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Perry takes shots from the right during uneven performance

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Sep 3, 2005
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First Reading: Perry takes shots from the right during uneven performance

By Jason Embry | Tuesday, September 13, 2011, 01:02 AM

Perry is shaky at times, with opponents hitting him during the debate and Palin hitting him after it.

(Happy birthday to Cathy Casey of Texas Monthly, Thanh Tan of the Texas Tribune and Matt Mackowiak.)

At least for now, Gov. Rick Perry’s chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination is Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. But it was the second- and third-tier candidates who shed light on some of Perry’s greatest vulnerabilities in Monday night’s presidential debate — and they did so from his right.

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania pounded away at Perry for ordering in 2007 that schoolgirls get vaccinated against the human papillomavirus. The order never took full effect and it gave parents the option of opting out, but the idea of requiring an inoculation against a sexually transmitted disease just isn’t going to play well with GOP primary voters.

“This is big government run amok,” Santorum said.

Bachmann noted that former Perry chief of staff Mike Toomey was the lobbyist for the company producing the vaccine, and that’s why the issue is so potent. Not only could it offend small-government social conservatives who think Perry was promoting promiscuity, but it also appears he was trying to help a friend. (Perry’s response that the company only gave him $5,000 while he has raised tens of millions probably didn’t help his cause much.)

Bachmann also landed a solid punch against Perry for signing a law that allows children of illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition if those children have been in the state for three years. Perry defended the legislation as a way to allow those students to work toward citizenship and pursue the American dream instead of languishing on government assistance. But Bachmann had a crisper response, saying it was not the American way to give such benefits to people who came to the country illegally.

This remains a two-person race between Perry and Romney, with many voters and the media seeing Perry as the more conservative candidate. But the issues that Bachmann and Santorum highlighted could peel away Perry’s support on the right at the same time that Romney raises doubts about Perry’s electability.

That’s not to say that Perry is in a weak position. He has a double-digit lead in numerous polls and is well-positioned in Iowa, home of the first nominating contests. But Monday, for the second time in as many debates, he failed to put together a convincing beginning-to-end performance.

Perry scored some points on Romney. But he has still not proven that he has a firm grasp of national issues. He continues to talk about needing to have a “national conversation” about Social Security without saying what he would contribute to that conversation. He still talks in platitudes about lower taxes and lighter regulation when it comes to the economy, while Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman have released much more detailed plans. And when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Perry whether tax cuts should be paid for with offsetting spending cuts, the governor didn’t come close to a direct answer.

“People are tired of spending money we don’t have on programs we don’t want,” Perry replied. That line got applause inside the Tampa debate auditorium, just like other Perry zingers. And the person with the most detailed proposals doesn’t always win the election. But Perry hasn’t found his footing on some national issues, which is probably why his team isn’t yet making him available for lengthy one-on-one, televised interviews with serious reporters.

Until Perry survives such grillings, or at least brings a stronger game to the debates, doubts about whether he can go the distance will linger.

• Here is Kate Alexander’s front-page debate story from this morning’s Statesman.

• Let’s look at some of the rest of the reaction out there, starting with the always-excellent list of winners and losers from Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post. He says the losers were Huntsman, Paul and, yep, Perry: “The frontrunner didn’t get it done tonight. After surviving the expected back and forth with Romney over Social Security, Perry seemed to let his guard down a bit when the subject turned to his executive order on the HPV vaccine. Big mistake. Bachmann lit into him and Santorum jumped on too. (Romney said nothing but had to be thrilled with the development.) Perry tried to emphasize that he was acting to save lives but it didn’t sell. Following that exchange, he looked flustered and missed a chance to go after Romney in a more meaningful way on health care. And Perry’s answer on illegal immigration drew boos from the audience. Looking for a silver lining for Perry? He demonstrated a willingness to clean up self-created messes on both Social Security and his ‘treasonous’ remark about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.”

Cillizza says the winners were Bachmann, Gingrich, the Gingrich-Santorum alliance and Romney: “Four debates. Four times Romney has wound up in the winner’s circle. It’s not a coincidence. Romney proved yet again that he is the best debater in this field with another solid performance in which he effectively downplayed his liabilities on health care and accentuated his strengths on jobs and the economy. Romney played more offense than he has in previous debates, taking the fight to Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Social Security. He also got a major assist from Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.), both of whom relentlessly bashed Perry. But that’s how debates work. Romney also, smartly, ignored the tea party audience in the hall — who occasionally booed him — and focused his messaging on the much broader audience of people watching the debate on CNN.”

• Jennifer Rubin, also from the Washington Post: “The issue in tonight’s Tea Party debate was supposed to be Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s controversial statements on Social Security. It did come up, but the fireworks turned out to be on immigration and on his mandatory HPV vaccination, when Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) finally awoke from her slumber and, along with a very effective Rick Santorum, pummeled Perry on the topic. As in the first debate, Perry started strong and lost steam and ground later in the debate. It was the second uneven but not disastrous performance for him, topped off by an atrocious answer on Afghanistan. … Perry was at his best reciting his states’ jobs record, although Newt Gingrich deflated his bubble a bit by pointing out that government doesn’t create jobs. Perry simultaneously tried to change his views (in his book, he was against Medicare Part D, now he is for it; in the past he opposed national tort reform, in the debate he supported it) while refusing to give ground rhetorically. He staunchly defended giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants — prompting a chorus of boos. He stood firm on HPV mandatory vaccination, saying only he shouldn’t have resorted to an executive order. One of his worst moments came late in the debate, when he agreed with Jon Huntsman about the urgency of returning troops from Afghanistan. Did he forget his talking point? He’s supposed to be against timetables and premature withrawals.”

• Roger Simon: “At the last Republican debate only five days ago, Perry complained that he felt like he had become a “piñata.” Monday night, at the CNN/Tea Party Express debate in Tampa, Perry must have felt like he was inside a kettle drum with the other candidates jumping up and down on it. Even moderate, measured, calm and collected Jon Huntsman, who is so far back in the polls he might as well be running in an alternate universe, decided that climbing on Perry was his staircase to heaven. Perry, like two other border-state governors before him, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, is a relative moderate on immigration and Perry said during the debate that building a fence along the entire border with Mexico is impractical.”

• Fred Barnes: “If a debate more than four months before the first vote is cast can influence the outcome of a presidential nomination race, the debate last night among eight Republicans should aid Mitt Romney’s candidacy. Seldom has there been as clear a winner. Romney was crisp and succinct, prepared and focused, and aggressive in going after his chief rival for the GOP presidential nomination, Texas governor Rick Perry, when he needed to be. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, showed once again that he’s a far better candidate now than he was four years ago. He did well in these instances, among others: spelling out the differences between the health care plan he championed in Massachusetts and Obamacare; explaining the problem with the Fair Tax is that it gives short shrift to the middle class; pointing out the built-in advantages Perry has in Texas in governing successfully; and refraining from boasting, except to say that ‘if America needs a turnaround, that’s what I do.’”

• Howard Kurtz: “In the end, the Tampa debate didn’t move the ball much. Perry and Romney are still slugging it out as the most likely nominees. But Romney served notice that he is going to fight like hell, and perhaps more important, this sometimes-awkward candidate seemed comfortable doing so.”

• Paul Burka: “Perry was clearly off his game during the tea party debate. He looked uncomfortable, his face was strained, his combativeness was muted. He looked to me like a man with back pain. I wondered if he were wearing a brace. I’ve had back surgery, and it hurt to watch him. I thought Romney won the debate. He took it to Perry from the outset, and he went for the intimidation play, staring his rival in the face as Perry gave his answers. Perry stumbled several times. I think of him as someone who has a great feel for his constituency, but I don’t know how anyone could have had a feeling for that constituency. That was one scary audience. Perry muffed the border fence question, muffed the dream act question (though his answers were sincere and courageous, and I agree with him in both cases). I thought he muffed Bachmann’s attack on the HPV question too, saying that he raised $30 million and he couldn’t be bought for $5,000. Croney capitalism is going to stick to Perry. There are too many instances-Harold Simmons and the nuclear waste dump, Bob Perry and the Residential Construction Commission, recipients of emerging technology grants, fund managers who got to invest teacher retirement money. It is a rich lode, and it is going to be mined by his enemies.”

• As the awesome Molly Ball from Politico reports, Sarah Palin also got in on the commentary: “Sarah Palin took a hard swipe against her friend Rick Perry in a post-debate TV appearance … Asked by Greta Van Susteren about someone in Perry’s office going to work for a drug company that made the vaccine, Palin sought to put a finer point on it: ‘That someone, as Michele Bachmann pointed out, was Governor Perry’s former chief of staff.’ She went on: ‘That’s crony capitalism. That’s part of the problem that we have in this country is that people are afraid, even in our own party, to call one another out on that. True reform and fighting the corruption and fighting the crony capitalism is a tough thing to do within your own party. You have to go up against the big guns and they will try to destroy you when you call them out on the mistakes that they have made. Believe me, I know that, I have the bumps and bruises to prove it because that’s what I have been doing for the last 20 years … calling out the corruption in government. Michele Bachmann tried to make that point tonight and she’s going to get potentially crucified.’”

• Ken Herman: “You never know who’s going to turn up as a key player in a presidential race. Remember Willie Horton (the ex-con slayer, not the ex-Tiger slugger) in 1988? And remember Bill Ayers in 2008? This year, so far, we have Charles Ponzi, he of scheme fame. Gov. Rick Perry, the leading contender, so far, for the GOP presidential nomination, believes Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. It’s interesting how sometimes something named for a person becomes more famous than the person. You remember the engine he invented more than you remember Rudolf Diesel. Ditto for Ponzi’s scheme. Seems unfair, so let’s right that wrong right here.”

• Gallup daily tracking poll: Obama’s job approval rate is 42 percent (no change) and his disapproval rate is 49 percent (+1).

Send me an e-mail at [email protected] if you want a link to First Reading as soon as I post it. Also, you can follow me on Twitter for news updates around the clock.

Get more Legislative coverage inside the Virtual Capitol


Perry uncovers the scam of the century

Frank Cerabino, The Palm Beach Post

Published: 7:26 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12, 2011

This column is to all of you Ponzi schemers.

Yes, I'm talking to you, Grandma and Grandpa. Step away from the mailbox.

We're on to your devious criminal enterprise, your "Social Security" scam.

That's dirty money you're frittering away on your prescriptions and your other fancy-shmancy discretionary lifestyle choices.

Nice try. You had us fooled, making us think that you were really just paying all your working lives into some high-minded, solvent New Deal program that provided retirement income, disability benefits and life insurance to millions of Americans.

Social Security. What a sinister plot! We should have figured it out, because it had the name "social" in it.

Oh, we were so fooled, especially by the way that elderly in poverty shrunk dramatically after the program was enacted. Nice smoke screen. Way to divert us from our freedom quest.

We should have relied on our hallowed 18th-century sense of morality for guidance. After all, the Founding Fathers never did payroll withholding for their slaves. How did we let this Social Security happen to ourselves?

And while the actual scheme run by Charles Ponzi was only able to sustain itself for 200 days before collapsing, you Social Security scammers really outdid yourselves by keeping your outrageous flim-flam game running since 1935 with a surplus every year.

Until last year.


Yes, for the first time, the money paid into Social Security was less than the benefits paid out. With the recession in full swing, all those out-of-work wage earners weren't putting enough into the kitty. The worker-to-retiree ratio became problematic.

Sure, there's a $2.4 trillion trust fund built up over the years to help make up the gap. And the program can sail along on autopilot for another 25 years without missing full payments to recipients.

But the jig was up. We're finally on to the plot to ruin America by sparing millions of elderly people from living in poverty during their last days in the greatest — and richest — country on earth.

And it took a hero to point it out.

Thank the Lord for his friend, Gov. Rick Perry, who just might be the next president of the United States, unless the Republicans can find somebody new who seems even more refreshingly monosyllabic and cheerfully simple.

Perry finally blew the whistle on your criminal enterprise.

"It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you're paying into a program that's going to be there," he said during a debate last week. "Anybody that's for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and it's not right."

Sure, Social Security could remain solvent with some adjustments to the tax rate or the retirement age. But that would only be furthering this criminal enterprise.

Perry seems to be more interested in abolishing Social Security, at least if you believe what he wrote in his book "Fed Up!," which was published last year. Perry wrote that Social Security is a "failure" and a mistake from the start, a constitutionally suspect program that did "violently toss aside any respect for our founding principles of federalism and limited government."

So thank you, Perry. Thank you for standing up against the scourge of economic security of retirees for the past 76 years. And shame on you, Grandma and Grandpa.

As Perry brings his campaign to Florida this month, the home state of so many of you Ponzi schemers, I hope you find it in your hearts to respect the founding principles of federalism and renounce being co-conspirators in this monstrous lie.

You might want to consider ripping up your checks and using the shreds as a welcome mat for your next president.

[email protected]


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