Biographical similarities aside, Perry is not the second coming of George W. Bush, either stylistically or substantively. Bush governed Texas with a light touch and had a good relationship with the Democratic majorities in both chambers of the Texas legislature. Perry is more hard-knuckled in his dealings not only with Democrats (now a minority in the House and the Senate) but with insufficiently conservative Republicans — what we in Texas pejoratively call “moderates.”
Bush preached compassionate conservatism. Perry’s brand of conservatism is austere bordering on severe, and he has publicly criticized Bush as no fiscal conservative. Bush had a warm relationship with the media. Perry doesn’t court reporters or, especially, newspaper editorial boards; in fact, he refused to meet with any editorial boards during the 2010 governor’s race. Bush debated all of his general-election opponents. In 2010, Perry refused to debate Democratic nominee Bill White — the first time in 20 years that the major-party gubernatorial candidates did not square off during the campaign.
Beyond that, Bushworld is no fan of Perry. Speculation as to why ranges from professional rivalry to personal dislike, but regardless, during the 2010 GOP primary for governor, the top-tier Bushies — including Karl Rove, Karen Hughes and Jim Baker — all backed Perry’s opponent, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, and they’ve shown no enthusiasm for Perry’s presidential bid. In fact, the loudest critics of the governor’s controversial remark about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke were from Bush administration officials.
2. He’s a hillbilly dimwit.
That’s bias against Texas, pure and simple. Just because he wears cowboy boots and drops his G’s doesn’t mean he’s a dummy. Perry may be a small-town boy who went to an ag school (Texas A&M University), but he’s an extremely cagey and strategic politician who has been among the state’s most successful governors at getting what he wants. (Put another way: Even if he’s not book smart by University of Chicago standards, he’s plenty street smart — and street smart is still smart.) The better lens through which to regard Perry is inside vs. outside, establishment vs. anti-establishment, elitist vs. jus’ folks. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that jus’ folks is jus’ dumb.
3. He’s an ideological purist.
It’s true that Perry was 10th Amendment before 10th Amendment was cool, a believer in the notion that states are the laboratories of democracy — and that nothing good comes top-down from government. He even wrote a book about it. But at least three times in his career, Perry has thrown over those core principles. In 2007, he pushed for the mandatory inoculation of young girls with the human papillomavirus vaccine as a way to prevent cervical cancer. Conservatives went crazy. Only in the first hours of his presidential campaign did he walk back from that decision. In the run-up to the campaign, Perry called for constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and abortion, in direct opposition to his long-held insistence that the feds should stay out of states’ business.