On Dec. 21, 2000, while Illinois state senator Barack Obama was casting some of his 129 “present” votes, Perry took over a state government that now features some 384,000 workers and a $172.5 billion biennial budget. While Obama’s oratory often soars, he sometimes seems disengaged and indecisive — as if the Oval Office were a training facility. As Texas’s governor for a record ten years, Perry’s executive experience is quadruple Obama’s. A President Perry would not need a how-to guide in the White House.
Perry rejected federal taxpayer dollars for education and unemployment assistance, arguing that the “free money” was not worth having the Lone Star State lassoed by the strings that usually accompany Washington’s checks.
Perry also perfectly reflects the zeitgeist, which finds citizens annoyed with Uncle Sam’s sniffing about in virtually every crevice of American life.
“We are fed up with being overtaxed and overregulated. We are tired of being told how much salt we can put on our food, what windows we can buy for our houses, what kinds of cars we can drive, what kinds of guns we can own, what kinds of prayers we are allowed to say and where we can say them, what political speech we are allowed to use to elect candidates, what kind of energy we can use, what kind of food we can grow, what doctor we can see, and countless other restrictions on our right to live as we see fit.”
“After four years of Obama officials forcing Americans to do things they have no constitutional authority to impose, such as requiring people to buy health insurance, the public might embrace a Tenth Amendment advocate,” Dr. Merrill Matthews of the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas recently argued in Forbes.
My old friend and fellow commentator Quin Hillyer suggests tapping on the brakes before the pro-Perry bandwagon approaches ramming speed.
“A governor of Texas can do well just by being hands-off, including keeping his hands off his own administration,” Hillyer told me. “What we need in Washington is somebody who is activist within the administration in order to dismantle all the outrages of government. Perry inherited a good situation and thrived by doing nothing; doing nothing in Washington means leaving the status quo in effect, which would be awful.”
Such skepticism aside, Perry’s biggest challenge may be that he is the governor of Texas. Americans suffered through the mitigated disaster that was George W. Bush’s presidency. They may recoil at electing another commander-in-chief from Austin. Perhaps more worrisome for Perry are his appearance and mannerisms. At a well-delivered speech to the Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank in Dallas on April 28, Perry did not quite resemble Bush. However, he mirrored actor James Brolin’s portrayal of the 43rd president in Oliver Stone’s film W.
Perry can overcome this potential handicap by loudly and explicitly distancing himself from the White House’s disgraced former occupant.
There reportedly is little love lost between Perry and the aristo-socialist Bush family and their political henchman, the annoyingly ubiquitous Karl Rove. Team Bush backed U.S. senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R., Tex.) in her failed primary bid to unseat Perry in March 2010. Perry should relish this rift and educate voters about it. He should remind them of Bush’s LBJ-like spendaholism and Carteresque regulatory overreach (e.g. Bush’s repugnant 2007 ban on Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb, effective 2012). Perry should declare that his domestic agenda will not echo Bush’s, much beyond tax relief and school choice.
As the anti-Obama and anti-Bush, Perry soon could emerge as a seasoned, competent, growth-generating conservative. This should unite the Republican base, make tea partiers boil with glee, and magnetize independents and sensible Democrats. If so, voters just might dispatch Barack Obama to design his presidential library.
— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.