These days, what a politician says in public is like a parachute that has been deployed during a jump: it can’t be pulled back into its pack. It is something that plagues some politicians more than others, as it did Dan Quayle, Howard Dean and Sarah Palin. If the comment is benign enough, it gets referred to as a gaffe, as with Vice President Joe Biden. With his relative surge in the Republican polls, so it is with Texas Governor Rick Perry. His campaign managers and apologists must be staying up late.
A Texas reporter at the Iowa State Fair recently asked Perry how he thought he could beat former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann in the upcoming 2012 GOP nominating contest. “We’re running against Obama, that’s who we’re after,” Perry said. To that point Perry confirmed his position. But then he unzipped the parachute-pack by suggesting that U.S. military personnel do not respect President Obama.
“One of the reasons that I’m running for president is I want to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on the uniform of the United States respects highly the president of the United States,” he said. “The military men and women respect the commander in chief, regardless of who it is.” he said. Then he added, “I think they’d really like to see a person who wore the uniform in that office.”
He did not use the word “veteran.”
Many observers took it as a political shot at Romney by the former Air Force captain. Perry’s campaign communications director Ray Sullivan explained, “The governor spends a great deal of time with active duty military and retired military… He’s heard a lot about concerns about the direction of the country.” That may be good procedure by a communications director after a comment is out there on the air. However, it begs a question.
Why did Rick Perry make a voter ID bill an “emergency” to fast-track it when it discriminates against Texas veterans? SB 14 passed the Texas legislature along party lines, 101-48. If approved by the Department of Justice, it would require that voters present a form of approved photo identification to cast a ballot. However, a Veterans Administration issued identification card is not an approved photo ID.
“There is no issue more sacred to me than protecting every Texans’ right to vote. I am deeply disappointed to learn that the implementation of the Republicans’ voter suppression law will not only have disparaging effects on our elderly, minorities, and people with disabilities, but now will ultimately discriminate against our veterans,” said Texas State Senator Leticia Van de Putte. “It is disturbing to me that this ‘emergency item’ will potentially disenfranchise those who have valiantly served our country with dignity and respect.”
Attorney General Eric Holder has been called to examine whether the current wave of GOP voter ID laws, such as Texas SB 14, violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That misses the point. Being a Republican Lone Star candidate and bludgeoning political opponents, including the commander in chief, for not “wearing the uniform” is one thing.
Disenfranchising veterans is another.