Why Rick Perry Is Worse Than George W. Bush - Rolling Stone
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Why Rick Perry Is Worse Than George W. Bush

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George W. Bush and Rick Perry

Alex Wong/Getty Images and Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rick Perry’s run for president is giving plenty of folks flashbacks. 

A Christian-conservative Texas governor who served his country as a military pilot after excelling at cheerleading rather than academics: He’s Bush 2.0 — right?

Not exactly.

A closer examination of Perry’s record in Texas shows he’s no carbon copy of the man he served as Lieutenant Governor — he’s worse.

At his core, George W. Bush was hybrid — a Yankee-born, born-again Texan who dressed up his establishment GOP bloodline with a Stetson. His ability to speak both Harvard b-school and religious-right basetalk made him a formidable Republican animal. But at the end of the day, Dubya was still the grandson of Wall Street banker and Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush.

Perry doesn’t need to clear brush on a ranch to prove his Texas bona fides. He was born and raised by tenant farmers in Paint Creek, Texas — a north-central nowheresville, 50 miles from Abilene — who shipped their son off to be a military cadet at Texas A&M around the time Bush was hob-nobbing with fellow secret society scions at Yale.

If Bush could sell a tale of religious conversion, of Jesus leading him to sobriety, he never convinced anyone he was a cross-bearing member of the religious right. Perry is a true believer: He attends a 3,000 member evangelical mega church, calls on Texas citizens to pray for rain, and recently declared that American needs divine stimulus: “With the economy in trouble, communities in crisis and people adrift in a sea of moral relativism,” Perry said, “we need God’s help.”

As Governor of Texas, George W. Bush really was a “uniter-not-a-divider.” He forged grand bargains with moderates of both parties to shape social policy, with a particular focus on education. Perry, according to Texas Monthly‘s Paul Burka, is a hard-right ideologue by instinct. “Perry has been the opposite kind of chief executive: dismissive of Democrats and fond of political maneuvers that put the heat on moderates within his own party …. Perry is a hard man. He is the kind of politician who would rather be feared than loved — or respected.” He recently slashed $4 billion from the state’s education budget.

Finally Bush was a weak governor; it wasn’t his fault — that’s the design of the office. Perry, on the other hand, has energetically consolidated power within the executive branch. According to Burka, Perry has installed “political allies in every state agency, effectively establishing a Cabinet form of government and making him vastly more powerful than any of his precessors.”

Don’t let the petulant smirk fool you –Rick Perry isn’t a George W. Bush clone. He’s further right, more religious, and an order of magnitude more ruthless.

If you think the last Texas governor in the White House treated America “pretty ugly” — you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.


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