Scanning my blogreader, I couldn’t believe it. Susan at Juanita Jean’s and MacAoidh at The Hayride — two bloggers with very different perspectives — both liked the same quote from Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s speech announcing his presidential run:
And I’ll promise you this: I’ll work every day to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can.
Eyebrows arched, I clicked through to find their reasoning. MacAoidh liked the line because it was a conservative applause-getter from a Republican he supports. Fair enough. And Susan liked it because it supported her view that Perry is… “bean dip dumb.”
Oh, well. I guess the 2012 unity candidate has yet to emerge.
To the extent that Perry is serious about his promise, and to the extent that Perry’s White House aspirations are sincere (which they are), this bodes ominously for south Louisiana’s future. Our state depends on billions in federal aid to rebuild its coast and strengthen its flood protections before yet another mega-disaster strikes. We’re not keen on outside meddlers, but by the same token, we need the entire nation’s assistance to survive. In short, the consequences of an “inconsequential” Washington, D.C., for South Louisiana are potentially catastrophic
While Perry postures as a stingy spender, he’s a high-roller when it comes to prayer. When his state was stricken by drought this year, Perry encouraged fellow Texans to pray for rain. The drought worsened. Last week, Perry invited everyone to a Christian prayer rally at Reliant Stadium in Houston. The plan was to pray for “guidance” because “communities are in crisis” throughout the land. Previously, Perry had said he believed there was a divine purpose to the Great Recession: a struggling country might now redirect itself towards biblical principles. But it seems that cruel economic conditions weren’t enough of a push in that direction, so he organized a group prayer to help awaken the nation. While Perry led prayers at Reliant, thousands of families were crowding into a nearby Houston convention center where free school supplies were being offered. Drake Toulouse summarized the disparate scenes at his Disenfranchised Citizen blog:
Reliant Stadium has a seating capacity of 70,000 plus, and 30,000 showed up.
The Convention Center Back to School planners expected 25,000 and four times that showed up, so many they had to turn people away.
This might be what one calls the difference between public relations and fact: glitzy governors on big stages praying with people “who have lost hope,” versus the reality of the state, and the nation’s new priorities and the consequences thereof.
The people waiting in line that day for their kids haven’t given up hope, they’re trying to hold on.
Like President George W. Bush, Perry feels that God called him to run for the highest office in the land. Oh goodie. You’ll remember that Bush’s divinely inspired term began with terrorists murdering 3,000 Americans on 9/11. Then Bush led us into a “pre-emptive” invasion of Iraq that uncovered no weapons of mass destruction to pre-empt. The sluggish economy during Bush’s terms created no new net private sector jobs despite huge tax cuts, brazen deficit spending, rock-bottom interest rates and an historic housing bubble. And who could forget FEMA’s crack response to a drowned New Orleans after Katrina and the Federal Flood, plus all the overhyped non-assistance thereafter? And just when it seemed like it couldn’t get any worse, a Great Recession began in 2007 and its effects still linger three years after Bush left office.
So if Bush’s presidency was part of a divine plan, there are a larger questions: Why is God so angry with us, and would a Perry presidency be a continuance of the punishment?
In coming months, Democrats will enjoy drawing easy parallels between Perry and Bush. They’ll tag Perry as another dim, conservative Texan Governor who is more hat than cattle. Quotes from articles like these won’t hurt their case, either:
[GOP activists] came away impressed with [Perry’s] stump speech — which, unlike that of [Rep. Michele] Bachmann, was followed by a question-and-answer session with the crowd — and his warmth.
“We met [George W.] Bush, he’s a lot like that,” said Nancy Mashuda-Pohnl of Iowa City, who came wearing a Bachmann T-shirt..
But Dems who think they can win the day by simply morphing Perry into Bush might want to consider an itchy fact: Bush beat them twice in Presidential elections. (Yes, I know they were disputed, ultra-close contests… but still.)
At The Hayride, MacAoidh endorses Perry for President, and makes a rather far-fetched defense of the candidate. It includes an intriguing passage on Perry’s real relationship with the Bushes (my emphases):
“Speaking of presidents: Rick Perry has a complicated relationship with the Bushes, which is to say that he’s hesitant to criticize them and they hate his guts. W. stayed well away from Perry’s gubernatorial-primary melee against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, whose oatmeal-mushy Republicanism has a distinctly Bushian savor to it. But the mark of W. was all over the campaign against Perry. Former president George H. W. Bush endorsed Senator Hutchison, an unusual step for the habitually reserved retiree, who usually stays well removed from the dirty business of vote-grubbing, surveying the groundlings from the heights of his eminence. Bush père was joined in his support by former vice president Dick Cheney, who offered an endorsement and called Hutchison “the real deal.” Hutchison was further fortified by the Bush clan’s in-house Machiavelli, former secretary of state James Baker, who led the Florida recount fight in 2000 and remains their go-to fixer. W. mouthpiece Karen Hughes came out of the political woodwork to support the insurgency, along with W.’s secretary of education Margaret Spellings. Karl Rove advised Team Hutchison. The gang was all there: All this in a primary challenge to unseat an incumbent Republican governor with one of the most conservative — and most successful — records to be found: Que paso, Bushes?”
“Part of that was payback. Perry, generally circumlocutious on the subject of W., gave himself a little time off the leash during the 2008 Republican presidential primaries. Often caricatured as yet another snake-handling Southern social conservative, Governor Perry backed thrice-married dress-wearing pro-choice lapsed Catholic Rudy Giuliani, on the theory that Rudy would be a badass commander-in-chief abroad and a reliable constitutionalist at home. Politics being politics, the Texan and the New Yorker met up in Iowa, where more than a few Hawkeye conservatives were already getting restive about out-of-control federal spending on the Republicans’ watch. Governor Perry let loose the observation that “George” — and the Bushies hate it when Perry calls him “George” in public — “has never been a fiscal conservative.” Never? “Wasn’t when he was in Texas. . . ’95, ’97, ’99, George Bush was spending money.” He also criticized Bush as being limp on immigration.”
The Bushes have long memories and are known to harshly punish disloyalty (to clan, not country), so I’ll be intrigued to find out the genesis of the Perry-Bush feud. Nonetheless, it seems to continue, apace. Since Perry’s announcement, former Bush political advisor Karl Rove has appeared all over the tube, raising questions about the “electability” of certain Republican candidates who might drift too far right in the primaries. (That’s pretty rich, since the rightward turn in politics, led by the Tea Party faction, is one of the chief political legacies of the Bush Presidency.) Then, during an interview last night, Rove was practically begging other top tier Republicans to enter the presidential race.
The typical Midwestern swing voter might not care whether Perry and Bush don’t get along. Many will still stereotype Perry as “another Bush,” whether or not the two hate each other. But, as New Orleanians are well aware, the most important thing is not the candidate, per se, but the people behind the candidate. And despite all the superficial similarities between the two, the Bushes are decidedly not behind Perry. In fact, it looks like they’re behind anybody but Perry. And that will create interesting dynamics in a primary race, which I’m still hesitant to forecast at this time.
Democratic consultant Paul Begala, a Texan, wrote that Perry succeeds due to his ruthless, “whatever it takes approach,” which he brings “to a whole ‘nother level.” But Begala fails to cite any damning examples. He cherry picks a few gaffes and groaners from Perry’s past, but he doesn’t connect them to Perry’s electoral success. He just implies that as long as Perry errs to the right side of the political spectrum, Texans will re-elect him. Well, ok, but is that really so surprising? I mean, when a Texan like Begala says Perry operates at a “whole ‘nother level” in terms of winning at all costs, I’m expecting some serious evidence. It would be like me saying a campaign reached a new low in Louisiana politics — such a claim would require some strong supporting evidence. After all, Texas is the land of Lyndon Johnson, who set the bar pretty high when it came to “whatever it takes” politics. (Speaking of LBJ and the Bushes, here’s a little nugget that might interest the conspiracy-minded.)
The Left will highlight Perry’s superficial similarities to Bush. But pay more attention to Perry’s opposition on the right, which includes the Bush establishment. They will try to define Perry in other ways. (“He’s too extreme,” for example.) I think it will be a more revealing insight into the deeper politics at play among – and behind — the GOP aspirants.