WTF Friday: It’s Perrydämmerung


Above: The path of the righteous governor is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish, and the tyranny of evil men.

Rick Perry is in trouble.

1) You know what I’m talking about. That thing on the border, with the OTM UACs? The thing that made everyone love him again, and made him look serious? The thing that some in his camp might have hoped would propel him to presidential frontrunner status? It’s been receding as an issue, before the state’s National Guard contingent is even fully deployed.

That’s a bit awkward, since Perry was scheduled to deliver a speech on border stuff at the Heritage Foundation, that great Beltway intellectual powerhouse, on Thursday. With fewer kids coming across the border, and the nation’s attention focused on a number of catastrophes elsewhere, how could the governor best grab headlines and slam President Obama? He’d need to go big: Way big.

Hey, there’s a hot new jihadi group in town that everyone is big on. Maybe Perry could sprinkle a reference to it in his speech in a slightly surreal way, as if he was giving them a guest lyric on his R&B record. “Stump Speech (ft. the Islamic State),” from 2014’s Never Gonna Be President tour.

Mr. Perry said there is “no clear evidence” that terrorists have entered the United States illegally across the southern border.

OK then that’s out. Maybe he could…

“I think there is the obvious, great concern that — because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across — that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be [crossing the border.]”

The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence—if you think about it, it’s more like the opposite. If you have no proof of something, isn’t that kind of suspicious? It’s like someone has hidden the proof from you, on purpose. Think of all of the things that we could have proof of. Hmmm….

It’s a fun gloss on an old tale about our porous border: Terrorists could use it, or sometimes, in the telling of it, Chinese spies, etc. The 9/11 hijackers came legally, of course, and the main reason people are freaked out about ISIS is that many of the group’s foreign fighters already have American and European passports. Apart from all that there’s scant evidence for any of the attendant claims: Once upon a time, the conservative content aggregator famously misidentified a ripped-up Adidas soccer jersey as a “Muslim prayer rug,” but that’s another story.

The ISIS talk—apart from giving the impression that Perry is cynically honing in on the horrible headlines of the present moment to get a few himself—is proof positive that a lot of Republican border talk is not offered in good faith. It’s about freaking people out, and keeping them freaked out. As a palate cleanser, take this video of Texas conservative ringleader Steve Hotze selling the generalized concept of fear like he’s hawking shake weights on the Home Shopping Network:

2) Of course, the (comparatively) stabilizing Texas border isn’t the only reason the good guv is in trouble: There are also the felony indictments.

Because we as a people take good government seriously in 2014, Perry’s booking this week was a solemn occasion. No one likes to see our elected leaders face jail time.

Will Hailer, the executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, was outside the courthouse when Perry was booked. In mournful tones, he told reporters: Kids across the state would soon return to school, where’d they’d carefully place apples on the desks of their teachers, and look up with doe-eyed innocence while their teachers explained to them that the governor, the state’s paterfamilias, had broken the public’s trust.

Perry, to his credit, felt the gravity of the situation. He said the charges were bunk, of course, but he’d work hard to regain our faith. A veteran statesman, he knows that the public’s trust in the institutions of government is as fragile as a paper lantern—and just as beautiful—and he’d make sure they remained intact.

Perry never struck me as a stress eater. This week has been full of surprises.

3) Perry caught two felony indictments, and missed out on others. It seemed incomplete. It was only a matter of time, really, that he caught the third:

The judge said that Perry might have made a veiled threat when he said: “I am confident we will ultimately prevail, that this farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is, and that those responsible will be held to account.”


The Texas Penal Code that outlaws obstruction and retaliation says that anyone who “intentionally or knowingly harms or threatens to harm” a grand juror faces a second degree felony, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

(Editor’s note: This will be the Observer’s last “three things” joke. We apologize unreservedly to our readers and the public at large, and the author will be disciplined accordingly.)

4) There’s part of me that’s going to miss outgoing state Rep. Steve Toth, who combined all of Jonathan Stickland’s bomb-throwing qualities and nose for policy with the diplomatic skills of an old Eddie Haskell. I’m not just going to miss him for stuff like this:

The best thing has been watching him interact with other legislators. Take this delicate three-act ballet, in which Mr. Toth, who starts by incorrectly asserting that Rosemary Lehmberg indicted Perry, slams a number of his fellow Republicans.

Into the breach steps the conservative but thoughtful state Rep. David Simpson, who explained his vote at length. Instantly, immediately, the fire goes out of Toth’s eyes.

The camaraderie of the Texas House: There’s nothing like it.

5) College is a time for experimentation and exploration. I’m not going to tell anyone that they’re doing it wrong: We all had to find our own way.

But can we all get together and buy these guys a keg or a cheap plastic bong or something? I mean, come on.