Rick Perry's "Texas miracle" is a fantasy

The GOP presidential candidate's claims don't hold up

  

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, Perry still has the gestures and body language of the handsome country bumpkin who was elected a yell leader at Texas A&M in 1970. A&M, newly coed, was still more military academy than college when Perry, a poor ranch boy from a flyspeck town 180 miles west of Dallas, showed up in 1968 wearing shirts, pants, and underwear sewn by his seamstress mother.

Yell leaders then, as now, were more like orchestra conductors than cheerleaders, directing the A&M bleachers at football games in "army yells" communicated by coded hand signals. It's an elective post, a popularity contest that garners twice the voter turnout as the school's election for student body president.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry
Caleb Bryant Miller/Zuma Press
Texas Gov. Rick Perry
A Texas Tech science building carries Anita Perry's name, but her husband's plan would devastate the state's university research programs
Brian Cahn/Zuma Press
A Texas Tech science building carries Anita Perry's name, but her husband's plan would devastate the state's university research programs

Watch Perry's appearance on The Daily Show from last November, and you'll see him wrest the audience away from host Jon Stewart at key moments, with sly grins sidelong to the peanut gallery and, yes, even a hand signal or two. The man does know crowds.

"What he has more than anything else is street smarts," says Colbert, the education consultant and former legislator. "What he has is an ability to be able to judge people for what it is that's important to them. How can I make them my friend? In all sorts of ways that's a very, very important skill to have, and if you happen to be in politics it's one of the most vital skills you can have."

He's particularly adept at picking up on and hooking into important underlying themes in public sentiment long before other politicians get a clue, Colbert says.

"He sees it. He runs in front of it, and regardless of whatever his underlying stuff may be, he will do what he needs to do to stay on top of that wave rather than have the wave roll over him and crush him," Colbert says. "He's a good surfer."

To these personal gifts another important asset must be added: a campaign staff so brilliant it's already being studied by political scientists across the country. In his book excerpt, "Rick Perry and His Eggheads," journalist Sasha Issenberg explains how the Perry gubernatorial campaign in 2010 allied with a team of political scientists from Yale, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Maryland.

And then there's the pure weirdness of Texas, and Perry's ability to exploit it. Stanford says Perry has whipped a succession of candidates who may have been smarter than he was about the world because Perry was smarter than they were about Texas.

"Rick Perry always knew that to be Texas governor, first in the voters' eyes you had to be Texas," Stanford says. "He did an ad campaign, 'I'm proud of Texas, how about you?' If you're attacking Rick Perry, you're attacking Texas. He always sets it up that way."

Perhaps the last question, then, is whether being proud of Texas can get Perry elected president.

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2 comments
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Brad Smith
Brad Smith

Well it makes me proud to be a Texas American when even the Yankees hate this good fer nuthin' lyin' cheatin' goat weenie as much as I do.

OfBuckleyandBeatles
OfBuckleyandBeatles

As a rational, intellectual Republican I was pleased to see the City Pages examine Rick Perry's supposed "Texas Miracle." However, I was saddened to see the reporter miss a couple of key facts that I'm more than happy to share.

First, jobs in Texas grew at the same rate under Perry that they did under Democrat governor Ann Richards. And they actually grew at a faster rate under George W. Bush - even when you factor in the recession.

Second, since 2000 public sector jobs in Texas grew at 19% while private sector jobs grew at only 9%.

Finally, between December 2007 and June 2011 private sector employment in Texas declined by 0.6% while public sector jobs grew by 6.4%.

Texas' population boom has created a demand for more public employees, especially teachers, and, as the City Pages report showed, education funding has been slashed, meaning many of those teachers will be getting laid off and thus increasing Texas' unemployment rate. A Perry presidency would be the worst thing for America, and this Republican is thankful the City Pages has contributed to the growing list of reasons to reject this man's candidacy.

 
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