Bachmann-Perry Overdrive


Eileen Smith

Is Rick Perry losing it?

In Wednesday night’s Republican debate from Tampa, we finally heard from the tea party, which is usually overly subdued and docile. The debate was a joint effort of CNN and tea partiers across the country, who had the opportunity to question the candidates on their views regarding a variety of topics, such as Social Security, the economy and whether or not we should allow a hypothetical uninsured 30-year-old man to die if he can’t afford medical treatment. Cue applause. Seriously.

There are three big things that tea partiers hate, outside of Rachel Maddow: Equal rights for immigrants, health insurance mandates and government-imposed injections which may ultimately lead to mind control. Luckily all three came up during the debate.

The immigration issue is a tough one for Rick Perry because it’s one of the few issues in which Perry has actually showed compassion for his fellow humans in the form of an in-state college tuition program for undocumented immigrants who are working toward U.S. citizenship.

PERRY: If you’ve been in the state of Texas for three years, if you’re working towards your college degree, and if you are working and pursuing citizenship in the state of Texas, you pay in-state tuition there…And the bottom line is it doesn’t make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way. And I’m proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society.

It didn’t take the audience long to turn against the man who they consider the Second Coming of Reagan, booing his completely reasonable and well-intentioned program. But the thorny tuition issue is nothing compared to Perry’s controversial executive order in 2007 requiring pre-teen girls to be vaccinated for HPV, the virus that can lead to some forms of cervical cancer. The order was subsequently overturned by the Legislature.

You down with HPV?

Certainly the HPV vaccine was not the most egregious act by the governor. At least it had something to do with decreasing a girl’s chance of cervical cancer as opposed to his other legislative priorities which focus mainly on stripping away civil rights for women, the poor, the homosexual community and the Democratic party. Many medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Cancer Society, strongly support the vaccine. One criticism of Perry’s executive order is that he bypassed the Legislature and the bill only offered a parental “opt-out” as opposed to an “opt-in.”  Of course, that’s just a red herring for the real issue, something that is rarely seen in politics. Nepotism. But Michele Bachmann called him out on it.

BACHMANN: We cannot forget that in the midst of this executive order there is a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate…It’s wrong for a drug company, because the governor’s former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company. The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor, and this is just flat-out wrong. The question is, is it about life, or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company?

Bachmann for the win! (At least until she started suggesting that Gardasil could lead to mental retardation). Perry’s former chief-of-staff Mike Toomey was the main lobbyist for Merck at the time which manufactured—wouldn’t you know it—Gardasil, the only FDA-approved vaccine available then. Cervarix, GlaxoSmithKline’s HPV vaccine, was not yet on the market.

Naturally Perry was terribly offended that Bachmann would even suggest that money had anything to do with his decision to inoculate young girls, saying that he only got a $5,000 contribution from Merck out of the $30 million he raised, and that he can’t be bought for $5,000. In other words, he can be bought off but not for such a paltry amount. Or was it?

According to the  Texas Tribune, in the past 10 years Perry has received almost $30,000 from Merck PAC. He received $16,000 alone during the 2006 gubernatorial campaign, right before issuing his executive order. Still that doesn’t seem like enough to influence a high roller like Perry. This week Politico examined some of the exorbitant costs of, well, being Perry, such as donor-funded private jets, luxury hotels, sporting events and his “temporary” 4,600-square-foot mansion that taxpayers continue to pay for, at $8,500 a month.

But $5,000? Please. That wouldn’t even pay for the upkeep on the heated pool.