Rick Perry arrives for a campaign stop in Iowa City, August 15
Paul Begala (Daily Beast): I first met Rick Perry in 1985. He was a Democratic freshman state rep, straight off the ranch in Haskell, Texas. He wore his jeans so tight, and, umm, adjusted himself so often that my fellow young legislative aides and I used to call him Crotch. Even among state representatives, even among Texas Aggies (graduates of this cute remedial school we have in Texas), Perry stood out for his modest intellectual gifts. Hell, he got a C in animal breeding. I have goats who got an A in that subject. But lack of brains has never been a hindrance in politics.
… Rick Perry threw his hair in the ring on Saturday. His entrance into the GOP presidential field can be a game changer. Perry can raise money as well as Mitt. He can rally the base as well as Michele Bachmann, and he will say or do anything to win. And in today’s Republican Party, if you want to be the nominee you have to be willing to do some really crazy s–t.
You’d have thought that Mitt Romney was the guy who would do whatever it takes. Like the defendant in a Stalinist show trial, Mitt has renounced everything about his prior life: his positions on gay rights, abortion rights, TARP, gun control, campaign finance, immigration, etc. Abandoning nearly everything you have stood for certainly evinces a desire to win (if not a steely spine).
… Perry told The Daily Beast’s Andrew Romano that Social Security is “a Ponzi scheme,” and that both it and Medicare are unconstitutional… he has already flirted with secession. Secession? Even Jefferson Davis opposed secession when he was a senator from Mississippi. When you’re more open to secession than Jefferson Davis was a century and a half ago, well, you’ve gone pretty far.
…. Perry will claim that Texas leads the nation in jobs created. As a joke currently circulating in the Lone Star State puts it, “Sure, Perry has created thousands of jobs. I’m working three of them.” Texas does in fact lead the nation in minimum-wage jobs and in both the number of people who are uninsured and the percentage of the population that’s uninsured. Under the supposedly antigovernment Perry, government jobs grew at twice the rate of private-sector jobs.
… he presided over the execution of one of his constituents, Cameron Todd Willingham, who was probably innocent. But I’m not sure that’s a liability in today’s Tea Party–obsessed GOP. There’s a legend in Lone Star politics that one of Perry’s Republican rivals in Texas tested the Willingham issue in a focus group. One Republican man, the story goes, squinted and said, “Well, I like that. Takes a lot of balls to execute an innocent man.” At that moment, folks say, Perry’s rival knew opposing him was fruitless.
….he has the most important quality of all: the willingness to do whatever it takes. That’s truer than ever in relation to today’s Tea Party–dominated Republican Party. You’ve gotta be willing to do anything, say anything, accept anything, propose anything, endorse anything, pledge anything. There is nothing too bats–t for these people….