Rick Perry took an absolute beating last night over his decision to require Merck's HPV vaccine for Texas schoolgirls, not just during the debate from Michele Bachmann, but also afterwards from Fox's Sarah Palin and Greta van Susteren.
Palin was particularly harsh, invoking her experience as a half-term governor (she decided not to require the HPV vaccine) to make the case that Perry's decision was "evidence of some crony capitalism" at work.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: There was the whole question about the vaccine in Texas and Governor Perry signing an executive order so that 11 and 12-year-olds would have this vaccine. You could opt out, but you were automatically in. And there was some context — or some discussion about they preferred that you — you know, you opt in, rather than you opt out. I’ll tell you what stunned me in the discussion is that she said — and I’m going to get more information from her later when she’s on — she said that the reason that Governor Perry said it, or she suggested it strongly, was because of a campaign contribution, that someone in his office or a prior employee went to work for the drug manufacturer. And I thought — I mean, that’s the same sort of thing that really makes Americans mad, the cronyism or the suggestion that things — you know, that it isn’t a level playing field out there. And I’m going to ask her about because that’s a serious charge to level against Governor Perry. But that — I was — I was very surprised by that.
SARAH PALIN: Well, someone? That someone, as Michele Bachmann pointed out, was Governor Perry’s former chief of staff, who then went to work for a drug company who made the drug that would be required of the Texan government to mandate that, that our young daughters would have to be inoculated against potential disease from the company that his former chief of staff was lobbying for. That’s crony capitalism. […] Fighting the crony capitalism is a tough thing to do within your own party. You have to go up against the big guns. And they will try to destroy you. […] Michele Bachmann tried to make that point tonight. And watch, she’s going to get — potentially, she’s going to get crucified by some in the party who say, Don’t, you know, don’t’ violate Reagan’s 11th Commandment and don’t call somebody out in your own party on something like that. Well, no, we have to call one another out on things that have led to the crony capitalism. […] I was governor of Alaska at the time that that issue came down, and I told our health and human services department Alaska was not going to mandate immunizations for our teenage daughters. And there had to have been something to that whole issue because it just didn’t sound like Governor Perry. Governor Perry was, you know, the proverbial anti-government type of maverick there in Texas, and yet on this issue, he decided that he was going to know better than a parent was going to know in terms of what the health care or health benefit would be for their teenage daughters. So I knew there was something to it. […] I knew even at that time something was up with that issue, and now we’re finding that, yes, something was up with that issue. And it was a — it was kind of an illustration or a big of evidence of some crony capitalism.
Beyond the particulars of this issue, the thing that struck me about both van Susteren and Palin is that their criticism of Perry went straight to the core of his character. It's not that they wouldn't support him if he won the nomination, but it's pretty clear that along with much of the rest of the folks at Fox, they do not want to see Perry as the GOP nominee.