It’s not a crime to have a brain freeze on national television while running in a presidential primary. But it should be a crime to have terrorized most of the 30 million people living in Texas.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, nominated to head the U.S. Department of Energy, is likely to be another person confirmed to head one of President Trump’s cabinet positions who is not only unqualified, but is hostile to the goals of the office they will lead.
This department plays a prominent role in “designing nuclear weapons, thwarting their proliferation, and ensuring the safety and reliability of the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal,” according to the New York Times. (Dec. 13) The last two energy secretaries, Ernest J. Moniz of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Steven Chu of Stanford University, brought to the office their doctorates in physics, academic credentials and, in Dr. Chu’s case, a Nobel prize.
Perry would bring a different set of credentials. He is the longest-serving governor of Texas — in office from 2000 to 2015 — and before that was the Texas agriculture commissioner. He does hold a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas A&M University, although he barely had a C average and at various times was on academic probation. As governor, Perry made a name for himself as a loyal friend of oil, gas, fracking and executions.
Telling the Texas Legislature goodbye in January 2015, Perry spoke about how energy technology and policy had improved the state’s economy, and then scolded New York for banning hydraulic fracturing. “In Texas,” he said, “we have chosen jobs. We have chosen energy security, and we will one day end America’s dependence on hostile sources of foreign energy.” (Texas Tribune, Dec. 13)
After stepping down as governor, Perry joined Energy Transfer Partners and its partner, Sunoco Logistics. Both companies are contractors for the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Trans Pecos pipeline, and several others in south and west Texas. ETP is owned by Kelcy Warren, a Dallas billionaire who was a loyal Perry donor during his gubernatorial and presidential runs. The oil and gas industry was the dominant sector behind Perry’s 2016 presidential effort, donating more than $1.6 million.
Environmentalists question Perry’s qualifications to lead the massive federal Energy Department, not only because he called for its elimination during his first presidential bid five years ago, but also because of his fervent support for traditional fossil fuels.
The Texas head of the Environmental Defense Fund, Jim Marston, said, “Those of us who lived through Rick Perry’s governorship in Texas were concerned he’d take his ‘pollution-first’ mentality to Washington.” (blogs.edf.org, Jan. 31) During his tenure as governor, Texas natural gas production increased by 50 percent while its oil production soared by 260 percent. In 2003, Perry signed into law a tax break to encourage the fracking industry to invest in Texas.
Perry headed a state ranked number one in the number of uninsured people, the lowest rate of prenatal care and a state that has shut down the majority of women’s health clinics. In September 2016, the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that Texas’ rate of pregnancy-related deaths nearly doubled between 2000 and 2014, a rate unmatched in any other state and the rest of the “developed” world. The rate was hard to explain “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval.”
He named three creationists to head the Texas Education Agency.
Leader in executions
Perry executed 278 people under his rule, a record unbroken by any U.S. governor. There have been 1,446 executions in the U.S. since the practice was resumed in 1976. More than one third of them — 540 — have been in Texas. Of those, more than half were carried out by Perry.
Perry vetoed a bill that would have spared the mentally disabled from execution and sharply criticized a Supreme Court ruling that juveniles were ineligible for the death penalty. Three Mexican citizens, Humberto Leal, Edgar Tamayo and José Medellín, were executed under Perry, despite international law giving them a right to see a representative of their home country.
He allowed the execution of many who are widely recognized as innocent, including Frances Newton and Todd Willingham. He allowed executions of those who were not even at the scene of a crime, like Joseph Nichols and Mauricio Brown. He allowed state murder of the mentally ill, including Suzanne Basso.
Using immigrants as scapegoats in his quest to defy President Barack Obama, he had Texas appropriate nearly $800 million for border security operations in the last five years of his tenure alone. Perry oversaw multiple law enforcement surge operations going back to 2005, as well as the creation of Texas Ranger Reconnaissance Teams. The whole lower Rio Grande Valley in south Texas has become a virtual police state, with so many law enforcement agencies afoot that many residents are terrified to leave their homes.
Perry has consistently opposed any rights for the LGBTQ communities. He supported a ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage in Texas, supports a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage nationwide and has attacked judges who have ruled against same-sex marriage bans. He even defied a Department of Defense rule that would have granted LGBTQ servicemembers access to domestic partner benefits.
Perry has attacked LGBTQ members serving openly in the military and opposed LGBTQ participation in the Boy Scouts, comparing himself to an abolitionist fighting against slavery.
In 2002, Perry described the Texas same-sex anti-”sodomy” law as “appropriate.” In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that statute in Lawrence v. Texas, determining that it violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
In the early years of his political career, Rick Perry began hosting fellow lawmakers, friends and supporters at his family’s secluded West Texas hunting camp, a place known by the racist name painted in block letters across a large, flat rock at its gated entrance: “N—–head.”
When the Perry family moved out of the governor’s mansion, which was being remodeled in 2007, he used almost $1 million in taxpayer money. A fire gutted the mansion during remodeling. The fire was at first blamed on anti-death penalty activists.
Rick Perry should not be head of any cabinet — he should be locked up for all his crimes against the working people of Texas. His laws, rulings and decisions have put many lives in jeopardy and caused daily anguish that only the poor can feel.
(WW photos: Gloria Rubac)