The Truth about Gov. Rick Perry

“The truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”  — Sir Winston Churchill

Since Governor Rick Perry officially threw his hat into the ring of Republican primary candidates for President the other day, the Perry/Texas bashing has begun in earnest from the political Left, Right, & Middle. Much of it is from bloggers and commenters on blogs repeating what they have heard/read, often without really knowing the relevant details. Some border on the ridiculous (e.g., that he is gay or a participant in the Bilderberg conspiracy), others more serious (e.g., inconsistent immigration policy and troubling relations with Muslim groups). I wouldn’t say I’m completely “in the tank” for Perry, but I am excited about his potential and think he would give Obama a run for his money. So, I would like to address a few of the most common warnings/complaints/accusations you are likely to see, if you haven’t already.

Rick Perry with image of capitol buildingRick Perry, Democrat?

Yes, it’s true. Rick Perry used to be a Democrat (like his father). In fact, he ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign in Texas back in 1988! But I say, “So what?” This is a Texas-sized red herring, if you ask me. For one, conservative southern Democrats like young Perry were nothing like the “progressives” of today’s Democrat party. Even Al Gore was just getting started on the global warming thing and not quite the liberal activist blowhard he is now. At the time, Gore was known more for defending family values, opposing federal funding of abortion, supporting a ‘moment of silence’ in public schools. He approved funding of the contras in Nicaragua and was against the ban on interstate handgun sales. But, after the election, Perry “came to his senses” and became a Republican in 1989. Yes, that was over 20 years ago!

“He has been a rock-solid Republican ever since and has driven the state party further to the right.”

Y’know who else converted from Democrat to Republican? Ronald Reagan (1962), Michele Bachmann (1973, while in college), Condoleezza Rice (1982), Bill Bennett (1986). That’s pretty good company. Is anyone challenging their conservative credentials?

“NAFTA Superhighway”

Briefly, in 2001 Perry introduced a plan for the “Trans-Texas Corridor” (TTC). Criss-crossing Texas and extending from the Mexican border to Oklahoma, the $175+ billion dollar project would have incorporated:

“multi-use right-of-ways that would be up to 1,200 feet wide to accommodate six 80 mph vehicle lanes, 4 truck lanes, two tracks each for high-speed rail, commuter rail, and freight rail, a 200 ft. wide utility zone to accommodate underground water, natural gas, and petroleum pipelines, telecommunications cables and high-voltage electric transmission lines. A full-sized right of way would have required 146 sq. acres per mile.” (h/t Pesky Truth)

As the governor argued, such “forward-thinking” improvements to the state’s infrastructure would help to accommodate Texas’ burgeoning population and relieve traffic congestion. At the same time, they could avoid raising taxes by using a financing method called a “Public Private Partnership” (P3s), where the state would get an influx of cash up front rather than getting smaller payments over the usual 20-30 years. Sounds great, right?

A Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) was signed in March 2005, with the two most prominent partners being Texas-based Zachry Construction Corp. and Spain-based Cintra. As primary investor, Cintra would not only design & build the highway but would collect the tolls. (Cintra-Zachry paid $1 billion to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for the right to collect tolls for the next fifty years.) Toll earnings would be used to pay investors and for toll-road maintenance. But, the whole deal didn’t sit well with a lot of people, both in government (including other Republicans, like state senator John Carona of Dallas) and the public at large.

One major issue was that of a foreign entity owning, or at least controlling, and profiting from Texas roads. Similarly, some didn’t like the idea of a foreign company making such a big “land grab”. Aside from concerns about foreign investors’ ownership/influence, there were other, legal concerns. For example, if any currently existing highways were converted to toll roads under the new system (as some were planned to be), this constituted double taxation, since they had already been built with taxpayer money. Another issue that caused quite a bit of concern was how the estimated 906 square miles needed for the project would be obtained. That’s a lot of ranch & farm land, and many were afraid that the “eminent domain” clause would be invoked (and possibly abused).

Back to the toll roads for a minute. As Paul Burka reported in his Texas Monthly column:

“The private companies that will build and operate the toll roads are in business to make a profit. In order to ensure that profit, they must have people who want to drive on their roads. And -— here’s the rub —- in order to be sure that people will want to drive on their roads, the CDAs with TxDOT will contain non-compete clauses that prohibit TxDOT from building new roads or upgrading existing highways. Any improvement to an existing highway that is not already planned at the time TxDOT enters into the contract is prohibited. That billion-dollar concession limits TxDOT’s ability to improve nearby secondary roads. How about adding extra lanes? Sorry, prohibited by the CDA. An HOV express lane? Not a chance. This is why Carona says that free roads will be reduced to ruin.”

NOT good, and not in the public’s interest.

There were (and still are) also those who were convinced that the TTC was to be part of a “NAFTA Superhighway”, designed to connect Mexico, USA, & Canada not simply to facilitate trade between them. No, this would be the first step of realizing a larger conspiracy to dissolve the borders and merge the three nations into a “North American Union”. The theory is fueled by claims/warnings by right-wing notables like Ron Paul and Jerome Corsi. I agree that formation of such a union would be bad news and losing national sovereignty would put a lot of American rights & freedoms in jeopardy. But, without going into details, my feeling is that this conspiracy theory does not, at this time, have a strong foundation and probably shouldn’t be taken seriously. (Nor should the idea that Perry is a puppet of the supposed Bilderberger globalists.)

Bottom line re the Trans-Texas Corridor? Perry got the message and killed the plan. It’s dead. No state toll-roads can be owned by anyone other than Texas. Perry signed a law in 2005 to prevent any free roads being converted into toll roads. And, this year he signed another that strengthens private owners’ rights in the face of eminent domain.

girl getting HPV vaccinationMandatory Vaccination for Girls

OK, this one is a more serious accusation. In 2007 Gov. Perry issued an Executive Order that mandated the vaccination of girls entering sixth grade with a new drug called Gardasil. (Parents who objected could fill out an affidavit to opt out.) It was also to be made available for free to girls ages 9 to 18. The drug would help prevent contraction of the human papillomavirus (HPV) and the genital warts and cervical cancer that often develop from it. Both houses of the Texas legislature overturned the EO by a veto-proof margin, so Perry rescinded it with another EO. End of story.

Gardasil was found to be extremely effective, particularly when given to girls and young women before they become sexually active. Thus, after approving the drug in June 2006, the FDA recommended vaccination for 11 & 12 year-old girls. Yet, some critics maintain that there are “very serious safety issues” with it. So, as if the mandate itself wasn’t bad enough, Perry is now accused of not doing his due diligence and of placing girls’ health at risk. Fortunately, the CDC has been closely monitoring Gardasil’s use and concluded that there is “a .0000428 chance that a dose will cause a serious adverse reaction.” Sounds like pretty safe odds to me.

“Based on all of the information we have today, CDC recommends HPV vaccination for the prevention of most types of cervical cancer. As with all approved vaccines, CDC and FDA will continue to closely monitor the safety of HPV vaccines.”

Some people also complain that mandating an HPV vaccine constitutes implicit acceptance, even encouragement, of sexual activity. While I can see where they’re coming from, I don’t quite buy the argument and find it somewhat naive.

What is of more concern to me is the way Perry went about it. On the one hand, Perry made a good point that an optional vaccination would not be covered by insurance, and the $360 cost — 3 shots at $120 each — puts it out of reach of many low-income residents. As part of the state-mandated, school-related vaccine “package” (along with tetanus, polio, measles, etc.), it would have been covered with the usual co-pay. On the other hand, making the vaccination mandatory before entering 6th grade seems to be, as Michelle Malkin put it, a “reckless disregard for parental rights and individual liberty.” Due to the sensitive nature of this particular vaccination, he would have been better off educating the parents and making it opt-in, rather than opt-out.

Furthermore, if Malkin’s research is correct, Perry did not so graciously relent to the will of the people in 2007 as he is now trying to make it sound. In fact, he pushed back. Before the repeal, he (via spokesperson) challenged the Legislature’s authority to repeal. After they voted to repeal,

“[T]he infuriated governor attacked those who supported repeal as ‘shameful’ spreaders of ‘misinformation’ who were putting ‘women’s lives’ at risk. Borrowing a tried-and-true Alinskyite page from the progressive left, Perry surrounded himself with female cervical cancer victims and deflected criticism of his imperial tactics with emotional anecdotes. He then lionized himself and the minority of politicians who voted against repeal of his Gardasil order.”

This is not exactly surprising behavior for some politicians. But, it is disappointing to see/hear from someone like Perry, with an otherwise admirable record and good principles. And it exacerbates the already negative pall cast over the whole debacle.

I’m less concerned about the accusations of cronyism. Yes, there are/were links between Perry and Merck, the developer/distributor of the vaccine. But, having someone’s ear doesn’t necessarily mean you can convince them to do something questionable — ethically-speaking or otherwise. Yes, Merck has a PAC that contributed $6000 to Perry’s re-election campaign. But, c’mon. $6000 out of a $24 million war chest? I really doubt that’s enough to influence, let alone buy off, someone in Perry’s position. Hardly a significant contribution.

Cathie Adams, former chair of the Texas Republican Party, fought against the mandate order at the time but feels Perry’s recent admission of error is all that’s needed. She’s willing to leave it in the past and supports his presidential bid. It’s still a concern, mind you, but I’m also willing to give Perry the benefit of the doubt and chalk this whole incident up to a lapse of judgement based on good intentions and genuine concern. Hopefully it remains one of the few.

Question Mark ManI was next going to delve into claims that Perry’s/Texas’s record for job creation is overblown, but this post is already much longer than planned. So,… For more information on these and other issues, I highly recommend checking out this well-researched article over at Pesky Truth blog (a major source for this post). While the writer admits up front to being pro-Perry for many years, he does seem to do a fair & relatively balanced job and gives links to reputable sources to back his data/claims.

“[R]emember that any politician in office for ten years will have his/her critics and will have stepped on some toes during their term(s).”

In a companion piece, Pesky Truth gives some personal background on Perry and discusses his positions — e.g., solidly pro-life, pro-Israel, pro-2nd Amendment, pro-10th Amendment, etc. — and activities/effectiveness as Governor. Again, well worth reading.

Caution:  Rick Perry isn’t perfect. (None of the candidates is. (Or, ‘none are‘, if you prefer.)) He’s made mistakes and he’s admitted them. Eventually. (Though some think he’s made a few more.) He may even turn out to be a Conservative in Name Only (CINO). It’s too early to tell. But, please, don’t fall for the conspiracy-theory rubbish, chronic cynicism/skepticism, or the fearmongering attempts by liberals and/or anti-Christians. Do a little homework, check out the facts from a variety of (hopefully) reliable sources, think critically, be realistic, and make your own decisions based on the evidence. That’s what I’m trying to do.

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