Monday, April 20, 2009

See How He Runs: Texas Secessionist Governor Rick Perry Does Not Suffice, Thrice

Texas Governor Rick Perry is taking a lot of well-deserved heat for telling Tax Day Tea Party protesters that Texas has a right to secede from the Union--and that if the federal government persists in unchecked deficit spending, Texas might just have to do so. The state's House of Representatives was so tickled at the governor's antics that they cut all funding for his office from the state budget they just passed.

Chief among the governor's critics has been another Rick: Houston Chronicle political columnist Rick Casey. In a column on April 18th, Casey charged that the politician Perry was really trying to surpass was not Barack Obama but Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. She's challenging Perry for the Texas governorship in 2010, and he needs every conservative vote to beat her in the primary. What better way to distance himself from Kay "Bailout" Hutchison, as the governor's pollster dubbed her, than to fan the flames of bailout-resentment so popular among the Tea Party conservatives?

But Casey's best shots across Perry's bow were in a column two days earlier, in which the columnist documented how the governor, in the great conservative tradition of rousing the public with lies, told three major fibs in his Tea Party rhetoric.

Another Chronicle reporter captured Perry's secessionist rant on tape. It's available at

Casey provided this transcription of the world according to Perry: “Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that. My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that.”

Fib #1: The federal act admitting Texas to the Union gave the state permission to secede. Casey counters that it did not, and "We all know what happened when Texas did just that." What the law did was give Texas the right to split itself into as many as five states. But that was just if more slave states were needed, in the event that more non-slave northern territories also became states--so that Texas could restore 'balance' by multiplying from one slave state to as many as five slave states. John Nance Garner toyed with the idea in the 1920s and 1930s (as a congressman, then Speaker of the House, and eventually FDR's first vice president); but his aim was to give Texans more votes than New England.

Fib #2: Perry claimed that our "seventh governor, Sam Houston" favored secession. Casey says Perry "neglected to note that as governor Houston bitterly opposed Texas's secession from the Union, and was booted from office when he refused to sign a loyalty oath to the Confederacy."

Fib #3: Perry said his stand was about "states' rights," but was not forthright enough to admit that the main point of states' rights through most of Texas history was to keep black people "in their place." On this point Casey was rightfully scathing:

"The crowd loved it, but there is a large segment of Texas citizens who know bitterly that the term 'states’ rights' was long militantly employed to fight the melting away of such 'rights' as state sanctioning of slavery, enforcement of school segregation and, in Texas, the definition of political parties as private associations permitted to exclude non-whites [in] primaries.

"There are certain rights of states that deserve to be protected, but a politician who wants to be leader of all the people doesn’t use terms so tightly bound to such an ugly history."

The irony might be that Perry--by putting his grasp of Texas history and demagoguery squarely before the public--has done much more for Hutchison's candidacy than she could have on her own.

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