The manner of a man’s arriving is not without consequence. Tom Enders, the
German-born and American-educated head of Airbus, the European aircraft
giant, likes to do it by parachute, if it is an open-air event. People
don’t always remember what he says, but they sure remember how he got
Of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, it could be said that he parachuted into the
race for the Republican presidential nomination. The manner of his entry
will be remembered, as it was meant to be.
Perry orchestrated a drum roll of media speculation, leading up to his
announcement. He assessed, contemplated, debated, discussed, examined,
explored and weighed entry. The media followed: might he, should he, would
The drum roll, fed by leaks, grew louder as the declared candidates
traveled to Iowa for a debate and straw poll. Then Perry, with an
announcement in South Carolina, jumped and precision-landed on the parade
Poor Michele Bachmann, left like a performing dolphin that has had its
fish snatched away. She had won the straw poll, deserved a few hours of
party adulation and had her joy cut by this man, who dropped in from the
West, all swagger and handshakes.
Perry hit the ground campaigning, when she was hoping to savor a victory
moment or two. Those famed southern manners don’t extend into Texas
politics. Ask fellow Texan, Kay Bailey Hutchison. He crushed her in a
Republican primary in Texas.
In Perry’s political lexicon Texas, and things Texan, are at once policy,
ideology and creed. But Perry’s Texas is not all of Texas, with its
alluring geographical and social diversity. It is the Texas of the
caricature — of barbecue, boots, swagger and can-do. It is not the Texas
of artists in Austin, of the symphony in Houston, ballet in Dallas or jazz
in San Antonio.
It is an inauthentic Texas, minted not on the ranches and the oil rigs,
nor the ugly, sprawling, low-income housing that surrounds the bustling
cities – a testament to an increasing chasm between rich and poor. It is
not the place where schools are failing, the prisons are overflowing, and
the execution rate is the highest in the advanced world.
Perry’s projection of Texas, which he sees as a template for the rest of
the United States, is as inauthentic as tumbleweed — an invasive species
from Russia. Perry’s Texas was created in novels, honed in Hollywood and is
part of the myth that Texas and Texans are imbued with qualities denied to
lesser breeds beyond the Lone Star State.
The problem with believing in myth, and elevating it to the the standing
of principle, is that myth is flexible and can be adjusted to reality.
Ergo the early revelation that Perry is happy to disavow difficult things,
like global warming. He says that there is a list of scientists, growing
almost daily, that say global warming is not the result of human activity.
This is cunning. It disavows responsibility without having to deny the
evidence. While the heads of most advanced governments worry about the
impact of greenhouse gases, a President Perry will not have to.
Perry has also laid down his marker as a man of faith, or at least a man
of public piety. He might want to note that the two most publicly
religious presidents of recent times, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush,
left office in low esteem and are not faring well in the first books of
history. He may want to ponder why the Founding Fathers were so anxious to
separate church and state.
Perry’s political barbecue sauce, such as berating the Federal Reserve,
may be the precursor to a string of tired, old political nonsenses, like
returning to the gold standard; quitting the United Nations; and
abrogating treaties, in the belief that every commitment abroad is an
infringement of sovereignty.
Perry has made a dramatic entry. Now we wait in trepidation; even George
W. Bush’s people are alarmed. Are we to be shown the real Texas, at the
same time proud and flawed, or the synthetic one, doctored for political
effect? — For the Hearst-New York Times Syndicate