"Ah, arrogance! Ah, insensitivity! Ah, general stupidity!"
Rules of Thumb
In my last post, I introduced Texas Governor Rick Perry into the discussion.
But have I ever told you the story about the time I met him and watched him in action?
Well, here goes.
I was in Texas to give a speech. The sponsor asked me, before it was my time to talk, if I'd like to meet the governor.
Sure, I said.
Having written speeches for the governors of Michigan, Massachusetts, and Oregon, I figured it would be fun, a real treat, to meet the Governor of Texas.
The sponsor told me that the occasion was a meeting Governor Perry was having with two visitors from Mexico: one of Mexico's leading newspaper publishers, a distinguished leader and accomplished businessman, and a member of the Mexican Senate. They were eager to talk with the governor about the state's laws and practices concerning open meetings and freedom of information. What could they learn to help Mexico have a more transparent public sector?
I could sit in on the meeting as an observer.
I was ushered into the room where the meeting was to take place; the newspaper publisher and senator were already there. We shook hands and waited.
In came Governor Perry.
He sat down and immediately plopped his cowboy boots on the coffee table that sat between us.
I think the idea was to show us the map of Texas that had been engraved on the boots.
Then he started to lecture the visitors from Mexico on a long-standing water dispute between Texas and Mexico.
"I know you're keeping our water on your side of the border," he told them. "We got satellite images that show it. And it's illegal. Strictly against the law, violates a treaty between us. You're gonna have to give us back our water."
He went on like that for about five minutes. It must have taken him that long to realize that he was talking about the wrong thing to the wrong people--or maybe that's just what he does when he's introduced to people from Mexico.
Finally, he shifted gears to the topic of transparency in government, open meetings and freedom of information.
"It's a two-edged sword," the governor said. "I know you're thinking it's a good thing, but let me tell you, it has another side to it."
Interesting, right? The governor says there's a negative to public access to information. What could that be?
"Now say you come to the government and you're asking for money for a project you want to do. And you show the government your business plan... "
(Only, of course, he didn't say "government" he said "go'mint" and he didn't say "business plan" he said "bidness plan." But I digress.)
"Now, you'll know what a bidness plan is, right? That's the document you need to write up when you're starting a bidness that explains how you're gonna do it. So say you want money from the go'mint and so you have to show them your bidness plan. Now, if there's freedom of information, your competitors can go into the go'mint files and read your bidness plan! So all this transparency stuff, it's a two-edged sword!"
And he sat back, very pleased with himself for having educated his Mexican visitors on the real nature of open meetings laws and freedom of information acts, and even what a bidness plan is.
After he left, however, it was clear that his guests were a little under-impressed.
I'm certainly glad the governor explained to me what a business plan is, said the senator from Mexico. That's not something we covered when I attended Stanford Business School.
Ah, general stupidity!
No wonder the chairperson of the Texas Board of Education, appointed by Governor Rick Perry, is a creationist who believes that our history books betray an Islamic bias!
I'll bet she doesn't know what a bidness plan is, either!
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