BY DIANNA WRAY
Paul Sancya/AP The defining moment for presidential candidate Rick Perry. Oops.
The hair has been the great constant.
For the past 14 years, the state of Texas has been run by the guy with the best head of hair in professional politics. Now we are reaching the end of an era. Come January 20, Governor Rick Perry will leave office after serving the longest gubernatorial term in the state's history, roughly 5,110 days. Whether he follows through on his threat to go into quiet California-Dreamin' retirement or takes the more likely path and tries another quixotic run at the White House, one thing is certain: We're going to miss that gorgeous dome of hair and the strange and wondrous mind beneath it.
Perry has been many things to us in Texas -- an Aggie, a Sam Rayburn-inspired Democrat, a state legislator, a more-conservative-than-your-most-conservative-relative Republican, agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor -- but he has also been something infinitely more priceless. Dear Lord, even when his policies have been the stuff of nightmares, Perry has been entertaining.
We could talk about how Perry consolidated power to turn the relatively weak governor's office into a concentration of political strength never before seen in Texas. We could ruminate on the alleged Texas Miracle that he takes so much credit for and point out that despite all those jobs, Texas actually isn't all that remarkable where the economy is concerned.
We could mention the Texas Enterprise Fund, the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas and the many questions regarding the finances and management of such Perry-established entities. There's his reluctance to tap into the Rainy Day Fund while he's happily accepted brutal cuts to the education budget. Heck, we could go on for ages about the poverty rates as well as the children and poor who don't receive health care. We could discuss Perry's refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a decision that has left thousands uninsured, although the federal government would have footed the bill until 2016 and covered about 90 percent of the expansion costs for a number of years after that. And we could go into the corporations to which Perry has given so many tax breaks, but that's not what this is about.
It's been a long, strange trip, and it's coming to an end. Yes, after 14 years, Perry is finally leaving office, and now we can't help waxing sentimental. The corn dogs. The guns. The strange political optics. The habit of opening his mouth and saying things that don't make much sense before showing the world his pearly whites -- evidence that Perry has no idea he's once again "stepped in it."More »