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Sometimes, your only choices are “naive" and “cynical” — as when the question is whether to believe what political people say.
Naive: Trust them! They’re telling you what you need to know to participate in the epic wonderland of civic life.
Cynical: Don’t trust them! They’re making it up to fool you into voting for them so they can get into office no matter what it takes.
Rick Perry talked about the presidential race Friday. Score one for the cynics.
The former presidential candidate and governor was at the State Capitol on Friday for the hanging of his official portrait (without glasses, and with his Aggie ring prominently featured) in the rotunda.
The day before, Perry had endorsed Donald Trump, the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president.
The first question from reporters? How does that square with what he said last summer when, you might remember, Perry was the first presidential candidate to rip into the reality TV star’s bid for office. Perry’s July 2015 attack wasn’t a sideswipe. It was direct. The full text of his speech — titled “Defending Conservatism Against the Cancer of Trump-ism” — is still presented in full on his website.
Here’s an excerpt:
The White House has been occupied by giants. But from time to time it is sought by the small-minded – divisive figures propelled by anger, and appealing to the worst instincts in the human condition.
In times of trouble, there are two types of leaders: repairers of the breach and sowers of discord.
The sower of discord foments agitation, thrives on division, scapegoats certain elements of society, and offers empty platitudes and promises. He is without substance when one scratches below the surface.
He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.
Let no one be mistaken – Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.
It cannot be pacified or ignored, for it will destroy a set of principles that has lifted more people out of poverty than any force in the history of the civilized world – the cause of conservatism.
I feel so strongly about this because I believe conservatism is the only way forward for this country.
On Friday, Perry sang a new song. “We are competitors, and so the rhetoric is in the heat of battle, it’s in the chaos of a presidential bid,” he said, adding that when the fight ends, it’s time to “let bygones be bygones.”
He talked about the next president’s possible appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. “And I’ll suggest to you, when the choice is Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, that becomes abundantly easy for me to make that decision,” he said.
Ted Cruz had some particularly harsh words for Trump last week, on the day Indiana Republicans were showing their preference for the New Yorker over the Texan. Cruz’s remarks were not scripted, like Perry’s 2015 speech was, but they were sharp.
"He doesn't know the difference between truth and lies," Cruz said. "He lies — practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying."
Perry suggested Republicans will unite behind their candidate and said Trump’s competitors need time to think things through. “Ted Cruz is one of the smartest people I’ve ever been around in my life, and he has the intellect and the character to make the right decision on his timetable,” he said. “I think any of us that have ever been through one of these things before, there’s a little bit of raw feelings. It takes us just a little bit of time to kind of get over some of it.”
Perry, a former legislator, agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor, revealed a tinge of doubt over Trump’s lack of experience. But Trump seems willing to bring in people who have governed, Perry said: “I think that’s the most important trait that he will have to exhibit. That’s yet to be seen, but I feel comfortable that he will indeed do that.”
In politics, Perry said on Friday, “people find where they’re comfortable. There seems to me to be comfort with Donald Trump in the Republican Party primary process at this particular point in time.”
Perhaps Cruz will come to the same conclusion. That’s a lot of ground to cover after what he said about Trump last week, but look at how far Perry moved to get into the tent.
“I, for one, will not be silent when a candidate for the high office of president runs under the Republican banner by targeting millions of Hispanics, and our veterans, with mean-spirited vitriol,” Perry said in that speech last summer. “I will not go quiet when this cancer on conservatism threatens to metastasize into a movement of mean-spirited politics that will send the Republican Party to the same place it sent the Whig Party in 1854: the graveyard.”
A cynic might conclude that he didn’t really mean that.