09.13.2011 1

Rick Perry the heretic

By David Bozeman — Whenever mainstream pundits identify a conservative as a Christian, brace yourself, the ax is about to fall. Even some right-wingers sneer that Rick Perry is Christian, and, if confrontation appears imminent, they all hide behind their solemn veneer of looking out for the voters, dutifully fulfilling the public’s right to know.

Columnist Dana Milbank recently countered his Washington Post colleague Perry Bacon’s comment that Rick Perry’s victory “would cement the Republican Party’s shift from Bush’s approach to a more libertarian, anti-government GOP.”  Replied Milbank, “[Rick Perry] is no libertarian.  Rick Perry is a theocrat.”

Oh, really?  So, “Christian” cancels out “libertarian” and vice-versa?  Milbank’s column recalls the governor’s book from 2008, On My Honor.  Perry elaborates on his faith in Christ and assails the left’s assault on the Boy Scouts (for their stances against homosexuality).  Perry also condemns the ACLU and universities that teach that corporations are evil, religion is the opiate of the masses and morality is relative.  Even human rights commissions, according to the governor, are often fronts for attacking institutions that teach traditional values.

For some, the problem with Rick Perry is not that he endorses a religion but that he endorses the wrong religion.  If he were an evangelist for the liberal church, preaching for taxes on the rich, further stimulus spending, cap and trade legislation and any or all of the rest of the state-certified catechism, no one would issue dire warnings of a creeping theocracy.

The point here is not whether or not Governor Perry is sufficiently libertarian or conservative to be president.  The pertinent question here is who controls the narrative.  Commentators who derisively dissect a conservative’s faith instantly cast themselves as forward-thinking rationalists, always enlightened and ever above the conflicts of the day.

Sarah Palin, whose political life was forged by ethics reform, energy exploration and fiscal issues, was portrayed in 2008 as a book-banning evangelical, ignorant of the earth’s origins and eager to wage wars in God’s name.  Soon, the Alaska governor epitomized America’s widening cultural chasm (abyss?) between New York/Washington elitists and the denizens of fly-over country.  She had so much to offer that was, sadly, lost in the daily give-and-take.

Similarly, Governor Perry has waged gubernatorial campaigns in 2002, 2006 and 2010.  His tenure has focused on education, health care, tax cuts, border security, etc.  His many years in public life will ultimately determine if he is a libertarian — his thoughts on homosexuality, the left’s assault on the Boy Scouts and anti-Americanism in academia are second-tier matters that make great fodder for a culture-war debate but offer little in the way of substance.

Speaking of which, Politico recently ran a piece entitled “Is Rick Perry Dumb?”  Deep stuff.  As a conservative, my gut reaction is to pen a column entitled “Is Rick Perry’s Ignorance Better for America than Barack Obama’s Wisdom?”

But the fact that our president is a pop-diva product of the mainstream media, highly educated and boasting a wafer-thin resume with scant real-world experience dilutes the reality of his abysmal term thus far.  Whoever secures the 2012 GOP nomination should focus like a laser on our current failed leadership and offer fresh, positive free-market alternatives to the Church of the Failed Stimulus and its charismatic reverend Barack Obama.

The ideological and religious bearings of our leaders do matter, but it is up to candidates to define themselves.  Likewise, voters must discern between a candidate’s record and what amounts to nothing more than pejorative, lest the truth be lost in the fog of religious fervor masquerading as enlightened mainstream thought.

David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer

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