James Richard “Rick” Perry has been governor of this state for more than 12 years, and there is mounting evidence that he has overstayed his welcome. Never the most popular figure in state politics, he only ascended to the governor’s mansion when George W. Bush was elected president in 2000. Since then he has managed to hang on largely due to political circumstance. He won reelection in 2006 with only 39 percent of the vote in a divided field. When he ran again in 2010 after first signaling he wouldn’t be a candidate, it caught Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison by surprise and she ran perhaps the worst campaign in modern Texas political history. Perry has always relied on a fierce fundraising ability based on a philosophy of being friendly to business – especially the business interests who have invested tens of millions of dollars in his campaigns every four years. Those donors got their money’s worth, to be sure. While he assailed Mitt Romney’s “crony capitalism” during his ill-fated run in the 2008 GOP presidential primaries, the same term could apply to Perry’s Texas-style good old boy network of supporters routinely invited to feed at the taxpayer-funded trough. This self-dealing has not been without cost to average Texans.
During his tenure in office, Perry has appointed every member of every board and commission, often with disastrous results for consumers and average citizens of all sorts. Higher education is a particularly shameful example. Every single college regent in Texas today is a Perry appointee, reportedly with a mandatory donation of at least $5,000 to the governor’s campaign fund as the cost of admission to the board of trustees. During Perry’s time in office, tuition at state schools has doubled, victimizing middle class families trying to send their kids to college.
But when Perry inexplicably developed national political ambitions in 2007, it got even worse for the folks back home. He mused openly about how it might be a good idea for Texas to secede from the union again, ignoring the disastrous fallout from the 1861 secession, then set out to craft an agenda designed to appeal to far-right voters not only in Texas but also early primary states including Iowa, South Carolina and Georgia. With the help of loyal partisans in the Legislature, he declared as “emergencies” such divisive issues as Voter ID and a fetal sonogram bill designed to appeal to voters far beyond our state’s borders. None of this prevented Perry from waging a horrific campaign where he embarrassed not only himself but the state that had repeatedly elected him to office.
Now he’s at it again, reportedly eying another run for the White House. Although Texas is a gun-loving state, Perry’s rhetoric on the gun issue in the wake of Newtown has been over the top even by Perry standards.
He has said any attempt to address the issue “disgusts me, personally” and declares even the most common sense proposals to be affronts to the Second Amendment, which “cannot be nor will it be abridged by the executive power of this or any other president.”
At this point, Texans should be acutely aware that anything Rick Perry says or does is not necessarily for the benefit of our state but instead in service of the national political ambitions of a man who has stayed too long at the fair – and that really is disgusting.