Buckle up, folks: Tonight’s the fight. Seven o’clock sharp, on a TV, radio and livestream near you. Four years in the making, the Perry-Hutchison bout promises to be … well, a profound disappointment to anyone interested in sense or syntax, but potentially a catfight for the ages.
As you’re surely aware, gentle reader, debate preparations for such Extremely Powerful Politicians are conducted under top-secret conditions in strictly sound-proof environments. But we (well, me) here at “Purple Texas” can be, at our very best, mighty sneaky. And we have obtained, via methods best not discussed and with accuracy perhaps not entirely guaranteed, smuggled recordings of the last-minute dress rehearsals for the governor and the senator as they prepare for the single most important moment in their battle for the soul of the TXGOP. Herewith, a few highlights:
Gov. Perry at the podium, already in progress:
Perry: Look, just answer me that one thing: Is it too poofy? Should we tame it down some?
Coach: Governor, this is practice. Those cameras aren’t on. See? No red lights. And your hair looks fine.
Perry: I see cameras. I know what cameras means. And what’re you saying, fine?
Coach: I misspoke, sir. I meant splendid—splendid. Not too neat, not too mussy. Perfect. Ideal. The highlights pop but don’t overwhelm. If it looks like this tomorrow night, that woman’s going to look like Phyllis Diller the morning after.
Perry: What you mean, if? You telling me you got some doubt about it looking perfect when I got to look perfect? This campaign is about the future. About Texas. About … um …
Coach: Perhaps we could just go over that no-no list one more time, governor. The words that don’t say leadership, that don’t say future, that don’t say Obama …
Perry (rustling papers): You mean that one with “secession” up top?
Coach: That one, yes, sir. Words we will not use. Do we need to run through those again, or the reasons?
Perry: Naw, naw … let’s see now, Trans-Texas, states’ rights, Negro, illegal, George W., forensic, as my BFF Bob Perry likes to say … Why can’t I say that? All that man’s done for me and Texas!
Coach: Trust me, sir. We’ve extensively tested every possible reaction to every possible phrase. Could we turn to the Good List?
Perry: Hold on, now, let me look … Damn if this isn’t giving me a headache. I mean, hellfire, boy: We both know I can out-talk Grandma with my tongue tied behind my back.
Coach: Of course you can. But it’s almost over, governor. And please: Try to remember which list “Grandma” is on.
Perry: No-no. I know. All right. Here we go. Things To Say: Federal Intervention, Obama’s This, Obama’s That, Life, Federal Intrusion, Sacred Rights of Texans, Nancy Pelosi, Greatest State on God’s Blessed Earth, Federal Busybodies, This I Pledge, Model of Fiscal Sanity, California’s This, California’s That, Freedom, Children, My Favorite Philosopher? I simply cannot choose between Governor Sam Houston and Jesus of Nazareth … Come on, this is too easy. Ask me something!
Coach: OK, but please remember: I’m acting here. Like a smart-ass reporter. I am not speaking in my own voice, governor.
Perry: G’on, g’on!
Coach: Governor Perry, when you pushed for deregulation of homeowners’ insurance in 2003, you vowed that rates would be lowered for every Texan. Now we have among the highest rates in the United States. What went wrong?
Perry: Wrong!? I was flying just last week with the boys on that jet—big ol’ sucker, all kind of arm and leg room, need one myself, maybe Jim Leininger will come through with one—see, I was asking them the tough questions and I can assure the people of Texas, our insurance rates are among the most affordable available in the free world. If the federal government would just leave us alone, stop poking into our business with this Obama-style socialism, we’d have universal homeowners’ coverage for every child in this state. And we will. You have my word on that.
Coach: Governor, I mean—that is so close to perfect. But if I might suggest …
Perry: Nobody going to ask that nonsense anyway. Come on, now. I got Tweeting to do. Let’s split this popsicle stand.
Coach: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. You are ready, sir. Ready to kick some Grandma Ass!
Perry: Don’t say Grandma, boy, put ideas in my mind…
Sen. Hutchison, amidst a commotion:
Hutchison: Do I have to ask you twice? I said lipstick, I meant lipstick! And I do not mean tomorrow, I do not mean next week, I mean this second!
Staffer: Ouch! Ouch! Somebody stop her! Those nails are lethal weapons!
Karl Rove: Shut your hole. Not you, Senator. I fully sympathize with your frustrations. If you would just let me handpick your staff as we discussed …
Hutchison: What, so I could have Al Gonzales fumbling and scraping around me? No thank you. Give me that stick and stand back! How’s it look? Did she muss me?
Rove: Senator, when I tell you that you have never looked more radiant—
Hutchison: Right, right. I simply cannot have any traces of good old girl, too big, too bouffed—not up against him. He’ll be looking like goddamn Hugh Grant in boots and …
Rove: Senator, if we could get back to business here for just ten more minutes. That’s all I ask. Ten minutes to victory! Now, as I was saying, when I was drilling the Chief for the first debate with Gore …
Hutchison: Cut the nostalgia. Your lord and master is finished and thank God for that and besides, we both know damn well that my husband could have whipped Gore in a debate. For chrissakes, Palin could have wiped the floor with that mental case. I brought you here to tell me what they’re going to ask and make damn sure they ask it. So?
Rove (clearing throat): Senator, you promised last May that you would resign your Senate seat in October or November to devote yourself full-time to running for governor of Texas. How can the people of this state trust in your commitment to this office when you later announced that you would not, after all, resign?
Hutchison: Well. (Pause.) As you can see, I …
Rove: Excuse me, senator: Was that a smile?
Hutchison: What did it look like, a frown? You said to project warmth …
Rove: Could we just try it one more time? That was … not quite projecting as a smile, per se, in terms of the way that television cameras tend to diminish a smile …
Hutchison: I will smile when I find something amusing.
Rove: Yes, ma’am.
Hutchison: Now, if you don’t mind terribly much, allow me to answer the question. OK: Well. (Pause.) As you can see, there is only one woman on this stage. And as any Texas woman can tell you, a woman knows how to multi-task. And that is what I pledge to you tonight…
Rove: Senator, I’m sorry, but there will be another woman on the stage.
Hutchison: A reporter? From where?
Rove: No, Senator. Debra Medina. She’s a candidate. A Ron Pauler. An imposter. You might remember that we broke some kneecaps to keep her out, but …
Hutchison: Right, right. I’ve seen her. Seen it. There will be only one woman on that stage, Karl.
Rove: Yes, ma’am. You have never been more right. There will be one woman. One warm-but-firm, Texas-first, sensible-solutions, Trans-Texas Corridor-killing woman on that stage.
Hutchison: I sense a bead of sweat. Girl! Girl! I said move! Wait—is that the unscented Kleenex?
Rove: Senator, I really think you’re ready. I know you’re ready. I’ve never seen a leader more ready. I believe we can wrap this up now …