Setting aside his schizophrenic and politically expedient opinions about what local officials should have power to address — those opinions being a contradictory mishmash on issues including plastic bags, trees, taxes, fracking and the coronavirus pandemic, to name a few — Gov. Greg Abbott hit on a core truth Thursday.

That truth is this: We individual people, not the government, bear the main responsibility for keeping ourselves and each other safe from COVID-19.

Whatever else the governor might justifiably be criticized for doing and saying before and since the pandemic, he was right about that.

Abbott also was right in not attempting to reimpose the restrictions on civic and commercial life he ordered earlier in the year when it appeared COVID-19 cases might overwhelm hospitals.

There are numerous reasons why that was the right call. Not the least of which is the governor lacks the moral authority to make such demands of rank-and-file Texans. He lost that when members of his own political party, including the head of the Texas GOP, held a tent revival mostly for the exaltation of President Donald Trump in defiance of Abbott’s own orders.

That clear violation of the law, abetted by local elected officials sworn to uphold the law, drew not even a tepid public rebuke from the governor.

So Abbott no longer can order a hair dresser in Denton, a barkeep in Beaumont or any other working Texan to go home and patiently await bankruptcy for the community good.

More practically, reinstating rules that also were a contradictory mishmash of mostly unenforceable restrictions would have been unnecessary and probably counterproductive.

Texas might be at another COVID-19 crossroads. Cases are on the rise, although it remains to be seen whether more meaningful numbers such as hospitalizations and deaths will follow that upward trend.

To his credit, Abbott on Thursday said and did the right things in response to that threat. The governor is no COVID denier. He acknowledged the seriousness of the situation and urged Texans to take the simple steps widely regarded as effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

He left a mask order in place and urged Texans to practice social distancing, to keep their hands clean and their fingers out of their mouths and noses.

“This is not our first response to this challenge,” Abbott said. “We had a greater increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in July. We learned exactly at that time what needed to be done to crush COVID-19 in Texas, and Texans joined together to make sure we did slow the spread.”

Abbott is in an unenviable political position — damned from the right for doing anything about COVID-19 and from the left for not doing everything.

What he did Thursday was display good sense and leadership.

That’s about the best we expect from a governor.

The main work, as it should be and has been for practical purposes, is up to each of us. If we follow the governor’s advice, we can manage the crisis without the arbitrary, mostly symbolic restrictions imposed early on.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

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(7) comments

Susan Fennewald

I don't agree with Abbott on most things - but I do think he's been OK on Covid. At the point, in the summer, when he issued a mask order and closed bars he was at his best. That had maximum effect from minimal restrictions. And he's really never waivered on the mask order. It's not perfectly enforced but that's probably for the best. He's consistently supported the use of masks which is the most effective and least restrictive measure.

Bailey Jones

There is much more Abbott could do besides enacting more orders. Public service advertising, for instance, encouraging Texans to mask up and social distance. I remember Dolph Briscoe during the oil embargo in the 70s making a TV commercial asking people to drive less. We have the very successful "Don't Mess With Texas" campaign - where are the billboards encouraging Texans to exercise their common sense and concern for their fellow Texans?

Don Schlessinger

Public service announcements? Every station we turn our TV's to is encouraging people to wear masks and distance themselves from each other. If people don't understand the need for masks when they are out of their home seeing our governor's face on TV will not help at all.

Chuck DiFalco

Mr. Smith, I agree with you wholeheartedly that "More practically, reinstating [lockdown] rules ... would have been unnecessary and probably counterproductive." However, I have a more nuanced view on Abbott's (lack of) moral authority to "order a hair dresser in Denton, a barkeep in Beaumont or any other working Texan to go home and patiently await bankruptcy for the community good." You say it's because he's had a double standard on his pandemic orders, which is unfortunately accurate. This double standard taints whatever good things he's done and continues to do. I think it's not just the hair dresser in Denton and the barkeep in Beaumont, but the tens of thousands of workers and businesses across the state that were locked out of self sufficiency at one time. Upscale that to the millions of workers and businesses across the country, many of whom have already declared or soon face bankruptcy, collectively being involved in a systemic economic failure that we call a depression. COVID didn't cause the lockdowns, elected leaders did. COVID won't cause a depression, elected leaders will. That must stop.

Wayne D Holt

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Ted Gillis

Governor Abbot stating that he will not impose another shut down is the answer to a question that was never asked. Glad he clarified that.

Wayne D Holt

Ted, with our self-anointed president Joe Biden, there indeed is a need for a strong signal to be sent: the federal government can expect 10th Amendment challenges to any national (it isn't federal if it ignores the federation of states) lockdown orders coming from Gomorrah on the Potomac.

If he is able to tranquilize the Far Left that has hijacked the Democrat party of JFK, he will be able to walk that back. Any Lockdown II will not be getting the same reception the first one did. If he doesn't want to look like a lame duck in his first 100 days, he should rethink the Stalinist rhetoric.

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