Politics

Why I'll Miss Rick Perry

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He even looked like a president!

It's not the cowboy boots

It's not because now I can't sell my almost-new copy of Fed Up

And it certainly isn't his ideological contributions to the Republican primaries, where – beyond being challenged to name a cabinet-level department, protecting the nation from gays flaunting their special rights, calling Solyndra a country, and claiming that a key American ally is run by Islamic radicals – Texas Gov. Rick Perry's signal achievement was to join the bizarro consensus that the president who killed Osama bin Laden and pursued Somali pirates while pursuing an unconstitutional war in Libya and ordering a record number of drone assassinations is soft on terrorism. 

Did somebody mess with Texas?

What I'll miss is being able to believe Rick Perry is an effective governor

For a good ten years now, the Lone Star state has been the Gallant to California's Goofus – the state that is closest in size, demographics, economic mix, and to some degree climate. Yet Texas has been on the grow all that time. Its public finances are in better shape than California's. It is attracting businesses and population; California has been losing business and its population growth over the last ten years has been flat and possibly negative. Texas was spared both the highs of the real estate bubble and the lows of the crash, while California was rivaled only by Florida for land stupidity. 

For a while (and in the face of several relatives in Texas who assured me all along that Perry was a buffoon), I could actually believe these better conditions were the result of wise public policy. And some may be. There's a compelling case that the state's relative lack of zoning laws helped rein in the real estate price extremes (though I still like the novelty of the argument that Emperor Augustin I saved Texas homeowners). And it's not a mystery that a state with a part-time legislature, a constitutionally weak governor and a pattern of arm's-length local government would be in better fiscal shape than the People's Republic of California. 

But the real casualty of Perry's presidential run is the idea that governors in California or any other state should be looking to him for an example. His failure to launch went beyond the usual range of campaign screwups to a level of nincompoopery that wise people should avoid.