Good morning Austin:
I begin today’s First Reading with a fantasy sequence.
It’s Tuesday. The day before yesterday. We are at Rick and Anita Perry’s home in beautiful Round Top, Texas. It’s a rainy early morning. Anita Perry is in the spacious country kitchen preparing a breakfast scramble. The coffee is perking on the stove. Marcus Lutrell, who has been up since before dawn, is fussing with a window seal through which water is leaking.
The governor is not evident. He’s been sleeping in the guest room the last couple of nights because the miscues of the Trump campaign have left him too restless to sleep well and he hasn’t wanted to keep Anita up.
Anita calls upstairs. “Ricky. Your coffee’s ready. It’s that dark roast you like from Espressions.”
“Ricky. Coffee. I’ll bring you up a cup.”
Anita goes upstairs. The bed is empty. The sheets have been stripped, ripped, braided, one end secured to the bed post and the other end thrown out the open window.
“Marcus,” Anita shouts out. “He’s done it again. He’s gone. And he left the window open. The floor is soaked.”
“The Chevelle’s still here,” Lutrelle replies.
“Check the barn,” says Anita.
She’s right. Paint Creek, Perry’s trusty steed, is gone. Ricky had saddled up and rode before dawn.
“All right. Let’s turn on the TV,” says Marcus.
“Fox?” asks Anita.
“Try CNN,” says Marcus. “I don’t know why, but my gut says CNN. He must have ridden to Houston.”
Anita flips on he cable. She and Marcus sit themselves on the love seat, coffee in hand.
And, sure enough, there he is.
Marcus was right. CNN.
He’s talking up Trump.
And talking down the Gold Star Khan family.
Anita and Marcus slump in their seats.
“Ricky, Ricky, Ricky,” says Anita.
“He looks good though,” says Marcus. “Really good. That’s a long hard ride. Sounds good too.”
“He does look good,” says Anita. “I hope Mr. Trump realizes what he’s got in Ricky. Oh Ricky.”
Mr. Khan is the one that went out and struck the first blow. And in a campaign, if you’re going to go out and think that you can take a shot at somebody and not have incoming coming back at you, shame on you.
I think the Democrats used him in a way that quite frankly I’m not sure that I approve of. We love our veterans, we love our Gold Star families, but the fact of the matter is Mr. Khan politically used his time on that stage to go after Donald Trump. Why in the world he thought that he was going to get a free ride with that is beyond me. He shouldn’t get a free ride when he’s going to inject himself in the political arena.
History may remember Khizr Khan as the Trump slayer, the man whose convention appearance crystallized the outrage at Trump, and, who, by drawing Trump to respond, ad infinitum, attacking a Gold Star family, undid his already shaky campaign at a crucial juncture.
And, yet, just as the Khan controversy had subsided, here was Rick Perry bringing it up again.
On the face of it, it appeared nonsensical.
Whoa Wu, whoa.
That’s the longest-serving governor in Texas history you’re talking about – the guy whose portrait you’ll walk past every day you’re in the Capitol.
And then yesterday, there was this from the latest Public Policy Polling poll of Texas.
PPP’s new Texas poll finds that Ted Cruz has become unpopular in the state, and he could be in trouble for winning the Republican nomination in 2018. Overall only 39% of voters in the state approve of the job Cruz is doing, to 48% who disapprove. It was already clear from national polling that Donald Trump had come out ahead in his feud at the GOP convention with Cruz, but we find that even in Texas 52% of Republicans now say that they prefer Trump as their nominee this year to only 38% who would go with Cruz.
The skirmish with Trump seems to be contributing to an overall weakening of Cruz’s position with Republicans in the state. Only 50% of GOP voters say they’d like Cruz to be their Senate candidate again in 2 years, to 43% who say they would prefer someone else. He hovers right around that 50% mark in hypothetical match ups against both Michael McCaul (51/19) and Dan Patrick (49/27). Against Rick Perry though, who shares Cruz’s universal name recognition, Cruz faces a 9 point deficit at 46/37.
The PPP poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, completed two days before Perry rode off to Houston to attack the Khans on Trump’s behalf.
But no matter.
The point here is Rick Perry is back in the mix, even if his passions sometimes seems sort of mixed up.
Early in his second run for the White House last year, Perry emerged as the principled – even erudite – anti-Trump.
From a July 18, 2015 story by Sarah Rumpf at Breitbart:
Former Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) says Donald Trump is “unfit to be Commander-in-Chief,” and says the New York billionaire “should immediately withdraw from the race for President.”
Perry’s sharp words come after Trump attacked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), saying that McCain was not a war hero and was only regarded as such because he had been captured and held as a prisoner of war.
A few days later, Perry – at a time that Ted Cruz was cozying up to Trump – delivered a powerful speech describing Trump as a “cancer on conservatism.”
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Donald Trump’s politics “toxic” and his 2016 candidacy a “cancer” on conservatism Wednesday. The comments represented the strongest condemnation yet of the 2016 front-runner from any of his Republican rivals.
Perry’s criticisms came during remarks at the Opportunity and Freedom PAC forum in Washington, D.C., and they are the culmination of an increasingly bitter and personal spat between the two candidates.
“He is without substance when one scratches below the surface. He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: A toxic mix of demagoguery and mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued,” Perry said. “Let no one be mistaken — Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.”
After his own candidacy ended, Perry threw himself into campaigning for Cruz with a passion that rivaled anything he had brought to bear on his own behalf.
And then, the first week in May, three days after Trump thrashed Cruz in Indiana, ending his candidacy, with Cruz lashing out at Trump as a “pathological liar” and “utterly amoral,” here was Perry, not only happily endorsing Trump but advertising his availability to be his running mate.
From my story the day that Perry unveiled his portrait at the Capitol.
Former Gov. Rick Perry’s official portrait was unveiled Friday at the Capitol Rotunda, and no, he is not wearing the brainy hipster glasses he used to rebrand himself going into his second presidential run.
But the actual Perry was wearing them to see the oil painting hung on a day that broke with a “Thank you Rick!” tweet from Donald Trump amid speculation that Perry might be called upon to help make America great again.
The speculation was mostly generated by Perry telling CNN on Thursday that he would say yes if Trump asked him to be his vice presidential running mate — the same Trump whom Perry last July called a know-nothing “cancer on conservatism.”
With new glasses and far better preparation, Perry entered the 2016 race offering himself as the successful governor of the largest red state.
His campaign never gained traction, but he offered the most serious critique of Trump in the early portion of the campaign, saying the mogul would lead the Republican Party the way of the Whigs — to the graveyard.
Perry was the first of the large Republican field of presidential candidates to fold his tent, later endorsing and campaigning for Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz with zeal in Iowa, South Carolina and Texas.
Of his stark warnings about Trump, Perry said Friday, “The rhetoric is in the heat of battle, it’s in the chaos of a presidential bid. If no one doesn’t understand that, then they don’t understand how our process of elections work. We compete, and then we let bygones be bygones.”
“When the choice is Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, that becomes abundantly easy for me to make that decision,” Perry said.
Perry earned the positive tweet from Trump by telling CNN that the New York billionaire “is one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen.”
“He knows how to market, he knows how to brand, and he’s vanquished 16 pretty capable men and women,” Perry said Friday, adding that he believes Trump has what it takes to improve the economy and rebuild the military, and that Trump recognizes “he’s going to need some people who have great experience” to help him govern.
Perry didn’t get the nod, but he has remained an aggressive, if unofficial, Trump surrogate.
At the Republican National Convention, Perry even faulted Cruz for failing to endorse Trump.
OK. So what gives. Naked ambition? Pure politics?
I would offer a slightly different take.
It’s simply love of the game.
I think it was George W. Bush who loved the John Fogerty song, Centerfield.
But it’s Perry who really embodies the “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play, today” spirit.
And this is why Trump should have chosen Perry as his running mate and not that stiff Pence, who won the nomination with his mealy-mouthed endorsement of Cruz in the Indiana primary in which he praised Trump so much it did Cruz more harm than good.
As campaigners, as politicians, there is simply no comparison between the junior varsity Pence and the Gold Medal Olympian Perry. Pence is a wan Man from Glad. Perry is the ebullient Man from I’m-Thrilled-to- be-Here.
I have a selfish interest here. Covering the Perry vice presidential campaign would have been the joy of a lifetime.
So, as Trump retools his campaign, I ask, is it too late to dump Pence for Perry?
It looks to me like Trump is already laying the groundwork, this week unveiling a new campaign sticker design that not only strips the “RUMP” from “TRUMP,” but dispenses with Pence entirely.
It’s not too late. The stakes are too high. Trump-Perry 2016!
And Lord knows that Trump needs some more able surrogates, because right now, the polls don’t look too good.
All of them.