Calm down. Of course Rick Perry told President Donald Trump he’s God's chosen one. Perry’s from Texas. He’s doing what must be done to protect Big Awl, the oil bidness. Why do people think Perry’s even in D.C.?
But I forget. Most people outside of Texas probably don’t remember for sure who Rick Perry is. His biggest national moment came eight years ago in a presidential debate when he committed a gaffe, back when people still thought gaffes were bad, pre-Joe Biden.
Listen, Perry’s not crazy. He’s from Texas. He’s what he’s always been — a slick, good-looking farm boy from Paint Creek who’s going to tell the man whatever it takes to keep him from setting the rig on fire.
I met the ex-governor, soon-to-be-ex energy secretary, for the only time in 1990 when he was still in the Texas Legislature. Republicans were just beginning to cement their hold on the state capital, so Perry, a lifelong yellow dog Democrat, rebranded himself Republican. The man has never been a martyr.
He was running for state agriculture commissioner and came to see us on the editorial board of the Dallas Times Herald. We chatted for about half an hour. He was unbelievably unfamiliar with the issues in his own race. As the door swung toward Perry’s backside, we laughed up our sleeves. I believe the phrase around the table, after he left, was, “Couldn’t get elected dogcatcher.”
I rushed out the same door right behind him because I was late for a lunch. The four executive secretaries sitting behind a bank of desks across a broad carpeted corridor from the editorial board offices motioned me to come over to them. They were excited.
This was back when people from Texas still talked like people from Texas. One of them, wide-eyed and perhaps on the verge of needing smelling salts, asked me, “Who wuuuuz that MAYUN?”
I said, “He’s some guy named Rick Perry who’s running for state agriculture commissioner.”
All four gazed in silence toward Perry’s back as he disappeared into the crowded noontime lobby, their eyes moving up and down in unison. One of them said softly, “Well, I don’t know what an agriculture commissioner is, but I’d vote for that MAYUN for anythin’.”
He won. Barely. He was never a top vote-getter for Republicans back then. The inner circle of party faithful harbored reservations, maybe because they thought he was an opportunist, more likely because they thought he talked kind of country.
He was elected lieutenant governor of Texas in 1998, a post that vies for power with the governor’s office. George W. Bush was elected to his second term as governor that year. The relationship was always fraught between the wannabe cowboy from Andover and Yale, who always seemed to be reaching for it, and the handsome farm boy from Paint Creek, who never had to stretch an inch.
Perry inherited the office of governor from Bush in 2000 when Bush left to run for president. He was elected in his own right two years later and won a second four-year term in 2006. By 2010 as he prepared to run for a third four-year term, Perry understandably believed he owned the office.
Ah, but the white-shoe wing of the party came back to bite him. In a bitter slap to the boy from Paint Creek, the Bush-family wing of the Texas Republican Party anointed U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to become the party’s candidate for governor in 2010. She was a great favorite of the party’s traditional boardroom and country club wing — you remember, the people who used to be the Republicans.
Hutchison started out 25 points ahead of Perry in the polls. Patrician party leaders were already going to Perry, explaining to him hand-on-shoulder that the right thing for party and Texas would be for him to pack his clubs, climb onto his golf cart and putt-putt quietly over the horizon as if he were a gentleman. The story at the time was that Perry was considering withdrawing.
Then suddenly there appears in Austin a political consultant from the chilly woods of New Hampshire with the apt name of Carney. Dave Carney can read polls like a shaman conjuring chicken bones. He tells Perry about this big thing that’s coming, still just out of view over the horizon, called the tea party.
If the white shoes have even heard of the tea party at this point, none of them gets it. They still think it’s the stage version of King of the Hill — an odd fluke of history in which a lot of deplorable people who clearly need to be Democrats have wandered the hotel, gotten themselves lost and wound up at the wrong reception.
What can we say now, looking back? Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of white shoes.
Carney tells Perry that Perry can kick Hutchison’s ass. But to do it, Perry must venture way out beyond the far right fringe of forever, into the land of smoke and nonsense, where logic is banished and fact unknown, where virtue and credibility are based on having absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, because that’s the very thing the white shoes don’t want the rest of us to know. Perry says sure. A career moderate who once voted for the biggest education tax hike in Texas history, Perry goes gonzo right-wing.
Out on the hustings, he declares that Texas may need to secede from the union. Bang! He flies up even with Hutchison in the polls. Then the big guns: Washington is an enemy foreign power. And we need to invade Mexico.
Zoom! In a matter of mere weeks, Perry has closed the distance and shot ahead of Hutchison among likely voters. To recover, to get back up anywhere close to him, she would have to come out for war on Canada and the reintroduction of legally enforced racial segregation.
Hutchison already has promised voters she will resign from the Senate to run for governor. She changes her mind and announces she’s not leaving the Senate. In Texas that’s a concession speech. Perry goes on to kill her in the primary and becomes the first governor in Texas history elected to three consecutive four-year terms.
Perry ran for president in 2012 and 2016. Both times he bounced up briefly in some polls but wounded himself with gaffes, then cratered. When Trump named him energy secretary in 2016, most Americans probably didn’t notice.
As Perry’s name has popped up recently in the Trump/Ukraine story, there has been a faint suggestion in some of the reporting that something shady must be afoot for a cabinet secretary to be skulking around Europe doing liquefied natural gas deals with oligarchs. But that ignores the entire philosophy of Texas federalism, by which government is divided into three branches, Texas, Washington and Big Awl.
Why else was Rex Tillerson, an oilman, sent to Washington to be Trump’s first secretary of state? Or Perry named secretary of energy? They were regents for Big Awl. Their job was to protect the industry’s interests by keeping Trump under some semblance of control.
Tillerson flunked out. He couldn’t control Trump because he couldn’t control himself. He couldn’t stop flipping his wig every time Trump behaved like a moron. Perry grinned, shrugged and flew off to Ukraine.
Rick Perry does not flip out. If Texas turns Republican, he turns Republican. If the only way to beat the white shoes in a primary is to propose secession from the union, he so proposes. The boy from Paint Creek gets the damn deal done.
So now Perry has told the president of the United States that he is the “chosen one,” a term associated in the Abrahamic religions with a human messiah descended from Kings David and Solomon, aka Jesus. (In movies, it's associated with Keanu Reeves in The Matrix.) To eliminate ambiguity, Perry ties Trump directly to King David, not Reeves, which even makes a little sense on moral grounds.
What is he really telling Trump? Forget the spin that Perry simply means God takes a personal interest in who occupies the White House. D.C. might buy that, but here in Texas we know that Perry really is telling Trump that Trump is Jesus X. Christ. And I understand how that might upset some people. I’m not sure who. Not the evangelicals, apparently. We should probably expect them to show up outside the White House next month with frankincense and myrrh. But some people are offended.
I’m just saying, if you want to jump on somebody about this, Rick Perry is the wrong guy. Perry would tell Trump that he is Frank Sinatra if that was the thing.
“No, I swear, Mr. President, Frank never died. That was a hoax. Totally fake news. You are Frank. ’Ol Blue Eyes. Everybody knows it. Hey, man, do ‘My Way’ for us, will you?”
The point is to keep the man from setting the White House on fire. That’s all Big Awl ever wanted. No fires, no jumping out the window thinking he can fly, no catastrophes bad enough to impede the gas deals.
You might ask: How does telling someone that he is Jesus Christ keep him under control? Fair question. Two points. First, you have to get his attention.
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I don’t think Frank Sinatra would do it. Trump would just shrug, like so what, and return to whatever he was doing, maybe flipping lit matches into trash cans. But Jesus Christ. He might have to listen to that.
Second point: Jesus is an even bigger star than the president. He has his own real star. In the sky. Think about it. What else could you propose to Donald Trump that he would see as a step up?
And now Perry has provided him with a project. Instead of tossing paper towels, maybe Trump tries tossing fishes and loaves. At any rate, being Jesus keeps him busy for a while and away from volatile substances. Maybe we owe Perry a debt of thanks.
And then, you ask? What do we do when Trump gets bored being Jesus? Well, let’s all put on our thinking caps about that.