The Five Thousand Dollar Man

The Republican Presidential candidates are just beginning to explore the rich trove of material Rick Perry has left for them across a long, amateurish career. The thoughtless series of overstatements that he collected into his “book” are a million bumper stickers waiting to be printed.

The problem his book presents for the Republican field is that most of that material only disqualifies him from the White House, not the nomination. It’s his shady political deals that may provide the material his opponents need to slow his momentum and give the Party a shot at a credible nominee.

In the Tea Party debate Monday night Bachmann scored what is likely to be the first of many blows on the subject of Perry’s pay-for-play politics. For her attack she selected the incident most likely to resonate with her religious base, but there’s plenty more where that came from.

Bachmann criticized Perry’s order requiring pre-teen girls in Texas to receive a vaccine against the HPV virus, a very common sexually transmitted disease. There’s room to argue the merits of the vaccine, but the process by which it became law is strange. When I say strange here, I mean strange in a “F*^%$-Golden” sort of way.

For starters, my beloved home state of Texas hardly mandates anything. People still complain about wearing seatbelts. What’s more, everyone knows that good girls in Texas don’t have sex and the handful that do just get what’s coming to them. So why in all hell would the Governor of Texas, by executive order no less, make an STD vaccine a statewide requirement for all girls? Its offensive to his base, violates his principles, and forces parents into awkward conversations about you-know-what.

The Legislature wouldn’t have passed this law in a million years for a million dollars (though, for six million, who knows?). So Perry took matters in his own hands and simply went around them with an executive order.

Perry’s former chief of staff was the lobbyist for the pharmaceutical company that was marketing the vaccine. The company, Merck, made a modest donation of $5,000 that year to Perry, which is not all that significant. Perhaps it was the inside relationship, a bit of backslapping, and a subtle “you know I still have those photographs” that made the wisdom of the policy coalesce for him. Or it might have been the $30,000 Merck had donated to Perry over the years. Or maybe it was the $355,000 they gave to the Republican Governor’s Association under Perry’s leadership.

Possibly he just had a burst of concern for the reproductive health of women – a concern that appeared out of nowhere, extended only as far as this vaccine, and stayed with him just long enough to sign the order before disappearing forever.

It’s not Bachmann’s attack on this issue as much as Perry’s response that really made the night fun. When she mentioned the $5,000 contribution from Merck Perry’s response was, “It was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raised about $30 million. And if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.”

That’s right. He didn’t say, “How dare you accuse me of corrupt dealings!” or “I always do what’s best for the people of Texas,” or even “The unprecedented campaign cash I raked in only affected my policies a little bit around the edges.” His response amounts to, “You have no idea how much I cost, you Yankee shrew.”

Perry got sideways at Bachmann for calling him cheap.

We badly need to win this election, but the first step is to nominate a competent adult. We’re laboring through our third consecutive nutjob “frontrunner” after Trump and Bachmann have taken their humiliating turns. God willing in the end we will do what Republicans always do – pick the guy who finished second last time.

If a single $5,000 donation could persuade Rick Perry to put his career in jeopardy, how much money would it take to make him quit?

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