Perry: That whole secession thing? Nevermind

In an op-ed, the Texas governor says he doesn't advocate secession, but he's more than a little disingenuous in making his case.

By Alex Koppelman
Published May 18, 2009 2:10PM (EDT)

Good news, everyone: Texas isn't going anywhere. At least, not yet.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has gotten some attention of late for seemingly advocating secession. After he appeared at a Tea Party protest where some protesters had shouted "secede!" Perry told reporters, "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."

But in an op-ed he wrote for a home state newspaper on Sunday, Perry says:

I have never advocated for secession and never will.

Like the president, members of Congress and every other state governor, I have sworn oaths to our nation and Constitution. My sincere pledge to uphold and defend the Constitution has fueled my concern and my statements about the recent unprecedented expansion of our federal government.

Well, that's a relief.

In the op-ed, Perry wasn't completely honest about why he's been the center of secession talk recently. He traced it back to his endorsing a "sovereignty" resolution in the Texas legislature, which claims to reassert the state's rights against federal overreach as laid out in the 10th Amendment. And he argued, correctly, that this has nothing to do with secession. But for some reason, he neglected to mention his actual comments about secession, which are what really set this whole thing off.

This whole thing may just seem silly, but it's actually pretty good politics on Perry's part. He's gearing up for a reelection campaign in which he's likely to face a challenge from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a more moderate Republican, and he's been behind in the polls. But -- in part due to the state's history and the urban legend that it retains the right to leave the Union -- secession talk is actually fairly popular with Texas Republicans, and so Perry seems to be using it to shore up his popularity with conservatives in preparation for the primary fight with Hutchison. Even writing this latest op-ed works out for him; secession talk takes up only a little of it, and then in the rest he can talk about fiscal conservatism and Tea Parties and score some points that way.

So far, whatever Perry's doing, it seems to be working: Recent polls have shown him pulling even with Hutchison.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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