"Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger," the former President George W. Bush once remarked to an appreciative audience, "which, in Texas, is called 'walking.'" It's pretty clear to just about everyone that the State of Texas sees itself as a breed apart in many ways, and for many reasons; Texans, as a rule, seem to consider their home state an exceptional, singular, not-to-be-messed-with place. What might not be as clear, as out guest on this edition of ST maintains, is that the overall --- and decidedly conservative --- cultural/social/political stance of Texas has basically been, over the last generation or so, adopted by the rest of the nation. Reagan-era financial deregulation, the Tea Party, and the politicizing of America's grade-school textbooks are but three trends that can be traced back to Texas origins. Our guest is the acclaimed author and journalist Gail Collins, who was the Editorial Page Editor for The New York Times from 2001 to 2007, and who now writes a twice-weekly column for that newspaper's Op-Ed page. Her typically funny and topical new book is called "As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda." As was noted of this book in a starred summary in Kirkus Reviews: "[Collins] zeroes in on what makes Texas so important and why the rest of the country needs to know and care about what’s happening there…. A timely portrait of Texas delivered with Collins' unique brand of insightful humor." And further, a book critic for The Boston Globe has written: "Collins makes a compelling case...that much of what ails the nation began down in the Lone Star State.... Her larger thesis has a chilling ring of truth. Texas represents a kind of dark bellwether for the rest of the country: a two-tiered society in which the affluent rig the system in their favor while a vast underclass struggles to pay for basic services such as medical care."