said, if Trump could not explain this skillfully, the Republicans who have felt a need to pile onto him surely could have done so. But they are scared to death of running afoul of the dominating media narrative– that Trump is an Islamophobe who deserved the Khan comeuppance. The Hillary Clinton campaign will use a variety of sympathetic characters to give voice to a relentless assault on Donald Trump as a person. They will do it because they know they will lose if they come after him on a number of actual issues. Republicans had better start learning how to reply better when the next attack comes.
Say this for John Kasich, John McCain and the Bushes. At least they did not deliver a giant “screw you” to Donald Trump from the stage of his convention.
But Ted Cruz is an in-your-face kind of guy, and that’s what we have loved about him. He gets in the face of Democrats when he fights against their agenda; he gets in the face of Republicans he deems unworthy fighters.
And on Wednesday night, he looked into the faces of largely unified convention delegates and made clear he has not gotten past the battles of the primary season.
Those of us inclined to react negatively should put ourselves in Cruz’s shoes. It cannot be easy to pivot to support a rival who called you a liar and dishonored your wife. But there are prospects worse than that. Far worse. They are packaged together in the dismal realities that lie ahead in a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Cruz could have delivered an inspiring, unifying, historic healing moment in his remarks. He chose instead to share some familiar lines echoing the values we have come to love about him, but then dropped the code-word that every Trump-hater understood, suggesting voters follow their “conscience.”
Translation: it’s okay for you to deny Trump your vote.
At that moment, history was made. I never thought I would hear a Cruz speech that actually made it easier for Hillary to win. But there it was. Now I have to figure out what I think of this.
My admiration for Ted Cruz is unsurpassed among any of the elected officials I have ever voted for. For that reason, this hurts. I had actually predicted that Cruz would come around, freeing his huge supporter base to join him in putting the grudges of the primaries behind us and uniting to beat Hillary. I feel a little foolish.
I underestimated the degree to which Cruz aligns with those voices who continue to mysteriously find a basis in “principle” for failing to support Trump. In the early spring, these conversations were fine. I supported Cruz at that time because I wanted his upbeat, unapologetic conservatism in the White House.
On Wednesday night, I wanted leadership of another kind. With the primary battles long over and the will of the people made clear, I wanted him to lead us into a cohesive effort to do what every conservative should view as imperative: beat Hillary Clinton.
But other things are more important to Cruz right now. Speculation swirls as to what they might be, but some of his supporters are left wondering why his indomitable fighting spirit cannot be brought to bear to prevent Obama’s third term,
Stories immediately shook loose about donors and supporters reacting with ferocious negativity. Some of that bad blood spilled onto my Twitter feed. “I’m done with him.” “I can’t believe he would take that stage and fail to support who the voters wanted.” “This was political suicide.”
Well, let’s tap the brakes on that. It is a long bridge to a 2018 re-election bid filled with voters willing to punish Cruz by firing him for this abandonment of the only human being that can beat Hillary. If Trump wins, all will be forgiven and he will ultimately still be Ted Cruz, with a long list of strengths that will still outshine any challenger.
But if Trump loses, as we prepare for the Hillary inauguration, we will remember every word from every soul who ever attempted to tell us they were acting on “principle” in helping her win. We will remember every voice referring to helping Hilary as an act of “conscience.” We will remember.
Cruz has a window here to make this right. No one is looking for a chest-bump and clasped hands at Trump Tower. But those of us who love Ted Cruz as we gear up to defeat Hillary Clinton are praying that America’s foremost conservative legislative hero can find it in his heart to join us as we try to save our nation.