07 September 2011

Rick Perry is Fed Up. My book review...

Rick Perry's Fed Up! has plenty to like and a bit to dislike for almost everybody, but because campaign books are tough to read, I read this one, so you don't have to.

The first thing that must be said is that this book, written long before Perry admitted he intended to run for President, was clearly written as a campaign book. It isn't a call to arms - it's a call to vote. Obviously, Perry's attacks go most heavily after Obama, but he also has some digs at his predecessor in the governor's office, George W. Bush, and spares his party no criticisms. A sampling:

"Both Democrats and Republicans share the blame, from Lyndon B. Johnson...to my friend President George W. Bush..."

"Indeed, this big-government binge began under the administration of George W. Bush..."

"The branding of Compassionate Conservatism meant that the GOP was sending the wrong signal that conservatism alone wasn't sufficient or, worse yet, was somehow flawed and had to be rebranded. For the first time, we were acting like liberals who call themselves progressives, running away to some degree from who we were, and what we stood for. The result is an ongoing and near-complete capitulation to the federal welfare state."

He also offers some pre-emptive defenses of some expected attacks on himself and his record, explaining how states rights arguments were mis-used in the civil rights era. It came across to me as a passage inspired by Rand Paul's remarks on the 1964 Civil Rights Act during his 2010 campaign.

Perry also pre-empts liberal attacks on him for accepting Federal dollars even as he decries the Washington leviathan. Here, his arguments resonate, and we can expect them to be repeated. There are no Federal dollars, he argues, it all comes form the states. It is a difficult balancing act to decide when to accede to extortionate demands of Congress in order to get back the very dollars the state paid in to Washington, and when to decide to let the state's own dollars go.

Much has been made of Mitt Romney's subtle attacks on Perry in recent weeks, but Perry was jabbing at Romney months ago in this book, recounting the poor results (longer waiting times, out of control costs and rationing boards) of RomneyCare, even as he praises the experiment as an examples of states as "laboratories of democracy." "Is it any wonder," Perry asks, "that this is the state from which [Obama appointee and rationing enthusiast] Dr. [Donald] Berwick hails?"

Tea Partiers will find little to disagree with in Perry's prescriptions - he quotes all the right people and makes no effort to defend the GOP's mistakes. Mainstream Republicans, though, will find comfort in his assessment that the GOP can be fixed, and is still the best alternative between the parties.

Perry's main argument for his own candidacy boils down to one question that he says is one of the most important we can contemplate, namely, "Who gets to decide how we live?"

Perry says it's you.

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