The 10 Worst Things About Rick Perry (And Why It Would Be Really Bad If He Runs for President)
"Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention." - Molly Ivins
Texas Governor Rick Perry has been flirting with the idea of running for president for months now. While the three-term Republican has danced around an official announcement, ads calling him “a better option” are already airing on Fox News (naturally) in Iowa, funded by the political action committee “Jobs for Iowa.” Related super PACs have been created in South Carolina and Florida.
The governor Molly Ivins called “the Coiffure” has claimed he's brought jobs to Texas, passed a laundry list of conservative dream legislation, and managed to become the longest-serving governor in the history of the state. With a relatively lackluster—or outright strange--Republican field this year, Perry appears to have a better-than-most shot at capturing the nomination, bringing not only conservative and Christian credentials but a veneer of respectability and accomplishment that candidates like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain lack.
As Perry oozes toward an announcement—he says he's waiting til after Labor Day—under the pretense that he's fixed Texas' economy and is a more moderate option than Michele Bachmann but a better evangelical base-pleaser than Mormon Mitt Romney, we thought it was a good time to take a look at the Texan. Here are 10 reasons Rick Perry is just as bad as Michele Bachmann—and a whole lot more likely to actually win the nomination.
1. Separation of church and state? What separation?
On August 6, Perry and right-wing evangelical leaders are sponsoring a a prayer rally in Houston's Reliant Stadium dedicated to “the One True God through his Son Jesus Christ.”
Perry's message on the event's website reads:
“Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.”
Allan E. Parker Jr., the organizer who referred to the rally as for “The One True God,” also wrote that it would be “idolatry of the worst sort for Christians to gather and invite false gods like Allah and Buddha and their false prophets to be with us at that time.”
So much for religious tolerance.
Even Houston-area clergy members have spoken out against the rally's exclusive nature and the extreme figures involved in it, saying in a joint letter, “We are concerned that our governor has crossed the line by organizing a religious event rather than focusing on the people’s business in Austin.”
It's even more out of line if said governor wants to be president.
Before he makes up his mind about being president, Perry ought to decide whether he wants to be a part of the United States.
Back in 2009, during Perry's bumpy reelection race, the governor told a Tea Party crowd:
"There's a lot of different scenarios...We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot."
Rush Limbaugh was a fan of Perry's statements, and Texas Republicans too. Perry later affirmed his stance, saying:
“We are very proud of our Texas history; people discuss and debate the issues of can we break ourselves into five states, can we secede, a lot of interesting things that I'm sure Oklahoma and Pennsylvania would love to be able to say about their states, but the fact is, they can't because they're not Texas."
3. Keep your Rick out of my uterus
Just like Republicans in Congress and around the country, Rick Perry's opposition to “government intrusion” doesn't apply to women.
Not only that, but a bill to require all women to have an ultrasound before they can get an abortion was the first major bill debated in the House, and was declared an “emergency” by Perry himself.
As Texas State Representative Carol Alvarado noted in that session, the bill's author didn't understand how intrusive his own bill was. She gave the legislature an in-depth description of a trans-vaginal sonogram, which would be required for women eight to 10 weeks pregnant.
“This is not the jelly on the belly that most of you think, she said as she held up a vaginal probe. 'This is government intrusion at its best.'”
The bill has no provision for victims of rape or incest. It does, however, give Perry more social conservative credentials to trumpet on the campaign trail.
In addition to his changing concerns over government intrusion, Perry's also got a bit of a consistency problem where states' rights are concerned--once again, when it comes to women's bodies. Perry recently said he wanted Roe v. Wade overturned so states could decide for themselves. But then he declared his support for a federal constitutional amendment that would overturn Roe and ban abortion nationwide.
Consistency doesn't matter, apparently, when it comes to abortion.
4. Voter ID, please
"This is what democracy really is all about," Perry said, signing Texas's new voter identification bill into law. "It's the integrity of every vote; that every vote counts. Today we take a major step in protecting the most cherished right of Americans."
The bill makes “illegal voting” a felony; it too was an “emergency” item for Perry's third term as governor. It requires a voter to present one of five forms of ID—a drivers' license, military ID, passport, concealed handgun license, or a state voter ID card that Texas must provide.
"I think it's about disenfranchising groups of people who do not historically vote for the Republican Party," State Rep. Dawnna Dukes said when the bill was passed. Black and Latino voters, the elderly and the poor—all typically Democratic constituencies—are disproportionately less likely to have one of those forms of ID and thus to encounter problems at the polls. In a state like Texas, with a large immigrant population, voter ID is not a neutral issue, but rather another obstacle making it less likely people will vote.
Like other governors around the country, Perry pushed for the voter ID bill despite a lack of any proof that “illegal voting” is actually a problem.
5. The great economy lie
Rick Perry likes to claim—and conservatives like to believe--that Texas' economy is a shining beacon of hope for the country. And it is—if you like your hope low-wage, low-benefit and deficit-ridden.
Texan Jim Hightower wrote:
“...Perry-jobs are really 'jobettes,' offering low pay, no benefits and no upward mobility. In fact, under Rickonomics, Texas has added more minimum wage jobs than all other states combined! After 10 years in office, Gov. Perry presides over a state that has more people in poverty and more without health coverage than any other.”
Of course, that's exactly the kind of job growth the country as a whole is seeing now, and it's just fine with the big-money base of the Republican party. As Joshua Holland wrote in AlterNet recently, even as Texas added those “jobettes,” its unemployment rate magically increased to 8 percent from 7.7 percent—and 23 states have a better employment rate than the miraculous Texas.
So much for that economic miracle. Texas's economy is more of an example of the mess the entire country is heading for unless we see a dramatic change in priorities.
Back in March, the Texas state capitol in Austin saw thousands of protesters descend on the grounds for a rally against a proposed $10 billion—yes, billion—in education cuts to the state. Representatives from 300 school districts, students, teachers, parents, and others marched and called on Perry to use the state's “rainy day fund” to cover the shortfall in schools rather than lay off a projected 189,000 education workers.
Of course, the budget cuts are still coming.
Aside from the impact such layoffs will have on the economy, since a good chunk of the new jobs Perry touts as part of his economic miracle were in schools, there's the actual impact on the state's students. It's not just public schools that take a hit—universities will see their budgets slashed and financial aid eliminated for 43,000 students.
One Texas school attempted to trademark its mascot and sell advertising space on its school buses and Web site in order to raise desperately needed cash. The New York Times called Perry's impending cuts “the largest cuts to public education since World War II."
As Dana Goldstein noted, Texas is a right-to-work state where less than 2 percent of teachers are unionized. There's no big bad teachers' union to be the villain here. Just workers about to be out of jobs, and kids—and the economy--suffering the consequences.
7. Follow the money
The question voters should ask first of any candidate is “Where's the money coming from?” Particularly in the post-Citizens United age, with the birth of the new “super PACs,” groups that can accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations to pay for political advertising and organizing, campaigns for office are getting expensive and someone's got to be footing the bill.
Since ads for Perry are already airing in Iowa before he's even made up his mind to run, it's worth a look at who's paying for Perry propaganda.
Jobs for Iowa, the PAC paying for the Iowa ads, was registered with the FEC on June 21. Its treasurer is Robert Jentgens, who formerly worked on Mitt Romney's 2008 campaign. Also registered are Veterans for Rick Perry and Americans for Rick Perry, as well as Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC (though after Rick Perry's primary challenge from the Tea Party-backed Debra Medina it might not be fair to assume that they have any interest in Perry).
Americans for Rick Perry raised $193,000 in just eight days in June, the majority of which comes from Harold Simmons, who Dave Montgomery at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram called “a Dallas multibillionaire who is developing a controversial nuclear waste disposal site in West Texas.” They claim another $207,000 in July.
“Environmentalists say that Simmons' donations to Perry and state lawmakers helped fuel approval of the waste disposal site despite concerns over groundwater contamination, but a spokesman for the project said the application was rigorously vetted and approved only after added protections were included.”
Perry's last election campaign, his third, generated more than $77 million in contributions, as Texas allows unlimited individual donations as well. Montgomery wrote that Perry's donors are “the elite of Texas business and industry,” including Simmons and Houston builder Bob Perry (no relation).
Paul Blumenthal at the Huffington Post wrote that the Americans for Rick Perry PAC was the first time a super PAC had been used by supporters for a campaign that doesn't, technically, exist yet. If Perry's well-connected supporters in the energy and finance industries, among others, are this excited about him now, imagine the money that will flow if he actually announces.
8. Drill, baby, drill
Obviously the governor of Texas has some oil connections. But with Perry as a candidate, we're almost certain to have more of the sort of pro-oil, anti-environment rhetoric that suffused Sarah Palin's tenure on the Republican ticket.
After all, when the BP spill was still churning oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Perry called it “just an act of God” and warned against any “knee-jerk reaction” that might include things like halting deepwater drilling until the dangers could be assessed. Unsurprisingly, Perry also got $129,890 from the oil and gas industry for his last reelection campaign.
Increases in oil prices tend to be good for Texas—bringing jobs and a rise in GDP for the state—but they're a drain on the rest of the country. And the last thing the country needs is a president who's more interested in maintaining oil profits than preventing more oil-related disasters.
9. Flip-flopping on immigration
Texas' population has grown 20 percent during Perry's time in office, and much of that growth has been immigration from Latin America. Up until he began toying with the idea of a presidential run, Perry was a moderate on immigration.
Even last year, he criticized Arizona's SB 1070, and way back in 2001 he signed the state DREAM Act into law. So why the sudden change?
“...Perry’s apparently positioning himself to be a social conservative darling. On immigration, he recently revived a bill that would crack down on so-called 'sanctuary' cities — localities where the government prohibits police officers from asking about the immigration status of legally detained residents.”
The sanctuary cities bill would allow police to inquire about immigration status of any person arrested or detained—even at a routine traffic stop.
It's worth noting that Perry's big business buddies oppose this legislation—and that his willingness to make them angry might just be the clearest sign yet that he's aiming for the national stage.
10. Executing an innocent man
Rick Perry has presided over the execution of 232 people, more than any other governor in history. (The previous record, 152, was held by George W. Bush.) Most of those are forgotten, but a few of them stick out.
Liliana Segura wrote:
“Outside of Texas, the name Cameron Todd Willingham did not mean much to most people until the fall of 2009. In a 17-page article published by The New Yorker magazine, a curious and brave woman, a brilliant fire expert, and an investigative journalist re-opened the case against this man who was put to death for killing his children. The 'classic arson case' was picked apart, revealed to have been based on junk science and a misguided sense of expert intuition. Proof of the flawed fire investigation had been rushed to Rick Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole before the execution, to no avail. Five years later, the article uncovered new evidence to all but confirm what a number of people had suspected for years: That the state of Texas had executed an innocent man.”
Perry's utter lack of interest in examining the evidence of Willingham's innocence shows us something about the man, of course. (It won't be the first time a presidential candidate faces down a questionable execution on the campaign trail. Bill Clinton, back in 1992, interrupted his campaign in New Hampshire to fly home to Arkansas, where a severely mentally challenged man sat on death row. Clinton wasn't going back to stop the execution, though. He was going to preside over it. And one of George W. Bush's first acts as governor of Texas was to reject clemency for a man who had severe brain damage and an IQ of 60. He was executed the evening of Bush's inauguration.)
The Willingham execution might not even be the most controversial example of Perry's execution mania. Just last month, he executed Humberto Leal Garcia Jr., a Mexican citizen, over the objections of the Mexican government, his own president, and the International Court of Justice. Even George W. Bush, in 2005, ordered all states to comply with the international law mandating consular access to officials from their home country for foreign nationals. Rick Perry was the only one not to comply.
For conservatives, all of this is just more red meat. As Megan Carpentier wrote at the Guardian, this execution “won't harm Perry's political career one iota. Sadly, it might even help it.”