The Big Conversation:
Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday joined the political clash enveloping the biggest American foreign policy flare-up in months.
In a statement, Perry, who just spent a week in Italy touting Texas business, effectively blamed President Barack Obama for the Tuesday night attacks on the American diplomatic mission in Libya and the American embassy in Egypt that killed the U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans.
"Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans are now dead in the chaos of a destabilized Middle East," Perry said, as the Houston Chronicle reported. "President Obama said he 'rejects' these brutal acts, and condemns them in 'the strongest terms' — yet still acknowledges our attackers' supposed justification. This kind of language broadcasts an impotent foreign policy that fostered this crisis in the first place."
Perry's remarks echoed — and amplified — a statement Mitt Romney released late Tuesday in which he alleged that "the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."
Facing criticism for politicizing the attacks and misrepresenting the timeline by which the events in the Middle East unfolded, Romney on Wednesday refused to back down from his comments. In response, Obama told CBS News, "Gov. Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later."
Perry's statement stood in stark contrast to those of other high-profile Republicans, most of whom avoided attacking Obama in their statements on the violence. The governor, however, received the backing of at least one close ally, Victoria Coates, his foreign policy adviser while running for president, who voiced support for Romney.
"It’s unfortunate that it’s playing out this way," Coates told the Chronicle. "And hopefully they can get back on message, because their point is sound."
- A year after lawmakers cut billions of dollars in services to close a massive budget hole, a dramatic turnaround could be in store for the state. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Comptroller Susan Combs announced Wednesday that state tax collections for 2012 exceeded expectations by $3.7 billion, due largely to the oil and gas industry, setting the state up for a record budget surplus. As the Statesman notes, the surplus would likely cover the $4.7 billion by which lawmakers underfunded Medicaid in 2011, but how to use the remainder could prove contentious in next year's legislative session. "The first thing the Legislature needs to do is to make a list of services they need to restore," said Dick Lavine of the liberal Center for Public Policy Priorities.
- The Census Bureau reported Wednesday that the median household income in the U.S. has fallen by 1.5 percent since last year, and 8 percent since 2007. While Texas bucked the trend, reporting a 0.6 percent median income increase since 2011, the state still claims the highest rate of citizens without health insurance and the seventh-highest poverty rate, behind several Southern states and New Mexico.
- U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, has topped Roll Call's list of the richest members of Congress for the second year in a row. McCaul's reported net worth, about $300 million, exceeds that of the second-richest member of Congress, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., by more than $100 million.
"Muammar Qadaffi was an evil oppressor who murdered innocent Americans. But in the naïve belief that America could 'lead from behind' in the operation to remove him, this President allowed Libyan rockets and artillery to be scattered to the terrorist winds and had no plan to secure the country." — Rick Perry in his statement Wednesday on the Middle East attacks
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