Perry’s Presidential Rage

Next stop: the unofficial national exploratory campaign

For more election coverage, see the Observer’s election-night page

In terms of pure comedy, the single best line in the online excerpts that appeared yesterday from Rick Perry’s forthcoming book, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington, comes when he’s fuming over that strangest of Tea Party issues, the 17th Amendment—which democratized the election of U.S. senators. Along with the hated 16th Amendment, which permitted the federal government to levy income taxes, Perry says the 17th was passed “during a fit of populist rage.” 

Sounds dreadful! And also sounds a lot like the political atmosphere that’s expected to lift Perry to re-election today. Perry, who denounces the products of supposed “populist rage” in 1913, is all for it in 2010—and surely hopes it’ll flame on into 2012. Despite his ritual disavowals, the governor’s campaign for a record third full term as governor has been about almost nothing but Washington, his speeches all sounding like warm-ups for a national bid.

Likely next stop, if Perry wins as expected tonight: the unofficial presidential exploratory campaign. It will be a smooth transition, with Perry’s campaign-launch book officially being published on Nov. 15—and with the governor headed shortly out on a national promotional tour. The book tour will give Perry a perfect chance to meet with potential donors and party leaders as he wings around the country, and to gauge his potential appeal with voters by sales and turnout.

And what will be his message? Judging by the book excerpts released—and then taken down quickly—yesterday on his publisher’s site, more of the same. Since Perry hitched himself to the Tea Party wagon on April 15, 2009, with his famous “states’ rights!” speech in Austin, he’s been saying what he writes in the book:

Empowered by the brazen abandonment of limited government under the New Deal and subsequent regimes, from the Great Society to the current administration, Washington is steering America down a path to destruction …

Sounding a lot like George Wallace in 1968 (“pointy-headed liberal elites”), Perry catalogs the evils—and we do mean evils—of the federal government and the liberal elite, who’ve assaulted Americans with the “prohibition of school prayer, the redefinition of marriage, the nationalization of health care, the proliferation of federal criminal laws, interference with local education, the increased regulation of food — (Washington) even telling us what kind of lightbulb we can use.”

Good old round lightbulbs! A message we can all rally around.  

Perry is broadening his national pitch, though, by taking aim at Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits, the judiciary and Congress—”arguably one of the most incompetent regimes with one of the worst track records of mismanagement in the history of mankind.”

Of course, Perry still denies he wants to run for president. Why he’s bothering in spite of that to write a national campaign book, and bring it out at the perfect time to launch an early campaign-that’s-not-quite-a-campaign, is not clear. But in the preface to Fed Up!, he claims: “Now, cynics will say that I decided to write this book because I seek higher office. They are wrong. I already have the best job in America. I wrote this book because I believe that America is great but also that America is in trouble—and heading for a cliff if we don’t take immediate steps to change course.”

Oh, we see: The new book is merely another form of selfless public service. Perry only wants to suggest how America might correct its course; he has no desire to shape it. The man never had a politically ambitious bone in his body. And if you’re gullible enough to believe that, it’s time for you to hop off the Internet and tune back into Fox.

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Published at 8:57 pm CST