Star-Telegram Washington bureau reporter Maria Recio has a story today asking various Texas politicos how much Governor Rick Perry has embarrassed the Lone Star State. The answers don't vary a lot.
If this were a story about fishing, some people would have their hands out about shoulder width apart and others would have them stretched out all the way.
The Dallas Morning News has a reprint of it deep inside today's paper under the slightly misleading headline, "Democrats fear Perry is embarrassing Texas."
Oh, just Democrats? Well so what, right? But if you read to the end of the piece, the most caustic assessment comes from a Republican:
One independent Austin political operative who's close to many top Texas Republicans said flatly: "His political career is over." But that person would not speak for attribution because he feared fallout from the governor, whose current term doesn't end until 2014.
"Everybody from Texas has pride and stature," he said. "He looked like an absolute reject; it's embarrassing. Everybody's embarrassed as a Texan."
Wow. That's from a Republican? Makes you wonder what kind of quote Recio would have obtained had she been able to get to Perry's wife.
But look: Buried in the same story are themes that may promise better times ahead for our fair state, specifically because Perry's political career may crater after this debacle. Maybe Perry won't have Texas to kick around anymore.
For example, Recio takes note of the fact that Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, has been speaking out halfway courageously -- well, in a non-cowardly fashion, let's say -- about Perry's totally wacko Tea Party attack on the state's top research institutions.
When I was working on our story about Perry's "Texas Miracle" -- Perry was suggesting on the campaign trail that he's the reason the Texas economy has been good for 40 years -- his assault on higher education was something that cropped up a lot when I talked to Republicans. Some of them were people who had worked on rebuilding the state's economy after the disastrous collapse of the late 1980s. They said they did it with big tax hikes, massive support for public schools and strong subsidies to higher education, especially at research institutions. We drew some of the high-tech stuff here from Northern California in part by drawing a picture of ourselves that wasn't all yahoos, racists and homophobes.
Some of those Republicans I talked to were aghast at Perry's plan to pass a law making it illegal for universities to give faculty members tenure based on research accomplishments. People who have any kind of familiarity with the world of academic research know that a law like that would turn all of the state's top researchers into refugees.
The professors would be riding out of Texas on top of boxcars with their books and beakers wrapped in bandanas hanging from poles over their shoulders. Perry's plan is just crazy crazy crazy.
But here's the other thing. Most of the people I talked to were afraid to be quoted. They saw Perry as this frightening malevolent demagogue with an army of Tea Partiers marching with him.
So now maybe that is going to change. Now he's the oops guy. It's hard to be afraid of an oops guy. Something about it. His own self-deprecating humor afterward sort of helped. Sort of didn't. If you ran into him at a party, you'd still be tempted to say, "Hey, Rick, do your oops thing for us, willya?"
You know. You'd want him to do the whole repertoire.
"Now do 'Adios, mofo.'"
"Rick, can you still do, 'Was it before he was before the social programs?'"
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But then you'd have to worry he might get on a roll, and you might have to rein him in.
"No, Rick. Rick. That's all. No, don't do the N-word-head Rock thing, Rick. That's not a good one."
If I were Perry, I know what I would say to everybody. I'd say, "Adios, mofo" and go back out hunting with my dog at the rock place.
Maybe it's time we all stop stretching our hands out as big as we can go and just cross our fingers behind our backs instead.