Last time around, Rick Perry waited until he was in the Republican debates before he committed his infamous blunder of not remembering the third federal agency he would get rid of if he was elected president. That was in November of 2011, and in January 2012, he dropped out of the race after finishing a miserable fifth in the Iowa caucus. Rick Perry then endorsed Newt Gingrich before heading back to Texas to finish up his term as governor.
It was expected that Rick Perry would run for president again this time around, and sure enough he announced his campaign a couple of weeks ago, complete with his new look and an over-the-top jingoistic country/rap intro song. As soon as he made his campaign official, I wondered how long it would be before Rick Perry inserted his foot into his mouth once again; not surprisingly, it didn’t take long at all.
Yesterday, Rick Perry appeared on Newsmax and stated that the Charleston shooting was “an accident” which could possibly be blamed on prescription medication (a favorite scapegoat for gun nuts). He then went on to blame President Obama for trying to further an anti-gun agenda, something Bobby Jindal also did yesterday.
“This is the MO of this administration, any time there is an accident like this — the president is clear, he doesn’t like for Americans to have guns and so he uses every opportunity, this being another one, to basically go parrot that message,” Perry said.
Instead of talking about guns, Perry said, we should be talking about prescription drugs: “Also, I think there is a real issue to be talked about. It seems to me, again without having all the details about this, that these individuals have been medicated and there may be a real issue in this country from the standpoint of these drugs and how they’re used.”
He said that such drugs are responsible for high suicide and joblessness rates, adding that “there are a lot of issues underlying this that I think we as a country need to have a conversion about rather than just the knee-jerk reaction of saying, ‘If we can just take all the guns away, this won’t happen.’”
He added that while the shooting was “a crime of hate,” he didn’t know if it should be called a terrorist attack. (Source)
A campaign aide later stated that Rick Perry had “misspoke” about referring to the shooting as an accident, but this statement by Rick Perry reveals the great hypocrisy that conservatives have when it comes to race and guns.
Imagine for a moment if the roles had been reversed and the shooter was a black man in a white church. For Rick Perry and Newsmax, this would be definitive proof that all of the stories that pundits on Fox News or Newsmax had been telling about Christians being persecuted in America were true. They would have an absolute field day with this and claim that here was all the evidence we needed to see that President Obama was stirring up racial tensions in America – even if the shooter didn’t confess to acting out of hatred, which the Charleston shooter openly admitted to.
So why won’t conservatives like Rick Perry or Jeb Bush admit that this was both a hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism? Why can’t the Republican Party just come out and say that it rejects racists like the Charleston shooter (who I refuse to name) and that there’s no room for this kind of prejudice and bigotry in 21st century America? The answer is simple, and Aurin Squire at Talking Points Memo nailed it perfectly.
The fear tactics that were once localized in the dark backwoods of our political landscape now reach every phone and laptop. Today, xenophobia and bigotry are the daily platforms from which many conservatives speak to their shrinking base. The Charleston shooting is not a random act of violence, but part of a long litany of history culminating in a painful present. (Source)
Racism in America is alive and well. While much of it is no longer mainstream, it still bubbles underground and is stoked by political rhetoric about “taking our country back” or the old Reagan cliché about welfare queens driving Cadillacs. It would be wise for Rick Perry to make it clear he understands that, but asking Rick Perry to show any sort of wisdom is clearly asking for way too much.
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