In a phone call with the Tribune, former adviser to Bill Clinton and longtime Democratic strategist Paul Begala offered some free advice to embattled University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall.
Begala also joined a bipartisan group of former University of Texas at Austin student body presidents in signing a letter calling on Hall to step down.
Hall has been accused of abusing his authority in his seeking and handling of information about the university's president. A legislative committee that has been investigating Hall will meet on Thursday to discuss a report from their special counsel laying out four bases for recommending the regent's impeachment.
Begala said his view was not motivated by politics, adding that he had not spoken out about other regents appointed by Republican governors in Texas. He said he was moved by the account of Hall's actions in the report to the legislative committee, which was prepared by a team led by Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, which he described as "eye-popping."
Hall and his lawyers have maintained that he did nothing wrong and that the impeachment effort and his efforts have revealed questionable practices at the university, including alleged favoritism in the admissions process and allegedly dubious accounting practices.
The regent, who did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday, has not publicly provided much clarity about his ultimate intentions, but Begala said, "I can’t imagine that whatever his stated goals are are being fulfilled by these tactics."
Citing philosopher George Santayana's definition of fanaticism as redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim, Begala continued, "I think that’s the position that Regent Hall is in."
"As a long time strategist, I think if he were to just take a breath and step back and think about the things he’d like to accomplish, he is setting them all back. He’s not accomplishing what he’s seeking and he’s harming the university. Therefore, it’s time for him to go."
Begala said he believed such a move would be in the best interest of Hall's reputation and that of the university, which he said has taken a hit nationally as a result of the controversy surrounding Hall.
"We have to presume he wouldn’t take that job if he didn’t love and respect the university," Begala said of Hall. "I think anybody who loves the university would do anything to protect that treasure of its reputation."