On a right wing and a prayer

Rick Perry’s Unanswered Prayers – NYTimes.com


In the four months since Perry’s request for divine intervention, his state has taken a dramatic turn for the worse.  Nearly all of Texas  is now in “extreme or exceptional” drought, as classified by federal meteorologists, the worst in Texas history.

Lakes have disappeared. Creeks are phantoms, the caked bottoms littered with rotting, dead fish.  Farmers cannot coax a kernel of grain from ground that looks like the skin of an aging elephant.

Is this Rick Perry’s fault, a slap to a man who doesn’t believe that humans can alter the earth’s climate —  God messin’ with Texas? No, of course not.  God is too busy with the upcoming Cowboys football season and solving the problems that Tony Romo has reading a blitz. 

But Perry’s tendency to use prayer as public policy demonstrates, in the midst of a truly painful, wide-ranging and potentially catastrophic crisis in the nation’s second most-populous state, how he would govern if he became president.

“I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God, and say, ‘God: You’re going to have to fix this,’” he said in a speech in May, explaining how some of the nation’s most serious problems could be solved.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke at a day long prayer and fast rally on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011, at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
That was a warm-up of sorts for his prayer-fest, 30,000 evangelicals in Houston’s Reliant Stadium on Saturday. From this gathering came a very specific prayer for economic recovery. On the following Monday, the first day God could do anything about it, Wall Street suffered its worst one-day collapse since the 2008 crisis. The Dow sunk by 635 points.

Prayer can be meditative, healing, and humbling.  It can also be magical thinking.  Given how Perry has said he would govern by outsourcing to the supernatural, it’s worth asking if God is ignoring him.

Though Perry will not officially announce his candidacy until Saturday, he loomed large over the Republican debate Thursday night.  With their denial of climate change, basic budget math,  and the indisputable fact that most of the nation’s gains have gone overwhelmingly to a wealthy few in the last decade, the candidates form a Crazy Eight caucus.  You could power a hay ride on their nutty ideas.

After the worst week of his presidency (and the weakest Oval Office speech since Gerald Ford unveiled buttons to whip inflation), the best thing Barack Obama has going for him is this Republican field.  He still beats all of them in most polling match-ups.

Perry is supposed to be the savior. When he joins the campaign in the next few days, expect him to show off his boots; they are emblazoned with the slogan dating to the 1835 Texas Revolution: “Come and Take It.”  He once explained the logo this way:  “Come and take it — that’s what it’s all about.” This is not a man one would expect to show humility in prayer.

Perry revels in a muscular brand of ignorance (Rush Limbaugh is a personal hero), one that extends to the ever-fascinating history of the Lone Star State.  Twice in the last two years he’s broached the subject of Texas seceding from the union.

“When we came into the nation in 1845 we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation,” says Perry in a 2009 video that has just surfaced.  “And one of the deals was, we can leave any time we want. So we’re kind of thinking about that again.”

He can dream all he wants about the good old days when Texas left the nation to fight for the slave-holding states of the breakaway confederacy. But the law will not get him there. There is no such language in the Texas or United States’ constitutions allowing Texas to unilaterally “leave any time we want.”

But Texas is special.  By many measures, it is the nation’s most polluted state.  Dirty air and water do not seem to bother Perry.  He is, however,  extremely perturbed by the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement of laws designed to clean the world around him.  In a recent interview,  he wished for the president to pray away the E.P.A.

To Jews, Muslims, non-believers and even many Christians, the Biblical bully that is Rick Perry  must sound downright menacing, particularly when he gets into religious absolutism. “As a nation, we must call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles,” he said last week.

As a lone citizen, he’s free to advocate Jesus-driven public policy imperatives.  But coming from  someone who wants to govern this great mess of a country with all its beliefs, Perry’s language is an insult to the founding principles of the republic. 


12 comments on “On a right wing and a prayer

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  1. That is such an asinine statement, specially from someone who wrote about the Dust Bowl, it’s quite Wolcottian in it’s insensitivity,circa 2004.

  2. “I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God, and say, ‘God: You’re going to have to fix this,’” he said in a speech in May, explaining how some of the nation’s most serious problems could be solved.

    I guess if Perry can tell God what God has to do, he’s certain deserves to give everyone else their marching orders.
    Everyone who believes that God is going to fix things on Perry’s say so probably feels the power of Perry compels them…

  3. @ miguel cervantes:

    Haven’t read Egan’s book on the DB but from this except I’m guessing he might have been a bit less harsh if Perry showed, I don’t know, a little humlity

    In any case, Perry reminds me of the sort of character Karen’s mother might have been referring to with her quoting the lines “Some men rob you with a six gun/Others with a fountain pen”.

    From what I understand, growing up in Dust Bowl Oklahoma disabused you pretty quickly of any admiration you might have of those who fold their hands in prayer for you one minute, and give you the back of their hand the next.

    • Perry’s got Jon Chait thinking of Woody Guthrie, too: http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/93585/what-does-rick-perry-believe

      This reminds me of an old line of right-wing Christian thought that discouraged efforts to mend injustice and instead place faith in God. It was a notion mocked in the old radical song “The Preacher and the Slave”:

      Long-haired preachers come out every night,
      Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right;
      But when asked how ’bout something to eat
      They will answer in voices so sweet

      You will eat, bye and bye,
      In that glorious land above the sky;
      Work and pray, live on hay,
      You’ll get pie in the sky when you die

      Now, this isn’t exactly what Perry is saying. His ideology seems to reflect the fusion between right-wing Christian thought and economic libertarianism, the market as the reflection of God’s perfect plan.

  4. From the same author:

    Conservative pundits, while usually slanting their account in highly partisan and often misleading terms, do a fairly good job of grasping and explaining the fact that the two parties fundamentally disagree on the causes of and solutions to the economic crisis and the long-term deficit. In this sense, a Rush Limbaugh listener may well be better informed about the causes of the impasse than listener of NPR or other mainstream organs. The former will have in his mind a wildly slanted version of the basic political landscape, while the latter’s head will be filled with magical thinking.

  5. Yes, it is God Almighty who revealed to the Founding Fathers Inc. that only some sort of ultra-limited government meets with His approval because Free Marketeers are part of the Plan and the Plan is a monopoly.

  6. Being Sphincty material and winning a Sphincty aren’t the same thing. We can ask the Sphincter himself to dilate on the subject later on, perhaps when he’s done teaching teachers this weekend.

    As for Perry, I think he has at least the potential to wipe out everyone in the R field except for Romney, who has the rump moderately-sane R contingent in his pocket since they’ve nowhere else to go. Won’t worry about the ones who run on their own special sauce, like Ron Paul, but have ZERO chance of winning. Huntsman may stick around cuz he’s a rich kid practicing for 2016 and a post-Tea Republicanism, and he may still nurture the faint hope that the gargantuans will destroy each other, and that 2016 may come four years ahead of time after all.

    Romney being a maladroit flip-flop-flippery unmentionable, the True Conservative with executive, not to mention executioner, experience stands a chance for the nom, almost regardless of whether BHO looks more or less vulnerable. Once nom’d, he’d stand a chance of taking the whole thing just by principle of hazard.

    Still think BHO would be the favorite, but even when Perry’s being nice, he’s mean, so could get very, very ugly.

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