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King Rick’s Last Refuge

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Gov. Rick Perry loves to tout the greatness of Texas. We’ve got no argument with that; the Observer has been celebrating the state for 55 years. But we’re disturbed and offended that Perry equates criticism of his long-running regime with trashing the state.

“It wears me out that we have two people on this stage that want to tear Texas down,” Perry said at the Jan. 14 gubernatorial debate after Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Debra Medina dared to point out, among other things, the state’s 300,000 job losses in 2009. Such behavior is his habit. On the campaign stump, he frequently claims credit for making Texas “the best state in the nation.” When people mention one of his many failings, he accuses them of being Texas-haters.

Samuel Johnson summed it up best: Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. So governor, let us clear something up for you: your critics don’t want to tear Texas down; they want to tear you down.

We’re not surprised that the longest-serving gov- ernor in Texas history might be confusing himself with the land that he represents. “L’etat, c’est moi,” as King Louis XIV of France put it. Rick I, King of Texas, clearly feels the same way since he plans to rule indefinitely. Listening to his campaign rhetoric, we half expect His Majesty to take the next step and proclaim himself “Savior of the People,” as Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Seko once did.

We believe a government should be judged by how it treats the least fortunate. By this measure, King Rick is hardly a savior. Texas ranks 49th in the nation in verbal SAT scores and 46th in math (so much for upward mobility). Our girls rank third in teen preg- nancies. We have the highest percentage of uninsured people in the United States. Hundreds of Texans die every year because of inadequate health care. While Perry touts his skills in seducing businesses to relo- cate to Texas with tax breaks, many of these indus- tries bring pollution and low-wage jobs. Texas busi- nesses emit more poisons than those of any other state. There’s a word for that, and it ain’t “great.”

Despite his claim to embody Texas, Perry’s cal- lousness does not reflect the state’s best values of compassion, charity, and stewardship.

So the next time King Rick accuses critics of wanting to “tear down Texas,” let’s remind him that outside of his own mind, he is just another elected official. Our great state deserves a great governor, not a monarch.