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Ricardo Sanchez

Sanchez ends his Senate campaign

This news broke late Friday.

Leading Democratic U.S. senatorial candidate Ricardo Sanchez announced Friday that he’s ending his campaign to replace retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

In a statement issued by his campaign to supporters, Sanchez said anemic fundraising and the loss of his house to a fire had led him to conclude that a statewide campaign was “impractical for me at this time.”

“After extensive consultation with my family … I have decided to put family first and I will therefore end my campaign for the 2012 U.S. Senate seat as of today,” he said.

Well, that answers my question. Sanchez’s campaign never really got off the ground, and a month ago his house burned down, which is a tough thing for anyone to overcome. As we know, a lot of people were unhappy with his candidacy in the first place. This isn’t really a surprise.

“Politics abhors a vacuum. Someone will step forward,” said Jeff Crosby, a longtime Democratic consultant. “Someone will step in; who, I don’t know.”

Southern Methodist University political science Professor Cal Jillson said the situation Texas Democrats find themselves in is indicative of the party’s decade of electoral futility in statewide races.

“It is another sign of what people have been talking about for a decade, a very thin bench,” Jillson said. “You have some attractive young people in the Legislature and in city government … but they don’t have statewide name recognition.”

There’s always John Sharp, isn’t there? Surely he’s tanned, rested, and ready by now. I have no idea if anyone else will run. I don’t know how much it matters at this point. As to what Professor Jillson says, this is why I have been talking about making way for new blood. I disagree with him about the need for statewide name recognition, however, because almost no one currently serving at the state level had it beforehand. Rick Perry, Susan Combs, Todd Staples, and Jerry Patterson all came from the Lege. David Dewhurst was just some rich guy with no prior electoral experience before he ran for Land Commissioner. Most of the Railroad Commissioners we have had in the past decade or more were appointed to the position by the Governor before they won an election for the office. Only Greg Abbott, who was a Supreme Court justice before he was AG, had statewide experience. The fact is that when the state is ready to elect Democrats, it won’t matter much where those Democrats come from. What might speed that up is getting some Democrats who might like to run statewide into Congress and the State Senate, where their fundraising bases can be maximized. No matter how you slice it, though, the path to a statewide office involves a really big last step.

In other primary-related news, there were a few more filings in Harris County on Friday, with two races now having third candidates in them. In HD137, the seat being vacated by State Rep. Scott Hochberg, attorney Gene Wu has made his entry into the race. I’ve met Wu but don’t know a whole lot about him. I do know that the court-drawn HD137 has an Asian CVAP of 12.0%, which is third highest in the state behind HDs 26 (23.8%) and 149 (13.8%), wihch may add an interesting wrinkle to the race. All data is taken from here. In case you’re curious, the top ten districts in Plan H302 by Asian CVAP are as follows:

Dist County Incumbent Asian CVAP ========================================== 26 Fort Bend Open 23.8% 149 Harris Vo 13.8% 137 Harris Open 12.0% 66 Collin V Taylor 9.7% 112 Dallas Chen Button 8.4% 135 Harris Elkins 8.2% 115 Dallas Open 7.9% 27 Fort Bend Reynolds 7.8% 67 Collin Open 7.8% 129 Harris J Davis 7.3%

Obviously, that is subject to change. The other race with a third candidate now in it is HCDE Board of Trustees, Precinct 1, Position 6, the post now held by Roy Morales. This is not surprising when you consider that the Democratic primary will decide the outcome. The third candidate is Dr. Reagan Flowers, who according to her press release is “Founder and CEO of CSTEM (Communications-Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) a non-profit focused on improving education for underserved and underrepresented children.” You can read some of her writings here. I look forward to interviewing all the candidates in this race so I can figure out which one to vote for.

Otherwise in Harris County, things are pretty well covered. It looks like all of the 1st and 14th District Court of Appeals seats have challengers. The main down note is that other than Keith Hampton’s challenge to Sharon Keller, there are no Democratic candidates for Supreme Court or CCA. I suppose we could get a late filing or two tomorrow, but that’s not terribly encouraging.

Finally, here’s a list of Democratic filings in Fort Bend. I don’t know offhand if they have any races unfilled or not – I’m not sure when their District Attorney position is up, for instance. Again, the legislative seats are subject to change at the whim of the court. As, of course, is the whole unified primary itself, as it requires fairly swift SCOTUS action to not be scuttled by the calendar. For now, we’ll all just pretend that won’t happen.

UPDATE The District Attorney office in Fort Bend is not up until 2014. All offices except Tax Assessor have Democratic candidates filed for them so far.

Third quarter Congressional fundraising

The Trib has the highlights from some of the contested Congressional primaries that are shaping up.

Texas congressional incumbents raised more than $4.7 million during the third quarter of the year, but some of them face challengers who also displayed a knack for raising political cash. New fundraising reports show what’s in the war chests of Texans vying for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, giving definition to some of the state’s most closely watched races.

State Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, wowed by bringing in more than $500,000 for his challenge to U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. Doggett raised $377,000 by comparison – but he reported millions more in cash on hand, $3.3 million to Castro’s $389,000.

U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, raised almost $290,000 in the third quarter, far outpacing his first serious challenger, Beto O’Rourke. The former El Paso City Council member raised almost $26,000 and ended the quarter with about $12,000 on hand to Reyes’s $276,000.

State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, reported another of the top challenger fundraising numbers – about $137,500 – in his contest with U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-San Antonio, who raised slightly less. The incumbent reported about $460,000 in cash on hand to Gallego’s nearly $136,000.

You should read that linked story about Beto O’Rourke, which I saw at the time but didn’t get a chance to write about. I don’t have anything in particular against Rep. Silvestre Reyes, but a young, aggressive progressive like O’Rourke is exactly the kind of person I want to see succeed in politics. O’Rourke has no money to speak of yet, but if you look at his campaign finance report, you see that he only filed his initial paperwork on August 26, so there wasn’t much time to raise money for this period. We’ll see how he does in the next quarter.

I should note that State Rep. Pete Gallego, whose report is here, also didn’t file paperwork until late in the quarter. He did pretty well for himself, which is very encouraging, as Rep. Gallego is another person I’d like to see succeed.

That covers three of the four contested Dem primaries that I know of for this cycle. The fourth is in CD30, where Rep. Eddie Berniece Johnson already has one opponent in State Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway and may soon have another in businessman Taj Clayton. Rep. Johnson raised $82K for the period and has $223K on hand, not great but probably okay for a longtime incumbent who is well known. Rep. Caraway does not have a report visible through the search facility, but she does have a report. It’s here, and it was done by hand. No, I don’t understand why anyone would do it that way if they didn’t have to, either. In any event, she raised $13K and has $7K on hand, all from the month of September; note that in addition to the old-school handwriting, the form was filed for 2010 and not 2011. Hopefully, she’ll get her act together for the next quarterly filing. Thanks to DavidNYC for pointing this out to me.

I should note that the Trib provides a handy app that summarizes all candidates’ totals. I was a bit confused at first by the differences between their numbers and what you see in the FEC reports, but eventually it dawned on me that the totals the FEC gives for receipts are cumulative for the cycle, and not just the amouint raised in the given period. This is not how the state and city reports are done, which is why I was thrown off. In any event, the Trib’s app lets you know how much was raised over the past three months, which would be hard to do otherwide unless you had saved a query result from July.

Two other numbers of interest to note. Freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold was cited by Politico as an underperformer for this period, having raised a mere $102K. He does have $277K on hand, which isn’t nothing but also isn’t exactly insurmountable. You can see his FEC report here. Farenthold was by no means the low scorer – by my count, ten incumbents raised less, and eleven others have less cash. Fellow freshman Quico Canseco, in what is now a swingier district, raised $112K, but has $460K on hand.

And finally, a number to make you shake your head.

Seeking to gin up enthusiasm about an expanding the 2012 Senate map, national Democrats touted the candidacy of retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez when he entered the Texas Senate race in the spring. But Sanchez has maintained a low profile so far and his latest fundraising numbers aren’t impressive.

In the third quarter, Sanchez brought in just $83,000, spending over $112,000 and finishing the quarter with about $119,000 in the bank.

Yeah, that’s what I call a truly crappy report. I hope it’s because he has not been fully engaged in fundraising yet and not because no one is giving anything. At least there’s no place to go from here but up.

Obama and Texas 2012

Jonathan Chait notes that recently the Obama re-election team has said it will put money into Texas, and observes that this is part of a bigger strategy.

In the narrow analysis, Texas is a deeply Republican state. Obama lost it by a dozen points in 2008. It can’t possibly help him win in 2012. If he does win the state, which could conceivably happen only in some kind of blowout scenario, he’d easily have enough electoral votes elsewhere to win.

However, there is long-term potential in Texas. The Latino population there is as large a proportion as in California, but it’s heavily demobilized. A concerted campaign to register Latino voters could eventually change the dynamic. The catch is that you have to be willing to spend $20 million or so in order to register them — a huge investment that is hard to justify short term. But Obama might have enough money in 2012 to spare for a long-term investment. And a high-profile Latino Senate candidate like [Gen. Ricardo] Sanchez could lure a lot of previously unregistered Latinos. The only way to make this work is to create an energizing atmosphere for Latinos.

What’s more, Obama does need to mobilize the Latino vote in general, especially in states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida. That’s where the immigration push comes in. Obama failed to pass immigration legislation because a coalition of Republicans and red state Democrats killed it. Because the bills never had a high profile vote, though, it looked a lot like Obama simply didn’t care. That’s why Democrats are making a high profile push now. Obviously, passing something is the best case scenario. But if Republicans want to kill comprehensive reform or even the very modest DREAM Act, the point is to make them do it in a high profile setting that clarifies just who killed it. That kind of clarification is necessary to make the mass mobilization they’re planning in Texas effective. You can’t carry out a mass registration campaign in an atmosphere where the stakes are perceived to be low.

[…]

So the plan is to make the long-term investment in registering Hispanics in Texas, hastening the state’s eventual turn to purple, while maaaybe getting a competitive Senate race (Sanchez is a general running on a centrist message) and helping mobilize Latino voters in true swing states. Add it all together, and three decisions that make little or no sense on their own suddenly make a great deal of sense.

It should be noted that one of the gifts the Republican supermajority has given us this session is a requirement that voter registrars must themselves be registered to vote in Texas, meaning that voter registration drives that depend on out-of-state volunteers are a no go. Be that as it may, the Trib’s Ross Ramsay asked his squadron of political insiders how they thought Obama would do in Texas in 2012 compared to 2008, and the response was overwhelmingly “not as well”. Assuming Team Obama is serious about contesting Texas, or at least competing in it, one of these viewpoints is wrong. How do you resolve the question?

I look at it this way. Obama polled pretty consistently in the 38-42% range in 2008, with John McCain hovering around 50%; the gap between them was usually eight to eleven points, not too far from the actual 12 point difference. I haven’t seen any poll numbers for Texas since the 2010 election. It’s possible they’ll show a noticeable drop in support for him, and if so I’ll have to reconsider. My suspicion is that there’s only so much more that Republicans and Republican-voting independents can hate him, and unlike in an off year there’s no large reserve of semi-habitual voters to show up and skew the turnout models. Based on demography and voting habits, I think he has a lot more room to go up than to go down.

One way to look at it is this. Here’s a chart of John McCain’s percent of the vote in 2008 for each State Senate district versus the turnout percentage:

McCain Pct Vs Turnout

All data taken from here. Overall turnout of registered voters was 59.7%. With the lone exception of SD14 in Travis County, every Senate district that was won by Obama had lower turnout than that. In the 20 Senate districts won by John McCain, only three – SD22, 28, and 31 – were below 59.7, and only the latter two failed to top all Obama-won SDs other than SD14; they fell just short of SD13’s level. Remember, this is turnout of registered voters. Point being, there’s much more room for growth on the Democratic side, for which national money and people-power could have a large effect. And just to drive home the point about how this ties in with the overall strategy Chait identifies, consider this chart:

SSVR Pct vs Turnout

Spanish Surname Voter Registration (SSVR) isn’t an exact measure of Latino voters, but I think the point here is obvious. The seven most heavily Latino districts – SDs 06, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, and 29 – had by far the worst overall turnout. Only SDs 19 (50.1) and 26 (52.6) cracked the 50% mark. The district with the highest SSVR, SD27 at 78.1%, had the lowest turnout at 43.6%> Remember, this is turnout of registered voters, not population or voting age population or CVAP. Get these turnout levels up near the other districts and see how much you can cut the gap. Is it enough for a win? Highly unlikely. Is it enough to make the Republicans sweat a little and have some good effects downballot? For sure.

All this is predicated on Obama’s approval level remaining about where it has been among Democrats, and him doing as well or better among Latinos in 2012. The latter clearly needs some work. I don’t know how well this strategy – assuming it is a real strategy, and not just the product of a writer’s imagination – will perform, but I’d like to think there is a strategy. We’ll see how it goes from here.

Sanchez files paperwork to run for Senate

And he’s in.

Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who rose from an impoverished childhood in the Rio Grande Valley to become a three-star Army general commanding multinational forces in Iraq, filed the paperwork Wednesday to seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Sanchez, whose military career was cut short by the fallout from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, positioned himself as a political outsider among those who are “mostly focused on scoring partisan points and winning elections.”

“I believe Texas needs a strong, independent voice to address the enormous challenges we are facing – leadership that focuses on results rather than politics,” Sanchez said.

According to an earlier Politico story, Sanchez was going to “announce his intentions on Facebook, according to a Democratic source close to the campaign”. I don’t know if something changed, or if that “Democratic source” wasn’t quite as close to the campaign as he might have thought, but the only Facebook page I could find was this one, which is clearly not owned by a campaign. I also don’t see a campaign website. It’s early days, obviously, but given that no one is operating under a deadline here one might think it would be preferable to have those particular ducks in a row. For what it’s worth, this McAllen Monitor story, which also references that Facebook page I can’t find, says Sanchez is “[prepping] for a formal announcement at a later date”. We’ll see how that goes.

Beyond that, I’ve said that I want to hear what he has to say for himself, but as yet there’s nothing on which to base a judgment. I’ll let you know when there is. Kos and Juanita have more.

Another Sanchez profile

The Express News talks to possible Senate candidate Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. I won’t rehash all of the stuff we’re familiar with, so let me just focus on this:

A decision is likely in the next few weeks. If he runs, Sanchez, 59, of San Antonio will lay out a narrative he knows some Texans are unlikely to embrace.

It will tell of how welfare softened the blows of poverty and gave him the chance to become an outstanding student and combat soldier. He was voted most likely to succeed in his Rio Grande City High School class of 1969.

That narrative, moreover, almost certainly will serve as the cornerstone of a campaign that would be his first for public office.

“The people need to hear the truth. … . They may not be receptive, they may not like it,” Sanchez said. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tell the American people, and the people of Texas, what the truth is. …

“You can’t shy away from the difficult issues. You have to lay out the difficulties and the variables that must be changed to control the situation and to restore America’s and Texas’ greatness.”

I appreciate the discussion about values and winnability that Sanchez’s candidacy has sparked, but it strikes me that maybe we’re overlooking something. What if Sanchez is willing and able to forcefully advocate the kind of values we all want to see in Democratic candidates? The man himself isn’t saying much yet, but listen to what he is saying and think about what it might mean:

Sanchez wouldn’t give positions on specific issues, but cited the economy, deficit, education, energy and family values as his chief concerns. Still, expect the issues he champions to be guided by his Catholic faith. His positions also will be rooted in a childhood so poor he used cardboard to cover the holes in the soles of his shoes.

“I came from a broken home. I attended public schools my entire time. My family was on welfare most of my days growing up here in Texas,” Sanchez said. “So I understand the processes, the challenges, the factors that play on our poor. I understand the despair and also the desire to succeed and to try to get out of poverty.

I don’t want to project, but in the abstract at least, a lot of that sounds like the sort of things I’d want a Democratic candidate to be talking about. There’s certainly the potential for it to go off the rails – “family values” is a highly loaded phrase – but the potential is also there for it to be something to get fired up about. Which is why, as I’ve said all along, I want to hear what he has to say for himself. Who knows, maybe we’ll like what we hear.

Three things about Sanchez

If you judge the announcement of a possible candidacy by the amount of attention it receives, then the story of the recruitment of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez has been a smash success. Here are a few things being written that I thought were worth taking note of.

First Reading: GOP starts trying to build case against Sanchez

The ink is still drying on the first reports that Democrats are trying to recruit Ricardo Sanchez, a retired Army lieutenant general and former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, to run next year for the U.S. Senate seat now held by retiring Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison. But Republicans aren’t wasting any time preparing their opposition files.

Numerous Democrats on Capitol Hill were critical of Sanchez’s role in Iraq, particularly over the Abu Ghraib scandal. According to the Los Angeles Times, he wrote in his 2008 book that one reason he did not get a fourth star was that “Senate Democrats were intentionally putting pressure” on the Bush administration “not to send my nomination forward.”

So if Sanchez runs, it seems Republicans will use Democrats’ past criticisms against him. In fact, on Tuesday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (headed by our own John Cornyn) sent a six-page Freedom of Information Act request to the Pentagon asking for “any and all correspondence” between Democratic senators and the Pentagon that referenced Sanchez between May 2003 and the end of November 2006.

The first senator from that time period on their list? Yep, that would be Barack Obama.

If that’s the worst they’ve got, I’m not particularly worried. Politically, this is equivalent to a party-switching situation. What was said before by each side is taken in partisan context when everybody changes rhetoric. I’m not saying it can never be effective – ask Arlen Specter about that – but it’s generally discounted. It also goes both ways – I’m sure if anyone bothers to look, one can find Sen. Cornyn saying something nice about Gen. Sanchez. What will be interesting will be to see how they attack him for Abu Ghraib, since that isn’t exactly something Republicans have a track record of being upset about. If they can try to kill Medicare six months after cleaning up in an election where they killed the Democrats over cuts to Medicare, I’m sure they can pull it off.

The Fix: Can Democrats win in Texas in 2012?

The last time Democrats in Texas won a major statewide race — president, Senate or governor — was back in 1990 when Ann Richards was elected governor.

Since that time, the party has struggled mightily to even be competitive. The best showing for a Democratic presidential candidate in Texas since 1990 was 43.8 percent for Bill Clinton in 1996.

Obama won 43. 7 percent in 2008, coming up 11 points short of Sen. John McCain.

[…]

Given all of that history, what makes Democrats think that 2012 will be any different?

The answer is the continued — and massive — growth of the state’s Hispanic community coupled with Republicans’ inability nationwide to win over that critical voting bloc.

Two thirds of all the population growth in Texas over the past decade came among Latinos and nearly four in every ten residents of the Lonestar State are now Hispanic.

That’s good news for Democrats as Hispanics — even in Texas where they were far more of a swing group than in other states thanks to Bush’s outreach to them — are moving more and more to the Democratic side in recent elections.

In 2010, Bill White carried Hispanics 61 percent to 38 percent over Perry. And in 2008, President Obama won the group by an even wider 63 percent to 35 percent margin.

Those numbers make clear why Democrats are so keen on the idea of Ricardo Sanchez as their nominee. (Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Patty Murray included Texas as one of the six targeted races for the committee in 2012.)

[…]

Sanchez is the latest in a series of impressive candidates on paper that Democrats have fielded in hopes of taking advantage of the shifting political dynamic in Texas.

But recent history suggests he will need to overperform most statewide Democrats by seven points in order to win — a tough task for anyone particularly a first time candidate.

Actually, Democrats won seven of fifteen statewide races in 1994, including a couple of judicial races in which they were unopposed. Not that it really affects Cilizza’s point, I just get peeved when supposed experts flub easily checked facts like that.

The question about whether Sanchez, or any Democratic statewide nominee, can win in 2012 largely boils down to the question of what you think the base level of Democratic support will be. As I’ve shown before, Republican statewide vote totals in 2008 were at best equivalent to those from 2004 even though statewide turnout improved by 650,000 votes. If 2012 is to 2008 as 2008 was to 2004, Texas will be close to tossup status before anyone runs an ad. Republican turnout in 2004 was juiced a bit by the presence of George Bush, and Democratic turnout was juiced a bit in 2008 by Barack Obama, though he didn’t spend any money here after the primary. It’s more likely the case that 2012 will not be to 2008 as 2008 was to 2004, but if the Obama campaign and the DSCC actually do put some resources into Texas, who knows? I would expect the baseline to be two or three points better for the Dems, all things being equal. From there, it’s up to the candidates and their campaigns. Speaking to Cilizza’s point about demography, there’s not much driving an increase in the Republican voting pool for 2012. The type of person who votes Republican is already highly likely to vote, and was highly likely to have voted in 2008. There are a lot more potential Democratic voters out there, and their likelihood of voting is more volatile and sensitive to specific conditions. That can be a very bad thing in off years, but it means the ceiling is higher, too. Democratic turnout was the key in 2008, and it will be the key in 2012.

BOR: The Texas Democratic Strategy: Winnability vs. Values

Lots of good stuff here from KT. Go read it, but let me highlight this bit first:

Maybe it’s time to for Texas Democrats to stop searching for nominees based upon this model of “winnability” and instead, search for a nominee based upon our Party’s “values”.

How many more times are we going to ask the Democratic base of this state to trudge out to the polls and “get excited” by our winnable candidates? Seeing as our “winnable” strategy never wins, is there any harm in nominating someone with a strong Democratic identity who runs a campaign centered on our Democratic values? What if we sought out someone who’s more interested in running a multi-million dollar campaign focused on calling out Republicans for their failure of leadership and bankrupting of this state’s treasury and future rather than calling up Republicans to plead for their checks and votes?

Rather then get bogged down in a debate about the merits or demerits of a particular candidate, we should be putting some energy into finding and supporting candidates who seek to energize the Democratic base as a starting point. It’s true that our base isn’t quite as big as theirs, but it’s also true that the strategy of studied distance from the Democratic base as a way of appealing to crossovers hasn’t exactly been a success. Sooner or later there’s going to be a change election in Texas, and it would help to have our high-profile candidates be more forceful advocates of that change. Now, talking about such things is the easy part. Figuring out how to do it, including a way to provide for it financially, then actually doing it, that’s where it gets hard. But first things first.

Texas Monthly interview with Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who is being recruited to run for the Senate in Texas, did an interview with Texas Monthly in 2008 that’s worth your time to read. The interview was published after his book “Wiser In Battle”, which was highly critical of the prosecution of the war in Iraq, came out. Here’s what he had to say about Abu Ghraib:

Let me ask you about Abu Ghraib, which obviously you were in the middle of—

Probably responsible for that.

People have said, point-blank, that it was a failure of leadership on your part. It must be difficult to have your entire career summed up in that one horrifying incident.

Well, it has been. Let’s not mistake for a second that it was anything other than grotesque and unacceptable. But I think we need to look at the facts that tell us how our nation started down a slippery slope in 2002, when the lifting of the Geneva Conventions occurred. The military issued that guidance almost verbatim to our fighting forces in the field. More importantly, we failed to convey the instructions and safeguards and training that might have kept us from going down that slippery slope to abuse and torture. We failed to respond to pleas for guidance from soldiers and leaders in the field, when it was crystal clear to everybody, because of the investigations that were conducted in November and December of 2002, that we had significant problems in detention and interrogation. Then we compounded things by bringing into Iraq units that had been in Afghanistan, operating in a totally unconstrained interrogation world. In a conventional force, that creates significant confusion.

I imagine so.

When I identified that we had this unprecedented problem—we knew by May 2003 that it was way beyond anything we had ever faced—and we began to ask for help, there was no one within the Army or the Department of Defense who had any understanding of how to solve it. So we struggled and floundered and began to come up with solutions internally. Every time we got a notification of an abuse, we conducted an investigation. But there were well-known abuses that the whole world knew about—the one in which a warrant officer killed a general while he was interrogating him or the case of Iceman, as he was known, who died in the course of an investigation by the CIA and was dumped on my soldiers at Abu Ghraib. So there were two different agencies operating that were not under my command.

One was the CIA.

And the other one was the Special Operations Forces. To describe a little better what happened in Abu Ghraib, you had a coming together of my interrogators with the CIA—which came in and did what they do with no constraints on their rules—and the Special Operations Forces, who were operating under global-war-on-terror rules that were different from the rules that the Geneva Conventions applied to.

There wasn’t a common standard among the three.

No, absolutely not. The problem is that you had three different chains of command. Mine covered only the conventional forces. The Special Operations Forces reported back to Central Command. The CIA reported back to the CIA.

So you feel like you were unfairly held responsible for the actions of people not in your command?

What happened to me is that everything was seen as the responsibility of the commander on the ground. In fact, when one looks at the reality, it is very clear that incidents that occurred and abuses and allegations were outside of my command authority.

But to the extent that you’re responsible only for your folks, it was indeed folks in your command, like Lynndie England, who also committed pretty horrific abuses. That’s been documented.

Yeah, clearly. There were some abuses that occurred as we fought the war. But they were not condoned. We actually charged and court-martialed soldiers. We were very aggressive in investigating instances of abuse and taking actions against those people responsible.

And yet, in the end, you were relieved of your command.

I wasn’t relieved of my command. I rotated out of there after fourteen months. But there was an effort to make it appear that I was being relieved. That’s correct.

The implication was you were paying a price for the embarrassment that the U.S. suffered over Abu Ghraib.

Yes, no question.

You believe that it was an unfair assessment of your tenure in that position.

When you get to those levels of command, you have to look at what our leadership does in light of all the factors they’re considering. It becomes almost untenable for the administration to do anything else, to do anything other than tell me to retire, because it is in the best interest of the Department of Defense and the Army.

But this is your career! Surely this can’t be something you look back on and say, “Oh, well, that’s life.”

No, no. It’s a very disappointing time in my life.

Who do you blame?

I’m not sure. Do I blame a single individual? Do I blame the nation for the mistakes we made that led us to Abu Ghraib and the abuses that occurred as a result of the actions we took? Do I blame the military or the Department of Defense for trying to contain this extremely embarrassing period in our history? I think when you look at it, what happened to me is that I got caught in a perfect storm.

As I said before, I want to hear what he has to say for himself before I make any judgments. So far, I’m satisfied with what I’ve heard and am willing to hear more. Thanks to Evan Smith, then the editor of Texas Monthly and the conductor of that interview, for the link.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez

In case you haven’t heard, national Democrats may have found a Senate candidate for next year.

Democrats appear to have recruited retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez to run for the U.S. Senate in Texas, setting the stage for the party to field a well-known candidate in the 2012 race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, a Democrat, confirmed that Democratic Senate campaign chief Patty Murray, D-Wash., was referring to Sanchez on Thursday when she said Democrats were close to announcing a candidate in Texas.

Sanchez, reached by phone at his San Antonio home, asked where the reports of a Senate run came from and then said, “I can neither confirm nor deny.”

Sanchez, the former top military commander in Iraq who was left under a cloud from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, would not discuss the Senate race. But he did respond to questions about his career and political philosophy.

“I would describe myself as during my military career as supporting the president and the Constitution,” Sanchez said. “After the military, I decided that socially, I’m a progressive, a fiscal conservative and a strong supporter, obviously, of national defense.”

Sanchez, a Rio Grande City native, said he was shaped by his upbringing.

“It’s my views and my history, having grown up in South Texas, depending on social programs and assistance, that America has a responsibility to its people,” he said.

It’s not official yet, but a story like this (which has also been picked up by wire services) doesn’t usually appear for no reason. It may turn out to be nothing, but not because it was a misguided rumor that got mistaken for news. I believe he’s seriously considering it, and will run or not run depending to some degree on the reaction he gets to this.

And given that the words “Abu Ghraib” will feature prominently in any story written about him, that reaction is unlikely to be muted. Juanita, Jobsanger, and McBlogger are encouraged, PDiddie most emphatically is not. Burka thinks Sanchez is the kind of candidate Dems need to run but he’s doomed anyway. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more as the news spreads.

Personally, I’m with those that are encouraged. We’re not exactly overflowing with credible potential candidates around here. If Sanchez can be decent on the issues and can get support from the money people (something that was never really available to Rick Noriega), then glory be. If not, there will be other races for me to care about next year. Sanchez is the only game in town now, as John Sharp appears to have given up the ghost. I want to hear what he has to say for himself, and we’ll go from there.

One thing to keep in mind here: Having Sanchez in the race doesn’t mean he’ll be the nominee. I expect there will be plenty of Democrats who aren’t happy with this announcement and will not want to support him under any circumstances. That presents an opening, and I’ll be surprised if someone doesn’t try to take advantage of it. It’s not hard to imagine a nasty primary fight, and it’s not hard to imagine a multi-candidate scenario where Sanchez gets forced into a runoff. I hope the people who are gigging Sanchez to run have given some thought to this.