In a breathtaking example of good timing, 20 Republican Arkansas lawmakers sent a letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry last week urging the handsome farmer with the big cufflinks and high collars to run for president.
The Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire had just exposed the total vacuity of the present field of candidates, which even the thoroughly Republican editorial page of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette lamented. Perry's wife is supposed to have talked him into running for an office that six months ago he declared flatly that he would not seek. Finally, there is growing evidence that people have forgotten what the previous president from Texas did. Perry, who inherited the Texas governorship when George W. Bush became president, is what Bush would have been if he had had the guts.
Perry should catapult to at least the middle bracket of the field because he will inherit the theocratic branch of the party that was abandoned when Mike Huckabee took himself out of the race last month. With the American Family Association, the virulent anti-gay organization, Perry is promoting a giant prayerpalooza at Reliant Stadium in Houston on August 6, the week before the Iowa presidential straw poll. The governors of the other 49 states and the public are invited to join Perry at the stadium for fasting and prayer for the country. Governor Beebe, by the way, is not going.
Perry said last month that the nation's economic collapse and its other woes were God's plan to force the country to follow the Bible's dictates, which are to quit borrowing money and to stop expecting the government to solve problems. Things got so bad in the United States last year that Perry blundered into saying that Texas had the right to secede from the union and implied that it was something worth considering some day, but he later acknowledged that Texas could not secede and said he would never propose such a thing.
Back in April, the governor asked all Texans to join him in prayer that God lift his yoke from West Texas. It is not clear why God is displeased with the farmers and ranchers of the high plains and Rio Grande valley or perhaps with the shale exploration companies that have been draining the aquifers, but the region is in the midst of an epidemic of forest and prairie fires and the worst drought since record keeping began 116 years ago. The massive hydraulic fracturing under way there in search of gas is in peril because water is disappearing. Oil companies have to go far afield and pay premium prices for water from farmers, cities and irrigation districts.
You would think that Mike Huckabee would have thrown his support immediately to Perry but he declined the other day. There is a temptation to lay it off to payback, but Huckabee is too good a Christian to do that. In 2008, Huckabee asked Perry to support him publicly for the presidential nomination but the Texan refused. Strangely, Perry endorsed Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor whose flagrant marital infidelities and libertine lifestyle should have put off every devout Christian.
It was strange because Perry imitates Huckabee in so many ways, in philosophy and style. Both want the United States to support Israel's ownership of all the occupied lands of Palestine because God intended the Jews to have them. Huckabee wants the Palestinians and other Muslims expelled from their ancient homeland to other parts of Araby but Perry has not been so specific.
Like Huckabee, Perry will demagogue the immigrant question but also show a little compassion and pragmatism from time to time. Perry is against walling Mexico off from Texas. The state's economy has benefited from its wide-open border with Mexico.
Both thunder against taxes—well, Huckabee not so much anymore—but raised them. Perry's big fiscal initiative was to greatly expand the state's corporate income tax (Texas calls it a franchise tax but it is based on a corporation's capital and net taxable income) to offset a smaller cut in Texas's high property taxes. The economic royalists in the party were as disapproving as they were of Huckabee's serial tax increases in Arkansas.
But no one in the party is more dedicated to the idea that government should be turned over to profit-making businesses. Bush was good at that, cutting the insurance and drug companies in on a big share of Medicare revenues and other corporations in on much of the spoils of war making.
Having corporations run the highways, wars, medical assistance programs, Social Security and everything else is exactly what the tea party seems to be about. Mrs. Perry and the Arkansas legislators may be right. This could be Rick Perry's time.