Just over one week ago, on August 13, 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced that–officially–he wants to be President of the United States. People have been talking about the guy non-stop since then, and the information is frankly getting overwhelming.
So, we went ahead and saved you the trouble of sifting through all of the media hullabaloo. We’ve pieced together this non-definitive, but certainly very helpful, guide to the presidential hopeful’s history, policies, and beliefs. And if you don’t know what to think about him once you’re done reading, our contributors will be telling you what to think of him throughout the week. Here’s What You Need to Know About Rick Perry.
With U.S. unemployment an astounding 9.1 percent, Perry is weighing heavily on his promise to “get America working again.” Problem: the seemingly impressive Texas job statistics (37 percent of all net new jobs created in the United States in the last two years were in Texas, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas) he keeps citing are a smoke-screen:
The low-tax structure means the state is chronically short of money and, this year, saddled with a huge budget shortfall. Social services and public schools are woefully underfunded. Our graduation rate is low, our dropout rate high. One in four Texans lacks health insurance, by far the highest percentage in the nation. – Dave Mann, Executive Editor, The Texas Observer
In his last legislative session as Governor, Perry presided over a $4-billion cut to public schools. Random fact #2: Texas caps student-to-teacher ratios in primary and secondary education by statute at 22 to 1. Here are some other fun facts:
Once arriving in college, about a third of Texas high school graduates require remedial work in math, writing or reading, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. – The Houston Chronicle
Texan minorities did pretty well on the 2009 NEAP (National Assessment of Educational Prowess) Science exam:
Texas’ African American eighth-grade students earned the highest score in the nation and our Hispanic eighth-grade students were eighth. Only eighth-grade students attending the Department of Defense schools scored higher than Texas’ white students who were tied with white students in Massachusetts. – Robert Scott, Texas Commissioner of Education
(Negative points for the run-on sentence, but positive points for chewing out federal education secretary Arne Duncan really hard in that op-ed. Click on the link to see the man give Duncan a piece of his mind.)
Andrew J. Rotherdam of TIME magazine sums up Texas’ report card nicely:
The bottom line is that although schools in Texas are no great shakes, they’re hardly the nation’s worst.
Texas Monthly reporter Paul Burka hits this one further out of the park than Josh Hamilton ever did. Suggestion #1 for Yankee journalists writing about Rick Perry:
Perry is not George Bush. Don’t assume that because Bush and Perry served together in the Capitol, or because they’re both Republican Texans who wear boots, the two men have a lot in common. They don’t. As governor, Bush positioned himself as “a uniter, not a divider,” championing education as one of his main priorities. Perry has been the opposite kind of chief executive: dismissive of Democrats and fond of political maneuvers that put the heat on moderates within his own party… The cultural differences are striking too. Perry, the son of a Big Country cotton farmer, is at ease with a populist tea party message; W., the scion of a political dynasty, always seemed more comfortable with the country club set. They have followed starkly different paths. When W. began his political career, he had a famous name, access to his father’s huge national fund-raising base, and the backing of the establishment wing of the Republican party. As a late arrival in the Republican ranks, Perry had no fund-raising base and little name identification. He had no choice but to gravitate to the conservative wing of the GOP, where he could prove up his conservative bona fides. Nor is there any love lost between the two men. When Perry ran for lieutenant governor, in 1998, Bush’s camp wanted everyone on the ticket to run positive races; the Perry team defied the order, and ever since, relations have been frosty. There is one other critical difference. Bush lost his first race, for Congress. Perry has won every race he’s ever run.
Side-note: Is it difficult being a journalist in Texas with the last name Burka?
We’ll leave this to Governor Perry himself. In his book, Fed Up!, he writes of climate change:
“It’s all one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight. Al Gore is a prophet all right, a false prophet of a secular carbon cult…”
Awesome. Which brings us to our next few installments of…
Ricks say the darndest things!
A 9-year-old boy was goaded by his mother to ask Perry about evolution. Perry responded:
It’s a theory that’s out there; it’s got some gaps in it. In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools — because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.
Maybe Perry isn’t? But, really, the mother is the one who should be most embarrassed. Check the video.
On Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Perry said:
If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion.
Next: He connected the civil rights movement to his fight against overtaxation.
And, of course, he said that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.
To anyone who has been following the media hooplah on the Republican presidential candidate race, one thing is abundantly clear: Rick Perry is a character.
Sporting cufflinks and a perhaps all-too-familiar folksy approach, he’s been making news by holding prayer rallies, accusing the federal reserve of politicized treason, and becoming one of the frontrunners in the race. The big question on everyone’s mind, though, is: does this guy actually have a shot?
It’s possible. Unlike Mitt Romney, Perry has some charm to him. Coming from a poor family in rural Texas and being an Aggie give him some street cred on his populist talk. And unlike Michelle Bachmann he can spout Tea Party rhetoric without seeming to be part of the lunatic fringe. Another plus over Bachmann is that he has experience on his side. He’s been the longest serving governor in Texas history, while she just has a gaffe-ridden record of being more than a little crazy. In short, he’s got the Tea Party credentials while actually being a plausible candidate.
Now, when it comes to this next step I’m of two minds. I think that overall, voter turnout in 2012 is going to be really low given the current state of the economy and the fact that Joe Q. Public is generally pissed at both parties. So one would think that the candidate that does the best job of energizing the base would do the best in the general election. Right now, I don’t think that’s Obama. I think Democrats are pretty disillusioned and feel a little bit like we’re drifting. God knows I do. We want some cojones back in the White House, and though I’m a big fan of compromise, sometimes you need to stand firm on your ground. Obama needs to get his mojo back. Perry could be that guy that really gets people out to the polls.
But even if Perry is the guy that’s rallying his base and getting people whipped into a frenzy, that enthusiasm could actually work against him. Polls have recently been showing that the Tea Party’s approval rating is in the toilet, and that your average American actually likes Atheists and Muslims more. Ouch. So if there’s a Tea Party candidate on the GOP ticket there could be enough of an “Aw hell no!” backlash from independent voters to keep Obama in the White House through 2016.
So, overall, I think that it’s possible that Perry can win the nomination because primary voters tend to be your hardcore voters, but he might flounder in the general precisely because of that appeal to the base. It’s going to be a big wait and see, but 2012 promises to be ugly either way.
One of the reasons I love writing for Bloguments (besides being nominally associated with my articulate, good-looking colleagues and giving my grandparents an excuse to use the Internet) is that it forces me to actually think about what I’m thinking.
What do I think about Rick Perry?
Until prompted, I didn’t think much about him. I thought it was funny that Stephen Colbert urged Iowa Corn Pole voters to vote for Rick Parry–with an A. I think it’s cool that Perry created job growth in Texas. (Although I think it’s naive to assume that his Texas leadership can be systematized or replicated on a national level.) I think his accent is kind of stupid.
But, upon further reflection, I don’t think I hate him. In short, and at the risk of being myopically one-dimensional, he’s fine. He’s a real politician with real executive experience; he’s not a pretty lady with offensive evangelical views; he keeps the corny catch phrases to a minimum. I think he’s a legitimate candidate. Who I disagree with. But whatever. Leave George Bush out of this and let the poor guy lose to Obama.
This is actually what Katie sent in…
After extensive research and analysis, I have come to the conclusion that:
Rick Perry will not win the 2012 presidential election and everyone should stop worrying.