The sad story of Dan Morales is one with many questions and few answers. How could someone so capable and intelligent be so stupid? How could someone who did so many good things for the people of Texas turn out to be such a craven, amoral greedhead? Of course, if you had access to $17.3 billion, you might think twice about getting a piece of that for yourself.
I think I can say, with a reasonable amount of certainty, that then-Attorney General Dan Morales truly believed that tobacco was evil and that he was performing an important public service when in 1996 he sued cigarette makers over health care costs and marketing practices.
It also is obvious that the highlight of his career was the $17.3 billion settlement that his lawsuit produced for the state in 1998. That agreement -- regardless of how he tried to monkey with the legal fees -- will continue to pay off for health care and other state programs for years to come.
Opportunism more than conviction, however, seemed to dominate the remainder of Morales' wild ride through public life, which hit bottom last week when the onetime rising star of Texas politics pleaded guilty to federal fraud and income tax charges, stemming, in part, from the tobacco suit.
It is sadly ironic, of course, that Morales, who used to demagogue over crime and court-ordered safeguards in state prisons, is now headed for a federal lockup.
It is also ironic that someone who, if he'd wanted to, could have eventually been Governor, is looking at spending at least four years behind bars. Instead of pulling the levers of state government, Morales is going to be someone's girlfriend. Perhaps he'll start smoking....