Governor Greg Abbott is adept at calculating his own personal political benefit before making any decision – a characteristic common among politicians. What is unusual about Abbott is the degree to which his calculations and actions are driven by fear and insecurity.
Abbott’s fear and insecurity were clearly on display when he followed County Judges Clay Jenkins and Lina Hidalgo early in the COVID-19 crisis. Since then, however, those same motivations have led him to follow Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Donald Trump—risking Texans’ lives and livelihoods in the process.
Far too often, we see Abbott’s political calculations end with outcomes that conflict with what is best for Texans. His inability to put Texas first has made Abbott a failed leader.
Texans Call Bull on Abbott’s Publicity Stunts
Last week, Abbott visited the White House for a publicity stunt with President Donald Trump to put a spin on their response to the pandemic. The whole charade looked like a desperate attempt to get some positive coverage in a state that currently has Trump locked in a dead heat with former vice-president Joe Biden. Abbott also took time away from his duties to go on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program where he flat-out lied while attacking the City of Houston.
Back home, Texans weren’t buying it. People of all stripes called out Abbott. The Houston Police Chief said the governor was a hypocrite for his executive order that led to the jailing of a hair salon owner.
Abbott’s posturing and attempts to take credit for the work local leaders have been doing to mitigate and contain the spread of the coronavirus are not going unnoticed. Erica Grieder from the Houston Chronicle said it bluntly: “Our governor has been dithering behind the scenes and playing to his political base in public.” On the Texas Take podcast, reporter Jeremy Wallace said Abbott’s comments on Hannity “…had nothing to do with the present moment.”
Abbott Already Abandoned His “Plan”
In Abbott’s May 1st press conference to “reopen the economy,” he said that massage parlors, hair salons and barber shops, along with gyms, bars, bowling alleys and arcades, would be open on May 18th. Although many were skeptical of the hurried timeline and confusing nature of his Trump-tailored plan, Abbott assured everyone that his decisions were backed by health experts and science.
Doctors and data quickly gave way to quacks and wingnuts. Not long after the “opening” announcement, right-wing provocateur Dr. Steve Hotze was holding virtual rallies (with obligatory commercials for his coronavirus cures) haranguing the governor for not taking measures that would have left the public even more vulnerable. State Representatives like Steve Toth and Briscoe Cain decided to make barber shops their crusade and demanded that Abbott open them up sooner. Abbott complied.
Instead of holding to the less-than-prudent timeline, Abbott went full leviathan and announced the opening of hair salons way ahead of schedule without any apparent influence from the medical community other than snake-oil salesman Dr. Hotze. Ironically, the right wing base he was hoping to appease saw through his scheme and continues to lambaste him for filing the executive order that led to the jailing of the Tea Party’s newly contrived celebrity.
Harris County Judge Hidalgo also endured the wrath of whiny outrage from the GOP over wearing masks, but she remained unfazed by those trying to score political points over her strong stances designed to expedite recovery and keep citizens safe.
Abbott is a Weak Leader Lacking a Moral Compass
Instead of focusing on orders designed to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, Abbott continues to choose politics over people. Instead of working on real solutions like testing, tracking and tracing, Abbott is making choices based on fear and insecurity. His decisions are leaving Texas families and the state’s economy in a vulnerable position.
No amount of Fox News interviews can cover up Abbott’s chaotic mismanagement in responding to this pandemic. The eyes of Texas continue to be upon Greg Abbott and they continue to see his failures.