A disgraced Perry returns to Texas

Governor finally bows out of GOP race, but only after making mockery of himself and our state

Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

After months of holding their breaths in dread of what Rick Perry might do or say next on the national stage, Texans are now witnessing the ignominious return of their governor to the state.

Everyone knew Perry would eventually be on his way back, but clarity suddenly and inexplicably has also come to the befuddled candidate earlier than expected. Just two days before the South Carolina primary Perry announced Thursday, Jan. 19 at a press conference he was finally giving up his fruitless bid for the presidency. “There is no viable path forward for me in the 2012 campaign,” he said to a national audience that undoubtedly chanted back to the television screen, “It’s about time!”

When Perry gets back to the $10,000-per-month rented house afforded him by state taxpayers, he will be regarded by most Texans in a vastly different light from when he left after announcing his presidential political ambitions in August. Once the pride and joy of conservatives here, Perry had fallen to third in his home state behind Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, according to Public Policy Polling, a Democratic group that polled 559 Texas Republican primary voters Jan. 12-15.

The same poll results suggest that for once Republicans and Democrats agree strongly on something — Perry has fractured the state’s image with a multitude of missteps and misstatements that often bordered on the surreal. Of Republican voters 39 percent said they viewed Perry’s candidacy as having cast the state in a negative light, in comparison to 13 percent that viewed it as a positive, according to the poll.

In contrast Texas Congressman Ron Paul, whose libertarian philosophy led to his being pegged as a “fringe” candidate by the media, fared much better than Perry. Only 28 percent of Republican voters said Paul’s candidacy has hurt the state’s image, while 19 percent said it was an enhancement.

As a practical matter, the poll results only confirm what had already become obvious to many people who were accustomed to hearing strong support for Perry during casual political debates. The most ardent of former Perry supporters apparently are too embarrassed to speak up for him anymore. Many people clearly are wondering how Perry’s inability to think and talk at the same time had gone undetected for so long before God told him to run for president.

Even prominent gay Dallas Republican Rob Schlein — who vowed early on he would vote for Perry if he was the Republican nominee for president regardless of the governor’s legendary anti-gay rhetoric — took to bashing Perry on Facebook because of the candidate’s poor performances. The loss of support from Schlein — who recently vowed he would vote for the ultra-conservative Rick Santorum if he becomes the nominee — illustrates just how far Perry’s political fortunes have sunk.

To make the situation even more annoying, Perry’s candidacy has cost Texas taxpayers quite a bit of money for his protection while on the campaign trail. Security costs for Perry incurred by the Texas Department of Public Safety amounted to about $400,000 per month, according to a Texas Tribune examination of the agency’s records.

David-Webb

David Webb | The Rare Reporter

The financial analysis would suggest that Perry’s decision to continue on with his presidential campaign after coming in fifth place in the Iowa caucus cost Texans another needless several hundred thousand dollars in security costs. His resolve to proceed in New Hampshire and South Carolina after strongly hinting following the Iowa thrashing that he was about to give up and head home left many Texans bewildered.

In Perry’s campaign speeches he pointed toward the South Carolina primary as the deal-breaker for him if he could not get the state’s conservative religious voters behind him.

Presumably it finally dawned on Perry that he was in store for another humiliating failure, seeing as how he was in last place in the polls with only about 6 percent supporting him, after the conservative religious establishment decided in a meeting in Texas last weekend to throw its support behind Rick Santorum.

In making the announcement he would drop out of the race and that he would endorse Newt Gingrich, Perry said, “I know when it is time to make a strategic retreat.” That was a statement that many will likely view as humorous, given the governor’s apparent long delay in coming to that realization.

In fairness to the governor, it’s no doubt a difficult task for a political candidate who has never before lost an election to return home in disgrace. It doesn’t help matters much that while Perry was on the campaign trail a gay former Texas legislator, Glen Maxey, published a book with anonymous sources claiming the governor is a closeted hypocrite who engaged in a past secret homosexual life. The governor’s campaign denounced the book as a pack of lies, but the publication of a book expanding on the rumors that have plagued him for six years must at the very least be frustrating — even if they possibly did happen to be true.

As the longest-serving governor in Texas history with 11 years under his cowboy buckle belt, Perry destroyed his reputation as a strong governor on the presidential campaign trail. He went from double-digit frontrunner status ahead of Mitt Romney — the likely nominee barring a new surge by one of the other three candidates in the up-and-down race — to last place.

Ever the optimist, Perry declared with his wife and son by his side that he wasn’t disenchanted and he wasn’t discouraged to be packing up and heading home. He declared that he felt rewarded for having followed the “calling” to run for president. “And this I know, I’m not done fighting for the cause of conservatism,” Perry said. “As a matter of fact, I have just begun to fight.”

It appeared that at the end of the announcement Perry was again drifting off into that mindset that got him into the race in the first place. It was unclear where Perry planned to wage that fight now that his campaign is over, but he assured viewers, “Things are going to be good no matter what I do.”

Maybe he was referring to the luxury in which he and wife Anita undoubtedly will be living for the rest of their lives, because it’s not likely to be a continuation of his successful political career.  Or maybe he is hoping for some sort of political appointment or an opportunity from the business leaders he has courted as governor.

One thing is for sure, the “God and Country,” Bible-thumping proclamations that kept winning Perry re-elections to the governor’s office failed him on the national stage for president, and it’s a pretty good bet that it will never again serve him quite as well in Texas politics. And it’s a good thing for the governor that he became wealthy as a career office-holder because his political eulogy is now being drafted by pundits nationwide.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has reported on LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Email him at
davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Kinder, gentler Republicans?

Primary candidates who are the most anti-LGBT didn’t fare well in New Hampshire. Could the GOP voters be moving toward tolerance?

David-Webb

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

The results of the New Hampshire primary must seem like political nirvana for LGBT Republicans who have held their noses while pulling voting machine levers during past presidential elections.

The presidential candidates who in recent weeks and during the televised weekend debates expressed the most tolerant views toward LGBT issues came out on top in the primary, and the ones who didn’t wound up in last places.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose vitriolic anti-gay messages border on the absurd, finished dead last with less than 1 percent of the vote — just where many gay and straight Republicans and Democrats think he belongs in an enlightened society.

It’s doubtful that many voters chose former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the frontrunner because he said in the debates he would champion LGBT rights — with the exception of marriage equality. But it is possible New Hampshire voters sent a message that they are tired of candidates pandering to conservative extremists who can’t think beyond antiquated religious teachings while the country’s economy collapses around them.

Incredibly, while Romney vowed he would never discriminate against LGBT people or “suggest they don’t have full rights in this country,” and that they should have the right to form long-term committed relationships in some form, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Perry couldn’t resist the opportunity to throw scraps to their conservative religious bases. The three outspoken anti-gay candidates finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, if not as a result of their bigotry then perhaps as just desserts for it.

In a similar vein as Romney, Congressman Ron Paul and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman made statements indicating tolerance and support.

Paul said he objected to the use of the term “gay rights” by candidates on the stage, saying it leads to divisiveness and punishment of LGBT people who are entitled to individual liberty along with everyone else.
Huntsman said he supported civil unions, and he also accused most of the other candidates of all “having something nasty to say” about LGBT people.

Romney.Mitt

Gov. Mitt Romney

In his response to the moderator’s question about what gay people who want to form long-term relations should do, Gingrich said he advocated allowing contact that is “intimately human between friends,” such as hospital visits. Then he accused LGBT people who want to get married of trying to make straight people “miserable.”

Similarly, Santorum condemned same-sex marriage and adoptions by gay parents while making some conciliatory statements about “respect and dignity” for all people. When asked what he would do if one of his sons told him he was gay, Santorum said he would tell him that he still loved him.

But that statement left some LGBT viewers wondering if in such a case the son would soon find himself shipped off to a homosexual rehabilitation treatment center.

Gingrich, who has a lesbian sister who won’t support him politically, later asked for the floor during the debate to accuse the media moderators of asking the questions about marriage equality because they are biased in favor of LGBT rights and against Christian religious institutions.

But as usual it was Perry out of the six candidates who made the biggest ass of himself by claiming President Barrack Obama’s decision not to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act in court is part of a “war against religion” that would stop if he is elected president.

Perry, who has long fought rumors that he has engaged in secret homosexual activity and has seemingly gone out of his way to offend LGBT Texans during his tenure as governor, had no other comment on the subject.

Of course, not everyone in the LGBT community reacted favorably to Romney’s comments about LGBT rights because they did seem contradictory. Although Romney said he would stand up for LGBT rights, it’s hardly full rights if one of the most valuable — the right to marriage and its legal protections — is being withheld.

None of the Republican candidates support LGBT issues as fervently as gay and lesbian activists would like to see, but last weekend’s debates marked yet another milestone in the American gay rights movement. During both days of the presidential debate, LGBT rights were discussed for a total of 13 minutes in more favorable terms than anyone might have been expected. With the exception of Perry, all of the candidates apparently tried to sound at the very least humane.

Perry.Rick

Gov. Rick Perry

In the Republican candidates’ defense, it must be noted that even President Obama, who has done more in the area of LGBT rights advancement than any other American president, still does not support marriage equality. That could come, but it hasn’t yet.

In fact, to win the 2012 election with the full support of the nation’s LGBT voters, it may be necessary for President Obama to take an affirmative stand on marriage equality, given Republican frontrunner Romney’s remarks in New Hampshire.

Now, all of the Republican candidates are headed for South Carolina for that state’s primary on Jan. 21, and it will be interesting to hear what gets said about LGBT rights in the conservative state.

Perry is already there, blathering away, but barring a miracle happening for him he will be headed home to Texas for good the day after the primary at the very latest.
Romney on the other hand, having won in both Iowa and New Hampshire, appears destined to a run for president on the Republican ticket this year if he continues his winning streak in South Carolina.

So far, the race for the Republican presidential nomination has made for some of the most interesting political theater in modern times and in no small part because of the recent focus on LGBT issues. The prospect of the ensuing debates between the Republican nominee and President Obama promises to make this one of the most exciting political years ever for the LGBT community and its many straight friends.

It’s a good bet the LGBT voter turnout could be the biggest ever seen.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Contact him at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com or facebook.com/TheRareReporter.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Perry edges Roemer, Karger in N.H.

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Mitt Romney captured the New Hampshire primary in a snoozefest Tuesday night with 39 percent of the vote, and experts say the former Massachusetts governor is now well on his way to securing the Republican nomination for president. Romney became the first non-incumbent GOP presidential candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire since 1976.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, came in a distant second, but continued to shock the world by again finishing with more than 20 percent of the vote. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was sixth, with less than 1 percent or slightly more than 1,700 total votes — about half as many as “other.” According to the New York Times, a breakdown of the other candidates reveals that Perry edged both Buddy Roemer, who had 920 votes, and openly gay candidate Fred Karger, who had 338.

Karger, a long shot who has campaigned almost exclusively in New Hampshire thus far, says he will now shift his efforts to the Feb. 28 primary in Michigan, where he’s also earned a place on the ballot. Perry, meanwhile, released a statement saying he skipped New Hampshire to focus South Carolina, site of the next primary on Saturday, Jan. 21.

“Tonight’s results in New Hampshire show the race for ‘conservative alternative’ to Mitt Romney remains wide open,” Perry said in the statement. “I skipped New Hampshire and aimed my campaign right at conservative South Carolina, where we’ve been campaigning hard and receiving an enthusiastic welcome.”

Perry’s assertion that he skipped New Hampshire is only partly true: He campaigned there and spent a lot of money on advertising before abandoning the Granite State a few weeks ago when polls showed it wasn’t having any impact.

Whether a “conservative alternative” will emerge to challenge Romney and at least lend the appearance of a two-person race for the GOP nomination remains to be seen. Leaders from the religious right will gather at a Texas ranch this weekend to decide whether they can unite behind one of the socially conservative candidates — or perhaps give up and throw their support behind Romney. The other social conservatives, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, finished tied for fourth in New Hampshire with about 9 percent of the vote. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is decidedly moderate, finished third with 17 percent behind Paul, a libertarian who captured 23 percent.

Huntsman and Paul both declined to sign an anti-gay pledge from the National Organization for Marriage. With some suggesting that this primary could signal that the religious right is losing its grip on the Republican Party, the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans released a statement saying the New Hampshire results show that, “inclusion wins.”

“By adding a definitive victory in New Hampshire to his win in Iowa, Gov. Mitt Romney has established himself as a candidate who can unite Republicans and a clear threat to Barack Obama in November,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans executive director. “Gov. Romney was consistently clear in the debates that he opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation. While he continues to support a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality — a position Log Cabin strongly opposes — he is also on record saying that such an amendment has been tried, rejected, and is unlikely to ever succeed. Romney has also taken a position that the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been settled, and he would not seek to reinstitute the ban on open service.

“Congressman Ron Paul’s second place finish underscores New Hampshire’s commitment to the libertarian principles he has consistently championed, which include his votes against the anti-family Federal Marriage Amendment and for the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Cooper added. “Log Cabin Republicans are also pleased with the strong performance of Gov. Jon Huntsman, a solid supporter of civil unions for same-sex couples and a candidate who frequently talked about the need for Americans to do more for gay rights. As the nomination process moves forward, Log Cabin Republicans suggest all the candidates recognize the lesson learned from New Hampshire; that inclusion wins. The 2012 election is about liberty and prosperity, and candidates who keep the focus on the issues most important to Americans, jobs and the economy, will attain victory.”

—  John Wright

The Republican shuffle continues

Presidential candidates’ standing in polls undergoes another change as ‘fringe’ candidate Paul rises

Ron.Paul

Ron Paul

For entertainment’s sake, it just doesn’t get any better than watching Republican candidates vying for the 2012 presidential nomination give it their all — or lack of it — for a national TV audience.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who is now polling as a frontrunner in Iowa and New Hampshire, is the most recent to take center stage after months of sharing his political views on the sidelines and being dismissed as a “fringe” candidate by the political establishment and the national media.

Judging from his appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation broadcast Sunday, Nov. 20, he intends to make the most of it.

TV news host Bob Schieffer often showed signs of exasperation as he struggled to get in the last word during the interview with the controversial candidate.

After the broadcast it was clear Paul, who is known as the “intellectual godfather” of the Tea Party movement, had burst out of the “media blackout” his campaign flacks claim has thwarted him since he entered the race in May.

While his fellow Texas presidential candidate — Gov. Rick Perry — might often be at a loss for words, that’s obviously not the case with Paul, who lobbed the ball back to Schieffer every time it came flying at him.

In the process, Paul probably left most federal employees — especially career bureaucrats and military brass — a bit shaken now that he is rising in the polls.

Paul’s most controversial theory focused on the reason he believes Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. He claimed it occurred because of the influence of “flawed” U.S. foreign policy on other nations, and he placed the blame on U.S. “policy makers.”

The nation’s 12,000 diplomats should be put to work in improving relations with countries like Iran rather than trying to scare other countries’ leaders into submission, said Paul, who is a medical doctor in addition to being a politician. Sanctions against other countries are a

Webb.David

David Webb The Rare Reporter

bad idea because they are a preamble to war, he said.

In connection with his peaceful approach to foreign affairs, Paul said if he were elected president, he would close the 900 military bases the U.S. now operates in 130 countries and bring the troops home to protect the country. Because the U.S. is “bankrupt,” Paul said he also would shut down several federal agencies, including the departments of energy, education, interior, commerce, HUD and FEMA.

On top of that, Paul said he wants to reduce the federal workforce across the board by 10 percent.

Clearly, Paul has thought his proposal through more carefully than Gov. Perry, who near-fatally embarrassed himself in a recent debate, because the congressman can remember the names of all the agencies he wants to close.

But what on earth is going to happen to all of those federal employees when they are put out of work, and what is to become of the programs they administer?

This can’t be a popular idea with federal employees, who make up the largest workforce in the U.S., and members of the U.S. Armed Services.

When you add in all of the relatives and friends of people who are on the federal payroll, it’s possible that Paul’s numbers are going to fall as fast as they suddenly rose.

The latest financial reports for campaign contributions show large numbers of federal employees supporting him, but those reports reflect the period ending Sept. 30. He unveiled his plan to streamline the federal government Oct. 17. It’s possible federal employees will be giving the stability of their jobs a second thought, “progressive” layoff plan or not

Paul’s stand on LGBT issues didn’t come up during the interview, but they wouldn’t appeal to anyone who considers advancement of them critical in voting for a presidential candidate, according to his past statements about marriage equality.

Paul is opposed to legalization of same-sex marriage, and he supports the Defense of Marriage Act.

In contrast, Paul opposes a constitutional amendment to protect the current definition of marriage, but that is likely based on a widespread belief that the document should be inviolate.

He did support the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” so he has gained some LGBT voter support.

On other progressive issues, Paul’s views are similarly divergent.

With a medical background in gynecology, he is pro-life and opposed to abortions, yet he supports home-schooling and the legalization and regulation of marijuana and other drugs.

At this point, the most recent national poll by USA Today/Gallup is showing that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, at 20 percent and 19 percent respectively, are tied for the top spot in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

They are trailed by businessman Herman Cain at 16 percent, Paul at 10 percent, Perry at 8 percent, Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann at 5 percent and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum at 1 percent each. And with the exception of Paul, they are all virulently anti-LGBT.

Of course, those figures could go absolutely anywhere during the next year.

Perry and Bachmann were once frontrunners, and Gingrich has seen his fortunes rise, fall and rise again since he announced his candidacy.
Allegations of past sexual harassment will likely bring down Cain, and Gingrich’s past association as a highly-paid “consultant” for federal housing agencies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae will likely prove to be his undoing.

Romney’s numbers have remained more stable than the other candidates, and he seems to carry less baggage. That has led many to speculate that the former Massachusetts governor will eventually wind up with the nomination.

But for now it’s Paul’s turn in the spotlight, and that’s likely to make for some pretty intriguing debates when the seven candidates get on stage together in the coming days as the media pays more attention to the Texas congressman.

It will be interesting to see if they remember their goal is to prevent President Obama’s re-election or if they succumb to another dogfight. •

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for three decades.
E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

PHOTOS: Gov. Rick Perry must not like being called ‘Al Gore’s Texas cheerleader’

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Congressman Ron Paul, R-Texas, traded barbs on camera during Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate in California. But Perry also reportedly lit into Paul off-camera during a commercial break. Above is one of several photos that have emerged of the exchange. The Guardian reports:

Before Wednesday night’s debate, Paul’s campaign launched a series of attacks on Perry’s political career, including a hard-hitting TV ad, and followed with some snippy comments by Paul during the debate itself.

Several photographers captured the scene on stage at the Ronald Reagan Library – and of course there’s no way of knowing what was being discussed. But given Paul’s recent attacks, I’m guessing it wasn’t about the chances of the Texas A&M football team this season.

The Guardian has more photos. Paul’s ad accusing Perry of being Al Gore’s Texas cheerleader in 1988 is below:

—  John Wright

CHART: Rick Perry 1 of 5 presidential candidates who oppose LGBT community on every issue

The above chart from Ned Flaherty at Marriage Equality USA (click to enlarge) provides a snapshot of where each of the presidential candidates stands on LGBT issues. As you can see, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is one of five with No’s across the board. Openly gay Republican Fred Karger is the gay-friendliest of the bunch, followed by Barack Obama, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Unfortunately, it’s looking more and more like it will be a choice between Obama and either Bachmann, Perry or Romney (and likely some combination of the three).

—  John Wright

Poll: Gov. Perry, President Obama tied in Texas

Gov. Rick Perry

If Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry runs for president, he may have a hard time winning his own state.

A hypothetical matchup between Perry and President Barack Obama shows them tied in Texas, with each capturing 45 percent of the would-be vote, according to a survey conducted earlier this month by Public Policy Polling.

Perry faired the worst of several Republicans who were pitted against Obama in hypothetical matchups, according to the Texas Tribune:

Former Alaska Gov. and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin would beat Obama in Texas by just a single point, 47 percent to 46 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads Obama in Texas 49 to 42, while former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich leads the presdient 48 to 43. The Republican who fares best against Obama in Texas is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who trounces him 55 to 39.

In other polling news, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney easily won the first presidential straw ballot of the 2012 cycle, capturing 35 percent of the vote among New Hampshire Republicans. Texas Congressman Ron Paul finished second with 11 percent, followed by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty with 8 percent and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with 7 percent. Gov. Perry was not included in the poll.


—  John Wright