Is Rick Perry a 'sucker,' or was he just lying?

Here’s a good catch by Kevin Drum, by one of his readers in Iowa, and then by the Des Moines Register:Rick Perry Gets Suckered by an Urban Legend.”

From Kevin’s reader:

I was at the Iowa State Fair today and caught Rick Perry’s speech. He started talking about this stupid new regulation that would require farmers to get commercial drivers licenses if they drive their tractors across the road. I remember reading about this very issue on your blog so I yelled “That’s not true” a couple of times (as can barely be heard on the video at the link) and later asked the Des Moines Register’s political editor to fact check the story.

I exchanged emails with her tonight and she sent me a link to their story.

That’s pretty awesome. My only quibble is Kevin’s headline — “Rick Perry Gets Suckered.”

That’s the most charitable possibility — that Perry didn’t know what he was talking about and passed along a right-wing urban legend as truth. But it doesn’t seem to be the most likely possibility.

It seems far likelier that Rick Perry wasn’t himself “suckered,” but rather that he was just trying to sucker Iowans into believing what he knew to be a steaming pile of nonsense.

Here’s what Perry said:

You need to free up the employers of this country to create jobs. Get rid of the regulations that are stifling jobs in America. Free up this country from these stifling regulations. Let me give you just an … this is such an obscene, crazy regulation. They want to make … if you’re a tractor driver, if you drive your tractor across a public road, you’re going to have to have a commercial driver’s license. Now how idiotic is that?

Maybe he really believed that. Maybe the single example of “stifling regulations” that he chose for his stump speech was some wild rumor that, despite being a state governor, he never bothered to check into or to have an aide check into. Maybe he is as naive and gullible and prone to misplaced knee-jerk indignation as the Facebook fools denouncing stories from The Onion thinking they’re true.

But for that to be true, Rick Perry would have to be really lazy and really gullible.

It seems far likelier that Rick Perry was just assuming that his audience was that lazy, that gullible, that naive and that prone to misplaced, knee-jerk indignation.

It seems far likelier, in other words, that Rick Perry didn’t get suckered by this urban legend, but was retelling it to his audience in order to sucker them — to sucker them into supporting his candidacy, to sucker them into thinking that government is always their enemy, and to sucker them into thinking that unfettered, unregulated giant corporations are their friends.

The likeliest explanation for Rick Perry telling this foolish falsehood at the Iowa State Fair is that Rick Perry was lying and that he has so little respect for the decency and common sense of Iowans that he thought he could get away with it.

The presumption of charity teaches us not to presume that someone is lying just because they said something that isn’t true. That presumption works much like the presumption of innocence in criminal court — innocent until proven guilty, or misinformed until proven mendacious.

There’s an impressive circumstantial case against Perry here. He ought to have known better and could easily have found out the readily available truth. He claims to be upset about this, but he never did what any reasonable person would reasonably be expected to do if upset about such a thing — he never checked into it. And he had motive — his falsehood benefited him personally and benefited the interests with which he is allied and benefited the corporate donors who have enriched his campaign.

So I’d ask the jury to consider which is more likely: That Perry is merely gullible and lazy? Or that his self-serving falsehood was deliberate?

There remain two more pieces of evidence that should settle that question. First, will Perry correct his earlier falsehood? And second, will he continue to repeat it?

If he never corrects it, and especially if he continues to repeat it after being corrected by the Register, then I think the presumption of charity can reasonably be replaced with a conclusion of guilt.

  • Jared Bascomb

    I know. I live in CA. Ballot-box budgeting and the initiatiave process have tied the legilsture’s hands, and when you throw petty partisan one-upmanship into the mix, it ain’t pretty.

    Locally, we couldn’t get voter approval to raise the hotel room tax, a tax that 99% of the local population will never pay (uness they do a romantic weekend or a stay-cation).

  • Jared Bascomb

    A few weeks ago a Riverside County politician proposed splitting CA into two states, with (liberal) LA being in NorCal, and Orange, San Diego, Imperial, Riverside, Kern et al being in SoCal.

    First of all, good luck dividing Orange/LA into two states; they’re too intertwined. Secondly, San Diego (city) and parts of OC are far more liberal than this guy thinks. And finally, it would mean that San Diego and Orange – which have actual industires and income – would be subsidizing wastelands like Kern County.

  • Jared Bascomb

    A few weeks ago a Riverside County politician proposed splitting CA into two states, with (liberal) LA being in NorCal, and Orange, San Diego, Imperial, Riverside, Kern et al being in SoCal.

    First of all, good luck dividing Orange/LA into two states; they’re too intertwined. Secondly, San Diego (city) and parts of OC are far more liberal than this guy thinks. And finally, it would mean that San Diego and Orange – which have actual industires and income – would be subsidizing wastelands like Kern County.

  • Lori

     And he forced on member to resign from the board which could have stopped that execution, and appointed a new member from his own staff, in order to make it go forward. That makes Perry a murderer, in my opinion.  

    Not just murder, but basically murder for financial gain since he did it mostly to get reelected. Ironically, murder for remuneration is a capital offense in Texas. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    As for me personally, I’d support an initiative to end the initiative process. It’s pretty clearly become either a knee-jerk reaction (prop 8, 187, etc.), or the tool of corporate interests. See Amazon this year trying to gather signatures so that they can continue to tacitly encourage tax fraud, for a prime example.

    I dunno’, here in Washington the initiative process can produce some interesting results.  If nothing else, they can be used to make an effective statement, even if they do not get passed.  
    Like this one.  

    Vote yes on I-831.  

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ storiteller

    That is more scary than hell.  Seriously.  Because I’m the kind of Christian who doesn’t believe in the traditional hell (it’s complicated) and the fact that they truly want a hell on earth type of future….yeesh.

  • Lori

     As for me personally, I’d support an initiative to end the initiative process.  

    I agree. When I was living in CA I got to the point where I said that the only initiative that I would vote for was an initiative to end initiatives, and I wasn’t really kidding. I understand why people originally thought it was a good idea, but I think on balance it’s been a disaster. If your lawmakers aren’t doing their jobs making it impossible for them to do their jobs is not a good solution. 

  • http://gocart-mozart.blogspot.com/ gocart mozart

    “It’s not about the speaker’s intention at all. It’s the message. If you have a message that conflicts with the economic and social worldview that people decide to hold, they don’t give two shits about your intent.”
    This is similar to the legal difference between criminal intent or “malice of forethought” and Intentional or reckless disregard for the truth vs negligent disregard in civil tort law.  In a murder case its the difference between 1st and 2nd degree murder or manslaughter and in a civil suit it would effect whether someone can get punitive damages.  The intent effects the punishment.

    [I could write the above more clearly but I'm be lazy]

  • http://gocart-mozart.blogspot.com/ gocart mozart

    “Who has the higher bodycount as governor?”
    Perry holds this dubious execution record, at least among “Christian” leaders.  Kim Jong Ill probably has him beat.

  • http://gocart-mozart.blogspot.com/ gocart mozart

    Google says, 234 executions in 10 years for Perry, 134 in 5 years for Bush. 

    Also an interesting column by E.J. Dione
    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/07/11/the_death_penalty_and_the_costs_of_an_obsession_110519-full.html

  • http://gocart-mozart.blogspot.com/ gocart mozart

    Heh!  Awesome.

    INITIATIVE TO THE PEOPLE:
    WHEREAS, Tim Eyman’s ill-conceived anti-tax initiatives are an
    irresponsible means of legislating tax policy, an abuse of the
    initiative process, and insult to our system of representative
    democracy; and
    WHEREAS, Tim Eyman is an admitted liar, who paid himself $45,000
    from campaign funds, while publicly denying any personal gain from
    the state-wide initiatives he sponsored; and
    WHEREAS, Tim Eyman diverted $165,000 of campaign contributions to
    a for-profit corporation he controls, with the intention of paying
    himself an additional $157,000; and
    WHEREAS, Motivated by self-aggrandizement and personal gain, Tim
    Eyman has consistently misrepresented the initiatives he sponsored,
    and misappropriated funds donated to support them; and
    WHEREAS, Tim Eyman readily admits, in his own words, that “I just
    feel like an ass;”
    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the citizens of the State of
    Washington do hereby proclaim that Tim Eyman is a Horse’s Ass.
    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be
    immediately transmitted to Tim Eyman, his wife, and his mother. So
    there

    [I hope he was careful to check first with a defamation lawyer but he should be alright if he reasonably believes the facts to be true i.e. not knowingly or recklessly false.  Its a lot tougher to slander a public figure.  See NYT v. Sullivan.  He is fine with the "horse's ass" claim because it obviously can't be taken literally.  See Falwell v. Hustler or just watch the movie.]

  • http://gocart-mozart.blogspot.com/ gocart mozart

    I think this is a good idea but he may be drawing the lines wrong.  It should be geographical rather than some convoluted gerrymandering along political lines.  I would cut it in half somewhere above San Fran.  The south would be where all the big cities are and the north would have a larger land area and more rural character like Oregon or Washington.  Why should CA with 20X the people have the same # of Sen as Montana?

  • http://gocart-mozart.blogspot.com/ gocart mozart

    Nice try Lori, I don’t think that would fly.  I would go with obstruction of justice (or is that obstruction of an injustice investigation?)

  • http://gocart-mozart.blogspot.com/ gocart mozart

    Also, since Citizens United watch for Big Money funding all sorts of “fuckthemiddleclass” ballot proposals.  You aint seen nothing yet. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

     [I hope he was careful to check first with a defamation lawyer but he should be alright if he reasonably believes the facts to be true i.e. not knowingly or recklessly false.  Its a lot tougher to slander a public figure.  See NYT v. Sullivan.  He is fine with the "horse's ass" claim because it obviously can't be taken literally.  See Falwell v. Hustler or just watch the movie.]

    Eyeman himself, in a show of good sport, actually offered to be the first signatory of the initiative.  However, he never showed up to do so, saying he did not feel up to it at the last minute.  
    The initiative is clearly a joke, obviously, but in the grand tradition of satirical comedy, it is a joke with a point to it.  In this case, to show how broken the initiative system as it exists is, when someone like Tim Eyeman can keep making initiatives which, even if they pass, will get shot down in court, but are otherwise close enough to plausible to get on the ballot.  That getting shot down in court of course angers Eyeman’s supporters, who then give him more money to make another initiative which will get shot down, and the cycle repeats.  

    I should point out that, while he began as an amateur anti-tax activist, Eyeman’s cost of living is now entirely funded by campaign donations for the initiatives he keeps proposing year after year. Putting tax-limiting initiatives on the ballot is his full-time job these days.  He even admitted as much himself, with appropriate tears, but that has not stopped him or his supporters.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

     [I hope he was careful to check first with a defamation lawyer but he should be alright if he reasonably believes the facts to be true i.e. not knowingly or recklessly false.  Its a lot tougher to slander a public figure.  See NYT v. Sullivan.  He is fine with the "horse's ass" claim because it obviously can't be taken literally.  See Falwell v. Hustler or just watch the movie.]

    Eyeman himself, in a show of good sport, actually offered to be the first signatory of the initiative.  However, he never showed up to do so, saying he did not feel up to it at the last minute.  
    The initiative is clearly a joke, obviously, but in the grand tradition of satirical comedy, it is a joke with a point to it.  In this case, to show how broken the initiative system as it exists is, when someone like Tim Eyeman can keep making initiatives which, even if they pass, will get shot down in court, but are otherwise close enough to plausible to get on the ballot.  That getting shot down in court of course angers Eyeman’s supporters, who then give him more money to make another initiative which will get shot down, and the cycle repeats.  

    I should point out that, while he began as an amateur anti-tax activist, Eyeman’s cost of living is now entirely funded by campaign donations for the initiatives he keeps proposing year after year. Putting tax-limiting initiatives on the ballot is his full-time job these days.  He even admitted as much himself, with appropriate tears, but that has not stopped him or his supporters.

  • Lori

     Nice try Lori, I don’t think that would fly.  

    It wasn’t a try, it was a statement of fact. Perry used the power of his office in order to murder an innocent man for financial gain. Obviously he could never be persecuted for it, but that’s what he did.

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately, if Bush, Cheney, & Co. can escape prosecution while openly admitting they instituted torture…

    Isn’t it? Did you watch the PBS thing on it? (I think it was a Frontline episode.)

    This was actually the first I’d heard of it, but I’ll definitely check it out. Netflix streams Frontline episodes sometimes. Perry had lost me at “Republican governor from Texas,” and every time he opens his mouth he confirms his awfulness (see his comments on the Fed and climate change this week). He’s so deplorable in so many ways, I haven’t really invested a whole lot of time into looking into his actions as governor.

  • http://gocart-mozart.blogspot.com/ gocart mozart

    I think he should be persecuted for it, but my point was he couldn’t be prosecuted for it.  It was more of a manslaughter than a murder anyways.  The money angle is a bit of a stretch IMHO.  Can we agree that he should be given an atomic wedgie and pelted with rotting fruit until he begs for mercy on national television?  For starters.

    Respect.

  • Lori

    Frontline has the episode up on it’s website. I don’t remember what it’s called but if you search by Willingham you’ll find it. 

  • Lori

    What I’d like is for Perry to be punished for participating in Willingham’s murder by being unelectable at the national level. Sadly, that’s not true. In fact there are some voters who will consider it a plus because they really like a guy who’s “tough on crime”. Tough on crime meaning, railroads the poor and Them while letting rich white folks break the law with impunity. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I think the relevant talking point is “Even a bleeding-heart could under some circumstances have a guilty man executed; it takes a guy who’s _really_ tough on crime to execute an innocent man.”

    (But seriously, when you’re the kind of person who believes in truthiness rather than facts, a man on death row is _guilty_, and that doesn’t change just because some librrl “science” says it’s “proven beyond a reasonable doubt” that his guilt is “impossible”.  Sure, maybe he didn’t _technically_ “commit the crimes for which he was accused and sentenced”, but the fact that he’s on death row _means_ that he’s a bad person who deserves death — it’s just _what he is_, not one of your silly liberal “facts”)

  • Lori

    I think that’s sadly true, but I think in the Willingham case the execution went forward for much more banal reasons. The people in power didn’t want to admit they were wrong and Perry wanted to get reelected. 

    If you watch the Frontline interviews you see how defensive everyone is about their role. The arson investigator is your bog standard old school guy defending his professional reputation. The anti-science attitude was the result, not the cause. Pretty much the same deal with Willingham’s original defense attorney, who doesn’t want to own the fact that he basically tanked the case of a guy who didn’t do it. There’s a woman, I can’t remember if she was a juror or just some “woman on the street” type of interview. She just wants someone to pay for the fact that 3 little girls died horrible deaths and has no truck with the idea that there may not be any blame to be had. Her blood-thirsty drive for vengeance is truly a credit to the human race in general and the state of Texas in particular. 

    Perry didn’t give a shit about any of that. He wanted to keep his job and he knew that in Texas letting a guy get off death row is a career limiting move, so Willingham had to die and die quickly. It’s a long way to the top and you don’t get there by being sentimental about crushing the little people.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Cities are competing for prisons, just to get jobs. That’s pretty bad, and Perry should be ashamed that prisons are a ‘growth industry’ in Texas.

    The Prison-Industrial Complex is a growth industry EVERYWHERE in America.  We’ve got a larger portion of our population locked up than Soviet Russia did.  

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Why should CA with 20X the people have the same # of Sen as Montana?

    Because otherwise, Rhode Island would never have voted to join the United States.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Why should CA with 20X the people have the same # of Sen as Montana?

    Because otherwise, Rhode Island would never have voted to join the United States.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I’m starting to think the main difference between Texas and the Middle East is the ready availability of alcohol.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I’m starting to think the main difference between Texas and the Middle East is the ready availability of alcohol.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I’m starting to think the main difference between Texas and the Middle East is the ready availability of alcohol.

  • Albanaeon

    Ughh.  Ballot initiatives.  Colorado, I’ve heard, has one of the easiest to amend constitutions in the nation, which gives us a hell of a lot of crap every election.  Last time it was basically “let’s do away with governme… err TAXES altogether.”   Fortunately, it was voted down pretty handily, but still we’ve got the fricken’ Taxpayers Bill of Rights, that turns good times into bad times and bad times into disasters because getting any increase in revenues is near impossible.  And then the endless “Personhood” amendments.  No thought involved in trying to make every fertilized human egg a person.  Definitely on how it could potentially make every sexually active woman’s periods a potential murder, or townships to fertility clinics, or genocide charges.  Just, “we want a culture of LIFE” and no fore-brain thought at all.


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