It would be an exaggeration for me to say Rick Perry is my friend, but I can say we are friendly acquaintances. I liked him and I have reason to believe he liked me from the first time we met, when he invited me, the late Andrew Breitbart and others to go shooting with him in Austin back in 2009. (Yes, Perry was one of the first major politicians into new media.) Later, I joined him at the NASCAR races at the Texas Motor Speedway, which was rather like going to the Grand Ole Opry with Johnny Cash.
By this time I was convinced I was hanging out with the next president of the United States. A lot of us were. But we all know how his front-running campaign imploded in 2012 in the famous “Oops” moment.
No longer governor of Texas, Perry spent the next few years doing his homework, boning up on affairs foreign and domestic that would make him a serious contender in 2016. Obviously, it wasn’t enough and Rick Perry is the first to bow out of the seventeen-candidate Republican presidential field. He did so in characteristically gracious fashion, saying: “We have a tremendous field—the best in a generation—so I step aside knowing our party is in good hands.”
One wonders how the other participants in next Wednesday’s also-ran debate — Graham, Pataki, Santorum and Jindal — will react to Perry’s words and action. Will this pressure them to step down too?
But more importantly, it makes me think about how our presidential election system actually works. Does it get us the best man or woman? Does it even come close? It’s not only because I know Rick Perry that I suspect he might have made one of the better — perhaps even the best — presidents of all those running in both parties.
Of course, no one could possibly know the truth about these things. No one. All we have is our guesses. But it is clear that in this year of the non-pro, voters were not excited by the record of a man who was governor of one of our largest states for fourteen years, a period during which that one state, Texas, generated more than a third of the nation’s private-sector jobs.
Maybe that says more about us than it does about Rick Perry.