Yesterday Wendy Davis and her supporters got quite a bit of blogosphere attention for accusing her opponent Greg Abbott of a failure to understand struggle and hardship, despite the fact that he has been a paraplegic since a terrible accident in his mid-20s.

Davis added, with no sense of irony, that her attackers hadn’t “walked a day in my shoes.”

It turns out these statement were hardly flukes. Today I discovered two more quotes of the same type, both issued on Monday.

No, they don’t have the gaffe-like quality of “walked a day in my shoes.” But if anything they’re even worse in terms of substance.

The first is from Matt Angle, head of the Lone Star Project, an anti-Republican group that is self-described as “one of the most aggressive and effective political research and strategic communications organizations in Texas” [emphasis mine]:

The Abbott attacks are a malicious expression of fear. Greg Abbott knows that Wendy connects with and inspires Texans. The Abbott campaign to tear down Wendy and her family show an overall hostility to mothers who have to juggle work with getting an education with raising their kids. Moreover the attacks show that Abbott is profoundly out of touch with Texans who face challenges and meet them with a courage he just can’t muster…Wendy struggled through some tough times when she was younger, worked hard, fought hard and came out a success, with daughters who adore her. That’s a real and inspiring Texas story that terrifies Greg Abbott.

The second is from Davis herself, in an interview with a reporter from the San Antonio Express-News, the original of which is unfortunately behind a firewall:

In an interview, [Davis] called [Abbott] “completely out of touch with the reality of the struggles that a young woman like I faced.”

So this is a very focused and well-thought out campaign to (a) double down on Davis’ message of how much she has struggled, despite the discrepancy between her original narrative and the facts; and (b) accuse Abbott of insensitivity to people’s struggles, as well as cowardice and fear.

From what I’ve read about Greg Abbott (most of it in the last two days), he—unlike Davis—doesn’t seem to be all that eager to get into a contest about who’s had more suffering in life. But I’ve done some research, and so I’m writing about it.

And you know what? The fact that he became a paraplegic as a young man is only part of it:

Abbott said he has been driven by the notion that he wants to do the right thing, that time is precious and life can change in the blink of an eye.

That idea came to him long before his injury, when as a teenager [Greg was 16] his father died of a heart attack. A grandfather’s death also was sudden — in a car wreck, he said.

“I’ve seen that repeat — losing my dad in an instant, actually losing my granddad in an instant too … and what happened to me, obviously,” he said. “And so basically I have an oversimplified mantra and that is you never know when a tree’s going to fall on you. … What would you do differently if you knew that? And I know that.”

Abbott is straightforward about what he lost when his legs became paralyzed, saying the last photograph of him before his accident was from a dance he attended with Cecilia [his wife].

“The inability to ever dance with her again, or to see her eye to eye as she is standing, or to hold her … or to walk into a lake — you know how it’s fun when a dad and daughter get to walk into a lake together and curl your toes into the sand? Not happening,” he said. “The little things in life that matter the most — many of them are lost.”

Still, he said, his life “has been fuller and better after my accident. It’s hard for people to understand. But there’s a greater closeness to God and a greater closeness to family and I spend time with my daughter in ways that I may not have had I not encountered this situation,” he said.

He and Cecilia adopted their daughter, Audrey, after 16 years of marriage.

Cecilia said the father-daughter bond is tight. When their daughter was 5 or 6 and people asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, Cecilia said, “She would say I want to be a judge in a wheelchair.”

This is a life lacking in courage? A man who clearly “is profoundly out of touch with Texans who face challenges and meet them with a courage he just can’t muster”?

Davis’ supporter Matt Angle may have thought he was writing about Abbott, but he inadvertently described Davis and her entourage instead when he wrote that the “attacks are a malicious expression of fear.” Exactly.

The attacks on Abbot are not just malicious and fearful: they are stupid and despicable.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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