With the support of my family and unwavering belief in the goodness of America, I declare to you today as a candidate for president of the United States.”
With those words—in an Aug. 13 speech in Columbia, South Carolina—our esteemed governor ended years of speculation and made official what had become apparent months ago. Rick Perry will seek the presidency in 2012.
Within days of the announcement, Perry was already dealing with multiple controversies over his statements that Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke might be committing treason, that the jury is still out on climate change, and that Texas schools teach creationism. Despite Perry’s wobbly first week, many pundits were bullish on his chances against Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann.
Amid all the horse-race analysis of Perry’s candidacy, we hope the national media—and GOP primary voters—will focus on a more important issue: Can he govern?
His performance in Texas hasn’t been inspiring. Perry is a purely political animal. When the campaigns are over and he actually takes office, he’s not someone who studies, or even cares much about, policy details. On the few occasions he has put forth major policy proposals, the results have been colossal failures.
First there was the Trans-Texas Corridor that would have used government’s eminent domain authority to seize rural farmland for a massive toll road. The backlash from rural Republicans was intense, and the plan died slowly over the next four legislative sessions.
In 2007, Perry proposed that all young girls receive the HPV vaccine. Conservatives in the Legislature would have none of it. That idea suffered defeat even faster.
Then there’s the one major proposal that Perry passed into law: the business margins tax, part of the 2006 school-finance reform. The idea was to cut property taxes and replace the lost revenue with a new business tax. Problem is, it’s been a disaster. The tax doesn’t generate enough revenue. The Texas budget has an ongoing structural deficit because of Perry’s underperforming business tax.
As governor, Perry’s lack of policy depth hasn’t hindered him. He lets the Legislature do the heavy lifting while he floats from one public appearance to another, cheerleading the Texas economy.
If he wins the presidency, Perry will have to deal with complex policy every day. He wouldn’t flourish in that role. Perry is a charismatic and talented campaigner. But the thought of him governing the country is almost too scary to contemplate.