THE BLOG

Gov. Rick Perry's Anti-Washington Rhetoric is Political Double Talk

09/27/2009 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

If you conduct a Google search for "Rick Perry" and "Washington," it turns out that you get 793,000 results. In the past 30 days alone there have been 1,116 news stories with the same search terms.

In a bid for an unprecedented third full-term and 15 years as Governor, Rick Perry continually cites his strong opposition to Washington. This is a convenient platform because his chief opponent, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (for whom I formerly worked as a press secretary), happens to work there while representing Texas in the U.S. Senate.

According to Perry, at a recent fundraiser, "this campaign is about two models of governing: the Washington model that talks the talk about limited government while delivering record earmarks and increasing bureaucratic control and the Texas model of balanced budgets and fiscal restraint."

Perry's unyielding attacks on all things Washington may be politically popular, but in truth his rhetoric stands in stark contrast to his record, which shows that Gov. Perry repeatedly begs Washington, D.C. for help and surrounds his campaign with Beltway insiders.

Placing politics before governing, Perry made a stubborn, shortsighted stand to block federal money for unemployment insurance for political reasons. Now, with the state fund nearly bankrupt, KERA reports that he is seeking a $600 million federal loan to continue its operation, and it may require as much as $2 billion to make the fund solvent.

Despite Perry's strong rhetorical objections to the federal stimulus package, he freely accepted more than $17 billion (or 97 percent of it), plugging a huge budget hole to avoid raising taxes. On July 6 Gov. Perry directly asked Vice President Joe Biden when Texas would receive its $4 billion in education-related stimulus funding, after the state barely made a July 1 request deadline.

From one side of his mouth Perry strongly criticizes the federal government, pleading for them to "leave Texas alone," while out of the other side he requests for the federal government to assist victims of hurricanes, pay for National Guard troops along the southern border and provide 37,000 courses of anti-viral medicine for the swine flu outbreak.

Recall that New York Times columnist Gail Collins cited Perry's history as a cotton farmer, which she labeled as a "group that seems to have a special talent for combining rugged individualism with intransigent demands for government assistance. Even as we speak, the Obama administration budget-cutters are trying to end a longstanding federal practice of paying the costs of storing the entire national cotton crop every year. No other farmers get this kind of special treatment, and I am sure Perry's failure to mention it when he calls for an end to corporate bailouts is a terrible oversight that will be corrected immediately."

It's not simply Perry's governance that has a strong Washington reliance. Additionally perplexing is Perry's hypocrisy in accepting significant financial support from D.C.-based donors and hiring campaign advisors who previously worked as Washington, D.C. insiders.

On April 27, the Dallas Morning News reported that Perry had accepted four times as much in campaign donations as his challenger, Sen. Hutchison, over the same period. Fully 95% of Sen. Hutchison's donations for her campaign, January through June 2009, were from Texas.

According to the Associated Press, on July 13, Gov. Perry announced his slate of top campaign advisors, and one thing is clear -- they are replete in D.C. experience.

Perry's chief political strategist, New Hampshire-based consultant Dave Carney, traveled with Vice Presidential candidate Jack Kemp in 1996, consulted for Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS), along with serving at the Senate campaign committee, on the 1992 Bush-Quayle campaign, and in the Bush 41 White House.

Before moving to Austin in 2002, his campaign manager, Rob Johnson served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR).

Gov. Perry's new Chief of Staff, Ray Sullivan, was national spokesman for George W. Bush's first presidential campaign and previously worked for Sen. Hutchison in Washington in 1993. Sullivan also worked on the 1992 Bush-Quayle campaign and on Capitol Hill.

Campaign Communications Director Mark Miner was previously Director of Communications both for the national GOP in Washington and for Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, and worked for the federal government at the Departments of Labor and Commerce.

Even Chief Pollster Mike Baselice served as a research analyst for the GOP House campaign committee during the 1988 campaign cycle.

The simple reality is that Gov. Perry's rhetorical hatred of Washington, D.C. is neither honest nor credible. It's a political device intended to bludgeon Sen. Hutchison for short term political purposes. If she was from Abilene, he would be anti-Abilene.

As the campaign goes forward and voters begin paying attention to results, and not rhetoric, Gov. Perry will soon learn that actions speak louder than words.

Matt Mackowiak, a former Press Secretary for Hutchison, is an Austin and Washington, D.C.-based GOP political and communications consultant and founder of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC.