From the current issue of Texas Monthly:

Brian Sweany
0714_Perry_470x608Governor Perry, I’d like to start at the beginning of your administration. Take me back to December 2000, when you became governor. It was an unbelievably momentous time in Texas politics: George W. Bush had become president as a result of a US Supreme Court decision, and as lieutenant governor, you ascended to the top job. What were your expectations of being governor then?

Rick Perry
Actually, you cannot start there, because the preparatory period is substantially prior to that, I came to Austin in January 1985 as a 34-year -old legislator, and that began the gradual education of Rick Perry. Sixty-six percent of my time in the House I spent on the Appropriations Committee, and I think there is not a better school to learn how government works. You can really find out about all these different agencies of government, how they function, and who the people are, and that was a priceless education for me. I not only made friends that would pay dividends in the future, I went on to head the Texas Department of Agriculture. So I sent from the oversight of agencies into the management of an agency. And then, as the lieutenant governor, albeit for only two years, I worked on consequential issues, and it was excellent schooling on how the Senate functioned.

All of that was part of my preparation for becoming the governor: to understand how this place works and to be curious about it. I think if there’s one thing that I am, I’m curious about how these things work. I was well schooled, well prepared, well experienced to serve as the governor of Texas.

A good chunk of the non-puppy-raising activity what’s keeping me away from the blog has been Lege Watching in the off-season. Part of that being the interim hearings currently going on, part being a rewind of committees I didn’t watch as much when they were going on in 2013. And on that note, I have to confess that watching Appropriations hearings have been a pretty good learning experience.

Now, make what you will of a southern Governor who refers to himself in the third person and also obfuscates the fact that he served all of two terms on Appropriations as a Representative. But in the 100% of the time I’ve been doing this, Greg Wythe grants him his point.

Once again, the workday is a bit too much fun-filled with research projects to dive too deeply into subjects that I wish I had the time to blog about. One point to interrupt that for, however, is to extend an open invite to any/all folks who might wish to partake of some political activity tonight. And on that note, my State Rep is kicking off his 2014 campaign season at our favorite Italian Restaurant: Barry’s Pizza. So consider this an invite to join us between 5 and 7pm for free food and drinks.

Aside from that, there’s a little serendipity in reading Steven Teles’ “Kludgeocracy in America” thesis while also reviewing the House Appropriations hearing on the state CPRIT agency’s botched grant process. Specifically, the agency’s expressed desire during the committee to go ahead and award grants approved during the moratorium period that they were under at the time:

Should outgoing Governor Perry opt for a more four-eyed Presidential run in 2016, I look forward to hearing how this is totally different from any failings of Obamacare.

» Chron: Abbott dislikes business incentive program

Seriously, I didn’t go looking for a a reason to crack on Rice’s Mark Jones (again). But … well … this …

Rice University political scientist Mark P. Jones said Abbott is “on very safe ground” criticizing the incentives, as many Texas Republicans and Democrats view the incentive funds “as a type of corporate welfare.”

“It’s something that plays very well with Republican primary voters,” he said. “And the general electorate.”

Maybe it’s just a very different kind of few weeks that Mark Jones is being quoted on. I dunno. But is there any factual basis for the words said by him here? By way of laying down some fact on my own side (that being that GOP voters may like the argument in the abstract, but they are wildly indifferent to it in practice), here’s a bit of linkage:

Jan. 29, 2010 – Hutchison raps Perry on Enterprise Fund
This is a standard AP story following the GOP debate between Hutchison, Medina, and Perry. Perry was attacked for his support of TEF. Guess which candidate won without a runoff.

March 13, 2010 – Bill White Demands Audit of Texas Enterprise Fund
Hey, we tried. Didn’t seem to move the needle, did it?

So … at what point in any of these criticisms of Perry’s administration of the Enterprise Fund did his support plummet? I mean, I get that there’s a cognitive dissonance between conservative orthodoxy and what one-party statewide electeds want to carry around for spending money. Heck, I wouldn’t be shocked if there were polling out there to suggest that there’s a very real, albeit nuanced disagreement among self-identified Republicans and their belief in the principal behind what the TEF does. But there has, to date, been no actual demonstration that the issue “plays well” among any group of voters unless we want to attribute the entirety of Hutchison/Medina/Bill White voters as collectively anti-TEF.

Ironically, it’s not like the Trib would have to go far for a better way to tell the story about TEF. Here’s what they wrote after the 2012 election:

» TX Tribune: Tax Incentives Could Prove Divisive For GOP

Some conservative legislators, including Rep. Charles Perry of Lubbock and Rep. David Simpson of Longview, have criticized some of the tax incentive programs as unneeded “corporate welfare,” particularly at a time when schools and other programs are still feeling the brunt of billions in cuts enacted by the 2011 Texas Legislature.

It’s too soon to predict whether how far the anti-tax incentive sentiment will reach. To be sure, the governor will fight to keep his Texas Enterprise and Emerging Technology funds, which survived in 2011 despite deep cutbacks elsewhere and controversies about donors getting awards from the programs.

On the other hand, the conservative ranks will swell in the state Senate, and at a time when pundits nationally are questioning the strength of the Tea Party, activists in Texas — after getting anti-establishment insurgent Ted Cruz elected to the U.S. Senate — don’t seem to have gotten the memo.

Grassroots activists are planning to make a big stink about the huge payouts to private industry. JoAnn Fleming, a top Tea Party activist in Tyler, said conservative voters are fed up with politicians who tout free market capitalism until big corporate interests say it isn’t working so good for them.

So, yes … there are rifts. There are disagreements within the GOP. But there is no evidence that Abbott’s veiled semi/sorta-opposition to the rough principle that Enterprise Funds are guided by has a toe-hold within conservative thought. There’s just no evidence whatsoever that it plays well among GOP primary voters or among the General Electorate as a whole. I would like to think that it might. But there’s just a complete lack of information to base that on so far.

In looking around for a good football movie, I see that “Something for Joey” has yet to make it as a true DVD or streaming video on Amazon. That’s a disappointment … and also why I’ll be watching “We Are Marshall” as a warmup movie. Best Matthew McConaughey movie ever. Or, if you prefer … his only good one.

» A Former Trojan headed to the Super Bowl
It looks like the Ravens are the official rooting interest for me. Former Trinity High player, Ryan McBean, is up for a ring. He’s been injured since pre-season, so he won’t be on the field. We’re still waiting for the first active roster Trojan and the first starting Trojan to appear in a Super Bowl. No idea how I’ll rationalize the Jacoby Jones paradox.

» National Journal: Why Obama Is Giving Up on Right-Leaning Whites (Ron Brownstein)
Catchy headline and provocative thesis. But I can’t help but notice that the bulk of the Democratic constituency still identifies as “Moderate.” Maybe that flips in 2016, maybe it doesn’t. But the lay of the land today has only seen a 10-point swing from Moderate to Liberal within that mix … and that’s over a 20-yr glidepath. Naturally, this is bait for Ed Kilgore. And Hedrick Hertzberg’s take is worth a read, as well. But I think the biggest evidence that Brownstein’s point is a bit overblown comes from Obama himself.

» Washington Monthly: The Big NRA Flip-Flop On Background Checks
Speaking of Ed Kilgore … Nice to see him recall the same events of the 90s that I remember. Less nice is the cynical excuse offered by the NRA for their flip-flop on background checks. Just for old-time’s sake, though …

» PPP: Clinton could win Texas in 2016
OK, back to Brownstein. Anyone care to theorize how this could happen in light of Brownstein’s thesis? It can’t. While I put a worth on polling at this stage somewhere around a plugged nickel, it’s worth something for amusement value until we get closer to 2016. Or even closer to an actual Clinton candidacy for that matter.

» PPP: Perry looking highly vulnerable
We’re closer to 2014, however. But I still can’t help but reiterate my standard operating procedure of not accepting PPP polls when they’re an outlier. And since “outlier” in this case means “actually polling Texas”, I think this still qualifies. That said, Bill White leading Rick Perry is also worth something for amusement value. Let’s see some more polling before we get carried away, though.

» National Review: Purple Texas? (Betsy Woodruff)

And speaking of things recalled from years past, here’s Big Republicanism’s take on the recent effort to get more resources to swing Texas in future elections …

Texas’s success could be ultimately self-defeating. The state’s prosperity attracts people from liberal states. If they immigrate to Texas in significant enough numbers, they could affect elections there, especially in House races. But the jury is still out on whether Texas’s conservatism will rub off on newcomers.

This was precisely the argument I heard before I was even eligible to vote: that all the Yankees moving to Texas were voting GOP. At the time, the prototypical “Yankees” were from midwest auto-producing states and similar environs. But in the DFW area where I lived at the time, there were just a lot of white collar workers moving to a state that was still thriving at the time. So the meme was believable. With a few more years to digest how changes like these happen, I’m more skeptical of the past understanding as well as the current paranoia. But it’s certainly amusing to see the old trope come full circle.

» NY Times: Islamists’ Harsh Rule Awakened Ethnic Tensions in Timbuktu
There’s nothing particularly new or surprising about stories like this one. In a previous lifetime of tracking a lot of news stories about Pakistan’s Northwest Province, I’d price events like these at about a dime a dozen. But this recent iteration serves as a decent overview of the current non-AfPak version of Al Qaeda development. At this rate, I’m willing to bet that the next crew to hijack planes (or conduct whatever trendy terroristic activity is all the rage) will have movement origins in a country that few people can identify on a map. Ya know, kinda like Afghanistan in 2001.

» Slate: Amazon Profits Fall 45 Percent, Still the Most Amazing Company in the World (Matt Yglesias)
An interesting, provocative take that Amazon is to the internet what C-Span is for cable TV. I think I’d find it more realistic to believe that one company might do a better job of letting the market cost out any surprises further in advance of the other. But there’s no great way to measure the quality of analyst conference calls.

Other Worthwhile Reads:
» NY Times: The Hidden Prosperity of the Poor (Thomas Edsall)
» London Review of Books: Google Invades (Rebecca Solnit)
» Chicago Magazine: Can $86 Million Save a Neighborhood? (Elly Fishman)
» The New Yorker: How much military is enough? (Jill Lepore)
» NY Times: My Valuable, Cheap College Degree (Arthur Brooks)
» Washington Monthly: Too Easy
» Washington Post: A letter to Teach For America’s Wendy Kopp — and her response

If Evan’s laughing off the criticism of the Texas media’s ineptness in covering Perry, he’s not seeing the obviousness of the problem. Here’s this afternoon’s hard-hitting front pager on a candidate who crashed and burned after a rocket ride to front-runner status in the GOP Primary …

» Politico: Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman prove media wrong

I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now. Perry’s fantasy of becoming the next President is over. One minor point to highlight in all of this now that he’s back in Texas is whether the state media will have learned anything from all of this. By Politico’s account, it might not …

In the end, Perry was undone not by any dirt that anyone had on him — the charges of crony capitalism, the unfortunately named hunting camp — but by his own unforced errors.

National reporters occasionally beat up on the Texas press for not getting the story of Perry’s weaknesses out there better.

Evan Smith, editor of the Texas Tribune, took note and laughed off the criticism.

“Interestingly, the press that irritated me most was the people on the left who used the Perry campaign as an opportunity to flog the Texas press corps as a whole for somehow not doing its job,” he said. “It’s as if we’ve all been asleep for 10 years and it took The Huffington Post to do our jobs. We watched with a mixture of amusement and irritation.”

Perry wasn’t the only one for whom those errors proved disastrous.

Ratcliffe was still finishing the details in his book contract for a book on Perry when he heard Perry’s fateful comment calling people who didn’t support granting in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants “heartless.”

“I shrieked,” Ratcliffe said. “My wife asked what he said, and I said, ‘It doesn’t really matter what he said. I think he just killed my book deal.’ I knew instantaneously how bad that was going to be in the Republican primary vote. It wasn’t just that he had a position they didn’t like. It was that he has insulted his own voters.”

Am I the only one who notices that Ratfliffe just proved the very point Evan was trying to dismiss? If news writers in the state had concerned themselves with covering a broke farmer from Haskell became a millionaire while being in public office for the past quarter century, maybe the criticism wouldn’t be valid. But the ring-kissing we’ve been treated to over that span of time are a far cry from what should be expected.

As a case in point for how the state’s media (or, if you prefer the Newtonian version: “elite” media), here’s the latest sloppy wet kiss to laugh off. Taken on back-to-back days, at that.

The very next day …

As close as it gets

Candidate   Votes    %
------------------------
Romney     30,015  24.56%
Santorum   30,007  24.55%
Paul       26,219  21.45%
Gingrich   16,251  13.29%
Perry      12,604  10.31%
Bachmann    6,073   4.97%
Huntsman      745   0.61%
No pref.      135   0.11%
Other         117   0.10%
Cain           58   0.05%
-------------------------
          122,224

The post-caucus speeches are listed in full here. I think the most intriguing of them all is the return of Bitter Newt:

Excessive adverbs aside, it remains to be seen whether Newt has enough money or leverage to help undermine Romney. But the game is already underway. So far, the contest is a Democrat’s dream: after seeing just about every GOP candidate short of Huntsman and Roemer get their 15 minutes of polling fame, the guy who’s presently assumed to be the nominee has a diehard core of vote that does not want him to be the party’s nominee.

Back to Texas, it looks like the fair-haired retiree we call a Governor may be looking for a way to pull the plug from his $20M failed campaign. It looks more like the heart wants to quit while the bankroll may be too rich to shut off the machine. Whichever way he goes, I can’t wait to see how the people who pitched the story of “Perry’s vaunted ground game” try and repair their reputations. To wit …

There are 1,774 Republican caucus precincts around the state, 900 of which are combined and held at the same location.

As of Friday, the Texas governor had signed up 1,500 precinct leaders in Iowa, a source inside the Perry campaign told CNN.

The source requested anonymity because staffers are not authorized to reveal the information.

The Perry camp also has 470 out-of-state volunteers descending on Iowa this weekend (including Perry’s own family, which flew in on Friday).

The source said that by caucus night, “we will easily have over 2,000 Perry volunteers” fanning out across the state knocking on doors and speaking for Perry at their voting sites.

2,000 volunteers fanned out across the state. 12,000 votes. That’s a laughable ROI. And still, it’s worth comparing this to the Texas spin that came out after Perry’s 2010 primary win against Hutchison:

Employing an Amway-style organizational model, during the primary season the Perry campaign recruited both paid contractors and volunteers to establish their own “home headquarters” from which they were tasked with locating 11 Perry voters by focusing on their family and friends, and then ensuring that those individuals voted (ideally early). Those recruited were in turn encouraged to form their own home headquarters by recruiting an additional 11 voters, and so on. As is often the case with these types of pyramid arrangements, the initial paid recruiters received funds for forming not only their first headquarters group but also for each additional headquarters group formed as part of their pyramid (i.e., their downline).

This use of monetary incentives to motivate individuals to establish home headquarters was not, however, without controversy, with several instances of convicted felons receiving payments from the Perry campaign for their organizational efforts. This caused the campaign to end the recruitment incentive phase (while still maintaining voter turnout incentives) a few weeks before the March primary.

The establishment of this vast home headquarters network was crucial to Perry’s success in the Republican primary, which, in spite of a record turnout, only involved the participation of 1.5 million Texans (11 percent of the state’s registered voters and 8 percent of its voting age population). In the event Perry runs for president, we should expect a more polished version of this identification and mobilization model to be used in early presidential caucuses (e.g., Iowa, Nevada) and primaries (e.g., New Hampshire, South Carolina).

That mainstream media gobbles up this spin is key among the reasons that political reporting is a joke today. Whether it continues after Perry’s failed Presidential experiment heads home will be worth watching for. A somewhat more critical view of state government and it’s officials just might be in order rather than boosterism such as this.

Bachmann may be announcing her departure today. We’ll see what we see out of Team Perry when we see it. For now, the muddled race goes to New Hampshire, where Jon Huntsman might have an opportunity to make things even less settled.

And in a perfect world, this guy, Buddy Roemer would be seeing his poll numbers rise right about now:

The campaign sent out their daily update today with a subject line of “Roemermentum.” I don’t think it’s that they don’t get the irony of the ____mentum meme. I think they’re just having fun at this point. Nice to see.

In a nutshell …

If there’s one thing that Republican candidates have to do in order to be successful, it’s just know the script. You don’t even have to believe it (see “Romney, Mitt”). You just have to say the lines. When you can’t even remember the talking points, however, you’re done. Maybe the Texas rightwing blogosphere will try to intellectualize it like they do Perry’s “superior” understanding of federalism, budgeting, and education. It’ll be a fun exercise in contortion to see how far they’re willing to follow the guy.

Pardon the irregularity of this, but a little bit of cache clearing is in order for me to get a handle on my browser tabs …

» Joel Kotkin: Overpopulation Isn’t The Problem: It’s Too Few Babies

» Commonweal: American Oracle: The Uses & Abuses Of Reinhold Niebuhr

» NY Times: What’s Luck Got to Do With It?

» The game I think all of us were hoping to see Case Keenum have last Thursday night. Even Case seems impressed. S’ok … save it for UT in the bowl game, dude.

I’m guessing this is the last time that Byron York shills for Rick Perry.

You’d have thought that right-wingers would have learned their lesson about trying to intellectualize people like this after the Sarah Palin debacle. But given their insistence on trying to prop up her “death panel” claim, that lesson doesn’t seem to have ever taken root.

The latest PPP Presidential polling hits Texas. I guess one of the benefits of Perry now being an official candidate is that we might see some more polls hit the state. It should be interesting to see the right-wing bloggers contort themselves to comprehend Perry’s amazing ability to underperform in the state. Overall, the new poll isn’t as newsworthy as the last one they did, but here’s the main thing I think should be taken away from it …

For more detail, I’ll refer you to Ron Brownstein.

Here’s a side-by-side of June’s poll with today’s …

Obama vs      6/11      9/11
----------------------------
Perry ...... 47-45 ... 44-51
Palin ...... 46-44 ... -----
Bachmann ... 44-47 ... 45-43
Cain ....... 43-43 ... -----
Pawlenty ... 43-44 ... -----
Romney ..... 42-50 ... 41-47
Paul ....... 40-45 ... 42-43
Gingrich     ----- ... 46-45
----------------------------
2008 Vote .. 41-52 ... 42-50

In June, my reaction was that I felt the poll was timed poorly to coincide with the end of the legislative session and that the result was that the electorate was particularly low-tide for Perry. That he’s now up 7 points with some time separating him from the craziness of session doesn’t surprise me much. I think there’s room for a little bit of improvement since the economy and off-season piling on of Obama might raise the ceiling for Perry to something closer to Bush’s 60% showing in the state.

Of more concern to me is that, in reality, Texas is not uncompetitive based on the numbers in the state. To the extent that it’s deemed uncompetitive, it’s because of the size of the state and the need to campaign aggressively in at least six to eight of the 20 media markets. Of those, the markets for DFW, Houston and San Antonio markets ain’t cheap. So the cost of moving the needle by a percentage point is substantially higher than it might be for a state with only a handful of media markets. But if Team Plouffe ever decides to replicate their Florida surge model to Texas, I’m on record as suggesting there’s a different way to stitch together a successful majority here than has been tried before.

As a followup of sorts to my post on the over-celebretization of political discourse, here’s Dan Drezner on Rick Perry’s recent VFW speech ….

Now, to be fair to Perry, this San Antonio News-Express news story suggests that he had some constraints on what kind of speech he could deliver. So, really, I’m not sure that anything of consequence can be divined from this…. er…. assemblage of cliches that maybe, just maybe, passes the Turing Test.

Still, what Perry said is such pure, unadulterated boilerplate that, as a foreign policy commentator, one must step back and gape in wonder. Reading it, the absence of anything interesting kept nagging me as hauntingly familiar.

And then I realized — Rick Perry had just delivered the Wolf Blitzer of foreign policy speeches!! It’s familiar, yet utterly devoid of interesting content!!

I believe this seals the deal that I think that the music of kids today stinks to high heaven. And their reality-show politics, too.