Perry has received a lot of negative press lately. Yesterday, a piece in Politico asked a simple question: Is Rick Perry Dumb? There was no definitive answer in the article, although there was a Perry quote that I found a bit endearing: “My brain is like a chicken pot pie.”
Today the Washington Post has two pieces that seem to arrive at rather different reasons to oppose Perry. Ruth Marcus provides a quick review of some of the “terrifying” statements in Perry’s most recent book, Fed Up.
Some of the revelations are startling(…even shocking). For example:
- Perry would like to repeal the 16th amendment, thereby ending the income tax
- Perry opposes the 17th amendment because the direct election of senators was a “blow to the ability of states to exert influence on the federal government”
- Perry views the New Deal and the Great Society as (you may want to sit down when you read this) episodes of dramatic expansion in the role of the state. “From housing to public television, from the environment to art, from education to medical care, from public transportation to food, and beyond, Washington took greater control of powers that were conspicuously missing from Article 1 of the Constitution,”
Much of this is standard fare for those who embrace some form of libertarianism (for more on this topic, see Perry Bacon’s piece from this weekend).
Is Perry a libertarian? There are a few ways to address this. Previous postings on Pileus and press coverage of crony capitalism in Texas would suggest that there have been some rather expedient departures from libertarian principles. However, we need not embrace the empirical record in Texas. All we have to do is consider Perry’s faith.
Thus, in another piece in today’s WaPo, Dana Milbank dismisses the characterization of Perry as a libertarian. In his words:
Yes, Perry is passionately anti-government, or at least anti-this-government. But the man who suddenly tops the Republican presidential polls is no libertarian. Rick Perry is a theocrat.
Evidence: Perry opposes “the radical homosexual movement,” rejects evolution and embraces a literalist position regarding scripture and salvation. In Perry’s words: “The truth of Christ’s death, resurrection, and power over sin is absolute. . . . What we believe about it does not determine its truthfulness.”
But the term “theocrat” suggests that Perry hopes to establish a theocracy and use the power of the state to impose God’s law. I don’t see much evidence of this in Perry. If anything—and here Marcus has it right—he seeks to embrace the core provisions of the original (and “terrifying”) constitution, thereby dramatically reducing the role of the federal government to that envisioned under Article 1.
Let us assume that Perry’s religious statements reflect his personal piety rather than an opportunistic appeal to evangelical voters. Is it possible for one like Perry to simultaneously promote a conservative biblical faith and argue that the constitution should place hard limits on state authority?
Not according to some of his critics. For them, it seems faith = theocracy, unless it is the gooey faith of the largely secularized mainstream church that either ignores or severely discounts the hard words of the gospels.