A few days past the one month mark from the national protests known as the Tea Parties, the Governor of Texas is still trying to clean up what in the world he was trying to say as he spoke before a gathering in Austin.
On April 15, Governor Perry grabbed the microphone and the national spotlight as he tossed some red meat to the crowd - Texans are fed up and the state just may secede if Washington doesn't shape up. The crowd was a mix of bi-partisan support for lower taxes, an end to the power grabs on display in Washington, and smaller government in the lives of ordinary citizens. Governor Perry, a conservative Republican governor, is a savvy politician. A former Democrat, this is not his first rodeo. He coyly rose to support federalism while implying the ultimate - for the state of "don't mess with" Texas to simply withdraw from the Union.
Absurd? Of course. Tons o' fun for the media? You betcha. Governor Perry rode that bit of nonsense all the way with lots of interviews and op-eds. Governor Perry, further proving he doesn't get the Tea Party idea, after all, joined in with Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina to have a "Tea Party 2.0" via teleconference. Both have received lots of press for standing firm on what stimulus money their states will and will not accept from the federal government. By conducting a phone conference, they both prove they are willing to seize the Tea Party idea and exploit it for their own uses.
Texas is not rejecting all stimulus money, let that be clear. Susan Combs, state controller, has placed the state's expenditures and revenues online. She has the site in place to track all federal funds and how they are spent after they reach Austin. Governor Perry rejects the amount of federal money that comes with the strings attached as it pertains to unemployment compensation.
In Sunday's Austin American - Statesman, Perry once again denied that the State of Texas will secede under his leadership. "I can't say I was surprised that critics recast my defense of federalism and fiscal discipline into advocacy for secession from the Union. I have never advocated for secession and never will." Of course he wasn't "surprised". He counted on the cheers from the crowd as he spewed forth with the veiled threats and cameras rolling.
Perry is up for re-election. From where I sit, he is not deserving of a third term. An unprecedented third term for a Texas governor. It is time for leadership with tempered speech. Common sense decency.