When Gov. Rick Perry’s perpetual reelection machine mailed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s rousing endorsement to 10,500 members of the Texas Federation of Republican Women in early February, former federation President Taffy Goldsmith of Dallas pronounced herself “shocked.”
Since she’s one of the federation’s many backers of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s bid to dislodge Perry from the governor’s desk, “shocked” was probably the politest term Goldsmith could muster. Especially as she read a letter full of glancing swipes at Hutchison’s ideological impurities-particularly on abortion rights, where the senator has positioned herself a shade to the left of Pat Robertson. “Rick Perry believes in protecting the most vulnerable in society, and who is more vulnerable than an unborn child?” Palin wrote.
Who’s more vulnerable? In Perry’s Texas, it’s possible to think of a few: public school children and teachers utility-bill payers in deregulated Houston and Dallas, parents racking up debts thanks to skyrocketing college tuition, homeowners grappling with unfettered home-insurance rates, sick kids with no health coverage.
Small wonder Palin is such a fan. “He walks the walk of a true conservative,” she effused. “He sticks to his guns-and you know how I feel about guns!”
Perry and Palin are P.’s in a pod-so much so, it seems, that my joking suggestion back in November that they’d make a swell national ticket in 2012 if the Republicans decided to commit harakiri has now become a certified subject of speculation. “A Sarah Palin-Rick Perry GOP ticket in ’12?” the Los Angeles Times wondered aloud upon getting wind of the endorsement.
Perry would face some stiff competition for the veep nod if Palin were to win the Republican nomination. Another oft-mentioned possibility, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, managed to top Perry in the rhetorical war against the Congressional stimulus plan by labeling it “anti-religious.” But Perry has been gamely treading the very path Palin took from relative obscurity to the GOP ticket, touting himself around the country as an effective chief executive with rock-ribbed moral and fiscal principles.
“The message that the bailout sends is one of you don’t have to be responsible for your actions,” Perry recently said on a video featured on the Heritage Foundation’s Web site. “I think it’s one of the powerful foundations of free-market capitalism that you compete. Now, granted, in that scenario, there are gonna be winners and there are gonna be losers. But that’s OK.” Asked about the key to Texas’ economic future, Perry declared himself “a big believer that … you must have wealth first.”
Wealth first: There’s a slogan. Certainly more honest than the Palinesque faux-populism Perry has been dishing up in the early stages of his death match with Hutchison. On the Saturday in January when the senator unofficially launched her bid, holding a “private strategy session” with 300 human dollar signs in downtown Austin, Perry rallied his life-affirming base a few blocks away. Reviving those old yell-leader skills from his Aggie days, the governor urged his folks to shake the rafters at the Hutchison klatsch and “let them know that Texas is here and Texas is pro-life.”
Three cheers for life! Uninsured, undereducated, foreclosure-bound life in Rick Perry’s Texas, where there are winners and losers and that’s OK. And where Hutchison will spend the next 16 months being tarred in the terms used by Perry spokesman Mark Miner: “We’re going to tell the truth-there’s only one conservative in this race. She’s not going to be able to hide behind her policies, whether it’s bailouts, abortion or out-of-control spending.”
But isn’t there some place, pray tell, where the rest of us can hide?