The best of TribFest 2013

Over the weekend, the UT campus was overrun with plastic-badge-wearing festival-goers, all of them attending the Texas Tribune Festival, a three-day event featuring politicians and policy wonks from across the state discussing topics ranging from juvenile justice to energy policy. The festival’s big names are the big draw for many, but the real reason to attend is the many moments that occur when you put public figures to real-time questioning. (Imagine an SNL episode cast with gubernatorial candidates.) Students who missed out on the fun should consider the missed moments listed below as reasons to make an appearance next year. 

1. Anita Perry, first lady of Texas, cautiously stating that abortion “could be a woman’s right.”

In a one-on-one panel with Tribune Editor-in-Chief and CEO Evan Smith on Saturday, Texas’ first lady Anita Perry made some confusing statements about a woman’s right to abortion. When Smith posed a question to Perry about whether or not she agreed entirely with her husband during this summer’s tense debate over abortion-limiting legislation, Perry answered, “That could be a woman’s right. Just like it’s a man’s right if he wants to have that sort of procedure. But I’m not, I don’t agree with it, and that’s not my view, but I’m not gonna criticize Wendy Davis…you know, the older that I get, there are two sides to every nickel.” 

2. Greg Abbott’s convoluted explanation of how Obamacare exists because of voter fraud in Minnesota. 

In a one-on-one conversation with Ross Ramsey, executive editor of the Tribune on Saturday, Attorney General and current gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott made an interesting point, namely, that the voter ID law protects against voter fraud, which protects against unfair elections, one of which led to the victory of Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, whose vote in favor of Obamacare allowed the president’s health care plan to exist. Or, as Abbott put it, “Without voter fraud, Obamacare would not exist.” With a grin on his face, Abbott saw his convoluted explanation through to the end, despite the laughs coming from the audience. Valid or not (we’re too confused to judge it), Abbott’s sticking to his guns and seeing his argument through was a highlight of the day. 

3. Regent Wallace Hall admits to not having read something — namely, the bill written about him.

In a panel on the role of regents in university governance, UT System Regent Wallace Hall, who is currently undergoing impeachment procedures, admitted that he hadn’t even read the bill filed by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, last legislative session to mandate more extensive training for members of the board of regents — a piece of legislation inspired in no small part by the controversy caused by Hall himself. The bill was eventually vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry, so Hall didn’t miss out on any necessary information. But hearing the man who, according to the Austin American-Statesman, is “working his way through more than 30 books on the history of war” and is a “voracious reader” admit to not having read something was a delightful surprise. 

4. Ted Cruz saying he would have read the crowd Dr. Seuss.

At the end of an almost hour-long conversation with Smith that Sen. Ted Cruz teleconferenced into from Washington, the much-talked about and often-reviled senator demonstrated that he has a charming side by joking that he “had intended at the end to read everybody ‘Cat in the Hat.’” To which we say, there’s always next year, Senator.