SPENCER, Iowa — A lot of the people who show up at Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign events in this state are drawn by his ubiquitous television and radio ads. But not all of the interest is positive.
“We just wanted to come and hear from the opposing side and meet the man whose commercial we disliked so much,” said Samantha Styler, a 16-year-old student at Alta High School, who showed up with about eight of her fellow students to a campaign stop Friday afternoon at a coffee shop in the western Iowa town of Storm Lake.
The ad she referred to is the one in which Perry condemns the lifting this year of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military. It is so reviled by the Internet generation that as of last week more than 600,000 viewers had clicked “dislike” on the YouTube ad, compared with about 20,000 who had clicked “like.” It has also spawned an entire genre of online parodies.
The high school students listened to Perry’s speech silently, for the most part. One asked how Perry planned to follow through on his promise to pass a balanced budget amendment when the president has no formal role in the amendment process (“The bully pulpit,” Perry responded). After the speech, however, they said they found a lot more to dislike about that ad and about Perry's public remarks in general.
For example, they said it was simply incorrect to say that public school students can’t openly pray in schools or openly celebrate Christmas. One look at their school, with its over-the-top Christmas decor, would demonstrate that, they said. And they have found his rhetoric on illegal immigration to be unwelcoming toward Hispanics.
“We’re all different,” said Molly McDaniel, 15.
“He hardly even makes an effort to acknowledge that,” Styler added.
The group is planning to start a gay-straight alliance at the school next year, Styler said.