I, Whitmire

At a time when most Houston Democrats are moping about with hangdog looks, an upbeat and preening John Whitmire is putting his favorite personal pronoun forward to potential contributors in a letter inviting them to a December 6 fundraiser. In case the state senator didn't send you one, here's a taste:

"You and I are fortunate. I am fortunate to have your support. I am fortunate because you have always been near a phone to provide me with advice and counsel.

"You are fortunate because you are considered a special friend by me. You are fortunate because you can call me and I will stop what I am doing and call you back. In addition, I will respond to your problem with all my energy.

"Like I said, I feel we are both very fortunate."
The one-page missive features 13 "I's," including the one with a hook: "I need you to make a contribution or raise $1,000 for my re-election campaign. With your help I will remain politically strong .... I look forward to seeing you on December 6."

Gee, it was only three weeks ago that Whitmire was re-elected, having coasted through the Democrats' November 8 election debacle without an opponent. But apparently it's never too early to start raising money when, as the senator explained it when we contacted him by phone, he's just thinking of his constituents and "what I can do to help, how I can get things done, how I can help improve the criminal justice system...."

After that verbal workout in the first-person singular, Whitmire added, "You may not believe it, but I don't build myself up very much."

Well, there was that nine-page fax we received prior to Whitmire's stint as "governor for a day" two Saturdays ago, a traditional honor for the incoming president pro tempore of the Senate. Emceed by the ubiquitous Jim "Mattress Mac" McIngvale and prayed over by state Representative Sylvester Turner, the "governor for a day" ceremony featured a barbecue luncheon, an address by 24-hour Governor John and a reception hosted by "Governor and Mrs. Whitmire" in the Capitol rotunda. Whitmire's office also issued a five-page biography for "Governor John Whitmire" that traces his career back to his humble beginnings in Whitney, a small town near Waco:

"No running water and 'facilities' located apart from the home. Baths were taken regularly, but never easily .... The country house burned as Whitmire entered sixth grade, leaving the family penniless, possessing only the clothes they wore. When his fellow students learned of John's misfortunes they collected $14 to help out, which he promptly used to buy a BB gun."

As Whitmire himself explains in the bio: "No home ... no clothes, but [I] bought a BB gun. It's a wonder I'm alive to tell the story."

The story continues through tragedy and triumph, culminating in Whitmire's successful effort as chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee to overhaul the Texas penal code and closing with this touching anecdote: "But to John Whitmire, the most endearing accolade came during a Dallas radio talk show interview. At the very end of the broadcast, a caller from Glen Rose, Texas, proclaimed John to be the best of all things ... 'a senator who sounds like a regular guy.'"

The kind of senator who would be at home just about anywhere, especially, say, 1st-century Rome.

-- Tim Fleck


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