In the 2012 Republican primary, there's a new king of the hill. This week's Gallup poll shows the GOP's latest candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, leading the pack – which strikes fear in the heart of moderate Republicans.
But will it last? Remember, Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann both enjoyed that same No. 1 spot for all of 15 minutes. Soon, like them, Rick Perry could also fall from his perch. And for the same reason: Because he's as bat-crap crazy as they are.
The only difference is: Americans haven't discovered the truth about Perry yet, but they might soon. After all, he's no newcomer. He's left a trail of mistakes and misdeeds that's as long as the 4,000-mile Trans-Texas superhighway he tried, but failed, to force on the people of Texas. Indeed, once you look behind his Trump-like head of hair to his actual record, Perry's Texas miracle seems more like a mirage.
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On secession. A former Democrat and former lieutenant governor to George W. Bush, Perry first attracted national attention at a Tax Day tea-party rally in 2009, when he suggested that Texas might secede from the union. He later explained: "When we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want. So we're kind of thinking about that again." I can't wait to see Perry's 2012 bumper sticker: "America: Love it or Leave it!"
On Social Security. Perry's even more extreme than Paul Ryan. He's called it a "bad disease" and a "fraudulent system designed to take in a lot of money at the front and pay out none in the end." In his book, "Fed Up," he proposes abolishing the federal government's role in Social Security and turning it over to the states. Perry's campaign staff is now trying to play down those comments as ancient history on his part, but nobody's buying it. "Fed Up" was published in November 2010!
On income tax. In the same book, Perry denounces the income tax as a "great milestone on the road to serfdom." His answer? Repeal the 16th Amendment, thereby eliminating the income tax and replacing it with a flat tax or "fair tax" – which is simply another way of saying: lower taxes on the wealthy and raise taxes on the middle class.
On electing senators. According to Rick Perry, we Americans have no right to select and elect our own U.S. senators. The 17th Amendment, he argues, was adopted in 1913 during "a fit of populist rage," and should also be repealed – giving the power of naming U.S. senators back to state legislatures.
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On the Constitution. While repealing the 16th and 17th Amendments, Perry would add several new provisions to the Constitution. He has recently proposed amending the Constitution to end the lifetime appointment of federal judges; to give Congress the power to override decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court; to require the federal government to balance its budget every year; and to define marriage in all 50 states as the union of one man and one woman only.
On the Federal Reserve. Economists may disagree on the Fed's policy of "quantitative easing" to boost the economy, but Perry calls it outright treason. On his first full day of campaigning in Iowa, he warned Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke: "I don't know what you all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous – or treasonous, in my opinion."
On Big Government. Perry tries to have it both ways. On the stump, a tea-party loyalist – nobody rails better against big government. But, on the job, nobody has practiced more big government. By executive order, he mandated all young girls be given the HPV vaccine. He tried using eminent domain to ram a 4,000-mile NAFTA superhighway across Texas. He condemned President Obama's stimulus package, yet took more stimulus dollars for Texas ($16.3 billion) than any other state but New York and California.
One look at Perry's record and you understand why so many Republicans are nervous. They know he's the perfect candidate to win the GOP primary, but far too extreme to win the general election. Democrats, meanwhile, can only pray that he succeeds in getting the nomination.