Rick Perry Should Stop Embarrassing Texas

I've had enough of Rick Perry.

At least the Perry who stood on the steps of the Texas Capitol today bashing our federal government and talking openly about Texas seceding from the United States.

This isn't the Perry I knew 25 years ago, when he first ran for the Legislature from my part of West Texas, and it's not the Perry who earned the respect of his colleagues and most Capitol reporters in the late '80s for his work on the House Appropriations Committee.

Perry's always been a conservative, but that isn't the issue. He's a demagogue now, and every single newspaper in Texas with a decent editorial page should denounce these remarks and call for him to retract them publicly or resign.

I mean that. This isn't a joke.

Partisanship and political philosophy aside, I can think of few things more irresponsible in this economy than the governor of Texas speaking freely about secession. What business is going to relocate to Texas with him talking like that? Who wants to come to a state to do research at its large land grant universities with a governor who sounds like George Wallace or Lester Maddox naming the regents.

The reality is that few if any Texans believe he is serious, and Texas isn't going to secede. Most Texans just pass this off as Perry pandering to a crowd of right-wing malcontents to whip up support for his upcoming re-election.

As Wayne Slater reported in the Dallas Morning News:

Perry told reporters following his speech that Texans might get so frustrated with the government they would want to secede from the union. "There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that." The event came as Perry has stepped up his criticism of political rival Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, suggesting she is part of the problem in Washington.

That is the very definition of demagoguery.

I was covering the Texas Senate in 1991, its first session under the leadership of legendary Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, when a Republican House member from Amarillo filed a bill to divide Texas into four states. I knew it wasn't likely to come to a vote, but it was a slow news day, so I asked Bullock about it sort of in passing.

Well, Bullock jumped all over me. He dressed me up and down so bad my knees almost buckled. Most Texans love our state, but I never met anyone who loved Texas more than Bob Bullock or who worked harder to make it a better place.

Bullock told me people in the rest of the country read stories like that and they think Texas is full of stupid backward people. He said state government does serious business that affects a lot of people's lives and anybody around the Capitol who talks like that or files a bill like that ought to go home or at least get out of the way.

Calling me out like that made me think long and hard about the kind of reporter I wanted to be.

I didn't write the story, but I never forgot it. And, as you can tell, Bullock's tongue lashing changed the way I looked at politicians for the rest of my life.