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April 30, 2014

JIM HIGHTOWER: RIck Perry's bespectacled mess

STILLWATER, Okla. — He's back. And, this time, he has eyeglasses.

Yes, Rick “Oops” Perry, is back, pitching himself for another presidential run. What fun! Who can forget the Texas governor's nationally televised pratfall during a 2011 presidential debate, when he couldn't remember the third federal agency he intended to ax? Well, he later sniffed on Fox & Friends, “If anybody's looking for ... the smoothest debater, I readily admit I'm not that person.” Clearly not.

But Rick, you weren't “debating”; you were simply trying to recite your own three talking points. One, two ... oops! And the issue isn't whether you're smooth, but whether you're stupid – way too stupid to be president of the United States of America. That's a role in which this Texan would need to match wits, not with such lamebrains as Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann, but Russia's Vladimir Putin.

But wait – there's a new Rick! As mentioned, this go-round he's sporting black-framed, designer eyeglasses, which his makeover consultants insist make him look smarter. Actually, the bespectacled Perry looks like a guy squinting at the thermostat to see if he can get his IQ up to room temperature.

This is the governor who's been hunkered down for 14 years as the chief executive of the state with the highest percentage of people with no health coverage, the second-highest percentage of children with no health insurance, and numero uno in the nation for women without coverage. Then, when Obamacare was made available to provide insurance for millions of Texans, this menso in eyeglasses said hell no, we don't want no government-provided health benefits.

“We?” For his entire 30-year career in political office, Perry and family have gladly accepted platinum-level health benefits from the government for themselves. I'm guessing that even those $500 glasses he's wearing were put on the taxpayers' tab.

But eyeglasses aren't the only thing he has been putting on the taxpayers' tab. Even though the 2016 presidential primaries are a long way off, Rick Perry's riding his state's gravy train into the GOP primary.

Technically, he's not campaigning, yet he's popping up from New York to California, holding press conferences, running TV and radio ads, meeting with money people and telling everyone how gosh-darn terrific he is. In other words: Campaigning.

Officially, his cross-country ramble is meant to promote Texas as a corporate utopia that offers state subsidies, zero income taxes, low wages, hands-off regulation and other cushy deals for corporations that relocate to the Lone Star State. It's a hustle that glorifies Perry, even though he's using Texas tax dollars to take good-paying jobs from the places he visits and turn them into poor-paying jobs in his state.

But the governor is used to tapping the public treasury to feather his own nest – and he has recently tapped it yet again, to the tune of $450 an hour. That's for a high-dollar lawyer he's hired at taxpayer expense to try to save his bacon – and his presidential fantasies. He doesn't mention it on his out-of-state Praise Perry tour, but he's presently on the brink of being indicted for corruption back home.

This mess involves the governor's clumsy attempt to stop an investigation by the state's ethics office into one of his pet slush funds that funneled taxpayer money to his corporate campaign donors. Last year, using a personal lapse by the director of the ethics office as an excuse, Perry simply vetoed the office's entire funding. No office, no investigation, no problem!

 Clever, huh? Except that other funding was made available, so that investigation continues. And then a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate Perry's ham-handed veto, so now his indictment looms. This could take the wheels off his taxpayer-sponsored road show.

Jim Hightower is former Texas agricultural commissioner and now a s yndicated columnist.

 

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