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Rick Perry: The Best Little Whore In Texas

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The governor bought the act, paving the way for his impressive slate of primary-season pandering to evangelicals this year. The big ploy was an early-August stadium God-tacular called "The Response," in which Perry invited Christian leaders – featuring a heavy concentration of Rapture merchants and End Timers – to pack into Reliant Stadium in Houston to read the Good Book and "respond" to wayward America's departure from proper Christian values. Perry surely scored points with evangelicals everywhere by brazenly using state resources to promote the event, which his office unironically described as "a nondenominational, apolitical Christian prayer meeting." And his performance in front of the crowd of 30,000 evangelicals was strong stuff. He smiled through his perfect tan and repeatedly clasped his hands together for rhetorical emphasis as he read from the Book of Joel: "Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning!"

The choice of reading was no accident, as the Book of Joel is very popular with the two preachers who shared the stage with Perry that night, Alice Patterson and C.J. Jackson, both bigwigs in the extremist movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation. In fact, followers of NAR sometimes refer to themselves as "Joel's Army." They believe Joel describes how God is coming back to set up a "kingdom on Earth" with a church that will be "organized more as a military force with an army, navy and air force," to dispense justice and set shit straight with all of us nonbelievers before the second coming of Jesus.

NAR literature dwells endlessly on the need to conquer the so-called "seven mountains" of earthly culture, including the media, Hollywood and Congress, so all the Democrats and relativist comics and other satanic forces can be purged on time before the Great End. These people are completely nuts, and quite obviously expect Perry to start filling the cattle cars for them as soon as he gets elected.

Watching Perry addressing the crowd, several questions naturally came to mind. One was, "Does he really believe this stuff?" But another one was, "Would it matter if he did?" After all, there are times in life when insanity is indistinguishable from cynicism. A man who will take money to greenlight a dangerous nuclear-waste dump that might blow up 30 years from now is not much different from the guy who doesn't balance his checkbook because he thinks Armageddon is coming before the end of the quarter. In both cases, the long view doesn't matter.

That is why Rick Perry is so dangerous. He represents the ultimate merger of nihilistic short-term corporate calculation and rightist apocalyptic extremism. He is a politician willing to do absolutely anything for a buck today, playing to a demographic of millions willing to walk off a cliff en masse tomorrow. In a Rick Perry White House, there will not be much planning for a rainy-day future.

Perry's run for the White House as a small-government Tea Party conservative is one of the all-time great marketing scams, a breathtaking high-wire act by a man who if nothing else certainly has the gigantic balls required for the most powerful job in the world. But it's an act that should have ended after just a few steps down the rope, when he slipped up in the Orlando debate and told the truth.

Among other attacks that night, Perry was taking criticism for his decision back in 2007 to order all sixth-grade girls in Texas to be inoculated against HPV – specifically, with three shots of Gardasil vaccine, a Merck product that sells for a tidy $120 a shot. Michele Bachmann, who not only hates the move as an intrusive use of state power but probably also because it interferes with God's ability to administer punitive cancers to dabblers in extramarital sex, blasted Perry for delivering such a blatant favor to his corporate buddies at Merck. "We cannot forget that in the midst of this executive order, there is a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate," she said, pointing out that Perry's former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for Merck.

Perry's response was telling. "It was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them," he said. "I raised about $30 million. And if you're saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended."

The Orlando crowd applauded nervously, not quite grasping what Perry had just said. Had the debate taken place in Austin, however, the crowd would have erupted in knowing laughter. Rick Perry, as any Texan knows, does not roll over for 5,000 measly dollars. He charges a hell of a lot more than that. The price tag varies, of course, depending on the favor. Based on the donations Perry has collected, it costs an average of $39,354 to buy a seat on the board of a state university. Landing a state road project runs about half a million, while creating an entire government commission specifically designed to protect your business interests will run you more than $13 million.

We thought Bush was the worst thing Texas ever gave to America. But if Rick Perry wins the White House, it won't be long before we're all remembering crazy-ass W. and his loony Iraq crusade with something like fondness. Bush, for all his flaws, actually believed in something, and was filled with humanity – negative humanity, mostly, but it was there all the same. Good ol' George, the ex-drunk who loved football, couldn't speak English, choked on his pretzels and sincerely wanted to save Iraq from itself!

There were lines even George Bush wouldn't cross, but we don't know any that exist for Rick Perry. Imagine what he could charge for abolishing the EPA, or selling Mount Rushmore to the Sultan of Brunei. And while he may have slipped in the polls, he's far from done. In this country, you never count out the lowest common denominator, especially when it knows how to raise money.

This story is from the November 10, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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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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