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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Okay, Michele, You Have My Blessing, But for the Love of God, Will Somebody Please Stop Rick Perry?

Photo Courtesy San Antonio Express-News.

Back in May, I wrote about why I didn't think it was a good idea for Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to run for president this time around. Then she announced her candidacy. As I made clear, I will vote for the Republican ticket in 2012 no matter who the nominees are. Now let me make something else clear: I don't like Rick Perry. I have never voted for him, and I hope I never will. To me, he is the Republican Clinton (Bill, not Hillary): a media-savvy politician who's had a pretty smooth run as chief executive, thanks in large part to his predecessor's sound governance. Like Slick Willie, Ol' Rick seems to have no problem taking credit for a good economy he had very little to do with. Yet, it's that economy - and the laissez-faire policies that facilitated it - that may make Perry an appealing candidate if he decides to throw his hat into the ring.

I have to admit that, on paper, Perry looks like an awfully appealing candidate. He has a wealth of experience. He succeeded to the governorship in 2000 having served nearly two years as lieutenant governor, eight years as Agriculture Commissioner and three terms in the Texas House of Representatives. He's also an Air Force veteran and former Eagle Scout. Originally elected to the state legislature as a Democrat, Perry joined the Republican Party in 1989 and could thus make a personal appeal to Democratic and independent voters about crossing over to the GOP, à la Ronald Reagan. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that the three-term governor “has decided to run for President, though the official word from Team Perry is still a definite maybe.”

So, why is that such a bad idea? For one, Perry's impressive résumé is undermined by his problematic, sometimes larger-than-life personality. Originally a "big-government conservative" in the mold of his predecessor, Perry co-opted the Tea Party movement to assist in his 2010 re-election bid. His main obstacle to winning a third term came not from the Democrats but from his own party: he faced Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and the self-proclaimed Tea Party candidate, Debra Medina, in the Republican primary. Painting Hutchison as a creature of Washington, D.C., and basically ignoring Medina, he managed to win the nomination with 51% of the vote, narrowly avoiding a runoff. His hypocrisy in casting Hutchison as the big-government Republican in the race was just the latest in a long line of stunts and follies that soured me on him.

His first year in office, Perry proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor, a privately-operated transportation network of tollways, rail lines and data lines that would criss-cross the state. Despite an elaborate plan and enthusiastic pitch, Perry failed to sell a majority of Texans on the project, which some decried as "Tolls Across Texas." Even more disturbing (to some) than the idea of privately owned and operated toll roads was the manifest potential for rampant eminent domain abuse. In 2006, all three of his opponents in the gubernatorial race ran against it. Yet, it took a decade before the Legislature finally killed what had become arguably the most salient boondoggle of Perry's governorship.

There's a lot more I could say about Rick Perry that could well turn some of his most ardent fans against him, but I'll hold back out of decency (and laziness). Also, divulging some of the more unseemly details about Perry's life and career would likely endanger my sources, whether or not I identified them. So, suffice it to say, I hope Perry doesn't run. If he did, then he could well mess things up and possibly even win the nomination. I seriously doubt he could beat Obama, but even if he could, I still wouldn't want him to run. Republicans have a good shot at taking back the White House next year, and we can do a lot better than Rick Perry.

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