Rick Perry: The Rise and Fall of a Boy From Paint Creek

The "we gotcha" moment might be coming for Perry.
The "we gotcha" moment might be coming for Perry.
Photo by Ed Schipul

After the news of a grand jury's seating and Rick Perry's hiring of defense lawyer David Botsford, the word on the street is, "What took you so long?"

The last time a Texas governor faced possible indictment was almost 100 years ago. In 1917, James "Pa" Ferguson's past shady dealings, which were common knowledge among the well-connected, finally came to light via a quarrel with the University of Texas about removing faculty that "Pa" disliked. When the Board of Regents refused to do Ferguson's bidding, he vetoed practically the entire appropriation for the university.

Is any of this sounding familiar?

Just like Ferguson, Rick Perry allegedly attempted to coerce Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg to leave office and upon her refusal, he vetoed $7.5 million in funds to the state Public Integrity Unit. The kicker being that the TCPIU was in the process of investigating him for his laundry list of misdeeds of his 14 years in office. It went to a grand jury last year, but that panel's term expired.

If this particular Perry-domino tumbles, a whole line of them will follow. The Texas Tribune is investigating his misuse of funds over TexasOne, a quasi-governmental agency, the governor's chief marketing of "Texas is open for business." It's common knowledge that he operates an employment agency for his friends and major contributors, and Perry's influence in Texas will be felt for years to come as a result.

But the list of trespasses is growing.

From weakening the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to please the energy lobbyists and nuclear waste hawkers, to the state's water boards, to possible misuse of funds in CPRIT and the TETF (for which others took the "rap"), the hijinks of King Perry's court and his lieutenants get increasingly deeper, murkier and more malodorous than a cow pasture every day. So deep, in fact, that it could implicate a certain Attorney General who wishes to be Governor.

The bovine excrement will really hit the fan when voters get to view the emails of Texas legislators. Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued an order late last week for Texas to turn over legislators' communications because they may reveal a discriminatory motive in the 2011 Texas voter ID law.

Will all of this rich Texas dirt hurt Perry's 2016 Presidential aspirations? It could be, if the bridge drama of New Jersey's Chris Christie goes badly. Once the political mobs get a whiff of a candidate's blood, they become insatiable. One bright spot is that it may relieve the RNC of some work because the vetting for the GOP's 2016 presidential field is being shared with grand juries.

All of us enjoy the familiar Horatio Alger tale, in which an industrious, fresh-faced boy from small-town America finds success. Rick Perry's tale is more like an epilogue to that Horatio fiction -- a Texas spin-off of Citizen Kane, sans Rosebud.


Rick Perry is a political chameleon and for a time, it worked. He's gone from the gentleman farmer to the Texas version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to Democratic ship-jumper to give-'em-guns-God-and-keep-'em-ignorant to his urination competitions with the Feds to the grito of "Secede" to the misunderstood prophet in an Elmer Gantry-like performance at Reliant Stadium and finally, to the bespectacled banker at Davos. Texans are beginning to ask which Rick is the real Rick?

Just like a snowball rolling down a hill, gathering speed and transforming into an avalanche, the cultivation of hatred for the president by Rick Perry and his GOP friends has resulted in their own destruction. By their attempts to poison the victim, they've inadvertently poisoned themselves.

There was an overdose of sanctimonious schadenfreude yesterday when the grand jury news emerged, but today there's a tinge of sadness. Rick Perry's biography is a cautionary tale for all politicians; a simple boy from Paint Creek, Texas, allowed power, authority and wealth to go to his head and in the end, his sense of inflated self-importance may be his ultimate undoing.

Lord Acton's famous quote -- "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" -- has remained common wisdom, but now there is a scientific study that proves it.

According to a recent study conducted by Berkeley professor Paul Piff, the accumulation of wealth and power directly correlates with an inflated sense of self-entitlement and a capacity for narcissism. Piff suggests that as an individual's level of privilege grows, he/she becomes increasingly self-focused. Piff's study explains perfectly the growing narcissism of Governor Perry and his mistaken thinking that he is above the law.

Rick Perry's rise and fall should be a lesson for all of us. We should remember that karma works in mysterious ways, but it's only a bitch if we are.

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