As soon as Rick Perry jumped into the presidential race, polls placed him at the head of the pack. Personally, I think this is probably due to the “Yay! New meat!” phenomenon. We Republicans have had a lot of time to get to know the other candidates on the ballot, and speaking for myself, I have found reasons to dislike each and every one of them. Michele Bachmann? Her heart’s in the right place, but she needs more experience — and more “grooming”. Newt Gingrich? He’s one of the smartest individuals in the conservative movement, but his personal morality leaves something to be desired (and yes, personal morality does matter — at least to me). Mitt Romney? I perceive him to be competent but — well — rather boring. And he’s made too many compromises with the Democrats; the health care issue in particular is a huge weakness. Ron Paul? He makes common cause with the idiot left when it comes to our foreign policy, so there’s no way in hell he’s getting my vote. Etc. Etc. Etc. If any of these individuals – with the possible exception of Ron Paul – end up on the final ballot, I will still vote Republican. After all, my primary goal is to kick Obama out of the White House. But I won’t vote “R” with much enthusiasm.
So what about Rick Perry? Well, even before Perry announced his candidacy, the leftwing attack machine kicked into high gear. They called him “George W. Bush on steroids,” mocked his poor academic record, questioned the apparent success of the Texas economy, and dumped on Texas public education. Of those four complaints, I’m only concerned about the first. Perry is indeed more “Texas” than was George W. Bush, and that may not play well on the coasts, where urban snobbery is pretty well entrenched even among conservatives.
As for the other three complaints? Well, let me respond to them one at a time:
- Perry got C’s and D’s in college. While my ideal candidate would have both “book smarts” and “street smarts,” I really chafe at the suggestion that only those who excel in school can be good leaders. I’ve worked with students who have learning disabilities, you see, and I’ve got to wonder how they must feel whenever someone’s academic record becomes an issue in a political race. Moreover, as any serious student of history knows, the fact that you are brilliant in the verbal sense (the type of intelligence most schools are equipped to reward) does not guarantee that you are not a complete moron when it comes to other things that matter. Hitler had his credentialed intellectuals — and so did Stalin.
- The Texas job numbers aren’t as good as they look. Actually? Yes. Yes, they are. See also: Rick Perry and Texas Job Numbers. Of course, there are the people who say, “Well, the economy in Texas may be pretty good after all, but Rick Perry certainly had nothing to do with it!” But don’t these people realize that this is probably the best backdoor endorsement a politician can ever receive? Doing nothing is in fact an excellent approach to our economy. That’s why you will rarely see me mock Obama for his golf games. As a matter of fact, I wish he’d play more golf and stop mucking around in things he obviously doesn’t understand.
- Texas is at the bottom of the pack when it comes to public education. To support this claim, people generally cite Texas’ low SAT scores, its high drop-out rate, etc. But as we’ve already established on this blog, stats like these are meaningless because they don’t take into account confounding variables. To put it another way: Texas is a border state, you dumbos! The schools there are dealing with more students who are poor, more students who come from historically under-served populations, more students who speak English as a second language, etc. When you break down, say, the most recent NAEP results by race and class, Texas comes out looking pretty good. For example, let’s take a look at Texas’ fourth grade math scores. In 2009, Texas placed 7th for white students, 3rd for black students, 9th for Hispanic students, and 12th for students who are eligible for reduced or free lunch. Oh, snap! According to these numbers, Texas is actually at the top of the heap. (By the way, Iowahawk also covered this topic in a brilliant post a few months ago. Go and read.)
Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure I’ll see flaws in Perry eventually. Unfortunately, politicians don’t tend to represent the best that humanity has to offer. But the arguments discussed above are really, really piss-poor.