Photo: Texas Governor Rick Perry, Flickr Creative Commons
This morning I gave Rick Perry a little more respect. I still wouldn't vote for the guy. He gleefully revels in political positions that I either find abhorrent or at least think deserve more careful consideration and less reckless certainty.
Still, it takes guts to defend, without equivocation, a political decision you've made in front of a crowd you should know will hate you for it, and that's exactly what Perry did last night. When asked about his decision to allow children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities in Texas, Perry did not back down. To him, it was the right decision. End of discussion. Who cares if the crowd is booing and elections are a popularity contest. I'm sure this was much more difficult for him than it was to answer a question about the death penalty when the crowd cheered when the moderator brought up the record number of people put to death while he was governor.
Of course, it's easy for me to respect him this time, too. I agree with him on the in-state tuition issue. Would I respect him if he'd been booed about the death penalty and he stood by his past decisions just as firmly? That's an odd scenario as no Republican audience would ever boo the death penalty, but if they had?
Yes, I'd have respected him for not quivering in the face of public opinion, but I wouldn't be writing about it because I wouldn't like his opinion. Ron Paul is really the best example of this. When he leaves the Republican party line, it's often to head into hardcore libertarian areas. I tend to agree with libertarians on social issues, but when it comes to government services, I'm often in disagreement. I respect the guy for not backing down even when he knows some of his ideas are going to be unpopular with regular Republicans. I just don't write about him much, partly because he's not really important and partly because I don' t like the opinion he's standing up for.
Does it matter? I don't know. I still wouldn't vote for either one of them, and, honestly, a lot of times it's better if a guy is willing to change his mind or at least accept nuance in the issues.
But, god, will that get a guy crucified in public opinion.
And that may be the more important issue here. Do we really need leaders who are certain that they are entirely in the right? Shouldn't a leader be willing to admit mistakes, change their mind when new information arises that shows previous positions were wrong? Shouldn't we encourage politicians to admit the nuance and gray areas of the issues and treat them accordingly? Of course we should, but every last one of us will write off a president or other major politician as weak, wishy-washy, or worse if they try any of that. Obviously, with the Perry thing, I do it too.