The Austin American-Statesmanand The Houston Chronicle this morning are reporting that Governor Rick Perry will hold a press conference this afternoon to announce he's sending 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the Mexican border to defend Texas against an invasion of unarmed Central American children. This, of course, goes nowhere fast, which Perry already knows.
In spite of the very strong impression Perry created in the rest of the nation in his 2012 presidential bid, most of us here in Texas know that he is not a total idiot. We must assume he or somebody on his staff knows the story of The Little Rock Nine.That means Perry knows where this is headed -- some form of federalization of the guard. The question would be why he wants to go there.
In Little Rock in 1957, as in the Detroit riot 10 years later, U.S. Army Airborne divisions showed up to make sure National Guard troops knew who they worked for -- the president of the United States, not the governor, although in the case of Detroit it should be pointed put that Governor George Romney, Mitt's father, asked the president to send in the 82nd Airborne to get the guard under control.
Little Rock was different. It was more like what we might face if Perry ever gets more than 2 inches down the road with this hairball scheme.
In September 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Guard out on a mission similar to what Perry seems to have in mind, using military might to protect the people of Arkansas from children, in that case black children trying to go to school. President Dwight Eisenhower effectively told the Guard troops they would be doing the opposite, helping the children go to school, protecting them from the people who did not want them to go to school, which is what the Guard troops did to their everlasting credit.
The Detroit instance dated from a different era in the Guard. In that case the Guard troops were trying to do the right thing but were muddying the waters and making things worse because they were terrified of all black people and couldn't shoot straight. In the current day and age, our National Guard troops are probably as battle-hardened and professional as regular Army troops.
That isn't going to be the problem. The problem is going to be what Perry wants them to do on the border. The Central American children showing up on the border are seeking out Border Patrol agents in order to turn themselves in.
U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro of San Antonio told the Chronicle this morning: "The children fleeing violence in Central America are seeking out Border Patrol agents. They are not trying to evade them. Why would Rick Perry send soldiers to confront these kids?"
Both the Statesman and Chronicle stories lay out the political background here pretty well -- Perry and Senator Ted Cruz, both running for president, locked now in in a macho contest with each other to see which one can be meaner to the border babies, egged on by Tea Party leaders spoiling for that ultimate showdown with Obama they can never quite get to.
Perry or somebody who works for him knows that the president cannot allow him to send National Guard troops to the border to thwart national policy and law. Perry knows Obama will have to send the Guard home or take over its mission. And in that Perry sees his own big payday: Here's little wimpy Ted Cruz talking about some kind of legislation he wants to pass, and there's Rick Perry with his cowboy boots back on, standing at the border like Orval Faubus in the front door of Little Rock's Central High School in '57, using troops to protect hysterical adults from children.
One thing he might think on. Faubus was actually a moderate on race and integration with a pretty decent place in history going for himself before he decided to use the National Guard to help him demagogue in the schoolhouse door. So, Governor Perry, we might just ask you: What do you think Orval Faubus' place in history is now?