Texas Governor Rick Perry came to last night’s debate of Republican presidential candidates with both six-shooters blazing. Unfortunately for Cowboy Rick, the recently anointed frontrunner, all he managed to hit were his own feet. Again and again.
From the onset, co-moderator Brian Williams set up a shoot-out between Cowboy Rick and former governor, investment banker and trust-fund baby Mitt Romney. Romney mowed him down cleanly, coming off as a more flexible, sensible, knowledgeable and truthful person. Of course I was the guy who though Carter outperformed Reagan in the 1980 debates (which I covered as a news writer for the San Francisco NBC affiliate).
But later on all of Perry’s wounds were self-inflicted: He came off looking very bad in his comments against Social Security. It was made exceedingly clear that Perry was talking about destroying Social Security, whereas Romney merely wanted to reform it.
Perry’s comments against the theory of global warming were practically incoherent, as if he suddenly decided to be the star student in the George W. Bush School of Public Speaking. The gist of his comments were that the economy can’t withstand the cost of environmental regulations.
Within Cowboy Rick’s many inconsistencies on global warming was a gem comparing his view that global warming isn’t occurring—the opinion of an infinitesimally small fraction of scientists—to Galileo being in the minority. The problem with the Galileo analogy, which Cowboy Rick has used before, is that Galileo was not in the minority among scientists. He was persecuted by a Church that had an economic interest in suppressing Galileo’s discoveries because they threatened the Church’s central place in the universe. In the updated version of the Galileo persecution, Rick Perry, a representative of short-sighted energy and manufacturing interests, is playing the part of the Church, threatened by the new knowledge that science is discovering.
It wasn’t a very good day for Cowboy Rick. While wild fires raged across a parched central Texas, reports of Perry’s slashing of the budget for fire-fighting began to get broader play in the media. Huffington Post laid out the facts quite succinctly: ”The Texas Forest Service’s funding was sliced from $117.7 million to $83 million. More devastating cuts hit the assistance grants to volunteer fire departments around the state. Those grants were slashed 55 percent from $30 million per year in 2010 and 2011 to $13.5 million per year in 2012 and 2013. Those cuts are effective now.”
Watching the Republican Party and the mass media conspire to keep the focus almost exclusively on Romney and Perry reminded me of a show trial in a totalitarian regime. Romney and Perry were located in the center of the group. They received the first questions and were allowed to go at each other for a while before anyone else could get a word in. In fact, the debate had gone on for about 20 minutes before Michele Bachmann could say anything. But that didn’t prevent Bachmann from telling a bold-faced lie soon after her lips began moving. She claimed she met a restaurant owner with 30 employees who had or was going to lay off one third of his workforce because of the healthcare reform law. It had to be a lie, or the restaurant owner must be the very worst small business owner in American history, at least when it comes to carrying excess labor.
I can understand why both the Republicans and the mass media like Romney and Perry. The Gov and ex-Gov have raised the money. In the case of the media, it makes sense to want a candidate who has raised more money, because that candidate will spend more money on advertising.
To those who think Mitt and Cowboy Rick received all the attention because they are the frontrunners, I assert that they are the frontrunners precisely because they have the money. Rick leaped to the top of the media hit list before he leaped to the top of the polls because the media always covers the moneyed candidate. It was Mitt’s money that made him the center of media attention in the 2008 election cycle. The news media will consistently cover the candidates with more of their own or other people’s money than they do the other candidates. That coverage then helps the moneyed candidate become the frontrunner in the polls.