As we enter the new year, I think back across the past 12 months at what transpired in 2019—the issues that caught my attention, that seemed to define both the present day and presage the future.

The Dennis Bonnen story first came to mind. I am not surprised at his actions; I don’t know enough about Mr. Bonnen to be surprised.

Yet I was not only surprised, but I was shocked at the response by state representatives who defended and continue to either defend or stand idly by as Bonnen continues to drag Texas politics deeper into the swamp with subsequent actions.

Integrity is not something like a winter coat, something that you put on and take off depending on the conditions. Sadly, I think that some state representatives do exactly that.

Take, for example, the Texas House committee that found Mr. Bonnen likely violated state law but recommended no action be taken. If the very people who make state law have such a low opinion of the need to enforce the very laws they make, what are we to think?

Before you point out the current state of federal politics, let me say that we have always held Texas up as an example of better angels, as expressed by Abraham Lincoln:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

I don’t find Lincoln’s thoughts reflected in Mr. Bonnen’s story.

When the Speaker of the Texas House defines enemies and advocates actions against them, and in so doing likely violates state law, a strong response is the only response.

Do you realize that injury lawyers and politicians use similar language? Some version of “I’ll fight for YOU!” Then state representatives allow and even defend the indefensible among their own ranks.

IF—and I believe that it is a big “if”—Texas is to continue to be a bright star of freedom, opportunity, peace, and prosperity, we will elect strong men and women of character. The Texas swamp obviously needs attention.

I believe that Mark Twain had it right. Ronald Reagan thought so too, because he quoted Twain several times: “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”

This is a commentary submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to

Keith Self

Keith Self served as Collin County judge from 2007 to 2018. Prior to holding elected office, the fifth-generation Texan and West Point graduate had a distinguished military career, serving 25 years as an Army officer.


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