One could be forgiven for almost forgetting about the tape. The Cowboys are 2-0. President Donald Trump is still doing Trump things almost every day, and it's still, nearly three weeks into September, hot enough to cause hallucinations across North Texas. The tape — the maybe bombshell, maybe MacGuffin that captivated Texas politicians and the media that loves them over the summer — got put on the back burner as the state dealt with other things.
Tuesday, the tape, or at least the specter of it, came back. For Democrats, it was like the return of an old flame. For Republicans, it was more like the return of a long-forgotten hemorrhoid, as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick used it as a shield against accusations that he's gone soft on guns.
The tape, for those who've had better things to think about, was a secret recording made by Texas conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan during a June 12 meeting with Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Sullivan claims he recorded the speaker making disparaging remarks about fellow House members, in addition to encouraging Sullivan's group, Empower Texans, to back primary challenges against members of the House Republican caucus.
While he hasn't played the tape for the public or any media members, those who have heard it say it largely lines up with Sullivan's account. Patrick and Bonnen have both called for the tape's release.
Patrick and Sullivan got at each other's social media throats Tuesday because Sullivan decided to lash out at Patrick's apostasy on guns. The lieutenant governor called earlier this month for requiring background checks for private gun sales. That hasn't sat well with gun rights maximalists like Sullivan, who took the opportunity to compare Patrick to Beto O'Rourke.
You know my plan exempts family and friends, so apparently you are fine with selling your guns to total strangers who can’t pass a background check because they could be a violent felon or someone bent on mass violence. BTW, release the tape. You are destroying our party.— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) September 17, 2019
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The lieutenant governor, unhappy with Sullivan's attack, accused the activist of trying to destroy Texas' Republican Party from the inside. Sullivan blamed Bonnen for the ordeal and then chastised Patrick for not making the pilgrimage to listen to the audio.
.@DanPatrick - I recorded that meeting to protect myself from dirty politics, not to entertain the public. @RepDennisBonnen then lied, numerous times. I then gave #GOP leaders every opportunity to resolve the problem Bonnen created. https://t.co/MCY0Ydl9SW— Michael Quinn Sullivan (@MQSullivan) September 17, 2019
You haven’t bothered to listen to the audio. Why not? Too scared to make a moral judgement without a poll?— Michael Quinn Sullivan (@MQSullivan) September 17, 2019
What’s actually destroying the GOP is moral cowardice in which elected officials are unwilling to address the unethical behavior of other politicians. https://t.co/MCY0Ydl9SW
The Observer, for one, would love to hear what's actually on the tape. Until then, we'll happily settle for all the fighting.