Flake in Chief – Why Rick Perry’s “Executive Experience” is a Relative Term


As featured on the Huffington Post:

Questionable executions and Ponzi scheme conjectures aside, Rick Perry and his proponents have hammered one talking point a little harder than most others: the candidate’s executive experience.

Conservative advocacy group “One Term President” – attempting to draw a dubious parallel between the Texas governor and a party figure head – issued a statement last month when Perry kicked off his presidential campaign. “Rick Perry has more executive experience than any candidate since Ronald Reagan” wrote the group, echoing a popular message among the Right. “That sure is appealing compared to a president that had zero executive experience.”

They have a point. OTP and its allies argue, perhaps justifiably, that having run an organization, a business, or a government adds tremendously to the resume of a candidate for the country’s highest office. The sentiment is one that has been adopted by both sides of the aisle, depending on election year and incumbency. Just two months ago, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty – then a GOP candidate for president – had little trouble persuading a campaign crowd that “you can’t put somebody in the Oval Office who hasn’t had executive experience leading a large enterprise.” His attitude doesn’t differ much from the one liberal icon Bill Clinton adopted while running for president in 1992.

But the OTP crowd is missing one side of the equation. The assertion that eleven years of experience in office qualifies someone to be president likens to an assertion that if you’ve cooked eleven batches of brownies, they must have been delicious. “Leadership experience” rings hollow if the emphasis is on the latter word of the phrase. For a group, political or otherwise, to claim that Rick Perry’s eleven years as governor should hoist him above the political fray reflects profound vacuity.

As it happens, those brownies weren’t as good as they may have seemed. Just in the past few weeks, Perry has neglected the duties of his office for what he has deemed more important ventures. Most recently, he rolled the dice on life and death with cringe-worthy opportunism.

The governor, who has proudly authorized more executions than any state executive in modern history, was nowhere to be found Thursday evening when controversial inmate Duane Buck was scheduled to be put to death in Huntsville, Texas. Buck, a black man whose case involved sensitive racial and psychological issues, is the center one of the most disputed cases since the state’s establishment. His attorneys have fought for a stay on his execution in the weeks leading up to September 15, but legal precedent outlines that a ruling of that nature falls into the hands of either the state’s governor or the United States Supreme Court.

A strong, stolid leader – someone who has learned from his executive experience and has proven it efficacious by standing by his controversial record – should take the lead on a case like this. Perry, however, was absent from the rolling plains of his state Thursday. He had fled to a GOP fundraiser in Iowa, forcing the Supreme Court to stay Buck’s execution – the “big government” he so scorns, in the flesh – and intervene in a decision that should have been his.

Were the Buck case Perry’s only recent lapse in “executive leadership,” perhaps his cronies’ argument would remain sound. But the evidence mounts even higher.

Perry once served as his state’s Commissioner of Agriculture. His former department’s official mission is to “…partner with all Texans to make Texas the nation’s leader in agriculture, fortify (its) economy, (and) empower rural communities…”. As governor, he has made bold statements (albeit without much follow through) on environmental issues. Last week, however, he let his trademark opportunism impede once again upon the “executive leadership” he and his supporters contend makes him more qualified than anyone else to be president.

Perry, whose state has been ravaged by some of the most detrimental wildfires in years (the ferocity of which compelled President Obama to declare a state of emergency in the region) left Texas on September 7, the same day as Obama’s announcement. Did he go to a wedding? To a funeral? To an important budget meeting on Capitol Hill? No, he jetted to Simi Valley, California so that he could expound upon his unequaled executive experience in the Republican presidential debate.

The political infidelity continues. In the month that he has been campaigning for president, Perry has spent stump speech after stump speech emphasizing his commitment to job creation and economic growth, touting Texas’ record under his tenure. But in that same month of campaigning – the first weeks on the road, laying claim to job creation spurred by tax cuts and slashed spending – jobs in Texas have finally met reality and dropped sharply. The state has experienced layoffs in its transportation sector, its mining and logging sector, and – yes – even in its government. During the month of August, thirteen-hundred people in the Lone Star State lost their jobs.

Rick Perry’s “executive leadership” boils down to this: when he sees something he likes better, he visibly drops what he’s already committed to. What’s he going to do when he could be making more money as a Wall Street broker? Or when he realizes that he’d rather be on the golf course than at the State of the Union? Or when Social Security really does just become too much of a hassle for the executive branch? If Americans want a flaky chief executive, they can count on Rick Perry to bail out when the going gets tough. But when you’re the President of the United States, it’s a bit harder to flee to Iowa.

Send it to the Nine


There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build a large mosque and Islamic community center three blocks away from Ground Zero– the site of 9/11. The proposal has several high-profile proponents (such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg) in addition to its noteworthy opponents (such as the Anti-Defamation League). The ADL put out a statement a couple of weeks ago which said that New York City “would be better served if an alternative location could be found.” The statement from the organization asserted that it is “not right” to do something that will cause the victims’ families pain or discomfort.

This is an ostensibly multifaceted situation. It seems to have many layers and levels, and it does. But once we move beyond the rhetoric and debate, there is a very simple answer. Right-wingers like Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani have come out against the proposal and expressed that, while it’s the PC thing to do, it’s completely inappropriate, offensive, and dishonorable. Newt Gingrich proclaimed on his website, in no uncertain terms, that this mosque should not be built because “America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.” The Tea-Partiers are all up in arms over this also. The American political right is entirely opposed the mosque being built. Why is this so interesting? Because this means that the same people who spend so much of their time fighting for their rights granted to them by the Second Amendment of the constitution have forgotten entirely about that amendment’s predecessor.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

It’s not a matter of being the right or wrong thing to do.

Maybe it’s insensitive. Maybe they could find other places to put it. Maybe someone will get offended. But Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, allowing for the mosque to be built is not only the PC thing to do, it’s the legal thing to do. In a society that is so tangibly affected by our country’s constitution, there is a definitive answer to this question. Regardless of the pompous, philosophical debate over this issue, the answer is short and simple: yes, the constitution says so. Perhaps this is one for the Nine.

Pick-and-choose is not an option.

Elena Kagan


There are a few things that make Elena Kagan, President Obama’s nominee to fill Justice Stevens’ seat on the Supreme Court, a more easily-confirmable nominee than others may have been:

  • She has never been a judge before. In terms of confirmation, this is highly beneficial and eases the process. During Justice Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings– as well as those of quite a few other SCOTUS nominees– Republicans hammered her on controversial decisions that she had made. Kagan has made some controversial comments, but has never had to publicly make a major political/ judicial decision. She’d be the first justice in thirty eight years to be confirmed without having had previous judicial experience (William Rhenquist was the last one).
  • She’s a woman. Kagan’s confirmation to the Supreme Court will make women 1/3 of the supreme court. While this is unprecedented, it should be, because women make up more than 51% of the population of the United States. (Also, she Jewish, which breaks the mold, as well.)
  • She’s procured bipartisan support. As dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan re-shaped what had been widely recognized as a very liberal faculty. She tenured twenty new professors, many of them conservative. Since her nomination (and during the time she was being considered), several prominent conservative legal minds have spoken out in support of her and expressed their strong beliefs that Elena Kagan would be an excellent, honorable Supreme Court justice.
  • She’s brilliant and overqualified. She went to Princeton for undergraduate, and received an A.B. in History. Went to Oxford and received a Masters degree in Philosophy. She went to Harvard Law and received her J.D. She clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall. She was a tenured law professor at the University of Chicago (coincidentally, right around the same time Barack Obama was there). She was Bill Clinton’s associate White House Counsel. Now, she serves as the United States Solicitor General, representing the United States Government in cases before the Supreme Court. She’s known to be one of the sharpest legal minds in the country.

Breaking the Mold


Oh, how the tables have turned.

In light of Justice Stevens’ retirement announcement, the White House will begin to determine a nominee to be approved by the US Senate. Whereas in the not-so-distant past, only a white male nominee would ever be considered acceptable, the pressure has increased for President Obama to choose someone who does’t fit that mold. That pressure is, of course, lessened by Justice Sotomayor’s ascension to the bench. However, President Obama’s first term in office marks the first time in American history that the white, Christian, male candidate is at a disadvantage.

“Fortunately, the supreme court is a more diverse place than it has been…there is the possibility that there could be the first Asian-American justice, but i suspect there may well be another woman on the court,” Jeffery Toobin said this morning on CNN.

Elena Kagan, who is considered the leading candidate for Stevens’ position, would be the first Justice in a long time who was not a judge prior to her appointment.

It seems like whoever Obama chooses– regardless of their political standpoint– will be somehow breaking the mold.

Once Obama’s done, will there still be a “mold”?