Transcript: Is Texas Becoming a Blueprint for National Politics?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, March 12, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FNC SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: Ah, they say all politics is local, and that's particularly true if you are talking about Texas. The Lone Star politics is the subject of a new documentary making its debut soon in Austin. Local politicians are the primary focus, but the themes will look very familiar to voters right across the country.

Paul Stekler (search) is director and producer of "Last Man Standing." Good name, Paul. That's today's big question. Is Texas becoming a blueprint for national politics?


NAPOLITANO: Why did you pick Texas, Paul?

STEKLER: Well, I live here in Texas, so it was an easy one to pick. But, you know, my feeling was that Texas, you know, is — seems to be, you know, different because of the iconology and the mythology of cowboys and big oil. But I think it actually has more to do with the politics and the future of this country than a lot of people might think.

NAPOLITANO: Texas was probably controlled by the Democrats for 100 years until the Bushes came along. I think John Conley (search) was the governor of Texas as a prominent Democrat.


NAPOLITANO: He eventually was a Republican before he died, but were there very many Republican governors before George W. Bush and before George H.W. Bush planted his political roots in Texas?

STEKLER: I think the last Republican governor was ran out of the state during a reconstruction. So we didn't have one until back in the '70s with Governor Clements.

NAPOLITANO: What lessons are there? What should we look for if we were to see this movie about what distinguishes Texas local politics from any other state in the union?

STEKLER: Well, I think you have two big dynamics over here. One is a Senate Republican party which has gained strength and is pretty much dominant, if not a one party state here in Texas. The other dynamic is an exploding Hispanic population, which is predominantly Democratic. This film investigates to a certain extent is this going to be a Republican state in the future or is it going to become a Democratic state because of the population changes? And that's relevant to what's going on in the country at large right now, because a lot of the districts have the same kind of dynamics going on all across the country.

NAPOLITANO: If I watched your move — and I hope I get a chance to, Paul — would I learn anything new about George W. Bush that I don't already know?

STEKLER: Well, I think you would learn a little bit more maybe about the politics that he left behind here that he and Karl Rove (search) have helped to help capture the state of Texas. So you'll get a sense of just what kind of politics he came out of. And I think you'll get a little bit of a sense of the grassroots politics that produced the Republican Party ascendancy in Texas. And also, it's pretty entertaining. You get to see Karl Rove interviewed and other famous Texas politicos like Ann Richards and Paul Begala also. You get more of a sense of the context of Bush.

NAPOLITANO: What's your favorite Karl Rove story, for those of us on the East Coast that only have gotten to know him since President Bush occupied the White House?

STEKLER: Well, you know, in the film Carl talks about how when he came to Texas in 1977, there weren't very many Republicans here. And at the end of our interview with him at the White House about a year ago last February, I asked Karl, if you were a Democrat coming to Texas today, what would you do? His answer was pretty great. As a matter of fact, it's the interview that ends the film at the end of election night. It's pretty perceptive about how a party makes a comeback.

NAPOLITANO: What does he say?

STEKLER: He says when you are in the minority what you have to do is pick and choose. You have to be able to figure out your opportunities. You probably know that John Tower, the first Republican senator here in Texas, was elected as a fluke back in 1961 against a weak Democratic. And what he is saying is that you've got to be able to win elections that are winnable against flawed candidates, maybe a luck-out. Maybe there's an issue that comes up in an election, and you hope that those candidates that win are successful, and their success breeds more success. And that's how a party comes back and builds its appeal to a wider audience.

NAPOLITANO: Will President Bush like your documentary "Last Man Standing?"

STEKLER: I'm sure he will, because he likes politics. And it's a funny, entertaining film and compelling, and is he is in it. And I think most politicians love films that they see themselves in.

NAPOLITANO: Well, we'll look out for it. And I hope I get to see it myself. Paul Stekler, producer and director of the documentary "Last Man Standing," and inside look at Texas politics. Thank you, Paul.

STEKLER: Thank you, Judge.

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