Following the late great Democratic Gov. Ann Richards, Texas has developed a notorious reputation for electing governors who have no real business presiding over anything more important than a pie-eating contest. George W. Bush and Rick Perry were, at the end of the day, the same guy: nauseously conservative and each one battling it out to join Sarah Palin as several of the dumbest former governors ever to have occupied a state capital.
Then along came Greg Abbott.
Abbott, the current governor of Texas, is not necessarily a Perry- or Bush-style idiot in the traditional sense; and, frankly, his conservatism isn't actually his most disturbing character trait, though his conservatism is awful, to be sure. (For example, last month, Abbott signed an anti-choice bill into law making it impossible to get an abortion without proof of age and identity.) The most disturbing thing about Abbott is that he's missing a part inside his lizard brain that weeds out crazy conspiracy theories for the fiction they are. This glitch also has led him to pal around with some nefariously fringe characters along the way.
In the most recent example of both, Abbott last week vetoed a mental health bill passed by his fellow conservatives in the state legislature, and he did so apparently at the request of the nation's most infamous cult.
Senate Bill 359 would have allowed hospitals to detain for evaluation potentially dangerous patients for several hours. In this relatively short window, doctors would've had the latitude to bring in law enforcement officials to decide whether the patient in question were potentially dangerous, either to himself or others. The Dallas Morning News called it a "common-sense measure," one supported by two of the most prominent Texas medical associations, including the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians. But Abbott insisted the law was unconstitutional, since it gave doctors similar authority as law enforcement in these cases -- even if four hours in a hospital to make sure a mentally disturbed patient isn't going to do something drastic is a far cry from an extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo.
The truth, according to the Texas Tribune, is that Abbott likely vetoed the bill after being lobbied by a group called the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. In addition to its opposition to fluoridation of drinking water, the CCHR also believes that Big Pharma controls everything and everyone. (Red flags, anyone?) Back in 2005, the CCHR opened a museum called "Psychiatry: An Industry of Death," which links modern psychiatry to Hilter and other villains. The group also alleged that the 9/11 attacks were spearheaded not by Osama Bin Laden, but by his psychiatrist. It all smacks of the Alex Jones worldview, in which chemtrails, weather weapons and shapeshifting lizard people from outer space are plotting to get us.
Oh, and one more thing. The CCHR is a tax exempt organization sponsored by the Church of Scientology. (In other words, Greg Abbott killed SB359 at the request of intergalactic warlord Xenu.) Especially following the groundbreaking HBO documentary "Going Clear," Scientology has deservedly been scrutinized as a creepy, powerful, deeply exploitative cult led by megalomaniac David Miscavige. Abbott apparently didn't see the film, or if he did, he clearly wasn't disturbed, like most of us were, by bizarre and coercive tactics of this tax dodge thinly disguised as a "religion."
And yet, I am absolutely not surprised in the slightest by Abbott's new friends. Here are a few reasons why:
• During the 2014 election, Abbott campaigned with crackpot has-been rocker Ted Nugent, even though Nugent had recently referred to President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel." It was the latest, at the time, in a lengthy roster of shamelessly racist remarks. This would be like a Democratic gubernatorial candidate campaigning with -- never mind. I can't think of any Democratic equivalents to Nugent.
• Several months ago, Abbott made national news when he ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor the U.S. military's Jade Helm 15 exercises in order to prevent the government from taking over Texas. Again, the governor of Texas made a decision based on a conspiracy theory hatched by Alex Jones, a known side-show geek.
• Along the same lines, Alex Jones announced on his show the other day that Abbott will be launching an investigation into Planned Parenthood officials following the release of a deceptively-edited video featuring a Planned Parenthood official describing the perfectly legal practice of donating fetal tissue to biomedical labs to help save lives. Again, Abbott is planning to waste taxpayer dollars on an investigation pegged off a hoax video made by associates of known scam artist James O'Keefe. It's difficult to underscore this enough -- the video is a fraud, and nothing illegal is occurring, but that won't stop Abbott and others from believing it's genuine and subsequently acting upon that belief.
Given what we know now, it's only a matter of time before this heretofore unknown first term governor ends up locked in a doomsday bunker with Alex Jones, a lifetime supply of tinfoil, and videos of every Ron Paul floor speech playing on endless loop. Eerily, leaders like Abbott are becoming increasingly commonplace on the Republican side, so much so that Abbott and others are coming damn close to taking over the mainstream of the party -- especially when coupled with the reality that Donald Trump is 14 points ahead of the second place candidate for the GOP presidential nomination. The Republicans are spiraling out of control, and there's no end in sight.