Saturday, January 28, 2023 Jan 28, 2023
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By Ruth Miller Fitzgibbons |

For days now I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about The American Mood in the Nineties, and then trying to square the current communal character ticks with one Clayton Williams. I’ll admit that such an exercise requires several brash leaps: one, that this view of the public, which is mostly drawn from the media, is accurate; two, that Texans can be counted on to share in the national mindset; and three, that where Clayton Williams stands in regards to any or all of this is even remotely relevant. On that third point, let me say right now that I’m not advocating Williams or predicting that he will win the governor’s race in November. But neither am I a fool. Caveats aside, I’ll forge ahead.

First, the mood. As everyone knows by now, the Nineties bear the unique distinction of being the only decade in modem history to be fully defined in advance. Time was, pundits categorized an era by thoughtful reflection, looking back at cataclysmic events and personalities who rose above the fray. In the modern age, a list is passed around on New Year’s Day, and somehow folks fall in line: no furs, no land flips, no Perrier. Buy American, think green, give something back to your community. Workouts-both for the bottom line, and for the bottom-are in. Callousness, greed, and disposable dishes are out.

Okay. So we’re in a deeply committed, compassionate, and healthful mood.

Now, the candidate. Is Clayton Williams-who at this writing has a good lead in the gubernatorial polls and enough money to see that it sticks-the man to take Texas into the Nineties?

Let’s start with the environment. According to D writer Mike Shropshire, who profiles Claytie in Texas Crude, page 46, Williams’s dubious environmental record stretches back into the Fifties, when his family fought for the right to suck the Fort Stockton land dry because its only water source ran beneath the Williams ranch. More recently, Claytie made environmentalists shudder with horror at the prospect of convicts “bustin’ rocks” with pickaxes in the delicate ecological habitats of Big Bend. Claytie’s “With the Nineties” grade on the environment: D-.

On to greed. When you’ve got as much money as Clayton Williams, Texas excess just sort of comes naturally. But while there are the obligatory airplanes, Resistols, hunting expeditions to the Himalayas, exotic cowboy boots (the man doesn’t own a pair of shoes), and of course, sprawling ranch land, nothing in the Williams lifestyle speaks of the insatiable avarice, say, of a Donald Trump. Heck, when Claytie comes to Dallas he stays at the Embassy Suites. “With the Nineties” grade on greed: C+.

But is he fit? Recently, syndicated columnist Georgie Ann Geyer noted that these days, the ability to stick to a diet has become “the measure of the righteousness of one’s soul.” Let’s peer into Claytie’s. At a trim 165 pounds packed neatly on his diminutive frame, with a penchant for beef and an exercise habit that includes walking stairwells, Claytie looks like he could still whip the neighborhood bully. If he gets past Ann Richards, here’s betting he will. “With the Nineties” grade on fitness: B-.

And compassion? One could argue that putting teenagers in boot camp is a form of, uh, compassion, but Claytie’s abysmally boobish gaffes about women knock him into negative numbers on the compassion slate. Though he says that he likes women, I’m not sure that he tikes em the way they want to be liked. With his sympathy for rape victims as a clue, Claytie’s “With the Nineties” grade on compassion: F.

It doesn’t take much calculating to see that Claytie’s coming up short. But then how to explain the jug-eared cowboy candidate’s ob vious appeal? “He’s common,” volunteers one snooty Republican friend. “He’s real,” says another. “At least he stands for things,” adds a third, “even if they aren’t things you agree with.” Me? I’m afraid it may be a little more basic (and also a Nineties phenome non): he looks good on TV.

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By Mike Orren, Associate Publisher and Editorial Dire