Congressman Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat, says Texans are so crazy they passed a law that says "you can't shoot bears out of a second-floor window."
Mr. Hastings may not be the best source for background on whether Texans really are crazy. He was impeached by the House in 1989 but was re-elected by stubborn voters in Broward and Palm Beach counties in 1992. He is not, in other words, entirely reliable. And, as you might have guessed, there is no law in Texas saying you can't shoot bears from a second-floor window. The fact is, you can't shoot bears at all.
That doesn't mean there's not a streak of craziness running through the Lone Star State. Consider the state's reaction to the news that the Pentagon had scheduled a training exercise for elite military units called Jade Helm 15 this summer in nine states, including Texas. Commentators traversing "the outer edges of paranoia" said the exercise "is part of a secret plan to impose martial law, take away people's guns, arrest political undesirables, launch an Obama-led hostile takeover of red-state Texas, or do some combination thereof," according to the New York Times.
One commentator said, seriously, that the special forces were going to dig tunnels under abandoned Wal-Mart stores and use them as food centers for the soldiers, sailors, and Marines participating in the take-over. Wal-Mart says there are no tunnels and no plans to use those old stores as food centers.
Now, one would have thought, Gov. Greg Abbott should have stepped forward and said all this Twitter talk was nonsense. But, no, he issued a directive to the Texas State Guard to monitor the military operation because it was "important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed."
No story I have read explains just what the Texas State Guard is. It is not, as some presume, the same thing as the Texas National Guard. The State Guard is purely a Texas outfit, under the direction of the governor and commanded by the state's adjutant general. The Texas State Guard consists of six civil affairs regiments, two air wings, a medical brigade and a maritime regiment.
It traces its roots to Texas militia units organized by Stephen Austin and others at a time when Texas was breaking away from Mexico. In fact, though, the modern state guard was organized in World War II when the state's national guard units were federalized and marched away to serve their country.
The Texas Army National Guard, a part of the federal military structure, is a separate organization, although some of its duties overlap the states guard's. The Army National Guard in Texas numbers 19,000 men. I could find no mention of how many men and women serve in the state guard, but the number must be significant.
There aren't many Democratic officeholders in or from Texas, but one of them, Rep. Joaquin Castro, said, "It's dangerously irresponsible for a governor to fan the flames of conspiracy and paranoia against our own military and government." David Dewhurst, a Republican and a former lieutenant governor, said, "I think you've got some paranoia, which is based upon legitimate concerns by my fellow Texans and a lot of Americans about the trustworthiness and the competence of President Obama, but let's not project than on to our military."
Chuck Norris, the actor with strong right-wing views, explained that Texans trust Americans in uniform. It's their civilian bosses "pulling their strings" that he and others distrust. It's a fine line. Trust the men and women in uniform; distrust their commander in chief, President Obama.
James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, contributes regular observations to post-gazette.com. Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.