Writing in the Daily Beast earlier this week, Jill Lawrence said that the “missing piece” in Rick Perry’s presidential campaign was his blueprint for America. Her recommendation was that Perry should make up for his poor debate performances by coming out with a plan: “Rick Perry would be less of a piñata, and sound more like a president, if he had laid out a full platform,” she wrote.
All I can say is, “Don’t hold your breath.” There is no chance, zip, zero, zilch, none, that Perry will take Ms. Lawrence’s advice. When we spoke by phone, I told her, “We don’t have public policy in Texas.” We haven’t had it since 2003. What we have is ideology, and plenty of it. Ms. Lawrence observes, “When Perry is under fire over some aspect of his Texas record, he hasn’t pivoted to signature plans for jobs or foreign policy. A spin through Perry’s website underscores the problem. Under ‘Jobs,’ we find five paragraphs of conservative boilerplate. The most detailed sentence refers to “low taxes, reasonable regulations, a predictable civil litigation system and an educated workforce.”
Ms. Lawrence has stumbled upon the truth. Conservative boilerplate is what passes for public policy in Texas. Our state government lurches along from one biennium to the next, following a pattern of identifying problems and … doing nothing about them.
We are caught in the grip of a terrible drought, our state has been on fire, but we don’t fund the state water plan because the governor will not consent to any funding mechanism that smacks of a tax increase. Burn, baby, burn. We have a structural deficit in our budget that eats away at our ability to fund public schools. So sorry, “We must live within our means.”
I don’t agree with Ms. Lawrence that Rick Perry ought to come out with some kind of policy blueprint for America. You might as well ask a giraffe to fly. That’s how Washington insiders think. Perry leads by setting out broad but simple themes for a constituency that yearns for simple answers: create jobs, secure the border, keep taxes low, reasonable regulations, protecting business from frivolous lawsuits, all pablum and panaceas. That’s how he governs Texas, that’s what the people want to hear, and that is how he will govern America.