Sunday, February 11, 2007

"Would you buy a used lottery from this man? "

I'm just not buying what Perry's selling

February 11, 2007

Steve Blow
The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

In my estimation, Andrew Sullivan is one of the sharpest, most articulate commentators on the scene today.

And in a recent roundtable on one of the TV news channels, Mr. Sullivan summed up his feelings about Hillary Clinton in an especially erudite way.

"Cootie vibes," he said.

For him, Hillary just gives off "cootie vibes."

OK, maybe it wasn't his greatest rhetorical moment. But the comment drew attention because it does vividly express that visceral aversion we feel toward some people.

Heaven help me, Gov. Rick Perry is giving me big-time cootie vibes these days.

Or maybe I should use another highly technical term from the complex world of interpersonal relationships – "heebie-jeebies."

I'm sorry, but the man just gives me the heebie-jeebies, and never more so than in the last week or two.

You know that feeling when you first set foot on a new car lot? When a salesman instantly appears and begins striding toward you with dollar signs shining in his eyes?

That's the same sort of heebie-jeebie, skin-crawling, cooties vibe the governor has been giving me.

It's like I find myself bracing for the coming smarmy sales pitch about the importance of protective undercoating, stain-guard upholstery treatment, mandated HPV vaccines and trading in that old state lottery.

And did you catch that Gov. Car Guy says we need to act fast? He can't guarantee that the $14 billion price he quoted on our lottery trade-in will still be good tomorrow. Market changes all the time. Just sign here.

Oh, by the way, because he likes us, he's throwing in floor mats and a cure for cancer at no extra charge.

Who is this guy anyway?

Let's face it. Mr. Perry glided through the first six years of his governorship mostly on the strength of his hair. And he does have really, really good hair.

But suddenly he has turned into Mr. Maximum Leader – building a super-highway right up the gut of Texas, fast-tracking 11 coal-fired electric plants, and now jumping ahead of the rest of the nation in proposing to sell our lottery to a private company and ordering schoolgirls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus.

We can debate the merits of those things. But my first reaction is to bemoan my immediate mistrust.

I'm distressed that I can't accept any of these ideas at face value.

Yeah, yeah, the governor wants to cure cancer, provide health insurance to the poor and protect the health of Texas women. ... But what's he really up to?

It's the cootie thing. Who stands to get rich here? What big political donor is getting repaid? Or is it all simply about politics – positioning himself for a shot at vice president?

I don't like being this cynical. I know some people revel in thinking the worst of all politicians. I'm not like that. But for some reason, Mr. Perry really tests my inclination to first assume the best about people.

I wrestle with myself about this feeling toward our governor. Is it just follicular envy? (Did I mention that he has really, really nice hair?)

Is it the "himbo" factor – the male version of that age-old skepticism about beauty and brains gracing the same head?

I hope I'm not that shallow.

No, I think this is mostly about leopards remaining true to their spots. Until this recent spasm of executive orders, Rick Perry simply hasn't exhibited much leadership. His greatest skill has seemed to be keeping political supporters very happy.

So it's natural to wonder if these sudden bold moves aren't more of the same – back-scratching on a grander scale.

I hope I'm wrong. Maybe Rick Perry has decided to turn statesman en route to being Texas' longest-serving governor. Maybe the cootie vibe will subside.

But for now, I'm left wondering: Would you buy a used lottery from this man?

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