by Joe Shea
September 22, 2011
REPUBLICANS PLAY IT FOR LAUGHS
BRADENTON, Fla. -- I suddenly started feeling sorry for Gov. Rick Perry last night. It came when he said, "I don't think you have a heart."
Have a heart? Rick Perry's overseen the execution of something like 238 men in Texas, and I can't see much compassion in a record that's reprieve-free. Having once joined our former counsel Randall Boe in an effort to get the case of a retarded man with a coke-snorting lawyer and no real witness against him reviewed by Gov. George Bush, I know that in 238 cases in Texas there's going to be a mistake, honest or otherwise, but Perry saw none.
So I don't know why I started feeling sorry for him when I heard that phrase, but that's me. All politicians are maligned, and while most deserve it all of the time, most also have at least a glimmer of goodness in their souls that deserves recognition.
It was a two-hour drive back home from the Orlando debate and I needed to stop once to help someone who'd roared off the road into a ditch, so I had time to think about Perry. And what I thought was this:
Rick Perry grew up on a ranch in Texas. He wasn't the son of a President and Ambassador to China. He wasn't the son of a millionaire. He didn't go to Harvard or even the University of Texas, but to the poor man's school, Texas A&M. Yet he went out of his way Thursday night to brush off charges that he and former President George W. Bush are on the outs; he said he calls him every so often, just to talk. Perry didn't say he asks Mr. Bush for advice, which is another good thing.
When we hear he's from Texas, and we see his cocky, aggressive manner, I think we see George Bush. But Rick Perry is no George Bush, and that's a good thing. In fact, Rick Perry is a lot more like us, and I'm hoping he can be rehabilitated.
Perry's said at a couple of debates that only four votes opposed the plan to let the children of illegal aliens who go to Texas state colleges pay in-state tuition fees. He said he can't blame children for coming from a family that came here illegally, and he doesn't want to deny them their chance at the American Dream.
The governor seemed to understand that if a young Latino boy or girl has fought to lift himself from the barrios where crime and drugs and gangs rule the streets, and where education is just a fantasy for parents, he or she may be someone special America ought to have on this side of his 1,200-mile border.
That's infuriated a lot of Republicans, and at the debates they sit on their hands when he says it. Votes drain out of their hands by the millions when American Hispanics take note of the chill, but they should note that this is not Perry's fault. It's the fault of the Tea Party and the wrong-headed right that sees no soul in saving the almighty tax dollar.
And then there's the "forced" vaccines. He has displayed a solid understanding of what they do and what they mean. He's determined to his complete satisfaction that they're safe. And he's decided, based on the best possible advice from the Centers for Disease Control and the nation's scientists, that every 12-year-old girl should get the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccinations at an age when it can help them avoid cervical cancer, a gruesome scourge of the womb.
Perry's said he regrets that he went about having the young girls get vaccinations through an executive order, but I wouldn't be surprised if his predecessor suggested that; President Bush signed more executive orders than any President ever has.
Anyway, no matter what tormented soul Michelle Bachmann may conjure when she talks about the vaccine and the $5,000 contribution from Merck, who makes it - a contribution that clearly should have been returned - it was in the end an act of compassion. President Bush talked about compassion, but I don't recall any he displayed. He certainly didn't display it when he executed the retarded convict I mentioned earlier.
So what is my advice to Perry? I'm half-inclined to tell hm to shut up about "heart" and the dreams of poor kids until he gets into the Oval Office, if he does. Republicans in the main primary states veer very much to the right and don't seem to have much use for compassion.
But I won't go that very cynical rote. Instead, I suggest he draw the important distinctions that exist between him and the former president, who may have been one of the dumbest men who ever went to Harvard. Tell them, Rick:
"I'm not George Bush. I grew up in the middle class, not rich.
"My daddy was a rancher and county commissioner, not a President. There were 13,736 people in Haskell County in 1950, when I was born and made it 13,737. In fact, it was a place of hard-working people who often had to go elsewhere to find a job. Today there's just 5,900 people in the whole county. it wasn't the big city, and fancy people, and fine clothes. It wasn't any paradise.
I didn't go to Harvard. I'm not a lawyer; my degree was in Animal Science, 'cause that could help my Dad and my family on the ranch. Believe me, there was no gold in our house except in my Mama's wedding band. And Dad swore on that.
"I have a heart for people who started out like me, and I have a vision for the children who could die of cervical cancer in their 30s, that they won't suffer and die because I didn't do my utmost to prevent it.
"I don't own a baseball team, I never owned an oil company, and I wouldn't have executed anyone if I had a serious doubt about their innocence.
"I may not be the most articulate or polished person on this stage, but I like to think I've had a real life, a lot like yours. I've had a job. I worked hard to get through college.
"I don't hang around with billionaires and stock brokers and bank presidents. I want to be president because that's what I think our President should be: an ordinary American with the gift and grace of God to lead, and yes, a heart.
"If you can understand that, I want your vote."
Tell 'em, Rick. Otherwise much of what your life means will be wasted, and perhaps even our Republic will be lost.
What Rick Perry should have said (click to start and stop):