Hey, remember that trip back last August that Rick Perry took to Israel? If not, you clearly aren’t getting Bill White’s press releases. But while the releases slam Perry for the trip’s expense and its lack of justification, they miss one of the more amusing components.
White has been hammering Perry for taking the trip, which cost a fortune, at a time when state agencies were asked to cut back. The White campaign’s two releases last week weren’t exactly subtle about the allegations; “Perry’s extravagant lifestyle funded by secretive corporate contribution” read one headline, while the other came under the title:”Rick Perry’s swanky travel, campaign contributions and state contracts.”
Oof. That doesn’t sound good. Press coverage last year wasn’t exactly good for the governor either.
The Dallas CBS affiliate reported at the time that “According to state documents, the taxpayers’ bill just to take Perry’s security officers on the five-day trip was more than $70,000. The breakdown includes $17,000 for rooms at the swanky King David Hotel, nearly $13,000 for food and more than 350 hours of overtime.”
Well, really, who can blame Perry for going? After all, the Holy-land is lovely that time of year (about as lovely as West Texas desert) and he was winning an award! That’s right: the “Defender of Jerusalem” award.
Huh? you say. Never heard of that one. Is it like the Nobel of the Middle East?
No dear reader. It is not.
Even at the time, papers noted that the award and its creator, Guma Aguiar, kept a bit of shady company. A Dallas Morning News clip mentioned that Aguiar, in addition to making billions founding Leor Energy, which discovered a natural gas field in East Texas, had also been accused of believing himself to be the Messiah. The article also mentioned that in 2006, Perry said he believes Jews and other non-Christians are condemned.
But my friends, Aguiar gets weirder. He owns Betar, a Jerusalem soccer team which, according to Jewish Telegraphic Agency reporter Ron Kampeas, is closely associated with hard right-wing politics in Israel and the Likud Party. A former Christian evangelist, he became involved in a bizarre scandal, in which he bankrolled a high-level ultra-Orthodox rabbi who then tried to sexually coerce one potential convert.
More weirdness: Aguiar was institutionalized back in January after claiming to have a meeting with Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who’s been held by Hamas since 2006 and is a national symbol in the country. (The meeting, needless to say, was a figment of his imagination.)
Tablet, a Jewish culture magazine, did a full profile of Aguiar’s bizarre tale.
And it specifically mentions how Aguiar bestowed Gov. Perry with the title: “Defender of Jerusalem.”