His candidacy was actually launched at a Prayer-A-Palooza in Houston the week before he formally announced. While only about 30,000 evangelicals and Republican faithful showed up at the 72,000-seat football stadium rented for his public prayer spectacle, he was given saturation coverage by the corporate media, which has gone gaga over yet another small-minded, right-wing, Texas governor.
If the fawning reporters had any real journalistic curiosity about what kind of national “leader” this guy would be, they could have slipped away on that same day to the city’s convention center. There, 100,000 Houstonians gathered in bleak testimony to his gubernatorial leadership. They were some of Houston’s many low-income children and parents who’re struggling to make ends meet in Perry’s hard-scrabble Texas economy.
These needy families had come to a citywide, back-to-school event where backpacks, school supplies, uniforms, haircut vouchers, immunizations and bags of food were being provided by the school district. Officials expected 25,000 to show up, but four times that number came. Some families camped out for hours before the doors opened, and many were turned away as supplies were exhausted by 10 a.m. “It shows the need,” observed a solemn school spokesman.
Perry is known in Texas as “Governor Supercuts,” not only for his spiffy hairdo, but also for cutting the budgets of schools, poverty programs and holding down wages. In his 10-year tenure, Perry has created more minimum wage jobs than all other states combined. His superrich state now has more families in poverty and more families without health coverage than any other. He proposes to bring his “Texas Miracle” to the nation as President Supercuts.
With Perry, you get the two basic political strains of today’s Republican Party in one suit. On the one hand, he has carefully posed himself in the past couple of years as the farthest out of Tea Party Republicans’ far-out right-wingers. Think Michele Bachman with better hair: Perry called the BP oil disaster an “act of God.” His response to the drought that’s devastating Texas was to pray for rain (God did not oblige). He’s a “tenther” who angrily asserted state’s rights to nullify Obama’s “socialist” schemes (until he needed federal cash to fix his state’s bankrupt unemployment fund). He hates government-financed health care – except for himself and his family. He loudly decries big government intrusion into people’s lives, but enacted a law this year to require any woman considering an abortion to have a grossly-invasive probe inserted up her uterus to make her see a sonogram of the embryo. If elected, he would also try to scuttle Social Security, Medicaid and the federal income tax. All this, he warns, or else Texas might secede from the Union – an idea lustily applauded by the other 49 states.
On the other hand, Perry is an exuberant corporate Republican, unabashedly hugging any big business lobbyist bearing a campaign check and a wish list. Although he dresses alluringly for the right-wing extremists, the corporate powers are his true love – and vice versa. Even though he’s entering the GOP primary late, with little time to put together a national campaign, the New York Times notes that Perry has, “a vast network of wealthy supporters eager to bankroll his presidential ambitions.”
Why? Because he’s already proven to be a trusted peer of the corporate-political establishment. For example, Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons invested $500,000 in Perry’s politics last year, and this year the grateful governor rammed a special favor into law that lets a Simmons corporation reap a fortune by dumping nuclear waste from 38 states in West Texas.
Among the 204 donors who’ve invested $100,000-and-up in Perry’s give-and-get governorship are AT&T, Wal-Mart, the Koch brothers, Dell Inc., Clear Channel, T. Boone Pickens, Time-Warner Cable, James Leininger, TXU Energy, TRT Holdings (Omni Hotels, Gold’s Gym etc.), Bob Perry, Friends of Phil Gramm (who knew he had any!), Bank of America, Valero Energy, Burlington Northern, Harlan Crow, H.B. Zachry, FreeportMcMoRan, Union Pacific Railroad and Exxon Mobil.
When Perry promises to do for America what he’s done for Texas, pay attention – it’s no idle threat.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.