His debut on the debate scene elicited audience cheers for capital punishment, introducing a potential president more comfortable than any in memory with death as a solution to social problems.
Asked if he has “struggled to sleep” over execution of “234 death row inmates more than any other governor in modern times,” Rick Perry says no, affirming his faith in “ultimate justice” despite a national trend away from capital punishment.
But the Texas Governor has to be given points for consistency. His policy positions on Social Security and health care would also thin out the population of the old, the poor and the sick, taking America back to the good old days of survival of the fittest--with the possible exception of fetuses, a subject that did not come up last night.
How far have we come from criticism of a recent Supreme Court nominee for having too much empathy to the rise of a Presidential candidate who appears never to have heard of it?
In most of his evasive answers for the first hour of debate, Perry made Bill Clinton’s “Slick Willie” act look like bumbling. But when asked about his view of Social Security as “a Ponzi scheme,” which other Republicans have criticized, the Governor stopped dodging.
"If Vice President Cheney or anyone else says that the program that we have in place today, and young people who are paying into that expect that program to be sound and for them to receive benefits when they reach retirement age, that is just a lie," Perry said. "And I don't care what anyone says."
In exchanges with Mitt Romney, Perry hammered him for the individual mandate in Massachusetts and dodged a question about why Texas has the lowest rate of citizens with health care coverage in the country.
For someone who has suffered through more presidential debates than he can remember, the takeaway from last night is that the GOP has a frontrunner who is the political equivalent of Dr. Kevorkian. Other Tea Party favorites have no chance of matching him in clueless cruelty and self-righteous certainty.
Update: You know it’s getting nasty out there when Dick Cheney is snarling about Perry’s “over the top rhetoric” about Ben Bernanke, saying they would “treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.”
The former VP who by comparison is looking like a model of civility complains that Perry’s babble about Bernanke managing the Fed for politics “isn’t a valid charge.”
But Perry seems to want to go back to the days when they hung anyone who looked like a horse thief and asked questions later.