The good people who sign my paychecks have asked me to do radio and television commentary regarding Governor Perry, when news organizations make requests. I have been doing a lot of this recently, including NBC Nightly News and The News Hour. They mainly want to know who Rick Perry is. Here is what I tell them:
1. Perry grew up in difficult circumstances in cotton farming country. His family lived in a frame house that did not have indoor plumbing until his teenage years. He bathed in a number-two washtub. His mother sewed his underwear.
2. He went to Texas A&M when it was a far different university than it is today. Women were admitted, but very few were on campus. It was still very much an all-male military school with a strong and spirited culture. Students who did not buy in were called 2 percenters and were treated with contempt. The saying on campus was, “Highway 6 runs both ways.” In other words, if you don’t like it, hit the road. Life was hard in Paint Creek, where Perry grew up, and at A&M, where amenities were few. Neither culture was an empathetic one, and empathy is not part of Perry’s makeup as a politician.
3. Perry is very different from George W. Bush. Bush portrayed himself, at the start of his climb to the presidency, as “a uniter, not a divider,” and as a “compassionate conservative.” Perry is a divider, not a uniter, as we saw from his Christians-only prayer event.
4. Everyone asks about the Texas jobs numbers and wants to know if they are legitimate. I say that they are, relying on the Dallas Fed’s numbers that Texas has created 37% of the jobs in the U.S. in the past year. I add that Perry has made jobs his #1 priority, that he has gone to California to recruit companies to move to Texas. I point out that the lack of a state income tax in Texas is a big drawing card to corporate executives. It keeps money in their pockets. People who try to debund the job numbers are wasting their time.
5. The follow-up question is whether the jobs that Perry is creating are good jobs. I say that the record is mixed, I mention the Midland call center for Countrywide, the doomed mortgage giant, which was not a success. But I also point out that in a state with the lowest number of adults without a high school diploma, we need jobs for unskilled workers too, that it is a bit elitist to look down upon jobs for the poor. A low-paying job is better than no job at all.
6. Recently, I was asked about Perry’s threats regarding Bernanke, and whether it was typical of Perry. I said that it was, that Perry was an extremely aggressive politician, that when he drew the sword he intended to use it. I described him as tough guy who was determined to get what he wanted and usually gets it, and I pointed out that he had never lost an election.
I have tried to stay balanced in my comments. It is not my intention to be a professional Perry-basher, or a cheerleader. I suspect that this 15 minutes is not going to last much longer, as we get deeper into the campaign. I suspect that about 14 of my 15 minutes are history.