Who, Perry? Running for prez?
He may be telling the truth. He also may be pulling a twist on Bill Clinton, who said when seeking re-election as governor of Arkansas in 1990 that he’d serve the full fouryear term. Less than a year later, he announced for president.
At least Perry hasn’t pledged to serve the entire four years to which he was recently re-elected. So if he does run, all it will mean is that all these protestations that he doesn’t want to were, uh, premature.
But he’s certainly showing all the usual signs, following a well-worn presidential path, of running against Washington.
Perry has followed the pattern of several wouldbe presidents in writing a book, or having it written under his name. He’s been taking on the feds while on a national tour hawking said book, which is catchily titled, “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington.”
Perry, one of the first politicians to sense the power of the Tea Party, is at war with the Environmental Protection Agency over enforcement of the Clean Air Act, with the feds over Medicaid – he wants the feds to give us a lump sum and let us decide how to spend it – and on responsibilities for policing the border with Mexico, among others.
Texas Democrats say Perry’s anti-Washington tirade during his re-election campaign and continuing in what many see as his presidential campaign is to keep citizen anger focused on Washington, and away from Texas. If bad things have happened or are happening in Texas, it’s Washington’s fault.
Democrats accuse Perry of ignoring issues important to Texas and Texans. Texas Democratic Party spokesperson Anthony Gutierrez says Perry’s “anti-Washington political games have scored him political points, but they’ve left Texas with struggling schools, children without health insurance and a battered environment.”
No matter. There are a host of presidents, including Democrat Barack Obama, the one Perry’s currently railing at, who got there with an anti- Washington campaign theme.
Obama’s, you may recall, was “Change we can believe in.” His battle cry was “Yes, we can!”
Obama’s challenge may have been a bit more difficult since he was a sitting United States senator from Illinois. But he’d been there just two years when he announced for president, so he was still a credible outsider – particularly compared to fellow senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton -- in the Democratic primary. Republican presidential nominee John McCain had been in the Senate for more than two decades.
Obama, incidentally, is one of just two presidents in almost two centuries to go directly from the U.S. Senate to the White House. The other was Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Kennedy’s anti-Washington theme was a little tougher, since he’d been in Congress for more than a decade. Yet he said Washington wasn’t doing enough – like, to close a “missile gap” under Republican Dwight Eisenhower’s administration. Remember, Kennedy’s opponent was Richard Nixon, Eisenhower’s vice-president.
Texas U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who ran against Perry in the GOP primary in March, was said to want to be governor not just because it includes a house and servants, but because executive experience was considered a desirable qualification to be president.
Her candidacy certainly gave Perry a chance to field-test his anti-Washington rhetoric, wrapping the nation’s capitol around her neck.
Several governors became presidents, and all of them, in one way or another, ran against Washington.
In the last four decades, they include, in reverse chronological order:
• Republican George W. Bush of Texas in 2000, who said he could bring bi-partisan harmony to Washington (no, he couldn’t);
• Democratic Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in 1992, whose campaign manager James Carville’s slogan was, “It’s the economy, stupid”;
• Republican former California Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1980, campaigning against “welfare Cadillacs” and other Washington excesses; and
• Democrat Jimmy Carter of Georgia in 1976: “I’ll never lie to you,” after the Watergate scandal knocked Nixon from the White House.
The best springboards to being on a presidential ticket in the past century have been governorships, the U.S. Senate, and the vice-presidency – though just one vice-president, George H. W. Bush, went directly to the presidency by election rather than because his successor died or quit.
Some say Bush’s election in 1988 was simply the third term Reagan couldn’t serve. Bush’s campaign featured an incessant attack on his Democratic opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.
But it also carried an in-your-face anti-Washington slap at Congress. Remember “Read my lips: No new taxes”?
For anti-Washington escalation, Rick could boycott the dollar bill.
Longtime Texas political columnist Dave McNeely, who retired from the Austin American-Statesman in 2004, writes a weekly column on Texas politics for three dozen Texas newspapers. With longtime Dallas journalist and author Jim Henderson, McNeely is the author of “Bob Bullock: God Bless Texas.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (512) 458-2963.