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Rick Perry: The Best Little Whore In Texas

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Liliana Ros, a party committeewoman in Florida, shook Perry's hand during a commercial break at the Orlando debate and promptly finked on him to reporters, offering a pervy description that was missing only the open raincoat and the raging boner. "He grabbed my hand and held on to it," Ros said. "His hand was so cold, like ice. And he was sweating. He didn't seem well, like he was in pain or he was sick or something. I don't know what it was, but something was definitely wrong."

As soon as Perry became that most fragile of early-campaign life-forms, the "presumptive front-runner," opponents and reporters began scrambling to find the skeletons in his closet. The journalism world is abuzz with salacious whispers about his private life, while liberals have focused on his ties to the New Apostolic Reformation, an apocalyptic sect of loopy Christian fundamentalists who think Jesus is coming back soon to blow up the planet. But voters who want to know who Rick Perry really is would do well to remember the advice of noted political analyst Hannibal Lecter, who instructed Jodie Foster about the serial killer she was tracking in The Silence of the Lambs. What does he do, Lecter asked, this man you seek? He kills women? No, that is incidental. Don't look at what the man does, look at what he is.

It's the same with Rick Perry.

Yes, Perry has deployed some of the campaign's most extreme anti-government rhetoric, denouncing Social Security as an "illegal Ponzi scheme," calling for the repeal of the federal income tax, even seeming to threaten Ben Bernanke with mob violence if he came to Texas. And yes, he hangs out with some of the weirdest religious nuts in America, keeping as allies a Texas evangelical who believes the Democrats are literally controlled by a Satanic demon called Jezebel, and another who believes that a recent Perry-led religious rally helped break an ancient curse laid down on Texas soil by Native American cannibals. And sure, yes, he promises to be a more-than-unusually obnoxious belligerent in the culture wars, having appointed three consecutive creationists to head the Texas State Board of Education, signed a law mandating that every woman who wants to get an abortion must first be forced Clockwork Orange-style to stare at a sonogram of the fetus, and executed more prisoners than any governor in modern times.

Yes, he has done all of those things, and more. But it's all incidental. When you ask what Perry's true nature is – the first and principal thing that defines him – there's just one answer: favors.

Favors are the one consistent thread running through Perry's political career. Throughout his time as governor, whenever his ideology or his religion comes into conflict with the need to give a handout to a major campaign donor, ideology and religion lose every single time.

Though 94 percent of schools in Texas teach a sex-ed curriculum based on abstinence-only – an approach that led one watchdog group to conclude that "shaming and fear-based instruction are the standard means of teaching students about sexuality" in Texas – Perry nonetheless signed an executive order mandating that those same girls subjected to those abstinence-only classes receive an STD vaccine. You can't talk about STDs to sixth-grade girls, but if it's worth $120 a shot to a pharmaceutical company like Merck, you can jam the birds-and-the-bees lesson right into their arms.

Those in Texas who have followed Perry most closely over the years have all come to the same conclusion about him. "He's a cash-and-carry governor," says Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, a group that monitors campaign contributions in the state. "He has an extremely strong stomach for holding his nose and doing really dirty favors."

"He'll be whatever you want him to be," says one longtime political opponent. "He's all about greed."

"There's no line he won't cross," says another.

"This guy doesn't believe in one damn thing," says a third.

As for how this classic, big-government, machine politician – a man who made massive government stimulus routine at a time when Barack Obama was still shooting baskets in the Senate gymnasium – could run as a small-market conservative and Tea Party champion, many in Texas express bewilderment.

"If you tell a lie often enough, people believe it," says Debra Medina, a Tea Party Republican who ran against Perry in the gubernatorial primary last year. "That's Rick Perry."

It's just after midday, a Monday afternoon, and I'm barreling down a stretch of State Highway 176 in the deadest, hottest part of the Texas desert, a few miles shy of the New Mexico border and about an hour west of the rusted oil wells and Friday night lights of Odessa-Permian. Just before I get to New Mexico, I slow down, hang a right and roll down a dirt road, out of America and into a different country. Rick Perry Country. This is a land neither capitalist nor socialist, but somehow boasting the worst aspects of both systems.

The specific spot I'm looking for is a giant hole in the ground – one of the nation's largest repositories of nuclear waste. The facility is run by a company called Waste Control Specialists, the creature of a shadowy billionaire named Harold Simmons, who was one of the single largest financial backers of the Swift-boat campaign against John Kerry, donating more than $3 million.

Chew on that for a moment: The Kerry smear campaign was powered in large part by radioactive waste – or, more specifically, by the fat government contracts to store such waste that were swallowed up by Simmons, a supposedly "anti-government" extremist who, naturally, is one of Rick Perry's biggest supporters.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Please direct all media requests to taibbimedia@yahoo.com.

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