An election, they say in Louisiana, is when they let the fat hogs out and the skinny hogs in. In Texas we are a bit more nuanced. In November, for instance, many people will hold their noses and vote against Washington. Others will hold their noses and vote against Rick Perry. It is a far better thing to be able, with a clear conscience, to vote for somebody. This is why I suggest we refer to the winner of the race for governor of Texas as the lesser of two boll weevils.
Here at the Bandera Home for the Bewildered, my fellow residents continually remind me that I am the governor of the heart of Texas; Rick or Bill, they say, will merely be the governor of the state of Texas. This is mostly bullshit. But as I wander the grounds unattended I am constantly confronted by people who claim to have cast their ballots for me, and some of them, no doubt, actually did. Just yesterday, in fact, as I was putting away the croquet wickets with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, I met a man who shook my hand and told me he was proud to have wasted his vote for me. Of course, he also mentioned that Janet Napolitano was trying to poison his menudo.
I got out of politics because there’s too much politics in politics. But that doesn’t mean I’m not the perfect choice to give advice to Rick Perry and Bill White. After all, I’m the only man who ever ran against both of them and lived to lecture the Medina Men’s Garden Club about it. A third of them loved me, a third hated me, and a third went into a diabetic coma just as I was going into my PowerPoint presentation on Bill White. I ran against Rick in 2006 as an independent. I ran against Bill as a Democrat in the 2010 primary before I dropped out, upon realizing that Bob Dylan was right when he said, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.” I know the strengths and weaknesses of both men, and I’m always eager to give advice to people who are happier and more successful than I am. The only problem with this notion is that absolutely no one takes good advice. Not even me. That’s how I got into politics.
But now the campaign season is finally beginning—let’s meet the candidates. First we have—coming out of the closet on a bulldozer—the incumbent from hell, Governor Rick Perry! C’mon, folks. All I hear’s the sound of one hand clapping.
I don’t know if Will Rogers ever met Rick Perry, but I do know that Oscar Wilde never had that pleasure (though he did have other pleasures). Oscar died broke and exiled in Paris in 1900, long before the governor ever picked up his first pom-pom at A&M. Nevertheless, Oscar’s description of one of his own contemporaries fits Perry perfectly: “He hasn’t a single redeeming vice.”
I’d file Rick in the Strong Candidate—Weak Leader Department, a breed we see so much of these days. He’ll invariably greet you with a firm stare and a firm grip, especially if you own a firm. He has the God-given, uncanny ability to be the wrong man in the right place at the right time. The best advice I can give him is to stay the course—keep doing nothing. Don’t take principled or potentially unpopular stands, and never do anything that may actually accrue to the betterment of the people of Texas. We like to be forty-ninth in education, fiftieth in health care coverage, and first in executions. We like to pay the highest home insurance premiums, utility bills, and property taxes. We like to watch our homes, farms, and ranches get eminent-domained and fat-armed out of existence to make way for foreign-owned toll roads. But you know this already, Rick. You realize we must like all these things you’re doing for us or else we must be as stupid as the rest of the country thinks we are.
One other little word of advice, Rick. That great line you told the tea party folks the other day, what was it? “If Nancy Pelosi gets one more face-lift she’ll be wearing a beard”? If that’s what it was, that’s a crowd-pleaser, dude! Keep it in the act. The public’s memory is short. Keep railing against Washington and they may forget you live in Austin.
And now it’s time to meet Mr. Bill, which is not like meeting most other politicians; indeed, it is almost like encountering another human being. There is no overly sincere, unctuous, talonlike handshake that always lasts a little longer than you’d like it to. Instead of a penetrating, political stare, Bill may, at times, seem to be peering furtively over your shoulder as if he were trying to establish eye contact with a unicorn. You should not be alarmed by this. Someone who isn’t a slick candidate might just emerge to be a strong leader. We live in hope.
Bill White has three things going for him: He doesn’t have much hair, he’s never been a cheerleader, and he’s not Rick Perry. Those are enough reasons for many of us to want to rush right out and vote absentee for him now. We have to vote absentee because, no matter who wins, the way things are going, most of us are moving to Costa Rica, providing, of course, that we can get over the Mexican fence.
If you’ll just make your weaknesses your strengths, Bill, you may do something no Democrat has done since Christ was a cowboy—win. You should say things like “We have nothing to fear but Rick Perry’s hair itself.” Hell, I’ll even give you a slogan I never got to use in 2006: “I’ve got a head of hair better than Rick Perry’s—it’s just not in a place I can show you.”
Ann Richards once told me at a long-ago Democratic fundraiser, “Bill White reminds me of a talking penis.” She was smiling when she said that.