Rick Perry’s book “Fed Up” was made out to be a big deal. Commentators insisted it would “haunt” the not-so-smooth-talking Texan into low polling numbers and doom him into giving up his campaign. While he certainly has low polling numbers, and while his campaign is certainly on its way out, was the book really focused on enough to point out the inconsistencies that would have made it a problem for his campaign? Certainly not.
The last time I heard “Fed Up” mentioned in a negative context was in early September, when revelations about reference to Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” sent the nation into a frenzy. But after some quick, and perhaps odd, explanations from his people (most notably Ray Sullivan, Perry’s communication director), the issue seemed to largely go away. Even if the idea that it wasn’t meant to be a present-day explanation of his leanings on policy fell short.
But Perry has stuck by some of the ideas of his book. They just aren’t necessarily as controversial.
Perry is obviously a big fan of letting states do as they please. The benefit? Variety, of course. In the first chapter of “Fed Up” Perry says, “Crucial to understanding federalism in modern day America is the concept of mobility, or ‘the ability to vote with your feet.’ If you don’t support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol — don’t come to Texas. If you don’t like medicinal marijuana and gay marriage, don’t move to California.” This begins a series of mentions about California – all negative, of course – that span throughout the book, and for that matter, throughout his campaign. If Texas is heaven (and Perry thinks it is), then California is hell – and he makes sure you know about it.
One thing that has not flown well is his inability to remove himself from Texas. In “Fed Up” Perry wears his Texas stereotype like it’s a luxurious mink fur coat – meant to impress, not necessarily to prove a point. A description of himself in chapter 2 will show you what I mean: “the kind of guy who goes jogging in the morning packing a Ruger .380 with laser sights, loaded with hollow point bullets, and shoots a coyote that is threatening his daughter’s dog.”
Problem is, that continued reference to his Texan ways doesn’t always fly elsewhere. In trying to recover from his inability to count to three fiasco, Perry posted this tweet: “Really glad I wore my boots 2nite because I stepped in it out there. I did still name 2 agencies to eliminate. Obama has never done that!” Oops, again? No one outside of Texas cares about your boots, Perry. In fact, after that they’d probably prefer you march of the stage to “These Boots Were Made For Walking” and not come back.
Perry still also talks about the “Founders’ Vision” mentioned repeatedly in “Fed Up.” In chapter 4, Perry chalks up the all the problems from not following the founders’ vision of small government, states rights and ‘Merica! to the progressives, who he says use the word progressive fraudulently, “because for the Progressive, progress is marked not be how free you are, but how much government can ‘do’ for you.”
Here’s my problem with this: Perry wants to change the Constitution in more ways than one. If the founders’ vision was so awesome, why the need to glue stuff on? Laid out in “Seven ways Rick Perry wants to change the Constitution,” Chris Moody of The Ticket notes all the ways in which the founders’ vision actually seems to be inadequate by Perry’s standards.
Those are some pretty big changes for someone who loves the founders so much. This has certainly come back to bite him. In his book, Perry expresses a much more respectful tone of the power of the Supreme Court than these proposals suggest.
Specifically, he says, ““The Court should be revered as the guardian of the rule of law and of our most basic founding principles. It should be particularly protective of our founding structure – a unique structure of dual sovereigns that placed power as close to the people as was practical so that the people could govern themselves.”
Sounds like he has backed off that a little bit. Sullivan, providing thoughtful insight as usual, said that stripping their power like Perry suggests is “consistent with the processes and protections build into the Constitution by the original framers” … even though specific clauses in the Constitution would disagree.
In all fairness, Perry does refer to the justices as individuals who rule from the bench and even says one judge “wakes up each day basking in the glow of his power to swing the Court.” Clearly, these observations necessitate taking action against the written word of the founders.
In chapter 8 (which is actually my favorite, mostly because of the title: Standing athwart history, not doing a damned thing), Perry lambasts Republicans for not standing up to Democrats. He says, “Tomorrow will come and the Democrat will be on the battlefield again, expecting the Republican to once again capitulate — and, unfortunately, he would be correct.”
Odd how things turn out, isn’t it? Though Perry is certainly feisty, it’s clear his oratory skills probably couldn’t take on very many Democrats. Whose capitulating now? “Oops.”
In the last chapter, Perry reinforces his idea that government should be small. And writes what has probably become the most well-known quote of the book: “We simply want the federal government’s involvement in our lives to be constitutional, paid for, effective, and as minimal as possible.”
That is, of course, if passing an amendment banning abortion and banning gay marriage is “as minimal as possible.”
But hey, Perry’s poll numbers are hovering at about 8 percent. So, inconsistencies or not, he’s out the door. My recommendation? Read “Fed Up” while an eye roll is still entertaining.