He had already reversed himself on his statement that it was fine with him if New York chose to allow gay marriage; it was a matter of states’ rights. Now he is reversing himself on his HPV edict of 2007. A couple of things to remember about that episode: One is that Perry issued an executive order to require the injections that would prevent cervical cancer, and he did it while the Legislature was in session. Perry could have asked the Legislature to pass a bill on the subject. His chief of staff’s mother, Dianne Delisi, would have been the ideal author. But he didn’t want a bill. He would have had to share the credit. With an executive order, he could be the hero. The second thing to remember was that the chief beneficiary of the executive order (other than girls whose parents approved of the vaccine) was Mike Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff, who was the lobbyist for the drug company (Merck) that was peddling the vaccine. Toomey would have greatly benefited if the executive order had gone through.
Perry was quoted in the Texas Tribune today as saying he was “ill-informed” when he issued his executive order. Ill-informed? By whom? Mike Toomey, perhaps? He also said that the order included an opt-out. It did, but not an easy one. The burden was on the parents. They couldn’t just say no. They had to fill out an consciencious-objection affidavit before a notary.
So this is flip-flop number two. That’s why the headline asks if the Corridor will be flip-flop number three. Like gay marriage and parental rights, the taking of private property by government is a huge issue with Republican voters. As originally conceived by Ric Williamson, and enthusiastically supported by Perry, the Corridor was a series of toll roads, each with a footprint a quarter of a mile wide, condemning millions of acres of pristine countryside, that would be built and controlled by Cintra, a foreign corporation. The right-of-way would include power lines, pipelines, and high-speed rail lines.
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Politicians are entitled to change their minds. Perry goofed when he said states rights was more important to him than gay marriage; he goofed when he issued an intrusive executive order while the Legislature was in session, and he goofed when he bought into Williamson’s vision of a giant network of toll roads (many of which are being built as I write.)
But the question that arises out of Perry’s flip-flops is not whether his recantations are sincere, but whether critism of the flip-flops are going to stick. As I have written many times, Perry is Teflon when it comes to his mistakes. I don’t get it, but it’s demonstrably true. Could any other politician in America talk about a state’s right to secede and get away with it?
So here’s what I want to know: Will his Republican rivals let him get away with his flip-flops? Will the voters? Will he pay any price for them? Will Romney be allowed to flip-flop on his Massachusetts health care plan and his pro-choice positions, and just say, as Perry does, oh, I’ve changed my mind, kings-X? Perry and Romney both have taken unpopular positions in the past. Either both of them should be allowed to seek forgiveness, or neither should be allowed to do so. Perry talks about small government, but the HPV episode was big, nanny-state government. So was the Trans-Texas Corridor. Look at how Perry has used state agencies to expand his power. He did what Bob Bullock did, which was send his allies into state agencies so that they could tell the nominal heads of the agencies what to do. Perry is really a split-personality politician. In philosophy, he is a small-government conservative. But in his governing style, he is still the conservative Democrat he originally was, adroit in using the bureaucracy to exercise power and control in big-government ways.