Within one short week, the Republican Party’s presidential sweepstakes has been completely reshaped, jolted even, by the entry into the race of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Once again, America is treated to an arch-conservative Republican candidate who is selling himself on a record that is distorted, vaunted out of proportion and just downright scary.
Just look at what is certain to be topic No. 1 in Perry’s quest to win the White House: He touts himself as the engine behind what his supporters call the “Texas Miracle.” This is the area where the Texas governor is seeking to sell himself as a creator of jobs and a one-man economic stimulant.
The truth of the matter is that there is little that is miraculous about what’s going on regarding job growth in that state. Texas is a leader in the nation for low-wage jobs, with median wages in the state falling far below the national average of $12.50 per hour. In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that more than half a million Texans were working below the minimum hourly wage of $7.25. As a result, Texas is ranked alongside Mississippi as a leader in low-wage jobs.
Without question, Perry is exciting the Republican Party because he is a politician who can raise huge sums of campaign money from a party that appears to have a fanatical fixation on unseating President Obama. He has been the chief executive of the nation’s second most populous state, a job that has given him a significant platform for the last decade (a stewardship, by the way, during which he has appointed few African-Americans to significant positions in his administration).
Most distressing is the fact that Perry is a politician known for his over-the-top rhetoric, a dangerous credential for anyone seeking to be the head of state of any country, let alone the United States. Here is a man who has made a habit of shooting from the hip with whacky political philosophy. He has flirted with the idea of supporting, even championing, the repeal of the 16th and 17th Amendments to the United States Constitution-the former calls for the government to collect federal income taxes, while the latter calls for the direct election of United States senators by voters, rather than by state legislatures.
Does he mean the government of the United States shouldn’t be in the business of building roads, defending the nation, providing social security or monitoring drug development? Does he think citizens of Texas-and those of other states-have no need to vote directly for their representatives in the Senate?
Just this week, the Texas governor, speaking in Iowa, said that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s actions to move the economy out of recession were “almost treasonous.”
Here’s what Perry said: “If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno [sic] 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.”
Let’s face it: It’s more than a little intemperate to accuse the chairman of the federal reserve of being a traitor to his country because he wants to help pull the economy out of a hole.
Even some of his fellow Republicans have criticized Perry, saying his rhetoric was unbefitting of a presidential candidate. In fact, Karl Rove, of all people, said it best about Perry’s comments on Bernanke: “That’s not a presidential statement. Gov. Perry is going to have to fight the impression that he’s a cowboy from Texas. This simply added to it.”