associate editor

Editor’s note: Bob Krueger served in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and on the Texas Railroad Commission before becoming the American ambassador to Burundi in 1994. He spoke with Daily Texan associate editor Kayla Oliver about the death of Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, the political prospects of Texas Democrats and the lessons of public service. This fall, Krueger is teaching a Liberal Arts Honors and Plan II class called “Heroes in Life and Literature.”

Daily Texan: When you were serving as ambassador to Burundi in the 1990s, you narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by an extremist group unhappy with your advocacy for the disenfranchised. Could you describe why you chose to take such an active role in the country’s politics, as did Ambassador Stevens in Libya?
Senator Bob Krueger: Well, an ambassador is a personal representative of the president of the United States. That’s what being an ambassador plenipotentiary means: you have all the powers of the president for United States citizens in that country. It is a huge privilege, of course, to represent the United States anywhere. The genocide I was amid — if you adjusted for the difference in population between Burundi and the United States — was like having ten Twin Towers attacks every week nonstop. Nothing was being reported. There was not a single international reporter there. I thought, I can do two things: I can do what I can to save democracy, and I can do what I can to save lives, and nothing else mattered to me. If I was to remain silent, then who was to speak? If the representative of the world’s most powerful country was afraid to speak, who else would speak?

DT: Does the Libyan government have any responsibility for failing to prevent the attack?
BK: What we have to understand is we are the oldest continuous democracy in the world. We are an immensely powerful nation, and we still have assassins and crazies who do things like killing Sikhs in a church or who take out a gun in a Colorado movie and shoot fifty-odd people. And that’s where we have a strong legal government. Think about what happens where you have a fledgling government just trying to get underway. We have to understand that their government is still under threat from radicals in Libya and radicals coming from outside. The government is seeking their own footing. We’ve had a couple of hundred years and we still have these challenges. We have to put this in a global and historical context and understand that their country is just trying to get underway in a democracy. It’s the same position we might have been in in 1777.

DT: How should the American government respond to the situation?
BK: I think we’re responding appropriately. We have sent Marines to shore up the defense at the embassy itself. Fifty United States Marines are worth a lot more than that many from any other location, and they will come equipped and trained and ready to protect American interests. And we are sending a couple of destroyers that will have drones for observation. I think there’s no doubt that we’re responding with strength, but we don’t know just which group was responsible for this attack, and we certainly can’t go out in another country and think we’ll find the perpetrators. What we need in such instances are cool heads, historical understanding, broad vision and not a silly ‘cowboys and Indians’ approach — saying, “By gosh, I’m going to pull out my gun and get ‘em!” We wouldn’t know who to get.

DT: You were the last Democrat to serve as U.S. Senator from Texas. What realistic odds do you give the Democrat on the November ballot, Paul Sadler, for that seat?
BK: Well, obviously the odds are against him. On the other hand, one never knows in an election what can happen. Sadler is a responsible individual; he is not an ideologue. He has sought to work with people of both parties, and I think he is better qualified to bring some sort of coherence and comity in Washington than an extremist whose economic and other policies are antediluvian.

DT: What have been the disadvantages for Texas to not have a Democrat representing it in the U.S. Senate when one occupies the White House?
BK: I think a Democrat is likely to be a better, more responsible senator and it’s always a benefit, particularly for the second most populous state in the Union, to have connections with both parties rather than just one.

DT: What could a Democrat do to win a statewide office in Texas in November, given the polls?
BK: I suppose hope, pray and do his or her best. We never know what can suddenly turn an election. The odds are against it, but when I first ran for the Senate the odds were against me — I was up against an 18-year incumbent — and I lost only by three votes per thousand.

DT: What one lesson do you think UT undergraduates may take away from their years on campus that will inspire them to work to stop, if they have the opportunity in their lifetime, a genocide like the one you made the world pay attention to in Rwanda and Burundi?
My own experience in life is that there is no real satisfaction in simply seeking money or things. Looking back, the richest experience I had actually was not either during my time in the Senate or perhaps even in the House. It was when I was in Burundi, an assignment that most people would not have wanted. It gave me a chance to work to save democracy and work to save lives. That was for me an immense privilege. I wouldn’t trade a hundred million dollars for that privilege.

Pop Index: Bon Iver’s new album, a possible Destiny’s Child reunion and Jon Stewart’s media war.

Welcome, kind readers, to the Pop Index. My name is Aleksander Chan (pronounced like Alexander, but with a Russian spelling) and I am the Life & Arts associate editor. Every Friday I will write this index of the best and worst of the week’s pop culture, handily rendered in the photo above for your viewing pleasure.

Lauren Winchester: editor-in-chief

It’s a difficult time to be a student at the University of Texas.

This past year, the University suffered through several rounds of budget cuts, and students — not to mention faculty and staff — were left to weather the effects.

But the budget ax is still swinging, and it’s not expected to stop anytime soon.

In early August, President William Powers Jr. warned that more state budget cuts may be forthcoming, and that could mean fewer jobs, fewer classes and higher student-faculty ratios at UT.

The budget is a complicated and unglamorous subject — and also one of the most important issues on campus.

On the editorial page, I want to analyze the news that’s most relevant to students and the UT community, but I also want to make sure that news is interesting and informative. I hope that by making a complicated issue such as budget cuts understandable and approachable, more students will become involved in the process, whether it’s through guest columns or Firing Lines, or by other efforts such as protesting or student governance.

This philosophy holds true for all subjects we cover on the page, not just those relating to the budget. So chime in and let us know what you’re thinking and become involved with University issues.

Douglas Luippold: associate editor

During the summer, the editorial board helped pressure the administration to rename Simkins Hall Dormitory, analyzed budget cuts and heard a sitting president speak on campus.

Throughout these episodes, we developed an amicable relationship with the new Student Government administration, which represented student interests by co-sponsoring the Simkins forums and helping secure student access for Obama’s visit.

Hopefully this refreshing approach will continue through the fall and our student leaders won’t blink when the lights get bright with campus-wide scrutiny. With budget cuts and a legislative session on the horizon, we need leaders to look out for students. If they don’t, we’ll let everyone know.

Speaking of budget cuts, one of my biggest goals for this semester is to explain and help students understand the behemoth that is UT budgeting. This, of course, will require me to first understand the UT budget process, but I’m up for the challenge.

As a government major, I also take a special interest in the upcoming elections. The student issues at stake this November are numerous: health care, post-graduation employment and education funding — just to name a few.

In an election already rife with platitudes and abstractions, I will stick to evaluating candidates’ impact on students and leave deficit reduction and immigration policy to people smarter than me.

Similarly, while the excitement and competition of elections gets the blood flowing, I will try not to neglect local issues. My job is to make zoning restrictions and parking meters as interesting as Gov. Rick Perry’s race against Bill White.

This is my fifth semester working for the Texan, and my second as an editor. I am a government and journalism senior from Carrollton, a suburb north of Dallas.

Viviana Aldous: associate editor

I’ve spent the last few days wondering why my roommate placed a Texas lone star above her bed. Texas pride, like New Orleans’ undying love for the Saints, is inexplicable and oftentimes incomprehensible to outsiders. I experienced Texas for the first time when I spent the night in my car, parked at a Houston truck stop immediately after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Five years later, I’m a Plan II and philosophy junior, and, as you may have guessed, I’m from New Orleans.

Though this is the first time my name has appeared on the opinion page, I’ve worked for The Daily Texan since my freshman year. I was a reporter for three semesters, when I covered topics ranging from the tuition hikes to Plan B contraceptive, and last spring I was an associate news editor.
It’s been interesting to see the issues our campus has faced and students’ responses to them, and I hope this page will remain an outlet for dialogue among the campus community.

Dave Player: associate editor

A lot changed on campus this summer. UT joined the Pac-10, then didn’t. We had a dorm named after a former Klansman, then we didn’t. I had never shaken a sitting president’s hand, then I did. What working for the Texan lacks in pay grade, it makes up for in unforgettable experiences.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around UT. The UT-centric approach isn’t mine alone; just visit College Station to experience evidence of their inferiority complex, including a fight song that mentions our school more than theirs. This disdain is not confined to Aggies either. Longhorn haters throughout the state often decry the sense of elitism and entitlement they perceive from their burnt-orange clad neighbors.

But can you really blame us? In the past year the city of Austin has been named one of the best cities for business, environmentalism and job growth. Its citizens are constantly ranked as the most fit, intelligent and artistic.

However, that certainly doesn’t mean Austin or UT is infallible. As great as it is to be a Longhorn, there’s plenty wrong with our University. So, if it seems as if the opinions page is constantly the bearer of bad news, well, sorry. Someone has to do it.

Susannah Jacob: associate editor

I’m a sophomore, history major and a largely untalented, but still practicing, pianist. I think E.B. White hung the moon. The limits of my age and experiences don’t evade me; to that end, to write authoritatively for The Daily Texan editorial page, I will make an extra effort, as I have in my past columns, to bring the voices of others into my writing. Reporting makes writing fun for me and, I believe, makes my writing more engaging for readers.

I’ve served as a columnist at The Daily Texan for the past two summers and wrote for the Life&Arts section during the school year. As a columnist, I covered local and national subjects, ranging from a 5-year-old’s constitutional right to a specific hairstyle to Texas prosecutors’ proper use of DNA testing.

This semester, as an associate editor, I hope to address similarly relevant yet overlooked issues — such as the effect of last year’s budget cuts on this year’s UT foreign language classes. I also want to use my pulpit to identify exemplary everyday types who set an example for the rest of us. I don’t discount the importance of writing with a sense of humor, but I reserve my right to do so when I’m actually funny.