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Larry Beinhart's Body Politics: The Great White Dope 

click to enlarge DION OGUST
  • Dion Ogust

At one point during the Republican presidential primaries, Rick Perry arrived as the Great White Hope. So rugged and handsome that rumors immediately popped up that he had to be as gay as Rock Hudson. There's no foundation for them except the suspicion that no man could be that good looking and be straight. Except a Mormon, because they're protected by magic underwear. No insult to Mormons, per se, is meant by that. Many religions have sartorial superstitions, none inherently less legitimate than the others. Rick appeared to have all the right credentials. He was a three-term governor of a state sufficiently backward that he'd never once had to compromise with Tea Party tenets. He swore by the cross to save the fetuses, kill the unions, give unto to the rich because they are deserving, let the poor learn from the error of their ways, instruct the children that evolution was "just a theory," and there were better ones, and sex is best abstained from, it had worked for him.

How much more perfect could a candidate be? For a Republican primary, that is. It turned out that he'd made two horrid, dreadful mistakes. He'd allowed undocumented aliens who were residents of Texas to pay instate tuition at the state's pitifully few colleges. And he'd given an executive order mandating the HPV vaccine for Texas girls. Possibly because Merck, the maker, had contributed $28,500 to Perry's campaigns. There are three things to understand about the situation. First, that's how things are done in Texas. You pay whichever elected officials are relevant and they pass the legislation you want. Really. It's that straightforward. It's only objectionable if you're caught...bribery is a crime...and it might be libelous to call it that since taking money for political favors is apparently quite legal in Texas...and in the United States generally if it's called a campaign contribution. So we'll say it's only objectionable to take a campaign contribution from an interested party who wants a favor if that favor violates the Right's sexophobia. Which this did, since being vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease would suggest the idea that people have sex and that would encourage innocent young girls who would never have a sexual thought in their heads to have such a thought. So Michelle Bachmann called him out on it, stating that Perry had received the even more modest sum of $5,000. Perry instantly snapped back, "If you are saying I can be bought for $5,000, I am offended." As well he should be. In his three gubernatorial campaigns he raised $102,000,000. Of that, $51,000,000 came from just 200 people. What that says is, if you really want to have a sincere conversation with Rick Perry, you should be up in the quarter-million-dollar range.

Some prayers, a couple of come-to-Jesus moments, see the error of his ways, renounce vaccinations and letting Mexicans go to college, and he might have gotten past it. Except that he turned out to be the Great White Dope. The topper was the debate where he announced, "It's three government agencies when I get there that are gone: Commerce, Education, and the um, what's the third one there. Let's see...." He turned to Ron Paul for help. But Paul said five agencies should be shut, and since Perry couldn't get past two, he didn't want to complicate things even further. The moderator made a suggestion, but that wasn't it, and then gave Perry another chance. He said, "I would do away with the Education, the um, Commerce, and let's see. I can't think of the third one. I can't. Sorry. Oops."

Believe it or not, he's back. Why shouldn't you believe it? Newt Gingrich has a TV show, though not his own, like Mike Huckabee, and the Alaska woman is in the news saying the pope is too liberal. Perry has put out a series of commercials, radio and TV, touting the Texas Miracle! It's that Texas has created an astonishing number of the new jobs in America, post crash, much better than the nation as a whole. That's true.

Rick claims there are four reasons: low taxes, less regulations, tort reform, and...what was the fourth one? What? Any suggestions? Three, four, whatever, those are not the reasons. There's been an oil-and-gas boom. If Texas were a country it would be the 12th-largest fossil fuel producer in the world, on track to becoming number nine by the end of the year. You think the Saudis are rich because of their economic policies? If they told you that was the reason, would you believe them? If you were the American media, you'd probably take it at face value. You know which states the lowest unemployment? North and South Dakota and Nebraska! Frack, baby, frack! Others in the low unemployment top five are the Socialist Republic of Vermont and leisurely-land-of-lots-of-benefits Hawaii. Texas is down around 17th. Texas brags that a lot it's new jobs are in manufacturing. That's true. But, according to the state comptroller, all the new manufacturing jobs are in the oil and gas sectors. Texas also has a big export/import trade. No, it's not all guns and drugs. But much of it is due to geography—the border with Mexico and shore of the Gulf. The rest is due largely to federal investment. Big government dredged the deep -water channels that make Houston one of the busiest ports in the world; otherwise they'd be poling flat bottom skiffs across the sand bars like they did in the 18th century. Then there's the aerospace business. Which is only there because Lyndon Johnson was from Texas and put NASA there. Texas has seven air force bases, four army bases, four naval bases, plus, in 2013, they had $37 billion in Defense Department contracts.

Oh, yeah, now I remember the fourth one: a big slush fund for giveaways to businesses to come or to stay in Texas. Everybody who studies them in detail says that money is just part of the pay-to-play culture. If you give the governor money, that's one of the things he can hand you from his goody bag.

Arizona has almost exactly the same politics, philosophy, and feelings as they have in Texas. Are they booming? Nah. They have lousy social services. They've cut education to the bone. And it's a graveyard of developments that went bust in the bubble of '08. Next time you hear a Texan, or a Saudi, tell you they got rich by being independent, working hard, shrinking the government, cutting regulations, and kicking poor people in the teeth, don't believe them, except the part about the poor people, and hope that, next round, your born with an oil well in your backyard.

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