Kinky ♥ Rick

In 2006, Kinky Friedman thought he'd be the better governor. In 2011, he is ready for a Perry presidency.

Editors’ note: This much everybody knows: before Kinky Friedman was in favor of Rick Perry, he was against him. But on Thursday, August 25th, the Daily Beast published the 2006 Texas gubernatorial candidate’s “endorsement” of his former rival, a position that the Kinkster had already telegraphed in interviews with the Des Moines Register, the Dallas Observer and our own Jeff Salamon. Kinky was one of the many vanquished candidates TEXAS MONTHLY talked to for our September piece about Perry’s unbeaten election streak, “The Great Campaigner.” What follows is a fuller excerpt of that conversation, still edited for length and clarity.

Was it something about Perry’s performance as governor that inspired you to run in the first place?
Well first of all, no living politician in America is very inspirational these days, including Perry and including Obama. And while I think, both of them, those two, disagree on many things, they both have one trait in common, and that is that they are perpetually behind the curve, which is the mark of a true politician.

And that was true in 2006 when you decided to run against him?
Yes, he’s no different. You know, if you look at the governors of the state, you don’t see profiles in courage there.

What was it that he was doing in particular that made you think we need somebody new in there?
Well I think Rick and I, although we disagree on a great many things, we are incapable of resisting each other’s charm. And I think maybe being governor is not the best place to see what’s really inside you. What I’m saying is no one realized that Harry Truman was anything more than just a bureaucrat. He was kind of a hack when he started and then he rose to the occasion.

And you don’t think Rick Perry has done the same?
No I don’t think Rick Perry has had a chance to. I think if Rick Perry were elected president, I think he would want to be a man of the people, which he has not been yet and for that matter neither has Obama. At this point, I’m ready to vote for Charlie Sheen over Obama. And I also think as a fellow Red Sea pedestrian, that is, someone of the Jewish persuasion, Perry has proved already, even as a governor, that he is a real friend to the state of Israel. I think Rick would be good from that point and I think Rick would take stock, I think if he suddenly woke up one morning and he was president of the United States, it’s not for us to say at this point, whether he doesn’t have the potential to be a great one.

Did you ever support Rick Perry politically? Did you ever vote for him or campaign for him or anything?
No, but I’ve always liked him. That’s not true with a lot of politicians.

What do you like about him?
I think there’s something there; I think that hasn’t manifested itself yet. You know, I have a little feeling that he might surprise a lot of people and the good ones do that.

Did you have much interaction with Perry during the 2006 campaign?
Sure, a bit. We’d run into each other, and he’s got all the time to talk, he’s not in a hurry, he’s very unpretentious, and I detect a real kindness in him. He’s a very good sport. I’ve said some pretty humorous things about Rick Perry. I’ve definitely not been easy on Rick over the years, and he’s handled that very well, he’s not thin-skinned. I think if Rick suddenly found himself as president, he would not run government by ego or foreign policy by ego. I think he would realize that he has to be president for everybody, for retired school teachers, for CEOs, for Republicans and Democrats. And he’s smart too. Let’s put it this way: Rick is nobody’s fool. I definitely like him.

Did you and Perry speak after you conceded the race?
Yeah, he called me. Well, I didn’t concede the race, though, that’s why he called me, I guess, just to say hey. And he was very sweet, was very nice. He’s easy to talk to. I think there’s some little, hidden, secret greatness there. You know, will the real Rick Perry please stand up? There’s not a chance to do that when you’re governor. When you think of great governors who can you think of? I can just think of… I liked Ann Richards’ style, and I think of Huey Long. You almost have to be that kind of guy, and Rick is not that kind of guy, Rick is quieter, harder to decipher. But I’m saying my read of him is pretty good and I think most people outside of Texas feel that way too. They don’t know much about him, but I think what they see is genuine, you know—a guy who realizes that the problems in Austin are not as great as the problems in Washington.  

What do you think are Perry’s real strengths as a campaigner?
Well, I think he’s a decent guy. He’s a good man; he’s not a fraud like so many of them are. I think he pretty much says what he believes. That may be a Texas trait, don’t judge one cowboy by another—you may get a good one, a bad one, a weak one, a dishonest one, I think Perry is basically pretty honest. I just think he thinks, you know, that business is the most important thing and, of course, business is very related to the economy and he has that orientation, which might be good one.

What advice would you give to someone running against Perry in a presidential election?
Stop before it’s too late. I think Perry’s a great candidate if he could get that far. I’m not saying that Perry is a profile in courage. He’s not one of my 23 heroes of a Texas childhood [a couple of years

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