Perry: A Bush In Sheep's Clothing?

The more I learn about Rick Perry, the less I seem to like him as my chosen candidate for the Republican nomination.

Oh, I admire the straight-talk of the guy, and I like his general pro-States-rights attitude. But his record, and his debate answers, are making me think he’s not the real conservative many of us are wishing him to be.

The Gardisil Fiasco

This vies for the #1 position in my “Huh?” list.  Imagine Obama writing an executive order saying that all young girls had to be vaccinated against – well, against ANY illness – prior to entering the sixth grade.  Even if the order included a parental opt-out option, we (conservatives) would be going wild.  Perry did it, and on top of the basic governmental heavy-handedness of the thing, there are those who are also screaming “crony capitalism” over the resulting profits for drug manufacturer Merck, the exclusive maker of the vaccine.

In last night’s debate, Perry responded to Bachmann’s assertion that Merck bought him off by noting that Merck contributed only $5000 to his campaign, and that “he was insulted” if Bachmann thought he could be bought so cheaply.  (I couldn’t figure out if he was saying that he was insulted at the insinuation he could be bought at all, or that he always charges much more for his influence! )  We all know that only dumb politicians sell themselves for immediate cash (e.g., Blogovich).  The smart ones sell themselves for future favors, and Perry is smart… so his $5000 “comeback” really doesn’t fly.

He Still Supports Texas In-State Tuition for Children of Illegals

Frankly, I never got a good explanation last night exactly why Perry thinks it’s a good idea to subsidize higher education for children of illegal immigrants.

All he offered up to explain his position was the same old “Bushy-Liberal Republican lines” like “better to have them be productive members of our society,” and an almost race-baiting soundbite about children not being denied opportunity because “their last name sounds different.”  (I believe Obama used a line something like that while conjecturing why some people might not like him.)

Dodging the Illegal Immigration Question

Though he comes off like a “tough Texan” on the topic, like Bush, Perry’s doesn’t seem all motivated about it (or perhaps. like Bush, his heart’s just not in it.) Byron York reports that in New Hampshire, Perry said recently that “Building a wall on the entire border is a preposterous idea,” and “the only thing a wall would possibly accomplish is to help the ladder business.”  He’s for “strategic fencing” in some urban areas, whatever that means.         Neither does he want to go after the source of the problem, which is American employers who hire the illegal workers.  On this, York reports that “Perry opposes E-Verify, which is a program requiring employers to check the legal status of new hires. It has been very effective in stopping the hiring of illegals, but Perry does not support requiring private businesses to use it, and he doesn’t want state agencies in Texas to use it, either.”  York reports that Perry stated in a 2010 debate, “E-Verify would not make a hill of beans’ difference in what’s happening today.”  

OK, Mr. Perry, so what would?  Here’s all your official website says about it (under the heading of National Security):  “As Governor, Perry has directed hundreds of millions of dollars, manpower and resources to drastically reduce criminal activity along the border because Washington has refused to act. As President, Perry will take decisive action to defend our sovereign border because there can be no homeland security without border security.”  And the “News” part of your site doesn’t even contain the word “immigration.”

Perry’s Ominous Texas Tax Record

In the debate last night, Ron Paul – a resident of Texas – somewhat shouted “au contraire” to the general belief that Mr. Perry is anti-tax, and there is evidence Mr. Paul is right.

In a recent white-paper about Perry’s record in Texas, the national pro-business group “Club for Growth” says, that “A 30,000 foot level examination of Governor Perry’s record on tax policy reveals several pro-growth elements.”  The CFG White Paper notes a 2006 tax cut he signed into law, and his support of an amendment to the Texas Constitution that would limit growth of taxes.

The group goes on to say that “Governor Perry does have some rather large blemishes in his record,”  calling at least three strikes for him on this issue.

       Strike One:  In 1987, as a Democrat state representative, he voted for a $5.7 billion tax hike – the largest state tax increase in American history.

       Strike Two: His first budget as governor, in 2003, faced a $10 billion shortfall and Perry sought to – and got – at least $2.68 billion in “revenue adjustments, surcharges, and fees” to help plug the hole.  These included new fees on nurses, crematoriums, home builders, and alcohol licenses.  (Not really new taxes, you say?  They smell like new taxes to me, and certainly to anyone who had to pay them!)

 Strike Three:  To get property tax reform through the Texas legislature, Perry agreed to swap the elimination of the Texas corporate income tax for the creation of a Texas “Gross Receipts Tax” (a tax on gross revenues of Texas corporations.)   The net effect, according to the CFG white paper, was to “nearly triple the amount that Texas collected from businesses.”   If that’s true, Perry’s version of tax reduction seems a bit expensive.

Most Troubling Of All:  Perry Was A Democrat , He Supported Al Gore, AND He Is A “Karl Rove Republican.”

“Uff-da!” as we say in Minnesota, when something knocks the wind out of us or we just generally want to exclaim.  This is a trifecta of terrible stuff!

OK, Reagan was a Democrat a long time prior to becoming a political force.  But Perry was a Democrat.  In fact he was one of several Texas lawmakers to actively support Al Gore (though NOT as his campaign manager as is often reported).  Still… he supported Al Gore?  Well, Perry WAS a Democrat, wasn’t he?  (Still… he supported Al Gore?)

In 1989 Perry switched parties, changing from conservative Democrat to moderate Republican.  Though at least one Texas political observer tagged him as the “12th most conservative Democrat” in a Democrat-controlled Texas legislature, many in Texas say he made the party switch mostly for political expediency.  They say he was unhappy with his progression through leadership roles in the Texas House, and with the tide-changing election of George W. Bush as governor he saw an opportunity and took it.  You can read the story about how Karl Rove claims he and others convinced Perry not to retire, but become a Republican and run for Texas Ag Commissioner instead – his first step on the road to the governor’s office.

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So if these things are true or even mostly true, here’s yet another ex-Texas Governor who  “talks the talk” but, though he can swagger, doesn’t seem to have a record of “walking the walk.”   Here’s another “conservative” politician who has no problem raising taxes… or revenues, or fees, or whatever pseudonym he gives them.  Here’s another “believer in personal freedom” who – when he thinks it’s right – doesn’t mind using the crushing power of government to invade the body and business of citizens.  (His only answer to the Gardisil mess seems to be “I will always err on the side of life … and oh, yeah, and I would have do it differently today and not jammed it down everyone’s through like I did.”  Not very comforting to know his principles are swayed by the circumstance… kind of like George Bush telling us during the deployment of his stimulus package that he had to ignore capitalism in order to save it.)

And the irony is that, because of the “Texas tough conservative” demeanor Perry and has intentionally or unintentionally fabricated for himself, he might frighten enough voters – or at least remind enough of them of George W. – to get Barack Obama elected again.

Many of Perry’s supporters are falling all over themselves to point out that the “Perries don’t like the Bushies,” as those that makes them political opposites rather than just political foes.  Maybe they were foes because they believed in many of the same things and because “Texas just ain’t big enough for both of them.”

Before conservatives make a final decision on the party’s nominee, we might do well to remember that Texas is the state that nurtured and gave us Democrat arm-breakers Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson, RINOs Bush I and Bush II, and current Republican/Libertarian kook-in-residence Ron Paul.

Texas politics is a big and strange game that has produced many big and strange politicians.  We need to remember that before we succumb to our fond myth of cowboys.