Suddenly a bout of freak Texas weather puts the fate of the Lone Star State back at the center of presidential politics. An electricity crisis sparked by a winter storm has deprived millions of people of heat, water and power for days as temperatures plunged.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, a fierce supporter of former President Donald Trump, just a few weeks ago endorsed the Texas attorney general's bizarre court effort to nullify valid presidential ballots in other states.
Sticking to GOP lobbying priorities, Abbott earlier this week went on Fox News to blame the national movement toward green energy, which President Joe Biden calls a priority, for widespread power outages in the state.
"This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America," Abbott said Tuesday. "Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10% of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis."
In fact, the state's gas, coal and nuclear power plants — as well as wind turbines — largely were never winterized to withstand a long, hard freeze and therefore did not operate, as has been widely reported. Earlier, Abbott had said the state's natural gas supply was "frozen in the pipeline."
Most of the sprawling state's power grid — isolated from other areas of the country — allows officials and the industry there to avoid federal regulation. Right there, the apolitical question of what works for the public becomes a financial and ideological battle.
Rick Perry, the state's former governor who served as Trump's energy secretary, said Wednesday in a blog post sent out by U.S. House Republicans: "Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business." Perry and allies say it is really Democrats who are using the crisis to promote their favored changes in energy policy.
The debate extends to climate change and its deniers.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who objected to congressional affirmation of presidential election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania, may see himself as inheriting the former president's fan base for another presidential run. But the Texas freeze doesn't serve him well so far.
As his state's freezing residents waited for drinking water and power to return, Cruz traveled to Cancun, Mexico. Someone took a photo of him at the airport. He said in a statement that he flew with his daughters Wednesday and that he would be returning Thursday.
"With school canceled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon," Cruz said in a statement before the return flight.
Dinesh D'Souza, a right-wing pundit Trump pardoned over a campaign-finance conviction, volunteered a unique spin on the embarrassment.
"What could @tedcruz do if he were here in Texas?" D'Souza tweeted. "I’m hard-pressed to say. If he’s in Cancun, that means he’s not using up valuable resources of energy, food and water that can now be used by someone else. This is probably the best thing he could do for the state right now."
Even the weather itself elicited a fringe conspiracy story. Jokingly or not, this one spread on Facebook: "Joe Biden's ‘Dark Winter’ statement was not a random thought, it was a foreshadow of what was to come … This is warfare, an attack on Texas by altering the jet stream, seeding the clouds, and ultimately causing the storm that blacked out over 4 million people." PolitiFact knocked this down.
All of which made Biden once again look merely normal and functional.
His homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall told reporters Thursday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency supplied 60 generators, 729,000 liters of water, more than 10,000 wool blankets, 50,000 cotton blankets and 225,000 meals. Diesel fuel also is due to be delivered, she said.