Now that Texas' Governor Rick Perry has announced his candidacy for president I'm sure the airwaves will be inundated with misinformed 30-second sound bites about our esteemed governor. Let me tell you a few things you're probably not going to hear about Mr. Perry from his supporters.
First and foremost he's an opportunist. He is quick to jump on what the prevailing poll sentiment says is currently popular....until the poll numbers change next week. He's masterfully played up his reputation for fiscal conservatism to the Tea Party-ers, although his 10-year record as governor doesn't match his rhetoric. When he became governor in 2000 Texas state debt was just over $13B ($16B in 2011 dollars allowing for inflation). Today it's over $35B. Ouch!
He'll tell you that under his leadership Texas' economy has thrived, and that 40% +/- of all jobs created in the US in the past several years have been in Texas. True, BUT he doesn't tell you that the vast majority of those jobs are low-paying with few if any benefits.
So why have we thrived? We're sitting on an ocean of oil and natural gas, and with crude prices around $100 a barrel, it would be hard NOT to thrive. Remember NAFTA....the North American Free Trade Agreement? It opened up a torrent of cheap imports from south of the Rio Grande border, and those imports are shipped straight up the middle of Texas to points north, which means jobs. It's simple geography. (And remember, NAFTA predated Rick Perry's governorship by a decade.) Rick Perry has simply been at the right place at the right time.
Remember all the fuss over the abuse of Eminent Domain, the legal tool used to take people's property if it's for the "public good" (such as for a school)? Perry gets really bent-out-of-shape over that one....never mind that he once proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor, a half-mile-wide strip of confiscated land all the way from Mexico to Oklahoma and beyond that was going to be developed for highway/rail/data transmission, the rights to do so sold to a private (and foreign at that) FOR-PROFIT group. Seems he overstepped his bounds on that one and was slapped down by the people when they found out about it.
Perry likes to tell the story of how he got in Barack Obama's face saying, "if you can't police our borders, WE can" (or something close). Lots of talk, very little action. Why? Cheap labor fuels all those new low-paying jobs he's so proud of. Business interests bluster a lot, but deep down they LOVE all that cheap labor. REAL immigration reform isn't going to happen if Perry is elected president. (Sorry Tea Party.)
His supporters will point out that he'll be a powerful national candidate because he's a prodigious fund-raiser. Or to put it another way, he's never met a PAC (political action committee) he didn't like. (See "Trans-Texas Corridor" above.) He once proposed that it be mandatory that all little girls be vaccinated against PVM (a virus linked to cervical cancer). Conservatives objected loudly about the intrusion on people's parental rights and he backed down. Oh....and it was discovered that Perry's former Chief-of-Staff was then actively lobbying for his new employer Merck (pharmaceutical), the ONLY maker of an approved PVM vaccine at the time. *cha-ching*
He is a master practitioner of patronage, too. After 10 years in office he has packed every department, commission, committee, college Board of Regents....even 6 of our 9 Supreme Court justices. The size of our state government has grown MUCH faster than our increase in population would suggest it should. So much for "smaller government". (I guess the Tea Party missed that.)
So don't we here in Texas love him? I mean, we've elected him governor 3 times. Um...news flash: Anyone running for statewide office in Texas with an "R" beside their name is pretty much a shoe-in.
So should you vote for him? I dunno. That's your choice. He's a snake, a worm, a liar, or as those types are commonly called today, a "politician". Is he any better or worse than any of the rest? Probably not. But if you do vote for him, don't expect him to be a pure ideological standard bearer adoring supporters can rally around. Best case he might be the least objectionable. Worst case....? Just go in with your eyes wide open, and don't turn your back on him.
On a positive note, he does have that most essential presidential qualification of all: good hair. ;)