It has been fascinating to watch Governor Rick Perry’s first week of campaigning. Before he announced, I began to think that he would be the nominee, if for no other reason than governors tend to do well in presidential races and Romney is, well, Romney. Governor Perry said a lot of interesting things this week, such as that the stimulus did not create any jobs when it created 50,000 in his own state. But there were four moments in particular that I think illustrate the type of president he would be.
In Monday Perry opened his campaign with this statement: “We’re calling today on the president of the United States to put a moratorium on regulations across this country, because his regulations, his EPA regulations are killing jobs all across America.” To begin with, I think it is worth noting that this is a fairly nonsensical proposal; it’s just that it makes for a good sound bite. The key to understanding what Perry is trying to get at is his reference to the EPA, this week’s Republican punching bag. I do not dispute that EPA regulations mean that there are less jobs out there. I just prefer to refer to EPA regulations as those government policies that are keeping your children from having bone cancer and malformed brains. I will leave it up to you to decide which is your priority.
Also on Monday came the bit about the Fed. “If this guy [Fed Chairman Bernanke] prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics…is almost treasonous in my opinion.” Let’s set aside the standard violent rhetoric, which at this point is a litmus test to prove you are in fact a Republican. And also let’s set aside the fact that Governor Perry meant sedition, not treason, except to note that he should be familiar with sedition as he did advocate secession. That leaves us with him not wanting the Fed to print money between now in the election. Also known as helping the economy recover. Also known as doing what the Fed is required to do by federal law.
Wednesday brought us an interesting statement on climate change. “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects” was the highlight. I think this can best be explained as follows. As has been well documented, those scientists who deny anthropogenic climate change have selectively chosen data so that the oil and coal companies will continue to fund their research. In Governor Perry’s mind, this means that obviously the scientists who think the opposite must behave the same way. There are a few problems with this logic, but I think the most obvious one is that the money he is talking about comes from grants that are generally funding by the federal government. So is Perry accusing Congress of buying off thousands of scientists? Congress is responsible for the claims about anthropogenic climate change?
Thursday was my personal favorite. Approached by a young boy in New Hampshire asking about the age of the Earth and evolution, Governor Perry gave us this gem. “How old do I think the Earth is? I don’t have any idea. I think it’s pretty old. It goes back a long long ways. I’m not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely how long ago the Earth is. I hear your mom was asking about evolution. It’s a theory that’s out there and it’s got some gaps in it. In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our programs.” Phew. The first part can obviously be read as his way of trying not to sound crazy while not angering the religious right: “pretty old” is pretty ambiguous. (If anyone is wondering, the answer is 4.54 billion, which is 4,539,994,000 more than many of Perry’s supporters think). As for evolution having “some gaps in it,” well, so it does. If his point is that something else (ie, creationism) might better explain life on Earth then we can just label him as ignorant and/or pandering and move on. His last sentence takes the cake though. Let’s translate. “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our programs in direct violation of two United States Supreme Court decisions.” After that, Perry did say this: “I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.” So I think we can illustrate Governor Perry’s plank on education as this: let’s teach our seven-year-olds that there are two equal, competing hypotheses about the shape of the Earth and let them decide which is correct: scientists overwhelmingly say it is round, but there are some people who believe it is flat.