Saturday, January 14, 2006

"The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior."

We'll never know if Perry did indeed give toll foes 'the finger'


Jaime Castillo | Politics
San Antonio Express-News
Copright 2006

Unless you're a talk-radio or political-blog junkie, you might not have heard the latest controversy about Gov. Rick Perry's recent visit to San Antonio.

And I use the word "controversy" loosely because this he-said, she-said tale is destined to be an unsolved political dust-up.

Two members of an anti-toll-road group that has been highly critical of the governor claimed that Perry gave them the middle-finger salute on his way into a campaign appearance at Reyes Industries on Wednesday.

"As he pulled up, he just told me that I was No. 1 with his middle finger," Byron Juen told listeners on Christian conservative talk-radio station KSLR-AM within hours after the rally.

The declaration drew gasps from Adam McManus, host of the afternoon "Take a Stand" show, who said Perry "should apologize and he should repent," if the allegations prove true.

That's the tricky part — proving it.

Asked about the allegations later that day, Perry discounted the story, saying the group of about a dozen protesters from San Antonio Toll Party couldn't have seen inside his vehicle because the windows are tinted and they were closed.

"Let me see the picture," he said.

But the next day, as more questions were being asked about the alleged incident, Perry and his camp were more pointed.

"It's not even worth responding to, other than to say that if that's the type of rhetoric that we can expect out of the toll people, they're pretty hard up. That's nonsense," Perry said.

His campaign explained that Perry and his wife, Anita, were riding in the back of a black Crown Victoria with two members of the security detail sitting in front.

"Not only did he not do that, he didn't even look at the protesters," Anita Perry said.

Robert Black, Perry's spokesman, went to the trouble of explaining that the cars in the governor's protective detail have an exemption from state law allowing for the use of darker than normal window tinting. And there is an "eyebrow" of tint across the front windshield, making it difficult to see inside the vehicle from just about any angle.

"You know what? It didn't happen," Perry told reporters, including the Express-News' Austin Bureau Chief Peggy Fikac. "It didn't happen, period, and as I told you, tell them to come up with some proof other than dreamin' up stuff."

Dave Ramos, the other San Antonio Toll Party member who said he witnessed the incident, was resolute about what he saw during a phone interview a day after his appearance on the radio show.

"Since it was a sunny day, tinted windows aren't as dark if you're at the right angle," Ramos said. "I was there. I was 10 feet way. I know what I saw."

Ramos, who said he would prefer the focus center on how Perry has "ignored his constituents" on the toll road issue, noted Perry is the one with a history of impolitic moments.

Last year, Perry was picked up by a live microphone saying, "Adios mofo," following a television interview. He later apologized.

"He and his campaign have set a precedent," Ramos said. "I have no doubt about what I saw."

Political Editor Jaime Castillo's column appears on Saturdays. E-mail him at

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