Pragmatic Perspective: Rick Perry — the good, the bad and the very ugly

The Republican presidential debate held last Tuesday was quite the roller-coaster ride for me personally. There were arguments made that I completely agreed with and other statements that absolutely made my skin crawl.

While I typically ignore statements from Bachmann and Santorum, because they consistently make my skin crawl, Rick Perry, who typically causes me to cringe, for one brief shining moment, made me proud, but that moment was the extent of my pride. In front of a hostile Tea Party crowd and despite the pokes and jabs of practically all of the other candidates, Perry defended Texas legislation that gave in-state tuition to qualifying illegal immigrants. Utah, up until a few months ago, had a similar law that gave in-state tuition to students who graduated from a Utah high school, or, in the case of Perry, a Texas high school.

While Bachmann spouted off the injustices of giving taxpayer money to illegal immigrants, and Romney decried such poor policy-making, Perry stood his ground and defended what I feel is a step in the right direction when it comes to immigration legislation. It’s not as if the state of Texas was handing out bundles of cash; it’s subsidized tuition and nothing more. And when talking about high-school-age students, I would argue that almost none of them chose to cross the border illegally. They were subject to the decisions of their parents and shouldn’t be punished for that. And, most obviously, this type of legislation only affects the illegal immigrants who actually want to go to college! Why not pass legislation that’s going to help these kids contribute to society rather than hinder their progress? This is precisely the point that Perry was trying to defend, and I stand with him on that. As I said, there was a brief shining moment, and then Perry’s words slumped back into skin-crawling status.

Perry was confronted with the question of an Executive Order that he signed as governor of Texas that required all Texas girls to receive the HPV vaccine, which protects against certain contributors to cervical cancer. His colleagues ridiculed him, and rightfully so, but his explanation for why he would make such a decision was beyond mind-boggling and blatantly hypocritical. He claims that his decision was meant to save lives and that “at the end of the day, I am always going to ere on the side of life, and that’s really what this was all about.” Does this phrase coming out of Rick Perry’s mouth seem strange to anyone else? He also said “Texas . . . is a place that protects life” and that he has “been the most pro-life governor in the state of Texas.” Let’s look at the facts, shall we? As of August 2011, no less than 234 inmates had been executed in the state of Texas during the tenure of Gov. Perry. That is more than any other governor in modern time. That is more executions than Oklahoma and Virginia — the next-highest executing states —have had combined in the past 35 years. Since 1976, Texas has executed 473 people, and Perry, in his nearly 11 years in office, is responsible for just under half of those lives taken.

Despite the differences of opinion, the fact remains that taking a life cannot bring back a life that’s already been lost. Someone who permits the taking of 234 lives, no matter how heinous or despicable their actions may have been, cannot conceivably consider themselves “pro-life.”

Again, Mr. Perry had a moment of glory, but it was indeed brief. Above all, what I learned from this last debate is that Perry will not be getting my vote. Despite his support of what I would consider good legislation, anyone who claims to value human life and then take it on a grand scale without thinking twice should not be the leader of the free world.