Your Handy Guide To Rick Perry

This morning in Iowa, new presidential candidate Rick Perry said you should want a president "that's in love with America." He struck a similarly amorous note when asked about Romney, blowing an air kiss and saying, "Send him my love." Should you be sending love back Perry's way? In a word, no.

Broadly, Perry is considered a serious contender because of Texas's comparatively strong economy alongside his boilerplate conservative credentials. Ezra Klein says Perry's "a credible incarnation of the conservative id. That sets him apart from Romney, who is not what conservatives see when they close their eyes and imagine themselves all grown up, and Bachmann, who is not particularly credible." But he's arguably an extremist (again, this is an increasingly relative term). He wants to dismantle federal control of Social Security, and maybe Medicare too. People who know attribute Texas's relative immunity from the recession to high oil prices, population growth, and its luring jobs from other states with lack of regulation and lower wages. Paul Krugman points out this is "a fallacy of composition: every state can't lure jobs away from every other state," declaring that Perry's "prescriptions for job creation would work about as well in practice as his prayer-based attempt to end Texas's crippling drought." He at least makes serious jokes about secession: "If Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that?"

On reproductive rights, there's not much variance in the current GOP ranks when it comes to restricting them. NARAL points out that Perry signed laws that force women to listen to a lecture with "medically inaccurate information" about the risks surrounding abortion, as well as a waiting period. This year, he also signed into a law a forced ultrasound bill. He also established "choose life" license plates with the proceeds going to crisis pregnancy centers and, like Tim Pawlenty, established an "Abortion Recovery Awareness Month" in his state. He called Roe "a shameful footnote in our nation's history books" and "a stark reminder that our culture and our country are still in peril." Right-o, then.

NARAL is actually relatively positive on his record on sex education. Still, here is his spectacularly unimpressive — befuddled, even — answer to being asked about whether abstinence education is working in Texas when it has the third-highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation.

Talking Points Memo reminds us that Perry had a famous misstep involving vaccinating elementary school girls against HPV with Gardasil. Perry tried to mandate it by executive order, legislators and social conservatives freaked out, ties to Merck were uncovered, and he lost the battle. At the time, Perry acknowledged mistakes but said, "I refuse to look a young woman in the eye ten years from now who suffers from this form of cancer and tell her we could have stopped it, but we didn't. Others may focus on the cause of this cancer. I will stay focused on the cure. And if I err, I will err on the side of protecting life." TPM says that "at a press conference, he played a video message from a 31-year old cervical cancer patient hooked to an oxygen tube, who was too sick to testify earlier at the statehouse."

Perry has drawn into his official orbit members of a religious movement, the New Apostolic Reformation, some of whose "prophets even claim to have seen demons at public meetings. They've taken biblical literalism to an extreme. In Texas, they engage in elaborate ceremonies involving branding irons, plumb lines and stakes inscribed with biblical passages driven into the earth of every Texas county." Several members were prominently involved in an August 6 prayer rally Perry hosted called The Response, including Alice Patterson, who, The Texas Observer reported, believes that the Democratic party is "controlled by Jezebel and three lesser demons." She also wants to diversify the ranks:

Patterson's aim, as she makes clear in her book, is getting black and brown evangelicals to vote Republican and support conservative causes. A major emphasis among the New Apostles is racial reconciliation and recruitment of minorities and women. The apostolic prayer networks often perform elaborate ceremonies in which participants dress up in historical garb and repent for racial sins.

Is that like The Help?

There are other reasons to be worried. Read this chilling story about a man on death row, and then consider that despite all troubling indications that Cameron Todd Willingham was innocent, Perry executed him anyway. He even shut down a forensic investigation into whether Willingham had been wrongly convicted for no apparent reason, but there is evidence that among a certain set, this helped Perry — a focus group generated the now-notorious quote from a likely Republican primary voter: "It takes balls to execute an innocent man." And Politico notes that "during his administration, the whole board of the state juvenile justice system resigned over allegations of covering up sexual abuse in detention centers."

Some people think it's a long shot for him to even be nominated — Kevin Drum writes, "It's easy for us urban liberals to just cynically assume that the tea party-ized GOP will nominate whoever's the dumbest, toughest, meanest, godliest sonofabitch in the field, but I'm not so sure." We'll see.

The Rick Perry Primer: His Record On Choice [NARAL]
Rick Perry's Vaccine Push Sparked Backlash From Left And Right Alike [TPM]
A Rick Perry Primer [Wonkbook/WP]
Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry's Dangerous Religious Bond [Daily Beast]
Another George W. Bush Presidential Candidate [Christian Nightmares]
Rick Perry's Army Of God [Texas Observer]
Why Rick Perry Won't Win [Mother Jones]
The Texas Un-Miracle [NYT]