While earthquakes rumble across normally placid Oklahoma, the real tectonic action is happening here in Texas. Our swaggering Secessionist-in-Chief, once the stuff of legends, is now nothing more than fodder for late-night comedians, YouTube videos, “OMG” tweets, and post-mortem analysis by talking heads.
By now, nearly all 25 million Texans have probably wearied of having to answer the impossible question posed by incredulous outsiders:
“Why the [insert expletive here] did you guys ever elect this [insert expletive here]?”
I’ve got my excuse: he was governor when I arrived, and once in place, he held onto that job with the adhesive power of dog hair on corduroy pants… or more aptly, dog crap on Vibram-soled boots.
The truth is, until he revealed himself through these presidential debates, Perry was a complete unknown to most of us. He and his weepy wife Anita didn’t deign to speak to their constituents. Rick didn’t debate. He didn’t do many of the things that collectively qualify as “campaigning”. He’s outsourced all of that, using money as his proxy.
Once in office, his vast pay-to-play empire extended its tentacles into every part of the Lone Star State where money could be made, power could be accumulated, and punishment and reward could be meted out.
Now, though, it’s a new day, and the cracks in the Perry Power Monolith are wide enough to let in the light of day, and some rays of hope. Follow along below the brain freeze for more...
In this morning’s End of a Campaign and an Era, Patti Hart writes:
The unimaginable had happened to our once-invincible governor, whose charmed career was blessed by great timing and better hair. At long last, Rick Perry had run out of luck. You could tell by the look on his face he was as stunned as we were.
The rest – as they say – is history. Perry himself – although he’s probably still in denial – could be “history”.
With that, a whiff of vulnerability settled on the man who became the longest-serving governor in Texas history through a chain of good breaks. He assumed the office when George W. Bush left for the White House; he kept it when not-so-funny comedian Kinky Friedman siphoned votes from more serious opponents. In his last election, he tapped the electorate’s anti-Washington fervor to defeat one of Texas’ smartest, and most hard-working, Republican officeholders, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
And so begins the unraveling of Perry’s power. After Wednesday’s debate performance, his stock surely plummeted among the big investors in political endeavors. The CNBC pundits evaluating the debate issued a pessimistic long term outlook for Perry Inc.: Sell. Now.
As usual, CNBC's advice comes too late for those with significant exposure to Perry's risk, and they've gone from "bullish" to "bagholders" in a matter of a few short weeks.
The implications go far beyond his White House aspirations. With Perry no longer able to control political money, his influence will wane. The fear factor will evaporate. No longer will he be able to direct campaign funds to reward loyalists and punish his enemies. The post-Perry era began Wednesday, 8:18 p.m. CST.
There you have it. The "shoot" heard 'round the world. While Perry's donors scramble to claw back their donations, stop payment on their checks, and wolf down another bottle of Pepto-Bismol, Texans who've suffered under Perry's reign of error bask in a rare moment of schadenfreude. Maybe, just maybe, we can rid ourselves of this swaggering nitwit and get ourselves a real governor.
What's next for Rick Perry? You can vote in the poll, but an editorial in today's Houston Chronicle entitled "Gov. Perry, the Show is Over. It's time to come home to Texas", advises:
Please come home, Rick Perry. It's time.
You may be the master of Texas politics with undefeated statewide campaigns for agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor. The memory of your demolition of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary and Democrat Bill White in the subsequent general election is still fresh. After taking that beating, Hutchison returned to the Senate and has vigorously represented Texans in her final term. (There's a lesson about diligence there, Governor.)
As Texas' longest-serving chief executive, your appointees are now in total control of every Lone Star board or commission of note. Your political war chest fueled by those grateful supporters continues to overflow.
Something tells me that those supporters have gone from “grateful” to “panic stricken”. Or maybe from “panic stricken” to “hospitalized and sedated”.
Here they were thinking that they’d scored the most luxurious corporate box seats at the Superbowl with other deep-pocket power brokers, only to find out they’re going to be watching the game from the parking lot, sitting on a couple of styrofoam coolers with their drunken brother-in-law and his bratty kids. In the snow... and their team’s losing... and they’re coming down with stomach flu, or maybe food poisoning from some undercooked bratwurst.
Scrambling to respond to his debate debacle, Perry’s advisers are counting on the one thing that always works: shaking down those gullible donors:
In the aftermath of Rochester, Team Perry sent out a fund-raising pitch trying to paper over the damage. "While the media froths over this all too human moment," stated the email, "we thought we would take this opportunity to ask your help in doing something much more constructive: write us to let us know what federal agency you would most like to forget." It requested a $5 contribution for every agency the contributor could name.
Wow. This from a guy who was “insulted” when Michele “SqueekyB” Bachmann suggested that he could be “bought” for a measly $5,000. Now he’s selling out for $5 per agency. Next he’ll be running down the street after you like a jilted lover, begging you to come back, waving a wad of cash at you, if you’ll just give him another chance, doggoneit… “I’m only human, baby. Come on back. I can change. It’ll be better. You’ll see. Aw, baby…”
In retrospect, Perry’s implosion was probably inevitable. He swaggered onto the national stage, propelled by the greedy hopes of his deep-pocket donors, who saw in him the perfect pay-to-play puppet, someone who would scale up that lucrative corporate “Texas Miracle” from sea to greasy sea. Through amber waves of oil. From the mined-out mountains to the dust bowl prairies.
That beautiful vision is dead, and Perry’s donors – once they recover from their nervous breakdowns – will have to hustle through those seven stages of grief and find some other pony to ride to the White House.
One final thought, Governor. That decision you made during the last campaign not to debate Democrat White or submit to editorial board screenings or probing media interviews just might be one reason you seem totally unprepared for the hard questions and nonstop pressures of a prime-time national campaign.
If there is a next time, try practicing first.
Better yet, why not pack up and head back to West Texas and return to your agricultural lifestyle. You’re clearly adept at slinging – and stepping in – manure. It's been real... but it's time to go.