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August 04, 2011

Media "Vetting" Of Perry Begins

We're still waiting on Obama's 2008 vetting, but do remember they spent all that time vetting a plumber. So.

Politico writes the opposition research is about to drop:

Perry would also have to answer for parts of his record that have either never been fully scrutinized in Texas, or that might be far more problematic before a national audience.

Veterans of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s unsuccessful 2010 primary challenge to Perry recalled being stunned at the way attacks bounced off the governor in a strongly conservative state gripped by tea party fever. Multiple former Hutchison advisers recalled asking a focus group about the charge that Perry may have presided over the execution of an innocent man — Cameron Todd Willingham — and got this response from a primary voter: “It takes balls to execute an innocent man.”

I've looked into that, a bit. The man, Williamson, escaped from a burning house, leaving his children inside to die in the fire. His ex-wife claimed he'd done it (though she didn't have any evidence of that). Experts forwarded evidence post-conviction suggesting the evidence of deliberate arson presented at trial was faulty.

But it's not as if there was evidence presented to prove his innocence -- rather that the technical evidence of arson presented was weak.

Having only skimmed the matter, the case bothers me as some Texas executions do -- not enough people on the execution review board are taking their duty to halt improper executions seriously. The mandate they have assumed seems to be expedited executions, not insuring no innocent man is put to death.

Proponents of the death penalty do not seem to comprehend that they are precisely one dead innocent man away from an end to executions. Sometimes I wonder which side of the debate some of us are really playing for.

That said, it's really a case of poking holes in the case presented at trial, rather than proof of innocence. The circumstantial evidence -- a man escaping a fire in his home uninjured, while leaving his children to burn -- is pretty damning.

The Willingham case is just one episode in Perry’s gubernatorial tenure that could be revived against him in the very different context of a national race, potentially compromising him in a general election. The opposition research file on Perry is huge and goes well beyond the best-known Perry controversies.

But even the greatest hits reel is bad enough: Perry issued a 2007 executive order mandating the human papillomavirus vaccine for sixth-grade girls, while Perry’s former chief of staff lobbied for Merck, the only provider of the vaccine. He spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on a rental mansion while the governor’s residence underwent repairs. During his administration, the whole board of the state juvenile justice system resigned over allegations of covering up sexual abuse in detention centers. And that’s before delving into a shaky state budget, which has included to-the-bone cuts in education and other programs suburban swing voters care about.

All that means Perry is hardly the “generic Republican” who President Barack Obama struggles to beat in polls. That’s what concerns Republicans who think nominating him instead of a blander, more stylistically mainstream candidate like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty would be a gift to the incumbent.

So here comes the media assault on Perry. But their first attack seems to be a misfire.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry wages an assault on state’s university establishment

The print edition of the paper has an even harsher headline:

Gov. Perry wages war on Texas’s ivory tower

War? Assault? Nice headlines, huh? Here are the details of this assault-slash-war -- contained in the article itself.

Are you ready for the horrors contained herein?

[Perry's Higher Education Summit] marked the beginning of an effort — spearheaded by the governor, one of his six-figure campaign donors and a conservative think tank — to re-engineer Texas’s leading public universities to become more like businesses, driven by efficiency and profitability.

The initiative stayed pretty much under the radar until last fall, when it became public that Perry’s alma mater, Texas A&M University, had compiled a spreadsheet ranking faculty members according to whether they were earning their keep or costing the school money. The university already had rankled professors with a program that paid bonuses based on anonymous student evaluations.

More recently, Perry has proposed that the state’s top colleges come up with a four-year degree that costs no more than $10,000 — a goal that skeptics say cannot be achieved without sacrificing academic quality and prestige.

As the governor edges toward running for president, with an announcement likely in the next few weeks, his embrace of those ideas — and the furor that has followed — tells much about his populist political impulses.

The rest of the article details further the general outline of this "assault." You will be horrified to learn that an ally of Perry's questioned professors spending more time doing abstract research than teaching students (a criticism, by the way, made all the time by reformers in the university system).

Pretty damning stuff, huh?

Stanley Kurtz of NRO wonders where the WaPo was in 2008, when this headline could have run, but did not:

Obama funded Chicago’s hard-left

Referring to Obama's membership on the leftwing Annenberg Challenge (I think).

Kurtz goes on to wonder exactly what the WaPo thinks it's accomplished with this piece on Perry, and its risible headline:

[W]hile liberal readers will be horrified, I suspect many Americans will be delighted by Perry’s “war” with the Ivory Tower.

The article itself isn't a bad one. It explains what Perry did, and offers some quotes criticizing him, and a couple defending him.

But look at what they did with the headline.

You know how every political ad features headlines from newspapers attacking a candidate? I think this is the WaPo's deliberate effort to provide Obama with one of those perfect-for-an-advertisement headline.

Even though the main thrust of the actual story is that he wants reform, and he'd like the state university system to provide, as was its original charter, and affordable education for citizens of Texas.

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posted by Ace at 03:19 PM

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