Updated: Apr 19
I’ve seen a fair amount of Will Hurd, a Black former GOP congressman and first time author from Texas, a politician likely positioning himself to run for president. I’ve met some of Hurd’s family, including his father, Bob, who supported his interracial clan by selling Lucky Strikes in a time when African-American sales people endured hellish racism.
I chatted with Bob once at a Will Hurd campaign kick-off in San Antonio. “How long have you been a Republican?” I asked. Mr. Hurd was 86 or 87 at the time; he turned 89 not long ago.
“Since Abraham Lincoln emancipated the slaves,” he replied.
I had a duty to understand Will Hurd’s politics in my last newspaper adventure, as a member of the Hearst Newspapers Washington bureau. Hearst has a boatload of papers in Texas, among them Hurd's hometown paper, the San Antonio Express-News, and the Houston Chronicle. Both had a keen interest in Hurd, who stood out in a variety of ways.
He was the only African-American Republican in the U.S. House, an embarrassing imbalance in his party's make-up. He’d been a case officer in the CIA working undercover in dicey places. He represented a sprawling south Texas district that drew an avalanche of interest and cash at election time. Quite the slice of America Texas 23 is, 7o+ percent Latino and a ten-hour journey from one end to the other.
And before Hurd opted not to run again in 2020, he was among Republicans unafraid to to challenge Donald Trump on matters ranging from treatment of migrants to willful ignorance about Russian intelligence and Vladimir Putin's goals.
Hurd, 44, has written a book, American Reboot: An Idealist's Guide to Getting Big Things Done (Simon & Schuster, $27.99). In it, he scorches the party to which he belongs on immigration, diversity and its fairly recent embrace of backward thinking and crackpot ideas.
“If the Republican Party doesn’t start looking like America, then there’s not going to be a Republican Party in America,” he writes, words I first quoted him first saying in 2018.
Hurd skewers members of the GOP who deal in conspiracy theories and trade in the dangerous lie about a stolen election. He takes it a step further, calling the untruth “an example of internal threats many of our military leaders have cautioned our political leaders to take as serious as external threats.”
His title for Chapter 3 doesn’t hold back: Don’t Be an Asshole, Racist, Misogynist or Homophobe.
Hurd relates a telephone call in which President Donald Trump grew perturbed at his refusal to join one of the many House GOP drives to kill the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
“I won your district,” he quotes Trump as huffing.
Replied Hurd: “Mr. President, you actually lost my district by three points.”
Hurd exhorts Republicans to “drive out those who continue to push misinformation, disinformation and subscribe to crackpot theories."
There is indeed a purge underway in the GOP, but Hurd has it backwards. Trump-aligned Republicans in elections from school boards to the U.S. Senate aim to drive out moderates and center-right officeholders, those RINOs (Republicans In Name Only), they sniff. Rather than risk it all, many in the cross-hairs, Hurd among them, chose since 2018 not to run again.
Hurd’s next chapter in politics may well depend on how fully the insurgents in the GOP are able to eradicate those of his persuasion.
I kept an eye on Hurd for the ideas he traded on, not just the politics. He established himself in the Republican caucus as a complete geek on all things cyber, including artificial intelligence; he was a computer science major at Texas A&M.
Meanwhile, his intelligence training and experience in Asia gave him credibility on security issues, many related to China and Russia.
Hurd’s book was written before Russia’s world-changing war on Ukraine. But he writes presciently about Russia's goal to re-establish USSR territory and Vladimir Putin. Putin “is here to stay and won’t end his assault on Western democracy and unilateral institutions anytime soon," he writes.
As long as Putin is in power, “Russia isn’t going to change and it has no interest in being a productive member of the global community. The West needs to penetrate Russian society with Western ideas and values that could provoke challenges to the regime," Hurd warns.
Hurd argues that the United States is lagging when it comes to making ourselves “combat ready” technologically for a war that already rages, particularly with China.
He warns that China telcom giant Huawei is dominating the burgeoning 5-G field (the next generation of cellular technology) and relates chillingly what an unnamed security expert told him: China has stolen personally identifiable information from 80 percent of Americans.
“We face a potential future where Mandarin and the yuan — not English and the dollar — dominate the global economy,” he writes.
Hurd’s success in the coming political cycle will determine if he has the megaphone for his warnings. And it will become clearer after the midterm election if this nation is any closer to returning to the gentler, more thoughtful politics Hurd embraces.
He writes that the label used to define him — moderate — annoys him. “If you win elections by throwing bombs and creating contrast, what do you do when its time to legislate?” he asks.
“We are the ones who get shit done,” Hurd writes. “Extremists do the bitching and get the least accomplished.”