Oops, He Did It Again: Six Things You Should Know About Rick Perry

Terrance Heath

If nothing else, former Texas governor Rick Perry’s candidacy will prove once and for all that wearing glasses doesn’t actually make you smart. Nor will a new pair of specs and a extreme makeover be enough to get Perry — the “oops” candidate of 2012 — into the White House.

Rick Perry - CaricatureRick Perry finally made official what everyone has known since he started sporting a pair of $500 Jean Lafont glasses that his wife, Anita, picked out. Perry is running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. His announcement brings the total number of Republican candidates to 10 — for now, at least.

The glasses are part of a makeover intended to make people forget Perry’s disastrous 2012 campaign. The attempt to improve Perry’s optics was probably based on an old assumption that wearing glasses make you look smart. There’s a bit of science behind it. According to a 2011 study published in the Swiss Journal of Psychology, people who wear glasses — men in particular — are perceived as intelligent and successful. Perception and reality are not the same thing.

Someone in the Perry camp must have hoped they could make the world forget Perry’s infamous “oops” moment of 2012.

It was the “oops” heard around the world; ranked by some as one of the dumbest presidential campaign blunders in recent memory. Two months later, Perry was out of the race.

Today, the official word from the Perry campaign is that health issues were to blame for his “oops” moment. Perhaps that excuse could account for a later New Hampshire speech, where Perry’s “animated” manner left some wondering if he’d taken his medication with a cocktail, or two.

But its most likely that the source of Perry’s “Oops” moment had more to do with the question Perry tried to answer when he told MSNBC reporter Kasie Hunt, “Running for the presidency is not an IQ test.”

Indeed, running for president is not an IQ test. Perry’s answer is quite right, but the question (and the likely answer) has everything to do with why Perry probably won’t get any closer to the White House than a ticket for the tour.

Perry would be the most gaffe-prone president since George W. Bush.

The problem with Perry’s “health excuse” is that he’s had so many such “oops” moments since then. If health problems are to blame, then Perry belongs in a hospital, and not on the campaign trail.

The real winners under a Perry administration would be late night TV hosts, because they would have no shortage of material.

Perry will be the only presidential candidate currently under indictment.

Perry is entering the presidential race with a dubious distinction. He is the only candidate (so far) to enter the race while under indictment.

In August, a grand jury indicted Perry on two felony counts — abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official. The charges concern Perry’s threat to veto millions of dollars for the state’s public integrity unit unless Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned after a 2013 DWI conviction. Lemberg, a Democrat, was convicted and served 20 days in jail for driving under the influence. Perry joined others in calling for her resignation. When she refused to resign, Perry threatened to and did veto funding for the public integrity unit under her supervision.

Perry claimed not to understand the charges against him, but he dutifully turned himself in to be fingerprinted, and took a grinning mug shot. Perry later had that mug shot printed on T-shirts, and told supporters the indictment was a “badge of honor.”

Being indicted in liberal Travis County, which Perry himself has described as a blueberry in a bowl of tomato soup, can only help Perry with the GOP base. How the indictment will play with the rest of the electorate is another story.

Perry couldn’t care less about wealth inequality.

 In a December interview with The Washington Post, Perry acknowledged wealth inequality in Texas and shrugged off the idea that it might be a problem.

Perry acknowledged that the richest Texans have experienced the greatest amount of earnings growth, but dismissed the notion that income inequality is a problem in the state, saying, “We don’t grapple with that here.

In the same interview, Perry quoted the Bible to further dismiss the idea that wealth inequality is a problem, because the Bible says poverty will never be eradicated anyway.

Of course, Perry didn’t quote the entire passage from Mark 14:7, but just the part that would seem to justify his politics.

The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.

The plainest reading reveals that it’s hardly a prediction. Perry may not care much about inequality, but he doesn’t have to misquote Jesus to justify it.

The only thing Perry wants to do for the poor is raise their taxes.

The poor may well be with us always, but there will be a lot more of them if Perry gets to do for America what he did for Texas, as its longest-serving governor.

Perry’s “Texas Miracle” turned out to be a mirage. The state’s job growth was touted by conservatives as proof that right-wing tax-cutting and deregulation can boost the economy. But at its most “miraculous,” Texas economy fell 650,000 job short of keeping up with the growth up in the states working-age population. Most of the jobs created in Texas were low-wage jobs, with no benefits.
● The percentage of Texans living poverty in increased on Perry’s watch, from 15.2 percent in 2001 to 17.5 percent by 2015 — higher than the national average. Texas was second only to California in the number of people receiving food stamps, even as the state shredded its safety net, cutting spending on social service by 17 percent.
● Texas became the nation’s worst polluter. It leads the country in carbon dioxide emissions, is the nation’s second biggest water polluter.
Texas still tops the list of states with highest uninsured rates. Nearly six million Texans lack health insurance. Yet, Perry joined the “Death Panel” of GOP governors who refused millions of federal dollar to expand Medicaid, even though it would not cost Texas anything for three years, and barely anything after that. Perry, of course, proudly defended Texas uninsured rate, claiming that Texans like being uninsured. “But that’s what Texans wanted,” Perry said, “They did not want a large government program forcing everyone to purchase insurance.”

Perry can’t stop talking about gay people, but wishes the press would stop asking.

Rick Perry probably would go to a gay wedding, if he ever got invited to one, but told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he’d really like the media to stop pitching “the ‘gotcha’ question that the left tries to get out there.”

It’s not a “gotcha” question, of course. Perry says there are more pressing national issues to address. But with the Supreme Court set to deliver a ruling that could spread marriage equality to the rest of the country, and have a significant economic impact for many families, it more than counts as a pressing national issue.

What’s more, it’s hardly a “gotcha” question, because right-wingers never stop talking about gays. So, can they really complain when the media asks them about gay rights issues? Perry is one of the worst offenders.

● Last summer, during a speech to San Francisco’s (of all places) Commonwealth Club, Perry said that gays were basically like alcoholics. “Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that,” Perry said, ?“I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.” Perry later backed away from that statement, after facing a tidal wave of criticism.
● In his 2008 book, On My Honor, Perry wrote: “Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink. And even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she still makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender.”
● In his 2010 book, Fed Up, Perry denounced the Supreme Court as “oligarchs in robes” for the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling, which struck down anti-sodomy laws.
Perry Tweeted his disappointment when the Boy Scouts of America decided to allow openly gay scouts (but not adult leaders).
● Upset by a federal court ruling that overturned Texas’ same-sex marriage ban, Perry vowed to appeal the decision.
Perry later told CNBC host Joe Kernan the federal government should have no role in defining marriage. Before deciding that marriage is a “states’ rights” issue, Perry endorsed federal intervention to stop same-sex marriage with the Federal Marriage Amendment.
● Perry kicked off his 2012 campaign with an ad titled, “Strong,” denouncing the fact that “gays can serve openly in the military.”

Perry is an out-of-the-closet conspiracy theorist.

Perry has yet to meet a conspiracy theory he didn’t embrace.

Would President Perry possibly vacation at his family’s unfortunately-named hunting camp?

In 2001, The Washington Post informed us that when he began his career in politics, Perry often hosted fellow Texas lawmakers, supporters, and friends at his family’s unfortunately-named hunting camp.

> In the early years of his political career, Rick Perry began hosting fellow lawmakers, friends and supporters at his family’s secluded West Texas hunting camp, a place known by the name painted in block letters across a large, flat rock standing upright at its gated entrance.

“Niggerhead,” it read.

Ranchers who once grazed cattle on the 1,070-acre parcel on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River called it by that name well before Perry and his father, Ray, began hunting there in the early 1980s. There is no definitive account of when the rock first appeared on the property. In an earlier time, the name on the rock was often given to mountains and creeks and rock outcroppings across the country. Over the years, civil rights groups and government agencies have had some success changing those and other racially offensive names that dotted the nation’s maps.

But the name of this particular parcel did not change for years after it became associated with Rick Perry, first as a private citizen, then as a state official and finally as Texas governor. Some locals still call it that. As recently as this summer, the slablike rock — lying flat, the name still faintly visible beneath a coat of white paint — remained by the gated entrance to the camp.

The unfortunate name remained for decades, before it was painted over (possibly as late as 2008, much later than Perry originally claimed). President Obama takes heat for alternately vacationing in Hawaii and Martha’s vineyard, as opposed to “real” America. Surely President Perry would feel some pressure to follow the example of his Republican predecessor, and vacation somewhere more acceptably “American.”

George W. Bush had his ranch. Rick Perry has his hunting camp. Will he go there? Who knows? But the name might help Perry with his base.

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