Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Perry gets a Pass on Policy
The CNN/Tea Party Republican debate last night provided voters with another look at the eight GOP candidates, and for political junkies who weren't watching football or The Bachelor Pad finale, it was quite entertaining. What I find fascinating is the fact that Governor Perry's record on some of the hottest button conservative issues is flawed; so much so that those same positions would disqualify any other candidate immediately. Can you imagine what would happen if Michele Bachmann stated that she opposed a border fence? Her supporters would abandon her in droves. What if Rick Santorum were campaigning on giving taxpayer benefits to illegal aliens? The Republican base would be up in arms. How about the thought of Governor Mitt Romney signing an executive order, bypassing the legislature, to force children to have a government vaccination; add to that the notion that Mitt's former chief of staff happened to be the chief lobbyist for the manufacturer of the vaccine? Mitt would be immediately disqualified in the eyes of most primary voters.
No one at the debate mentioned the business margins tax, signed by Perry, which taxes Texas businesses whether they make a profit or not. Congressman Paul did mention, however, the growth of the size of government in Texas and the increasing tax burden.
Why does Perry give new meaning to the term "teflon"? How does Perry run ads where he's standing on the Texas/Mexico border looking for all the world like a Clint Eastwood tough guy, win re-election as an anti-illegal-immigration Governor, and then the next day make a speech about the futility of building a border fence? What about his refusal to stand with Arizona and support Governor Brewer? What about Perry's long-time support of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants?
In Texas, one explanation for the double standard afforded Perry is the unprecedented network of supporters who have benefited from helping the Governor. Perry has cultivated and then rewarded friends in record numbers due to his historic longevity. Being Governor for a record-setting 13 years and counting, Perry has been in control of appointments to plum commissions and has given out those perks generously. He has become close to conservative opinion leaders and evangelicals, to the point where some even boast that they have the Governor on speed dial. What are those kind of bragging rights worth? Conservatives are just as prone to being influenced by power as liberals, so whenever the Governor has gone off the reservation, criticism has been muted and rationalized, mainly because of Perry's strong pro-life stance. Most conservative politicians would have sustained serious if not career-ending consequences for the Merck vaccination executive order or the anti-border fence stance, but not Perry. Friends of Perry are everywhere in Texas, and many have personally benefited from that friendship. Rick Perry and cronyism go hand in hand. Not only is it good to be Perry; it's good to be a Friend of Perry. Just ask Mike Toomey.
You can see that poor Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and the rest of the field are somewhat baffled by Perry's poll numbers in the face of his less-than-consistent conservative record. That's the thing about Perry; he defies explanation. Voters see his face, observe his confidence, and his policies, even when contradictory, become irrelevant. Opponents always underestimate Perry, and if he is our nominee, you can be sure that Obama will, too. The condescending attitude of the left in an Obama vs. Perry election would be fun to watch. A warning to President Obama: If I were you, I wouldn't make disparaging remarks about clinging to guns and faith in a campaign against Rick Perry.
Governor Rick Perry appeals to voters, especially those voters who don't care to delve too deeply into policy details. He has an intangible appeal that most candidates lack. We've watched the Perry phenomenon in Texas for over a decade. Should Perry become the GOP nominee, he will have my full support. And it appears that, despite his policy lapses, Perry may be the nominee. This election is solely about electability. And because of that, Perry is once again getting a pass on policy. And hey, if that is what it takes to beat Obama, then spare me the details.