The case against Rick Perry for President

Like other Texans, I can get in the mood for a Texan to be in charge. After all, if God hadn’t intended for Texas to be the center of the universe, he wouldn’t have put us there. But with the (arguable) exception of Dwight Eisenhower, presidents with Texas roots haven’t exactly been nominated for sainthood after it’s all said and done.

The most recent example of the species,George W. Bush, even prompted my friend Molly Ivins to declare, “The next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be President of the United States, please pay attention.”

It’s time to pay attention. Here comes Rick Perry.

If Perry hadn’t thought about running for president before, he’d be a fool not to think about it now, as the stable of Republican alternatives is full of lame horses. But the case against him doesn’t lie in comparing him to the rest of the Republican field; it’s in examining the flip side of his own coin.

Most Perry fans can be categorized in one of two camps. The first are ultra-conservatives of some ilk — either traditional evangelical, Christian-right voters or voters loosely associated with Tea Party values. They love their anti-Obama red meat, and they don’t like Washington. They’re attracted to Perry because nobody’s better than him at kicking Washington in the collective butt, and nobody does anti-Obama red meat better than gun-totin’, coyote-shootin’, states’ rights-toutin’ Rick Perry.

But where’s the net gain? If those voters aren’t united next November, we’re having this friendly little conversation for nothing anyway, because Obama will be re-elected in a landslide no matter who runs against him. “Not Obama” will be their candidate of choice, whether the alternative is Perry or somebody else.

The second pro-Perry camp consists of those voting their economic interests, and at first blush Perry might seem attractive. Texas, as the story goes, has led the nation in job creation, and as the story continues, it’s because Texas government is limited, pro-business and fosters economic development. While it’s true that Texas has, indeed, created new jobs, it’s equally true that they’re relatively low-wage and that the state’s recent unemployment rates are also higher than they’ve been since the early 1990s.

The problem for Perry, in the blinding light of the national stage, is that he may ultimately be seen as the swaggering rooster who believes the sun came up because of all that crowing. Texas was a conservative, small government, pro-business state long before he was in charge, and Texas will remain so long after he’s gone. Americans may conclude that Texas jobs would have materialized whether Perry was governor or not, and it might just be to Texas business’ credit, not Perry’s, that they did.

While Perry’s supporters will explain what he’s done for Texans, detractors will cite what Perry hasn’t done. Those celebrating him as the architect of our low-tax state would be forced to acknowledge that this is nothing new, and that Texas is also an extreme low-services state, with serious consequences for Texas families.

Education? We’re 50th in the nation in kids with a high school diploma by age 25, and 43rd in high school graduation rates. We’re 42nd in the nation in high school graduates going to college, and of those, only half earn a degree within six years.

Health care? We’re first in the nation in folks without health insurance and 49th in our low-income population covered by Medicaid.

Relative wealth? We’re fourth in the nation on the percentage of our residents living below the poverty line.

The environment? We’re first in the nation in cancer-causing carcinogens released into the air, first on toxic chemicals released into the water and first in the amount of hazardous waste generated.

I could go on, but the Legislative Study Group already has, and Perry and other Republicans in charge in Texas are currently wrapping up legislative work in which their policy priorities will assure that those measures worsen.

Bush already took Americans down a near-identical “Texas success story” yellow brick road. Would voters like Perry’s America any better, after Bush left on such unpopular terms?

Electoral performance might lead others to believe that Perry would be the best standard-bearer to oppose Obama. Unlike Bush, Perry’s never lost an election, and he recently won a primary election in which he turned a 20-plus-percentage-point deficit into a 20-point win. But does what sells here sell everywhere? Since Texas has voted for the prevailing candidate in only two of the last five presidential elections, that is a dicey position at best.

But back to Molly Ivins. Three months before she died, writing on Perry’s performance at a political debate, she reported that he had really good hair, and that the Democrat in the race had everything else. She concluded that “Perry won on the politics of it by not actually saying anything totally idiotic.”

That, my friends, is usually how a Republican wins an election in Texas — by not being the Democrat. It’s a mighty thin resume for a fat presidential race.

[this column originally appeared in the Texas Tribune]



15 Responses to The case against Rick Perry for President

  1. Anonymous June 10, 2011 at 3:30 am #

    Didn’t you go hunting (animal killing with guns) with Rick when he was a Democrat?

  2. Jack Cluth June 13, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    Well said. If you’re in the mood for another argument in the same vein:

  3. Anonymous June 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    when the jokes about a perry-palin ticket die down; and when gnashing of teeth over texas’ pathetic performance in education, health care, literacy and child nutrition subsides, we will still be left with a man who has support from constituents hunkered down in a fading era of bigotry and narrow mindedness. it really is hard to believe those two qualities will prove sufficient to earn him a place in the white house.

  4. Austin Diva June 17, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    I’d definitely go for a Rick Perry/Michele Bachmann ticket. I think they’d be excellent for many reasons, buy quite frankly, I’d vote for Hillary Clinton if it meant getting Obama out of the White House.

    Why anyone thought a guy who never ran anything in his entire life (he passed ZERO legislation as a senator) could lead our country, is beyond me.

    The only reason I’d hate for Perry to run is because I wouldn’t want to lose him in TX.


  5. Anonymous June 22, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Job creation under Ann Richards was the same or better than under Perry.

  6. Anonymous July 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    Take if from a Texas Republican. Perry talks big, does little but takes credit for everything good, and quite frankly does NOTHING that he thinks won’t garner him votes in any future election, including lying or just “not discussing” (ie: refer to last campaign where our budget shortfall was not to be a topic of discussion or that he undershot the amount by about 16 billion).

  7. Anonymous August 7, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    ty for writing this article! The numbers on eduction, relative wealth..etc are shocking! I will post this for all my friends to see!

  8. Anonymous August 25, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    What is wrong with you people???? You actually think he is GOOD for our state or country??? He is just a different kind of extremist. Rick Perry does not want women to be able to make decisions about their own bodies (HPV Vaccine ring any bells?) He passed a law requiring a woman to look at a sonogram of a child when terminating an unwanted pregnancy since abortion is such an easy decision for a woman. He has been Governor for 10 years and look at the disgrace we call an educational system (anyone watching the news about all of the teachers being laid off in AISD?), the travesty of our healthcare system, or how about the fact that science is apparently complete crap unless it is to have an untested procedure done with adult human stem cells. WTF??? Are you all NUTS??????

  9. naturenative September 6, 2011 at 1:39 am #

    Well Said…I wish Americans could se past the lines of democrat and republican, and vote based on ideology. I will just say that while governor of Texas, Perry, has become a multi-millionair, which is quite hard to do when Texas pays its governor a little over $100,000. Corruption?…what do you think?

  10. Anonymous September 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    Rick Perry: My opinions of Rick Perry: Rick Perry cannot be a Christian because he will not allow DNA to be reviewed for certain prisoners and seems to enjoy the death penalty (look at our statistics), does NOT forgive and does NOT PARDON but a handful of people over years for any criminal act even if it were years ago and possibly the crime did not even occur and no-one was injured (Bad things happen to good people), allows illegal immigrants in to Texas for healthcare, particularly pregnant females so they can deliver a U.S. citizen and taxpayers are footing the bill…then talks about border control, does not enforce illegal aliens being deported and they are taking away jobs for American citizens (I have specific examples), allows the Government employees of Texas to obtain disability for life that do not have disabling conditions that is draining the state financially (I have specific examples), will not hear the voice of the people of Texas….has others write his letters as he doesn’t have time (I have specific examples), believe me we have horrible unemployment here and few jobs, the rich keep getting richer in Texas, help for those in need is NOT in Texas…..just ask someone at the Parkland Hospital Emergency Room. This state is corrupt in my opinion. Anyone who wants facts can contact me once I release info to the media. All my opinions until you see the facts.

  11. FUBAR September 11, 2011 at 4:08 am #

    Anonymous at Sept 10 @ 10:44 pm: You posted that as “anonymous,” and yet you want somebody – anybody – to have the courage to come forward with proof of what is probably un-provable? Whoever-you-are, you have come up with the best reason yet as to why that story will probably never be written. And with that I will remove your comment. Sorry, but you don’t get to anonymously slander anybody that way, just because you/we don’t agree with them.

  12. Anonymous October 10, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Rick Perrt is the worst! people need to wake up. he is a swaggering braggert and has not done anything positive for the average working citizen of texas. just look at the monies he has taken away from our schoolchildren and our teachers. WE have to pay for the medical care for all the illegals , and have to pay for all of the maternity care as they continue to multiply like rabbits.He is only for the special interest big corporations and its time now to stop corporate greed. If Rick Perry wins the Republican nomination , and then the Presidency , we may as well all throw in the towel.

  13. Anonymous January 7, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    Here’s hoping that Rick Perry will stay in the Republican primary to the bitter end. As he refused to debate his opponent in the last gubernatorial election, this will likely be Texan voters’ only opportunity to see his true colors

  14. City of Houston January 13, 2012 at 7:11 am #

    Seems like Perry’s record speaks for itself. I wonder it these guys run just to be running.

  15. Anonymous February 2, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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