Texas Gov. Perry: Obama "hell-bent" on socialism

The governor will apparently say anything to get Tea Partiers' votes in his 2010 primary

Published November 12, 2009 5:40PM (EST)

For a conservative Texas politician locked in a major primary battle, throwing some punches at President Obama is a pretty obvious tactic. But, though it might win him some Republican votes, Gov. Rick Perry is pretty clearly out of his weight class when he tries to go after the president.

Perry’s making news today because of some frankly crazy comments he made in Midland, Tex. on Wednesday. The whole speech was inflammatory, but what’s grabbed the most attention is the governor’s claim that the Obama administration is “hell-bent toward taking America towards a socialist country.”

At this point, that’s really not that shocking coming from Perry. Facing a stiff challenge for renomination in 2010 from fellow Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the governor has moved steadily to the right, and worked to align himself with the Tea Party protests. Remember, this is the guy who publicly entertained the idea of seceding from the union back in April.

Beyond the headline quote about socialism, though, it’s worth noting that Perry fails to say almost anything true or accurate in the almost six minutes of video available online. Let’s do a quick rundown.

  • Perry's claim: “This administration is interested in punishing Texas.”
  • Real world: OK, obviously this isn’t technically verifiable, but for real, Gov. Perry? Because your evidence for a preposterous piece of demagoguery like that is pretty thin. Which brings us to:
  • Perry's claim: The Obama administration is shipping undocumented immigrants to Presidio, Tex., taking them to the border, and releasing them on the bridge over the Rio Grande. From there, they’re faced with the choice of braving the Mexican desert or walking back into lovely Presidio. Naturally, Perry is concerned that Obama is purposefully flooding the tiny, all-American town with hardened criminals.
  • Real world: You think I’m exaggerating what Perry says. And I am, but only barely. (See the video, below.) Besides the fact that none of the people deported through Presidio have been accused of any crimes, they also aren’t just released on the bridge. They’re taken over the border, where Mexican officials buy them bus tickets to their hometowns. And it’s not as if this routing was chosen to spite Texas, as Perry explicitly claims. The idea is that it breaks the smuggling cycle to deport immigrants from somewhere other than where they entered the U.S.
  • Perry's claim: The Tea Parties scared Senate Democrats into opposing a public option. Says Perry, “You better believe they’re listening!”
  • Real world: Look, Democrats are well-known fraidy-cats. But the claim that the Tea Parties got the public option killed in committee in the Senate ignores the fact that one of the two Senate committees in charge of healthcare, in fact, passed the public option. And it’s now about to be brought to the Senate floor for debate, where it has a reasonable chance of passing and becoming law.
  • Perry's claim: Moving on briskly to environmental policy, Perry inveighs against a cap-and-trade plan to limit emissions with typical arguments about how it would ruin the economy. He then adds something that I’d never heard before. “Even the EPA director herself said, ‘If you pass that piece of legislation, it will make zero impact on our environment.’”
  • Real world: Curious where this came from, I did a quick Google search. The first site to pop up was www.southfloridateaparty.com. The Tea Partiers quote EPA chief Lisa Jackson saying, “U.S. action alone will not impact world CO2 levels.” They, and Perry, are making an obviously willful misinterpretation here. Jackson isn’t saying cap-and-trade will make zero impact. She’s saying the U.S. can’t stop climate change on its own. Misreading Jackson’s statement this way is like saying that, because one person can’t singlehandedly lift a couch, the damn thing is obviously impossible to move. May as well leave it there. How helpful of you, governor. 

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

MORE FROM Gabriel Winant

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2010 Elections Healthcare Reform Immigration Kay Bailey Hutchison R-tex. Rick Perry Tea Parties Texas