Words do matter, Dan Patrick — yours included

Photo by Bob Daemmrich

It was quite a sight: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick admonishing President Obama at a town hall meeting on race, telling him, “Words matter — your words matter.” In Patrick’s opinion, the president hadn’t done enough to support law enforcement.

This from a state leader that has used words as hammers, to kick the wounded and politicize grief.

Let’s just compare for a moment.

When the nation and the state were reeling in horror and sorrow, when the shock of five dead Dallas police officers was only hours old, Patrick stepped forward to hurl the first rocks.

Patrick responded by calling the Black Lives Matter protesters “hypocrites” for scattering in the fright of gunshots.

“All those protesters last night, they ran the other way expecting the men and women in blue to turn around and protect them,” Patrick said. “What hypocrites!”

And a few months ago, when the president warned school districts that federal law protected the bathroom preferences of transgender boys and girls, Patrick accused him of blackmail and compared him to Judas.

Patrick also called the parents who protested his meddling in school policies “hypocrites,” for welcoming the president’s involvement but not his. Patrick, by the way, says he is for local control, but has pledged to pass a law banning transgender students from using the bathroom of their identity and overriding any contrary school district policy.

After that, hours after the massacre at a gay bar in Orlando that left 49 dead, Patrick tweeted a Bible verse: “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

After the outrage over that message, he pulled it down, saying it was a verse pre-scheduled days before the killings.

Then last week, Patrick took on the president. Again. He did it two days after Obama had delivered a moving speech in Dallas urging those mourning to reject despair, to hold up hope, and to love not just words but action. He praised Dallas officers; he condemned those who would advocate violence.

Patrick lectured the president on how words matter.

At a time when this state and nation need leaders who can bring us together to help build our way out of darkness, Patrick has been ready to blame those caught in the fire. When the state needs comfort, he offers pettiness. And when we are in desperate need of leadership, Patrick dives into the shallow waters of crass politics.

Gov. Greg Abbott heroically managed to fly to Dallas, attend a press conference and speak words of comfort the day after that shooting. He did so while silently suffering unimaginable physical pain. He told no one at the time, but a terrible scalding accident had left him with second and third degree burns on his legs and feet.

Abbott instead directed his attention to law enforcement, letting them know the state is grateful for their service. He offered kind words for Obama, a man he has battled politically for eight years, thanking him for his offers of assistance and expressions of sorrow.

Abbott understood what Patrick could not.

When asked about his lieutenant governor’s remarks decrying “hypocrites,” Abbott said, “this should not be used as a tool of division.” He said his focus was to find the purpose of greater unity in the Dallas tragedy.

Times of crisis show us who looms large and who shrinks small.

In his rush to bash the LGBT community and disparage peaceful protesters, Patrick chose to feed fear instead of calling to our better angels. He has repeatedly turned a deaf ear to what it takes to move us forward.

Patrick accuses others. He chooses division when the state and nation are searching for true leadership and unity. In his own words, what a hypocrite.

Chuck Smith

Executive director, Equality Texas