Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thrust and Perry

I thought I'd descend from my ivory tower to address the Romney-Perry feud referred to in Chad's post below. It needs to be quick though, as I'm already late for brandy and cigars in the billiard room, with Tim Pawlenty and the other GOP elites.

For the record, I'm not embracing Mitt Romney at this time, nor declaring him as a superior to Perry. My Twitter comments yesterday, that Chad interpreted as ....

SP was offering some rather harsh, but largely valid criticism of Rick Perry via Twitter. I asked if this meant that he would support Romney instead as that increasingly seems like the choice that we’re going to be faced with. Somewhat to my surprise, SP said that yes, if the choice were to be between Romney and Perry, he would favor Romney.

.... can be seen here.

I didn't interpret his question as asking what MY preference was, rather I was answering based on what I thought the GOP primary electorate would ultimately do. And based on his performance in the debate last night, I thought Perry was toast, in the long run that is the primary season.

The problems for Perry, of course, concern his record on attempting to mandate Gadrisil vaccinations and with facilitating illegal immigration. But it's not so much those governing decisions he made years ago that are critical failures. He, and any candidate, has the right to make mistakes in their past. It was more his attempts to contextualize and rationalize his decisions today. In doing this, he sounded uncomfortably similar to a couple of guys the GOP electorate has intimate familiarity with, the last two people they nominated for the Presidency, George W. Bush and John McCain.

On his executive order to compel young girls to get Gadrisil injections, he admits he chose the wrong method for implementation. But when pressed on the substance of his decision, all he could muster for his defense was:

And at the end of the day, you may criticize me about the way that I went about it, but at the end of the day, I am always going to err on the side of life. And that's what this was really all about for me.

A standard that, if generally accepted as a justification for any government action, would know no limits. It's Obama's dream come true. Perry even said it in that shaky voiced Texas drawl that Bush used to evoke when getting sentimental in justifying some big government, big spending intervention like No Child Left Behind or the Medicare prescription drug benefit. With Bush, and with Perry, it is the appeal to Compassionate Conservatism. Or, in other words, the road that led Republicans away from their fiscally conservative roots and helped lead to the Obama presidency and filibuster proof Democrat majorities in Congress. In this new era of runaway government and debt, I believe this mindset is a deal breaker for the GOP primary electorate.

Perry's explanation for supporting reduced in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants attending Texas public universities has a similar basis in the compassionate conservative mindset. Michelle Malkin summarizes the nut of the problem:

Perry’s second major stumble came on the DREAM Act — which he defended as a “states’ right” issue. Granting in-state tuition to illegal alien students incentivizes yet more illegal immigration at taxpayer expense. And mainstream Tea Party voters just ain’t buying it. Perry’s only saving grace was that he didn’t do as John McCain did and insult his critics as bigots.

Actually, she's wrong about that last part (and did correct herself with an update in the linked article). Perry did exactly what McCain, and what Bush, used to do, imply that those who disagree with their compassionate largesse for illegal immigrants are doing it for racial reasons:

And the bottom line is it doesn't make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way. No matter how you got into that state, from the standpoint of your parents brought you there or what have you ...

We were clearly sending a message to young people, regardless of what the sound of their last name is, that we believe in you.

A statement that rightfully drew boos from the audience (and I love the sound of boos at debates). Perry not only mischaracterizes the beliefs of his opponents on this issue, with an appeal to emotion thrown in for good measure, he undercuts the legitimacy of the issue for any other Republicans. Calling the beliefs of the Republican mainstream racist is one way to reach out to the Hispanic community, but perhaps not in the long term interest of anybody but Rick Perry.

On these two issues, Perry represents what the Republican base hated about George Bush and John McCain. The memories of an unsuccessful presidency (at least on spending and domestic matters) and a failed candidate, both of which contributed to the problems we face today, are fresh in voters minds. The more Perry can be shown to be in this tradition, the less chance he has to win the nomination. If Monday's debate is any indication, Perry's opponents have every intention of exposing this side of him.

I should note, the recognition of Perry's potentially fatal flaws gives me no pleasure, it was a depressing development for me on Monday. The other presumptive leader, Mitt Romney is far from ideal and, of course, has his own baggage with Obamneycare and other flirtations with status quo big government interventionism. And yet, despite the problems with Perry and Romney and their potential to implode, I don't see any of the other current candidates emerging from second tier purgatory.

I never thought I'd say this, but Tim Pawlenty, you dropped out too soon!

This highlights the issue Chad raised in his continued longing for a Paul Ryan candidacy. Even though we have a stage full of politicians vying for our affection in each debate, the slate of options available for GOP voters is insufficient. There are a half dozen people sitting out, who, if they ran, would certainly be in the top tier. In order of my preference, they would be Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, and Marco Rubio. Yes, some of these guys are not well enough seasoned or fully vetted for the office of POTUS, but at this stage, I think I'd prefer any of them over the current choices of Romney or Perry. But none of those fellows are running, so we go to war with the army we have. Of course, I will strongly prefer Romney or Perry over their Democratic opponent next November.