Rick Perry

I've been paying more attention lately to Rick Perry, the latest announced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. A few things worth mentioning:

Governor Perry recently suggested that if Federal Reserve head Ben Bernanke increases the money supply in an effort to promote economic growth, that would be a political act (because Obama might benefit from a better economy?) and "almost treasonous." A number of Perry's fellow Republicans objected to Perry's statement, including Karl Rove and Ron Paul, the latter saying, "He makes me look like a moderate." The remark, which Perry has since reiterated, has reminded people that Perry suggested a couple of years ago that Texas might secede from the Union.

Last week Perry asked why we don't use unmanned aircraft like the Predator to look for people smuggling drugs across our borders. But as Nathan Pippenger points out, we're already using them for that and more:

If you’re an average voter (and not, say, the governor of Texas), you could be forgiven for not knowing the details of our current southwest border surveillance efforts, which include 250 towers with daytime and nighttime cameras, 38 truck-mounted infrared cameras and radar systems, 130 planes and helicopters, and, yes, a fleet of unmanned aircraft systems. [...] In fact, The New York Times reported on the use of unmanned aircraft at the border almost two years ago. And it’s been over six months since DHS Secretary Napolitano gave a major speech announcing that Customs and Border Protection had Predators covering the entire southwest border, from the El Centro sector of California all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. She even gave the speech in El Paso! This shouldn’t be news to the governor of a massive border state.

Perry frequently appears to embrace ideology over evidence. In the following clip he's asked about the effectiveness of his state's policy of abstinence-only sex education, given that Texas has such an extraordinarily high rate of teen pregnancy. Sounding like a slower version of George W Bush, Perry insists flatly, if a bit hesitantly, that it "works," and when pressed for a reason to think so given the apparently contradictory facts, says that he knows it from personal experience. He implies that it's wrong to tell students how to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and that even if abstinence-only education is largely ineffective, it should be taught anyway.

The ABC News website has a a video clip of Perry telling a boy in New Hampshire that evolution is "a theory that is out there. It's got some gaps in it, but in Texas we teach both Creationism and evolution in our public schools, because I figure you're smart enough to figure out which one's right." Not only does this suggest a poor grasp of science (including the meaning of the word "theory" in a scientific context), the governor seems unaware that Republican and Democratic jurists alike have repeatedly (and correctly) held Creationism to be a religious concept rather than a scientific one and not appropriate for teaching in science class in light of the First Amendment.

Texas education standards require examining evidence for and against scientific ideas, and Creationists contend that this allows discussion of Creationism in class. But discussion isn't the same as teaching. Evolution is part of the curriculum and covered in textbooks and supplementary materials, and Creationism is not, so Perry's notion that Texas schools treat them the same is simply not true. For more, see these pieces from Talking Points Memo and the Texas Freedom Network.

Here's Perry responding to a question on global warming:

Quoting: "I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data, so that they will have dollars rolling into their, to their projects. I think we’re seeing almost weekly or even daily scientists who are coming forward and questioning, the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change." (In his book Fed Up!, Perry even claims there's a global cooling trend that's being covered up.)

As hardly needs pointing out, this is nonsense. His smarmy accusation is too vague to examine, but when others have made specific charges of scientific misconduct in the field, multiple credible independent investigations have shown them wrong. A tiny number of eccentric scientists (not to mention TV weathermen) dispute global warming, but the overwhelming scientific consensus is that the evidence shows it's happening and that burning fossil fuels is a significant cause.

It should be noted that other Republicans, such as presidential candidates Mitt Romney and John Hunstman, are much less willing than Perry to dismiss science. And it's also worth recalling that pseudoscience is embraced by some people on the political left as well. But the number of prominent Republican politicians like Perry who dispute established science is large enough (and lou enough) that the GOP risks being seen as the anti-science party. See this article for more on that.

On another front, Perry has been criticized for promoting as governor a politicized prayer rally in early August that principally reflected an extreme and narrowly sectarian version of conservative Christianity.

Incidentally, getting back to Perry's sounding like a slowed-down George W Bush, he apparently doesn't like the comparison. Perry told reporters at the Iowa State Fair, "I am Rick Perry and he is George Bush. And our records are quite different." Asked what the biggest difference in those records was, he said, "I went to Texas A&M. He went to Yale." When pressed to name some policy differences, he didn't answer.

(I linked to other information on Perry from Kevin Drum and Steve Benen in a previous post.)

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