Yes, I’ve seen the debates. And, yes, I’ve watched the “oops” moment probably a dozen times. While he has steadily improved, Rick Perry is not a skilled debater. Seeing him debate is like watching a high-wire act, where each moment is tense with the fear that the performer could slip and fall. I get it. But, when did debate performance become our sole criteria for picking a President? When did the RNC decide to team up with the legacy media and turn the nomination contest into an almost unwatchable reality TV spectacle? Is this really a sane way to pick a nominee?
Debates are worthwhile and performance in them tells us something about the candidates. But, it doesn’t tell us everything about the candidates. The rhetorical skills that make a great debater have almost zero intersection with the skills that make a great President. They are a poor filter for discovering the core convictions and principles which will guide a President’s decisions and indecisions. They provide sound-bites at a time we should be looking at essays.
In the end, one of these candidates is very likely to end up as President and will have to govern. With the exception of Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry is the only candidate with a successful record of governing. That and, more importantly, what he has accomplished in governing make him the clear choice for President.
Supporters of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have to face one inconvenient truth; they both failed when given the chance to govern. Gingrich rode an historic GOP wave into the Speakership in 1994 only to be ousted by his fellow Republicans just four years later. It was one of the more spectacular flame-outs in political history. Hastert and Pelosi lost the Speaker’s gavel when the voters rejected them and their parties. Newt lost his when his GOP colleagues rejected him. He was given an unprecedented opportunity to reform entitlements and reverse our nation’s fiscal rot and…he blinked. His subsequent “consulting” for Freddie Mac, support for the largest expansion of entitlements since LBJ, an individual health insurance mandate and TARP, among other things, only further disqualifies him. I’m not at all certain that he has the core conservative convictions or beliefs that could withstand the daily dramas of the Presidency.
Mitt Romney only served one-term as Governor of Massachusetts because he wasn’t going to win reelection. Keep in mind that Romney’s term followed twelve years of GOP rule on Beacon Hill. Massachusetts voters were in something of a habit, since 1990, of voting for Republicans for Governor. That streak ended with Mitt. And, there were fewer Republican state legislators when he left office than when he entered it.
Worse, though, is what he did in that one term; RomneyCare. I lobbied against RomneyCare. It is, fundamentally, the blueprint for much of ObamaCare. It is already far more expensive than lawmakers promised and is negatively effecting the health care market in Massachusetts. And, Romney is STILL proud of it. His official portrait for Governor even features Romney sitting next to a copy of the bill! He continues to defend a state-level individual mandate and even promises to retain the “good parts” of ObamaCare. I, frankly, didn’t know there were “good parts”.
Its hard to judge Romney on the other issues, because he’s had every position on just about all of them over the years. I just don’t know which Romney is going to show up at the Oval Office every day; the Romney who ran to the left of Ted Kennedy in the 90s or the Romney who now calls himself the “ideal” tea party candidate. I’m all for those “road to Damascus” moments on a particular issue, but on almost all of them? Its like a Damascus round-about.
There is also a fundamental political problem with either a Gingrich or Romney nomination. The GOP wouldn’t be able to campaign against the Wall Street bailouts nor the individual health mandate. They both supported these at one time or another. Does the party really want to remove those arrows from its quiver? Those two issues are a large reason why 60+% of Independents align themselves with the GOP now. I know people joke that the GOP is the “stupid party”, but really? They really don’t want to make those arguments against Obama? Aren’t these two issues the defining issues of the upcoming election?
This isn’t simply an endorsement against Gingrich and Romney; it is an endorsement FOR Rick Perry. Perry is the longest serving governor in Texas history, a state with a long-standing tradition of voting incumbents out of office. He has successfully managed budget shortfalls without taking the easy path of tax hikes. General Revenue spending, accounting for population and inflation, is lower now then when he took office. He has cut taxes by billions. He has rejected federal dollars when he thought the feds where overstepping their authority. And, perhaps more importantly, he spearheaded a landmark medical malpractice reform which reversed the exodus of doctors out of the state and is steadily improving the health care market in Texas.
Oh yeah, and the jobs. The GOP really doesn’t want to go into this election with the guy running the state creating the jobs during a recession? Obviously, Perry didn’t create these jobs, but he understands that tax and regulatory policies can be a drag on private sector growth. While most other states were busy adding new taxes and regulations, Texas didn’t. The result is an influx of citizens from other states and a thriving private sector job market. Isn’t this a narrative we want in 2012?
Perry has clearly been a good Governor. He has not, however, been a great candidate. His early campaign was too Texas-centric. We all know about his debate performances. He has positions I disagree with. And his campaign has made some steps I also disagree with. But, I believe he could be a great President. He understand the limits of government, the power of the private sector to create prosperity and the dangers government policies pose to that. And, I believe he understands these principles in a more fundamental way than the other candidates.
Over the next few years, America will face some existential questions. Will American exceptionalism endure or will we slip into a quasi-European welfare state in permanent decline? Our present trajectory is unsustainable. Even with a Republican House and, most likely, a Republican Senate after next year, the GOP in Washington doesn’t seem quite up to the task of reclaiming that “shining city on the hill.” They can’t quite get beyond repainting a house whose foundation has cracked. We will need a President who is a strong leader with very grounded conservative convictions to navigate our way back to prosperity. One who understand that Washington has already assumed too much power and that future economic growth and personal liberty requires rolling back much of that power.
Rick Perry is that man.
[Note: This is a personal endorsement and does not reflect the views of BigGovernment, its contributors or its publisher, Andrew Breitbart.]