UPDATE Feb. 4, 11, 7 a.m.: An additional five inches of snow now have fallen across North Texas. It’s a mess.

I’m sure there will be some who call me crazy for writing this in a GOP-controlled state, but hear me out.

North Texas is presently in the grips of some of it’s coldest weather in the past two-decades.  It’s even likely to snow in Houston tonight.

And noticeably absent from it all is Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  He’s in California, apparently commemorating Ronald Reagan.  And while I have a twin daughter named Reagan, and a matching one, named Haley–We have a note from Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour saying “You may be interested to know the first Haley in the Barbour family was a girl, too,”–invoking the initials RR is still considered Holy, but I think Gov. Perry should have come back home.

My Background

In 1988 I started in the Alabama Governor‘s Office as a lowly intern.  By 1992, I’d become the assistant press secretary to Gov. Guy Hunt, the first GOP governor in Alabama since Reconstruction, and then in 1995, I became the press secretary to Gov. Fob James, the only Democrat governor to endorse Ronald Reagan in 1980 who had switched parties in 1994 to run again as a Republican.  There were reporters in Alabama who seemed to have a sixth sense about when one of my governors was out of state.  Jay Reeves from the Birmingham Office of the Associated Press comes to mind.  Believe me, I’ve heard the “where’s the governor question many times.” It’s not a fun question to be left to answer.

Gov. Hunt, if you remember history, was out of state a numerous occasions that drew media attention.  In October 1995, Gov. James was flying back expeditiously from South Korean trade mission when Hurricane Opal hit the Gulf Coast and brought 115-mph winds to the Capital at 2 a.m.  While we were riding out the storm in the Capitol and coordinating with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Gov. James was in the air returning home.

Last month, when cold and ice had embraced Alabama and shut down nearly the entire state a couple days before Auburn was due to play in the National Championship Game in AZ, Gov. Bob Riley did what any governor would have done, even though he was leaving office in a matter of days–he stayed at home helping respond to the needs of those in his state who were suffering.

Wednesday In Texas

Yesterday morning at 5:58 a.m. my electricity went off.  It’s documented across my Twitter stream if you really want to check it out.  But what I’d noticed as peculiar, and even sent an email to a reporter friend of mine was this: “Where’s Rick Perry been?  I’ve not seen him on TV once.  Has he really just abdicated the responsibility for what’s going on up here in North Texas to the Super Bowl Committee?”

My power was off for 10 hours.  There were thousands of others like me whose power was off for as long, and then there were others across the state who had to deal with the rolling blackouts.

So What About Rick Perry?

Could his having been in Austin have made a difference?  When the state’s Democratic Party in a vitriol that really ruined their credibility in asking where he was with a news–well, in their case, this was a press release–said, “RICK PERRY WAS CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ WHILE TEXANS ENDURED BLACKOUT NIGHTMARE,” Perry’s Press Secretary Mark Miner said, “It shows the Democrats are out of touch.  He’s been in constant communication with the office and is dealing with the weather situation and other issues facing the state on a regular basis.”

According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, “On Thursday, Perry was on board the USS Reagan and was scheduled to spend the night on the sea-borne aircraft carrier.  Perry is among hundreds of Republican dignitaries who will be attending the weekend festivities commemorating the birth of the 40th president, who died in 2004.”

The 11th Commandment

Now I know, I’m tip-toeing along the edge of President Reagan’s 11th Commandment of, “Thou shall not speak ill of another Republican,” here, but there’s little other way to sum all this up.  Gov. Perry had no business getting on a plane on Wednesday and flying to California when one of the largest natural disasters has been in progress in his state. There’s little better way to say that.  And no doubt. Mr. Miner knows it, he just can’t say it.

David Dewhurst

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst apparently was left “in charge” while Perry was away.  Surely Mr. Dewhurst has aspirations of being governor some day, too.  I’ve watched him from since the 1994 days when my friend Johnny Williams, one of the original people using decked out buses for political campaigns, came to Texas to drive Dewhurst around when he was running for Land Commissioner.

So, now that I know Perry was MIA, my next question becomes, “What was Dewhurst doing?” This was his opportunity to shine.  He should have led a state delegation up here to North Texas, flown in on a Texas National Guard helicopter with the director of Texas EMA, TxDOT, you name it, and joined with the mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth, Jerry Jones, Kid Rock, Aaron Rodgers, whomever, and talked about what was/is being done on the state level to ensure that things are being addressed to help with the Super Bowl, how he’ll be leading the inquiry as to how those rolling blackouts happened, and more importantly, offering words of comfort to those of us who live here. 

Need I also mention that there’s only and extra 5,200 reporters here in DFW this week?

But to my knowledge, that didn’t happen.

The Democratic Party in Texas should be called to the carpet, too.  This isn’t time for vitriol.  It’s a time for action, sympathy, empathy, and reaching out to those who are suffering and say, “Help is on it’s way.” What Democratic leader did you send to North Texas? Exactly.

Rick Perry

I wish Rick Perry had been here in North Texas yesterday.  I mean that from a professional standpoint.  I’ve walked through my share of disaster areas.  I’ve been the only one in Montgomery to drive three times in one day to and from my home to the Alabama Capitol in 1993 during the “Blizzard of the Century.”

I arranged for the Alabama National Guard to rescue half-dressed teens atop the only real mountain in Alabama in that snow storm and saw it as the lead on NBC Nightly News.  I flew via National Guard helicopter to Birmingham to have that meeting I talked about with other members of the governor’s Cabinet and  Jefferson County EMA, the Mayor of Birmingham, et al officials because Gov. Hunt was snowed in in North Alabama and couldn’t get out.

I’ve walked through the remains of an F-5 tornado with Gov. James, who ultimately could do little more than pledge support from the state, and offer a reassuring hand shake, or hug, or pat on the back to victims and those working round the clock to help dig out of the mess. People appreciate their elected leaders at these times more than they do for signing a bill, issuing a proclamation or much of anything else. Heck, even President Obama realizes this.

All that was missed out yesterday.  But hey, riding on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific today while it’s still cold here and school districts are going to be closed again tomorrow with more snow on the way tonight….  Yeah, the Democratic Party in Texas is out of touch.

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