If you happened to stumble upstairs at the Londoner last night, you might have wondered just what the hell was going on. Why were so many of these men wearing suits to the bar? Is that a sweater vest in the corner? Everyone's throwing the word "santorum" around with such enthusiasm -- have we stumbled upon some sort of bizarre fetish club? And good Lord, is that Tom Leppert?
Yes it was, in fact, dropping by the monthly meeting of the Dallas County Young Republicans.
"I know I'm interrupting the beers and the conversation," Leppert said. (He really was. The lone Ron Paul guy in the room, who was wearing a name tag that read "Wesley Snipes," was in the middle of telling Greg and me what an "insufferable douchebag prick" Rick Santorum is. It was getting interesting.) But this country, Leppert continued, "is in a real dire position." In a 15-minute sort of greatest-hits package, Leppert and the YRs fixed that right up.
"I'm not much of a politician," Leppert said, with apparent sincerity. "But I am a business person. A conservative business person. I was never able to solve a problem with a sound-bite."
Instead, Leppert touted his "30-page, detailed, comprehensive economic plan," warned that within six months Iran will probably get nuclear weapons and try to kill us all, and gave a couple of quick nods to both democracy and Jesus (he's strongly in favor of both).
Leppert even found time to defend his stances as mayor on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and the city-owned Omni Hotel to Ron Paul Guy, who wasn't a fan of either. "Those are your only significant accomplishments as mayor," he told Leppert. They'd obviously had this conversation before. "A giant bridge and a government-run hotel."
"The bridge was done before I ever got there," Leppert replied. He claimed it was largely funded by private money (Really?). "People can spend their money any way they want," he added. "And we had to have a bridge there, from an infrastructure standpoint."
"The convention center hotel," he added serenely, "I'm usually criticized for that." But it was pretty straightforward, he said. "None of you are paying for it. You pay less taxes because of it. ... And it made a million dollars over projections in the first year it was open. If there was another way to do that, I would've done it. And it was voted on by people too."
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After a brief detour into his back-story (single mom, public school, bootstraps, etc.), Leppert got into the social issues, when one of the YRs asked him what the government's role is in helping "the poorest of the poor."
"There has to be a safety net," Leppert replied, to our mild surprise. "My wife views me as right of Attila the Hun, but there does have to be a safety net." But people shouldn't get to stay in it too long. "My mom taught me you'd better work to get it. All of you are here because you're ready to work hard and get ahead in your careers."
The Young Republicans nodded. Leppert nodded. They all agreed that abortion was a bad idea, marriage was between a man and a woman, and that Social Security was a doomed sinkhole. Finally, just before everyone returned to their beers, someone asked Leppert what issues he was willing to compromise with the Democrats on, and which ones he wasn't.
"In running the city of Dallas and in business, I've done a lot of things," Leppert replied. "But I never compromised my principles. I brought people over to my side instead."