The Matriculation Scandal
August 25, 2016 § 1 Comment
The Baseless Claims
I am disgusted to watch panel after panel of commentators pompously discussing how awful this week is for Hillary Clinton. It is now known that a significant number of people who had access to her while she was Secretary of State were contributors to the Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit foundation established by the Clintons. The Foundation has done exemplary work in several countries and has raised millions of dollars to finance that work.
There is no claim or evidence that the Clintons received one penny of money from the Foundation. In fact their latest tax return shows that they contributed one million dollars of their money to the Foundation. There is no claim or evidence that any contributor to the Foundation received any improper benefit from the government because of their contribution. So the basis of this faux “perception problem” is that there was something wrong for Hillary Clinton to confer with contributors to the Foundation.
No one I have watched has mentioned the fact that public officials granting access to people who have contributed to a foundation established and identified with them is entirely legal. Elected officials routinely grant access to large contributors to their campaigns for election or reelection. That is not illegal and, until now, has never been regarded as improper or as creating a “perception problem”.
The Political Lynching of Homer P. Rainey
So, as my anger and disgust mounted as this absurd cannard has gained more and more TV air time, I recalled an old and dusty item from my political attic. It concerns a race for governor in Texas that occurred in 1946, when I was 15 years old. I paid no attention to it at the time but, six years later when I became involved in politics and began hanging out with old political scarred up guys and listened to their many tales of past political fracases, I heard about another political victim of ignorance and dishonesty.
His name was Homer P. Rainey, a Baptist minister and accomplished veteran college administrator who, in the mid-1940’s was President of the University of Texas. He objected when some of the regents sought to disparage and fire some professors because they expressed support for things like minimum wage and one English Professor who had a suggested, but not required, reading list that included John Dos Passos’ novel, USA. The regents did not go through with all of their proposed firings, but reacted to Rainey’s opposition by firing him.
Rainey reacted by running for Governor of Texas. Texas was a one-party state so the contest was between Rainey, Beauford Jester, an incumbent member of the Railroad Commission, and twelve other candidates, some serious and most not. During the First Primary, a South Texas lawyer who supported Jester, traveled around Texas making speeches to gatherings of local residents. He would don gloves and, using a pair of tongs, grip Dos Passos’ novel and declare it so filthy that he would not touch it. He would read from some passages that contained curse words or sexual references and then accuse Rainey of corrupting the morals of innocent youths at UT.
He had another arrow in his quiver of political dishonesty. And this one was what reminded me of the present kerfuffle. Switching to his most commanding and distraught tone, he would also declare something like this: “And, my friends, that isn’t all that this immoral man was involved in. He was known to be involved in matriculation!”
As he well knew few if any members of his audience had a clue about what “matriculation” meant, but his tone and facial expression was enough to convince them that the Baptist preacher he was talking about was guilty of some unmentionably horrible practice.
The political dishonesty worked. Rainey and Jester wound up in a Runoff and Rainey was soundly defeated.
That is the kind of appeal to ignorance that is going on now. It is hard to decide who is more blameworthy, the demagogue who is spouting hateful nonsense, the reporters and commentators who spread it or the gullible people who gorge on it.