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The Election, Gay Marriage And The GOP


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. Standstill, nowhere, nothing happening - House Republicans ask the president to talk, but they know taxes top his Christmas list. It's Wednesday and time for a...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Naughty and nice...

CONAN: Edition of the Political Junkie.


PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?

SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

SENATOR LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.


PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: But I'm the decider.


CONAN: Every Wednesday, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics: resolution on one 2012 House race, a retirement from another district and a runoff on Saturday. Dick Armey gets a buyout to step down from the Tea Party group FreedomWorks, Fox puts Karl Rove and Dick Morris on the bench - at least for now.

Wildcat Ashley Judd mulls a campaign against Mitch McConnell, and a bit later in the program, we'll remember Texas Democrat Jack Brooks and get a different take on the numbers on gay marriage. Plus, part three in our series of conversations on the fiscal cliff, Utah Republican and Budget Committee member Jason Chaffetz.

But first, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. As usual, we begin with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi, Neal. Well, you just mentioned Jack Brooks. He was a member of the House Judiciary Committee. And, matter of fact, he was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when he was defeated for reelection in 1994. Of course, he died last night at the age of 89.

Anyway, the guy who beat him was a guy named Steve Stockman. I don't know why I'm going into this whole thing, but...

CONAN: Go ahead.

RUDIN: ...the interesting part - if there's something interesting in this, and I doubt it - but Steve Stockman was actually elected to Congress this month, last month. What was the question, Neal? OK, anyway, the point is, so Steve Stockman defeated Jack Brooks in 1994. So the question is: Who was...

CONAN: Before him.

RUDIN: Yes, exactly. Who was the last person to defeat a House Judiciary Committee chairman prior to Steve Stockman?

CONAN: If you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question - and boy, we're really interested to hear from you. If you think you know the answer to the person - last person to defeat a House Judiciary Committee chairman prior to Steve Stockman, give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. Ken?

RUDIN: Now we mock, but this is actually - this answer does have something very - a very big historical...

CONAN: Historical value.

RUDIN: Yes, indeed.

CONAN: And, of course, it's got real value. The winner gets a Political Junkie T-shirt for free, and that precious Political Junkie no-prize winner button that only goes to winners.

RUDIN: A lot of Political Junkie fans have been getting the T-shirts. Really, the shirt has been hitting the fans. That's right.


CONAN: OK, we don't have actual votes. We do have an actual recount, though.

RUDIN: We do, actually. All the recounts are now over. Mike McIntyre, the Democratic congressman from North Carolina's Seventh Congressional District, he will win his seventh term or eighth - ninth term, I'm sorry. David Rouzer, the Republican, conceded last week. And so all the - so we now know that the Democrats have picked up eight seats in the House. There is still one more congressional race for 2012, and that's this Saturday in Louisiana, two members, two Republican members, incumbents, Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry - Landry backed by the Tea Party, Boustany backed by the establishment. They go into a runoff on Saturday, but, of course, either way, the Republicans keep that seat.

CONAN: Well, they may have an open seat to defend. Missouri's Jo Ann Emerson, just right after reelection, decides K Street offers more than Capitol Hill.

RUDIN: That's interesting, yeah. She was reelected last month, but then she announced on Monday that she'll become the president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. I should tell you that's the same group that gave her more campaign contributions than any other group, interesting. Anyway, that's Missouri's Eighth Congressional District. I think it's southeast Missouri. It's a very strong Republican district. Jo Ann Emerson was in the Congress since 1996, succeeding her husband, Bill Emerson, who died in office.

CONAN: And the candidates have emerged to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. in Illinois.

RUDIN: Yes, that - one name, of course a lot of people roll their eyes, but Mel Reynolds, Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s predecessor, who resigned from Congress in 1995 after pleading guilty to having sex with a 16-year-old girl, Mel Reynolds is back. But so are a lot of other candidates.

And as we've said in the past, there are a lot of - it's an overwhelmingly African-American district. But there is one white candidate, former one-term member of Congress Debbie Halvorson. Black leaders are very nervous that the black vote could be split and allow Halvorson to win.

CONAN: There is a potential candidate in the state of Kentucky. Wildcat Ashley Judd may want to take on Mitch McConnell.

RUDIN: Well, she lives in Tennessee. She lives on a rural farm in Tennessee, but she's been telling people - she told some senators, a pollster - that she's very interested in taking on Mitch McConnell. As you well know, the last Republican Senate leader defeated for reelection was James Watson of Indiana in 1932.

CONAN: Really?

RUDIN: Absolutely.

CONAN: Come here, Watson, I need you.

RUDIN: Exactly. But Ashley Judd, of course, has been very active in AIDS research and abortion rights and the environment. She's taken on the coal industry.

CONAN: And courtside at just about every Kentucky basketball game.

RUDIN: Right. She's a big University of Kentucky fan, whereas Mitch McConnell is a University of Louisville fan. So that would be an interesting...

CONAN: Sets up a civil war in that state (unintelligible).

RUDIN: That's a possibility.

CONAN: In the meantime, we have some people on the phone who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question. Astonishing.

RUDIN: What was it?

CONAN: It was: Prior to Steve Stockman, the last person to defeat a sitting chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 800-989-8255, if you think you know the answer. Email us: talk@npr.org.

RUDIN: Why do you know the answer?

CONAN: Now, let's start with Andy, Andy on the line with us from Tallahassee.

ANDY: Good afternoon, gentlemen. How about Daniel Webster from Massachusetts, before he went on to bigger and better things?

RUDIN: Well...

CONAN: He defeated the devil in that movie, but I don't think...

RUDIN: I'll just say that he was not the last - if he were - if he did defeat the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he was not the last person to do so.

ANDY: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Andy, thanks very much, for the call. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Bob, Bob with us from Lawrenceville in New Jersey.

BOB: Hi. Is it Charlie Rangel?

RUDIN: Well, Charlie Rangel, actually, when he came to Congress, he defeated Adam Clayton Powell, who was not chair. He was actually chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, but he was not chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

CONAN: But I think served with Daniel Webster.


BOB: Thanks, guys.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Bob. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Randy, Randy with us from Elkhart, Indiana.

RANDY: First, let me say that withholding those T-shirts for months from your fans just to put in a dig like that shirt hitting the fan...

CONAN: The fan, yes. It was not worth the...

RANDY: That's pun-conscionable.

RUDIN: There is no 20-second...

CONAN: Ooh, very good, very good.

RUDIN: For some reason, I don't have a 20-second delay.


CONAN: Go ahead. What's your guess, Randy?

RANDY: I was going to say Howard Baker, but I guess he's in the Senate.

CONAN: He is in the Senate.

RUDIN: He is in the Senate. That's correct.

CONAN: Nice try, though. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Claude, Claude with us from Arlington, Virginia.

CLAUDE: Hi, how are you? How about - was it Holtzman defeating Emanuel Celler in 1972, I believe?

RUDIN: That is the correct answer.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: Very good, Claude. And the reason I think it's significant, first of all, Elizabeth Holtzman defeated Emanuel Celler in 1972 primary. Because Emanuel Celler was defeated, the chairman became Peter Rodino, and of course, a year later or two years later, became the impeachment of President Nixon. It was Peter Rodino, not the very elderly Emanuel Celler, who headed up the Judiciary Committee during that impeachment.

CONAN: And, in fact, we have Nicholas, by email. He came in at the exact same moment as you did, Claude. So double T-shirt and double button winners this week. We're - so Claude, congratulations.

CLAUDE: Thank you.

CONAN: And congratulations to Nicholas, too. We're going to put you on hold, collect your particulars, and we will send you that free Political Junkie T-shirt and...

RUDIN: Two shirts hit the fan.

CONAN: ...and precious button, which, of course, in exchange for a promise of a digital picture of yourself wearing same, so we can post that on our wall of shame.

CLAUDE: Will do.

CONAN: Thanks very much. And let's see if we can go back to the news. And, well, Fox News is in the news on any number of levels. First, there were people who prominently predicted a Mitt Romney victory on November the 6th. They included Dick Armey and, well, Karl Rove.

RUDIN: Well, that's - the news is Roger Ailes has sent out a memo, I guess, basically saying that Karl Rove and Dick Morris are two pundits on Fox News who will - now they cannot be on unless they get prior approval from top management to get them on the air. Now, Fox will say, well, the reason we're having them off the air is because the election's over, and we'll just move on.

But, you know, when Karl Rove openly disputed, publicly disputed Fox's call of Ohio for President Obama, it was just really a really fascinating moment on Fox News, and maybe perhaps that's one of the reasons.

CONAN: It also emerged this week that Roger Ailes sent an emissary to David Petraeus, then the United States commander in Afghanistan, to tell him, look. If President Obama offers you the CIA, turn it down, run for president, and I'll back you, and so will Rupert Murdoch.

RUDIN: That was very bizarre. And, you know, it's one thing, look, you know, Fox News will have its reputation, and of course Roger Ailes has his differences with NPR. He has called us Nazis, and all that thing. So, with that in mind, I'm not picking on Roger Ailes. But for the president of a news network to say that I want - I'm encouraging you to run for president, and perhaps I would even resign my position, and perhaps Rupert Murdoch would bankroll the candidacy, that seems to be a little bit beyond journalistic ethics, in my humble opinion.

CONAN: In your humble opinion. OK. In the meantime, we have - there was a lot of speculation that Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey - the telegenic mayor of Newark, New Jersey - was going to be facing off against Chris Christie for the governorship of that state next year. Turns out, he may wait another year.

RUDIN: Well, we don't know exactly what he's going to do. But, of course, like everybody else, he looks at the polls, and the polls right now in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that Governor Christie has astronomical poll numbers, 77 percent in the Eagleton poll, I believe, or Rutgers poll. And so Cory Booker's now thinking perhaps maybe I'll run for the Senate in 2014, when Frank Lautenberg will be 90 years old. We don't know if Lautenberg's planning on running again, but that's a possible course of action for Cory Booker.

CONAN: And let's move down a level to the New York Senate, a comedy of errors in recent years. Democrats on Election Day won the majority in the New York State Senate. They would then have the governorship, the legislature and the state Senate. However...

RUDIN: However, there are about four or five or six rebel Democrats who decided that they're going to have - coalesce - have a coalition with the Republicans. Now, the Republicans are shut out of every bit of power in New York state, but by doing this, these four or five Democrats, along with the Republicans, can now control the state Senate, and one - first of all, a lot of Democrats are crying foul. It was a coup, they're saying.

But at the same time, they're also criticizing Governor Andrew Cuomo, and a lot of progressive blog sites are saying Cuomo has not lifted a finger to get involved in this at all. His people say this is an internal legislative matter. But a lot of progressives are angry that Cuomo is not standing up for the Democrats in this state Senate battle, and they'll remember this in 2016, should he decide to run.

CONAN: For president of the United States, which is what he's rumored to be doing. He's down in Washington this week asking for money for a bailout - not to bail out, but to repair the state of New York after Superstorm Sandy and then to get ready for the next superstorm. So he's got a lot on his plate.

RUDIN: He has a superstorm brewing right now in Albany, right?

CONAN: Ken, stay with us. After a short break, we're going to talk about what election returns from Maine, Maryland and Minnesota say about Republicans and gay marriage. We'll be back in just a minute. We'll also remember Jack Brooks, the Democrat from Texas. Yes, there were once Democrats who got elected from Texas. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.


CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan. Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us, as he is every Wednesday. Ken, was there a ScuttleButton winner last week?

RUDIN: There actually was. I'm glad you asked that. There was a multi-button puzzle. There was, I think, five buttons. One of them said ban the bra, one said Ham Jordan for U.S. Senate. One said Leen for governor. Anyway, when you added the Hay-bra-ham Leen-Cahn buttons, you got that former senator, that former congressman...

CONAN: The congressman from the state of Illinois. Whatever happened to him? There's a movie about him out.

RUDIN: That's right, it's called.

CONAN: Abraham - anyway...

RUDIN: Anyway, but Cathy O'Donnell(ph) of Keane, New Hampshire, we usually don't mention New Hampshire on these kind of...

CONAN: Never...

RUDIN: But she's the winner.

CONAN: OK, well, she gets of course that free political junkie T-shirt and a fabulous winner, no-prize button. Last week, conservative Christian - by the way, if you'd like to try this week's ScuttleButton puzzle and read Ken's column, you can go to npr.org/junkie.

Last week, conservative Christian Ralph Reed was on the program to argue that social conservatives should not be blamed for GOP losses in November. Among his arguments, he pointed out that about one of five voters for Barack Obama also voted against gay marriage.

Walter Olson, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post, and he drew a very different conclusion from those election returns. His review of individual counties in states that passed gay marriage initiatives found that they succeeded in part because of Republican support.

He joins us here in Studio 3A. We should note that he also worked on one of those initiatives, in Maryland. Good to have you with us today.

WALTER OLSON: Thank you.

CONAN: And what did your study find?

OLSON: Well, a lot of Republicans crossed over against the official position of the party to vote for Question 6 in Maryland, to vote against Amendment 1 in Minnesota, same thing in Maine. And that made the difference. Now in relatively close races, you can everything makes the difference, and yet, the - and yet the figures were really pretty startling.

The first thing people noticed on election night in Maryland was that two of the three biggest counties that had voted for Romney also voted for the gay marriage referendum. And when you drill down to the precinct level, you find that there was all sorts of crossover through all but the most rural parts of the state, but it was concentrated especially in the suburbs. And it was concentrated in what I call the commuter suburbs of places that tend to have relatively high income and education levels.

There would you see crossover factors of 15 and 20, even 28 percent, which could lead, and sometimes did lead, to a landslide for gay marriage in the same town where there was a landslide for Mitt Romney.

CONAN: So if, as Ralph Reed said, gay marriage initiatives ran behind President Obama in predominately blue states, it is also accurate to say from your numbers, that gay marriage ran way ahead of Mitt Romney, especially in suburban districts.

OLSON: Exactly, and the crossover activity went on in both sides of the aisle. In Maryland, a lot of the political fighting was over the minority vote, which is very strong in Maryland, and indeed...

CONAN: About 30 percent.

OLSON: Yeah, and most estimates are that Question 6 got about 45 percent of the black and probably also Hispanic vote, at the same time that Barack Obama was doing far, far better. So those were crossovers in one direction, and you also find that in rural areas, especially in Minnesota and Maine.

But then you look at the suburbs, and you see a very different story.

CONAN: And what conclusion do you draw from that?

OLSON: Well, I think it's part of the debate about the future of the Republican Party, because until fairly recently, it could be argued by, you know, our friend Ralph Reed and others that the stance on this was appealing to some people who don't normally vote Republican, and after all, what was it losing because it's not as if Republicans were voting for gay marriage anyway.

Now that line has to be retired. It's clear that a lot of Republicans, 60 percent in many Republican towns, are voting for gay marriage.


RUDIN: Well, here's another possible message. There were some Republican state senators in the state of New York who voted for gay marriage, same-sex marriage, when it passed the legislature. And then I think two of them were defeated in the Republican primary. So you can say that yes, Republican voters do support same-sex marriage, but we also see consequences for Republicans in Republican primaries when they vote for it.

OLSON: Primaries are definitely a different kettle of fish, partly because only the most committed Republicans tend to vote in them, partly because a lot of money was targeted to defeat those particular Republicans, and not all were defeated. So yeah, the - for the calculus of whether to change their position, individual politicians have to be wondering whether someone's going to come after them with a primary challenge or a lot of money.

But as far as the future of the Republican Party in general, the trend is pretty clear, I think. They are no longer making headway, if they ever were making headway, with minority voters. Of course Romney's general vote was just terribly bad in the black community. But it is increasingly driving a wedge into some of their most loyal and I would argue some of their most important constituencies on the Republican side.

CONAN: It's also important to point out that in Iowa - not a decisively blue state, a swing state that President Obama's now won twice, but nevertheless - there was a judge, one of the Supreme Court justices, who had voted to - that gay marriage - to ban gay marriage, violated the Iowa state constitution. Some of his colleagues had been defeated for retention. Earlier, he was up, and there was a strong campaign on both sides, and he retained his job.

OLSON: Exactly, and there were a lot of straws in the wind like that. If money is sent to both sides of these primaries or these highly contested races, then it tends to be a wash. And when you see that, the gay marriage side is making lots of headway.

CONAN: Interesting, Maine, as you mentioned, voted in favor of it. Not so long ago, Maine voted against it.

OLSON: Yeah, it had been 53-47, and just a couple of years later, it flipped to the opposite way. And that can't just be demographic. You know, one hears so much about how young people have a different attitude, and they'll be more of the electorate. This has only been a couple of years.

What was going on in Maine was people changing their minds.

CONAN: And what difference do you think it made that the president of the United States came out in favor of gay marriage?

OLSON: It certainly made a difference with the debate within the black community. And had blacks in Maryland voted in the same proportions against gay marriage that they had in California, it would have been at a minimum very much a closer a race and possibly lost.


RUDIN: If this becomes a full-fledged debate in the Republican Party, I mean, we are talking about family, pro-family conservatives, whatever that means, pro-family, but social conservatives. This is one of the reasons they became active in the Republican Party in the late '70s, because of so-called family values. If the Republican Party moves away from this and actually goes back to its old reputation of staying, you know, keeping government out of the bedroom and things like that, where do these social conservatives go?

OLSON: It's an interesting question. My own prediction, if the Republican Party is going to resolve this issue internally, is that it will move to something like leave it to the state because clearly opposition to gay marriage is still regionally a very strong position in Southern states, and that will continue for a while.

But a decentralized, leave-it-to-the-states position will satisfy Republicans who have to run in the other sections of the country, who can adjust their approach to what the voters want there.

CONAN: You've mentioned three of the states. In Minnesota, it was a suggestion to the state constitution that would have effectively banned gay marriage. That was defeated. But there was another state, Washington, which upheld a state law that approves gay marriage. No results from Washington?

OLSON: I left Washington out when I was writing the article simply because they have mail voting, and one consequence of mail voting is that either there are no precinct results yet, or if there are, I sure couldn't find them.

RUDIN: But, you know, women can vote, too, in Washington.


RUDIN: It's not just male.

CONAN: But that raises a question: These were, in Minnesota, Washington State, in Maine and in Maryland, blue states. Where does this campaign go next?

OLSON: They were blue states, but there were special issues. Minnesota, for example, is among the very strongest states for Evangelical church organization. And Maryland, because it's one of the most heavily minority electorates, was perceived as being particularly a problem for advocates of gay marriage.

The strategists on this are pointing to some other states where they think they can make headway, like Rhode Island and Delaware. I think you will see some of these battles in states that are demographically not all that different from the Marylands and Maines.

CONAN: You mentioned leave it to the states. We are awaiting the Supreme Court's decision on whether they're going to take up the Defense of Marriage Act this term and whether they're going to review the California Proposition 8 ruling. Should this be an issue decided by politicians and voters at the state level, either in legislatures or in referenda? Should it be an issue decided in the courts?

OLSON: Well, the court approach, everyone is handicapping how they will do. Almost everyone guesses that they will - on Prop 8 in California, the Ninth Circuit crafted a very California-specific rulings, ah - which basically was like one of these railway tickets, good for this day only, with no implications for other states.

And that was crafty of the Ninth Circuit, and it means the Supreme Court, whichever way it runs, is not going to change the emersion(ph) of the 49 states. On DOMA, the current betting is that the court will strike down the federal definition half. That will leave the other half of DOMA, which says that states don't have to recognize gay marriage from other states.

That actually could be politically stable for a while if the court does that because it means that 40-plus states will not have gay marriage and that no one in the courts will be asking them to have it.

CONAN: And no, they will not be forced to recognize gay marriages performed in other states.

OLSON: Right. Only if Congress acts affirmatively on the gay marriage side would they have to worry about that.

CONAN: Walter Olson, thanks very much for your time today.

OLSON: Thank you.

CONAN: Walter Olson, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, author of a recent column in The Washington Post, "Republicans Helped Same-Sex Marriage Win at the Polls," and he joined us here in Studio 3A. Last night longtime Congressman Jack Brooks of Texas died at the age of 89. Brooks, a Democrat, served in Congress for more than 40 years before his defeat in 1994. Joining us now to talk about the congressman is Wayne Slater, senior political writer for Dallas Morning News. He joins us from his office in Dallas. Nice to have you back, Wayne.

WAYNE SLATER: Great to be with you.

CONAN: And tell us a little bit about Jack Brooks.

SLATER: Well, I mean this is a character. I mean sometimes you look at the list. If you look at the pictures of the latest House member chairmen, it's as if you - we're in a period of vanilla interchangeable members. Well, let me tell you, Jack Brooks, with his cigar and his suspenders and his crotchety attitude, was a character. He was not a vanilla figure at all. He's most famous, I guess, in some quarters as a figure in one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century - Lyndon Johnson being sworn in on Air Force One after Kennedy's assassination. Brooks is standing right behind Mrs. Kennedy.

But he was a link, and one of the last links, of the old Sam Rayburn, Lyndon Johnson, 1950s and '60s rock-ribbed Democrat Party power in Texas and the U.S.

CONAN: Well, where was his district, and what was that like in those days?

SLATER: Well, southeast Texas, very far southeast. Beaumont was the big, big city. It - I used to live there, actually, and so I know the district, very conservative but obviously very Democrat, still Democrat, because there's some labor influence there because of the refineries post-World War II. He was very pro-labor. It was also - it's also a place, pro-gun, because we're in Texas, and also pro - I mean, well, I should say that it has a Klan constituency, which I think is one of the things that was remarkable about Jack Brooks.

This was a community. This was a district where there was a segregationist movement. Brooks stood up - famously was one of the 11 Democrats who voted for the 1994 Civil Rights Act, the act that Lyndon Johnson said was going to...

CONAN: 1964, yeah.

SLATER: I'm sorry. 1964 Civil Rights Act, the act that was going to deliver the South to the Republicans for a generation or more. So he was one of that relative handful of sort of staunch Democrats who stood up to the Klan and the secessionists.

CONAN: We're talking with Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News about the late Jack Brooks. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Ken?

RUDIN: Wayne, you mentioned this in passing, the mention of guns. Guns are basically what helped defeat Brooks in 1994.

SLATER: Yeah. No, look, he's a pro-gun kind of guy - again, because if you're in a conservative - and this is a Democrat-conservative district - like he was, he had a pretty good record on guns, but he supported in 1964 a crime bill...

RUDIN: '94.

SLATER: I'm sorry. I keep saying that. 1990 - it's one or the other. 1994, a crime bill which included an assault weapon ban. Well, that's tantamount to heresy here, and that was, of course, obviously the Gingrich Republican revolution, and that combination of the Republican insurgency nationally and in his district and then his gun vote was enough pretty much to do him in. You know, he was one of, I think, 34 Democrats - Ken, if anybody knows that, you know that - 34 Democrats who - incumbents who lost that year. I remember it well because I would see Jack Brooks at state and national conventions before then, and I was totally stunned, as I think a lot of people were.

CONAN: Got a caller on the line. Edward is with us from Pittstown in New Jersey.

EDWARD: Hi. How are you guys? I have a great old Jack Brooks story. He was heading up a hearing one day, and the witness was being a little bit ornery with respect to the Congress. And Congressman Brooks looked down at the guy and said, Mr. So and So, your appearance here today is not so much a matter of right as it is a question of indulgence on the part of this committee. And then he paused and sort of scrunched up his shoulder and looked at the guy and he goes, Right about now you're kind of crowding it a bit.

I just thought it was the best somebody (unintelligible) Congress I ever heard, so that's my Jack Brooks story.

SLATER: Very good, very good. Now, he - I mean he had this reputation, extraordinary reputation. Rayburn put him, I think, on the committee that handles government procurement and other things, and he could grill bureaucrats, and he could grill people about whether we were spending too much money on paint and light bulbs and all kinds of things. So he got to be known in an odd way as both a great guy who brought home the bacon to his beloved community, including his beloved university, Lamar University, where he went the first two years in college, but also as someone who really was a child of the Depression, that kind of attitude where you recognize and represent the little guy, the regular guy, and you don't want to squander taxpayer money, unless, of course, it's coming to his district.

CONAN: Edward, thanks very much for that story. Appreciate it.

EDWARD: Thank you. Bye.


RUDIN: Wayne, when Jack Brooks was first elected in 1952, he had some Republican opposition, but every one of the other 21 Democrats elected, there was not a single Republican. They all won with 100 percent of the vote. Now, obviously Texas has changed since the days of Brooks and Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson and Lloyd Bentsen, but there seems to be some demographic change going on in Texas right now.

SLATER: Well, you mean in his district or just now all across the state?

RUDIN: Statewide, statewide.

SLATER: Well, absolutely statewide. I mean what you saw was the beginning with Karl Rove and George Bush understanding the demographic shifts which brought in the Republican Party. The defeat of Ann Richards in 1994. And so you have this strong Republican trend that was a function of a lot of things. But what you're seeing right now is a demographic shift in the making, largely with respect to Hispanics, the growth of Hispanics as a constituency. They're expected to be a minority - this is a minority-majority state.

The state itself will - majority Hispanic in population probably I think it's within 10 years. So what you're going to see now from the Democratic point of view is an anticipated swing back to a more Democratic - more Democrats in office. There hasn't been a Democrat elected to statewide office in Texas since 1994.

CONAN: Wayne Slater, thanks very much for your time today, as always.

SLATER: Great to be with you.

CONAN: Wayne Slater, senior political writer for the Dallas Morning News, joined us from his office in Dallas to remember the late Jack Brooks. Don't go anywhere, Ken. Up next, we've got the next installment in our series on conversations on the so-called fiscal cliff. Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz will join us. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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