Judging by his inaugural speech in Austin on Tuesday, Rick Perry's greatest loves are his family, the state of Texas and his alma mater, Texas A&M.
After opening with a touching thanks to his wife ("If I never served a day in this office, I’d still be the most blessed man on earth because of my wife. Anita, you have served as First Lady with grace and dignity, and simply put, I love you") he slipped in an aside about how "awesome" the capitol looked draped in maroon and cracked a joke about how it took 154 years to get an Aggie in the governors' office and how "some of you are probably wondering if he’ll ever leave."
Perry's speech, which was nearly drowned out by an airplane buzzing overhead (a Houston-based company flew a plane with an advertising banner that said, "Spark Energy/God Bless Texas"), was less politically charged than that of lieutenant governor David Dewhurst, but he still managed some serious swipes at the Obama administration.
"While conditions have improved for our troops in Iraq, they have worsened in Afghanistan. Here at home, we’ve seen catastrophic events in the marketplace that have unleashed an economic recession unlike anything we’ve experienced in 70 years. The failure of major financial institutions led to tighter credit, massive foreclosures, and staggering layoffs. Risky practices in the private sector were compounded by poor spending decisions in the public sector. With bloated stimulus spending, record debt and massive entitlement programs, Washington has America on a collision course with bankruptcy."
We can't help but think this sounds a little like a campaign speech. Especially when the state of the nation was contrasted with a more successful Texas.
Perry committed again to balancing the budget without raising taxes, promising that the government will "do more with less" but acknowledging that it may not be pretty.
"The frail, the young, the elderly on fixed incomes, those in situations of abuse and neglect, people whose needs are greater than the resources at their disposal — they can count on the people of Texas to be there for them. We will protect them, support them and empower them, but cannot risk the future of millions of taxpayers in the process. We must cut spending to keep our economic engine on track."
Perry seems intent on spreading the cut-more, spend-less model past the Texas borders, noting that "if we cannot exercise fiscal discipline in governing Texas, I doubt it can be achieved anywhere, least of all in Washington."
For someone who claims no interest in higher office, that claim sounds more than a little like a résume-ready feather in a cap — catnip to the conservatives who see spending and the deficit as the greatest national threat.
As befits a governor, Perry exudes confidence that the Texas model should lead the nation — clearly he's familiar with the Texas vs. California fighting that's been waged in academic economic circles.
Given our state’s economic success compared to that of other states and Washington’s ongoing irresponsibility, I believe Texas will lead the way out of this turmoil. You might say historians will look back on this as the “Texas Century.”
The only question is whether Perry plans for Texas to lead by example or whether he thinks the leaders that have made Texas great should take on greater horizons.
Could we be seeing "Perry 2012" signs soon?