In true frontier fashion, Texas Gov. Rick Perry went into this week’s presidential debate with both guns blazing. Unfortunately, they were aimed squarely at his own feet.
Perry, who’d been nosediving in the polls on the strength – or rather weakness – of several horrid debate performances, was undoubtedly counseled to unholster all his Lone Star swagger and try to lead the league in testosterone.
Problem was, for all his false bravado his six-guns were empty. A governor who champions reduced in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants was more than just a little disingenuous in trying to paint Mitt Romney as the soft-on-immigration candidate. How’d he try it? By recycling a worn-out story from four years ago about how the former Massachusetts governor once hired a lawn service that utilized some illegal workers. Yawn. As if we’re all expected to check the immigration status every time we hire a home-care company. It was a nonstarter when it was first hatched. Is that all Perry’s got?
Perry made his blunder worse, and totally lost the Las Vegas debate crowd, when he repeatedly interrupted Romney to tilt at his windmills. Everything may be bigger in Texas, but Perry made himself small.
There is no comparison between, as radio show host Neal Boortz put it, Romney’s inadvertently hiring an illegal leaf blower and Perry’s perpetrating a public policy that rewards illegal immigration at the expense of Texas taxpayers – and treating them better than legal, law-abiding residents of neighboring states.
Perry even defended his stance at an earlier debate with a totally over-the-top assertion that if you disagree with him, “you don’t have a heart.” Besides being the stuff of emotional blackmail, it’s also willfully deceitful on Perry’s part: No one was suggesting the children of illegals be kicked out of school or denied an education, as he claimed they were; they merely, and rightfully, questioned the state subsidizing it.
Gov. Perry’s biggest blunder is this: He, or his advisers, decided that the best way to build himself up is to tear someone else down. It rarely works. And the strategy plays into the hands of the “mainstream” media, who clearly delight in playing “let’s you and him fight” with the GOP presidential field. Interesting that they never do that with Democrats – and they never do vivisection on Democratic economic proposals the way they do with Republicans’. Then again, you can’t cut into a plan that doesn’t exist.
As for Perry, the experts and the campaign dollars keep saying he’s in the top tier of candidates. They may continue saying it long after Perry himself has said otherwise.