Rick Perry: One Lucky Son of a B*tch
Let's get one thing straight from the start. Gov. Rick Perry is no blow-dry George Bush clone, even though he owes his stellar political career about 75 percent to Bush and maybe 25 percent to Osama bin Laden. So what is the political profile of the Texas Governor, now officially in the race as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination? A Rasmussen poll this week of likely Republican primary voters, has him with 29-percent support, against his current rivals, Romney with 18 percent, and Bachmann with 13 percent.
Inside Texas, he's the most successful politician in the entire history of the state. George Bush lost his first congressional race. In a lifetime career of ten elections since 1984, Perry has never lost one. He has an acute sense of political timing. His defeated opponents readily attest to Perry's relentless self-discipline as a campaigner, his skills at raising campaign cash — he already has a huge prospective war chest for his first national foray. They all emphasize the fatal consequences of underestimating him.
But above all, Rick Perry is one lucky son of a b*tch. Not just once or twice, but at almost every decisive fork in the road fate has given him a benign tap on the shoulder. Napoleon said, "give me lucky generals." Looking at Perry's CV, he'd have made him Grand Marshall of France on the spot.
In 1998, Perry ran for Lieutenant Governor. Victory would put the first Republican in the slot since Reconstruction. Bush was already planning his 2000 presidential run, which would mean quitting the gubernatorial chair. Bush had no desire to see a Democrat step up from the Lieut. Gov.'s office, and so, Karl Rove took a close strategic and tactical interest in Perry's bid. The Bush clan ran ads for Perry, though the latter's refusal to follow Bush's "big tent, compassionate society" message sowed the seeds for hostility between Perry and the Bush camp, which is still flaring. Rove is denouncing Perry's current onslaughts on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Perry was up against John Sharp, a capable Democrat and previously Texas comptroller of public accounts. Recently, Sharp recalled to Paul Burka of Texas Monthly:
"Running against Perry is like running against God. Everything breaks his way! Either he's the luckiest guy in the world or the Lord is taking care of him. Two weeks before the election, the largest flood of the century hit the Eighteenth District, which I'd represented in the state Senate. The flood inundated towns all along the Guadalupe River, with massive flooding in Gonzales, Cuero and Victoria, my hometown. No one thinks about voting when their house is flooded. I received 70 percent of the vote there, but of course, it was a record-low turnout. It's hard to get out the vote from a boat."
In 2000, fate tapped Perry on the shoulder again. In the wake of the big fix in Florida, Bush moved up to the Oval Office and Perry became governor. On Sept. 10, 2001, Bush was a failing president and Perry was far from strong. Amid the embers of the Towers, the Great War on Terror was on. Bush was now renascent and manly Republicanism was juicing up Perry.
And now Perry, an early communicant with the Tea Party, has the luck of facing the unconvincing Mitt Romney and kookish Michele Bachmann.
All governors running for the presidency in an economically successful state claim that responsibility for this good fortune is theirs alone. If times are hard, Washington D.C. gets the blame. No Republican is going to credit big government with anything but baneful intrusion and failure.
Perry's no exception. Of course he invokes low regulation and the entrepreneurial powers of the untrammeled market for Texas's budgetary virtue since the great crash of 2008.
All nonsense. Texas has been on the same tack for at least half a century, most of it under conservative Democratic leadership. Perry, contrary to the necessary pledges, has raised taxes and increased Texas's debt.
When billions in federal stimulus money came through, Perry used the money to mop up red ink in the annual budget. Last week, Jared Bernstein, formerly Vice President Joe Biden's economic advisor, pointed out derisively that it was federally created public-sector jobs that have kept the state from serious unemployment in the downturn.
Some on the libertarian right view Perry with suspicion. They think he's a phony — and an undercover agent of the Bilderburg Conspiracy for world domination government. In 2007, he tried to force an executive order through that required sixth-grade girls in Texas to be vaccinated, with the consent of their parents, (withheld consent was to be a tough process) against the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer. Merck, a pharmaceutical giant was pushing the vaccine and Perry's former chief of staff was Merck's lobbyist. Ultimately, Perry's plan was beaten back, and he admits it was a mistake. It's one of the reasons that some people on the right think Perry is a phony, since the whole plan was redolent of nanny-state government.
This is just one opening for Bachman: Perry said at one point he was "fine" with New York state legalizing marriage between same-sex couples. He based this on his belief that the Tenth Amendment reserves for the states all powers not explicitly granted to the federal government in the Constitution. The religious right went crazy and Perry hastily backtracked saying that he favored a constitutional amendment outlawing same sex marriage and abortion.
Nor does the Tea Party right relish Perry's commendable support for the children of illegal aliens to attend Texas's state colleges and universities. "To punish these young Texans for their parents' actions is not what America has always been about," he told a New Hampshire paper this summer. In 2010, he criticized Arizona's immigration law saying, "it would not be the right direction for Texas." Another source of grave suspicion by the Tea Party right, Perry attended a 2007 Bilderburg conference, thus rendering himself in the eyes of the Tea Party, a pawn of secret world government.
Perry entered the race, intent on capturing the right-wing base and crushing Romney and Bachmann in South Carolina. This route is what essentially set McCain on the path to the GOP nomination in 2008. Hence, the Perry-hosted "The Response" — a national day of prayer, on August 6 at Reliant Arena that drew 30,000 Christians and was broadcast on cable Christian channels and the Internet nationwide, including in at least 1,000 churches. Hence, the cracks on the campaign trail at Bernanke and AGW.
The rhetorical lunges have drawn ridicule from The New York Times, pushing Perry towards the kook exit. But at this stage in the game, measured approval in The New York Times is not exactly what Perry is after, any more than is Bachmann or the man closer to the libertarian right's heart than Perry, namely Ron Paul.
The big question is whether Perry, having won the right, can sidle back to capture the necessary independents and young folk who bet on Obama in 2008. Reagan managed it in 1980, amid widespread disappointment and disgust with Jimmy Carter. Is there disappointment and disgust with Barack Obama? The president has plunged down in the most recent polls, now at a 50.3 percent disapproval rating. There are still around 30 million Americans without work, or enough work. Unemployment is above 7 percent and likely to stay that way, and the wisdom is that no president presiding over such stats can hope for a second term.
Who knows, maybe fate will step forward once again and give Perry one more tap on his lucky shoulder. Thus far his luck has held.