by Jeff Siegel
The reason that the late, great Molly Ivins called Texas Gov. Rick Perry “The Coiffure” is because she thought his head was pretty much empty under his always impressive hairdo.
Perry, a Republican, demonstrated Ivins’ wisdom this week, when he told a tax protest crowd in Austin that Texas could secede from the union if it wanted. "Texas is a unique place," he said to reporters in Austin. "When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.”
Then, because he is The Coiffure, he spent the rest of the day backtracking and insisting that secession was the last thing on his mind — all the while invoking the 10th Amendment, which has been part of the states’ rights argument since the Nullification Crisis in 1832 (when South Carolina insisted that it could nullify federal laws it didn’t like).
Honestly? Perry probably believes Texas could secede if it wanted to, in much the same way that George Bush believed in "Mission Accomplished." His belief is a reflection of three things:
• His incredibly cloistered world view, in which Perry has very little to do with anyone who isn’t very much like him in politics and socio-economic status. During a legislative debate here several years ago, about whether teachers needed affordable health insurance, Perry said they didn’t. They could get it from their husbands.
• His lack of a grasp of history, which is particularly common among Texans of his political stripe. During his secession comments, he quoted Sam Houston: “Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression." Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas, opposed secession in 1861 and was forced from office for opposing it.
• What looks to be a bruising GOP primary race for governor in 2010 against U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Hutchison is a popular, three-term senator who is seen as more moderate than Perry and who comes from the party’s more traditional Chamber of Commerce wing. Perry’s anti-tax statements, his continual criticism of the Obama administration, and his refusal to accept stimulus money are part of his attempt to secure his base among evangelicals, the Republican right wing and other fellow travelers.
The other thing to keep in mind about all of this is that Texans truly think they are at the center of the universe. The state, as I’ve said many times, is the only one that used to be a country, and this sense of difference still affects what happens here 165 years later. Am I exaggerating when I say Perry probably believes his talk of secession will inform debate in Washington? Probably not by much.
(The photo of Gov. Rick Perry is by Robert Scoble of Half Moon Bay, CA, the author of Scobelizer, via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. To see a video of Gov. Perry's comments about secession after his tea party protest speech, please check below.)
Kay Bailey Hutchison
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by Jeff Siegel