Friday, June 10, 2011

Perry Won't be Awful, But is That a Good Thing?

Is Newt Gingrich's loss Rick Perry's gain?

Political pundits have suggested the mass defection of advisers from Gingrich's presidential campaign yesterday means something big: that Perry's glib waffling on his own presidential ambitions is now tilting towards a run for the White House.

Which also means that despite a nearly-unanimous resignation among even President Obama's supporters that his political neck is on the line, the Republican Party still, unfortunately, can't muster an indisputably viable contender for 2012.

Yes, that's my opinion of Rick Perry as president in a nutshell.  Not incredibly emphatic either way, is it?

Leadership Matters

Although I'd certainly vote for Perry over Obama, and probably Perry over the Republican Party's other announced candidates, I can't say I'd be enthusiastic about it. He's simply not what America needs at this point.  We need somebody who can stick to principles while working to resolve differences.  We need somebody who hasn't spent their entire career in politics.  We need somebody who can protect America's interests abroad, but doesn't antagonize or patronize our allies while doing it. 

Perry may have great hair - the late liberal opinionater Molly Ivins dubbed him "Governor Good Hair" - and he may currently preside over America's only economically-vibrant state, but I'm disappointed that conservatives can't find a more well-rounded choice.

Now, some people prefer their presidents to actually do nothing, say nothing, and have no agenda other than to let the free market run roughshod over the country.  That may sound productive in theory, but I can't imagine anybody running the grueling race that is the road to the White House and not wanting to make a little noise once they get there.  Plus, we have plenty of historical precedent to prove free markets don't actually function for the betterment of society when left in a regulatory vacuum.

So yes, whether you want to admit it, strong leadership is important in the presidency.  Which brings us back to Perry, and why I'm still hoping a strong leader shows up to the Republican's party.
Might I have posed last year with the future president of the United States?
Can't We Do Better?

First, as America should have learned with our experiment with George W. Bush, the governorship in Texas is a comparatively weak position. Texas' figurehead governors aren't tried in the crucible of constitutional responsibility like the governors of other states like New York are.  The real power in the Lone Star State is wielded by the Lieutenant Governor, who is also the president of the Texas Senate. It's the leader of Texas' Senate, not the governor, who controls the state's budget, arguably the most important role of in any state legislature. So while Perry can talk up a good talk about how wonderful the economy is in Texas, he's really stealing somebody else's thunder.
Second, one of the main reasons the economy has thrived here in Texas over the past decade has been the relocation of many existing corporations to the state. Texas is a right-to-work state, extraordinarily unfriendly to unions, does not levy personal income taxes, and has a lot of relatively cheap land upon which to build.  He also has, um, a large taxpayer-funded pot of cash to lure companies here with subsidies.  Although the advantages Perry has had in Texas have made him look pretty good, those advantages won't necessarily translate themselves to a national stage. For example, enticing corporations to move from Los Angeles to Houston isn't the same as wooing Chinese firms to, say, Chicago.

Not that Perry hasn't tried, however. Only his record on that score is flimsy at best. Back in 2010, Perry cut the ribbon opening the brand-new North American headquarters for China's Huawei Technologies in Plano, north of Dallas.  To my recollection, we didn't hear too much about this coup in the local media because, well, Huawei doesn't have a stellar corporate record.  Not only has it been accused of being part of China's elaborate intelligence agency, but it's been accused of spying on technology competitors Fujitsu and Nokia.  Maybe Huawei is the only rotten apple Perry has wooed to the state, but it's a pretty big oversight on his part, considering all of the international worries over China's growing technological and political dominance.

For all his self-proclaimed bona-fides as a fiscal conservative, Perry and his wife have been living for the past 4 years at a rented estate in Austin, the state's capital, while the historic Governor's Mansion undergoes extensive renovations.  The rent has fluctuated around $10,000 per month, and if the Perrys stay until October of this year, as has been expected, they will have rung up a tab of $360,000 on a $1.1 million house. Although I understand that the annual expenses at the Governor's Mansion aren't cheap, it is a public facility open to the public, whereas Perry's current dwelling is in a gated community.  In the grand scheme of things, it's not so much that $10,000 a month is going to bankrupt the state, but it sure doesn't look very fiscally conservative during tough budget times.

He's a career politician.  Don't conservatives - and especially Tea Partiers - loath career politicians?  He's never owned his own business, aside from his family's ranch.  As a Democrat, Perry won a seat in the Texas House of Representatives in 1984, and he's yet to leave the Texas Capitol.  He switched parties in 1989, and became governor when George Bush became US president... in 2000.  Being the longest-serving governor ever in Texas may sound impressive, unless you remember that all the time he's spent drawing a taxpayer-funded salary has been time he hasn't been working in our country's "real" economy.

After All, It IS the Economy, Stupid

But if, speaking of the economy and jobs, that's what the 2012 race comes down to in the end, and the remaining contenders are Obama and Perry, then I suppose America's choice will seem fairly obvious.  A national financial meltdown which began under George Bush only continued to implode during Obama's tenure.  He will need a monetary miracle to salvage any respectable chances for winning re-election.

You can't blame Perry for jumping at a chance like this, yet if he's the Republican nominee, that will say more negative things about the Republican Party than positive things about Perry's qualifications to be our next Executive in Chief.
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