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In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 3, 2017 at 12:10 am

The ancient historian, Plutarch, warned: “And the most glorious episodes do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.  

Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles.”

It’s well to keep this warning in mind when judging the character of Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who is now Secretary of Energy for the Trump administration.  

Five years ago, he was a candidate for President himself.

Anita Perry, his wealthy wife, wanted voters to know she sympathized with the plight of the unemployed.  

Anita and Rick Perry

For her, unemployment meant that her son, Griffin, had resigned from his job at Deutsche Bank to campaign for his father.

“He resigned from his job two weeks ago because he can’t go out and campaign with his father because of SEC regulations,” she said in a Pendleton, S.C. diner on October 14, 2011.

The Securities and Exchange Commission had recently adopted stricter rules for investment advisers undertaking political activity.

Anita Perry’s comment came in response to a question from a middle-aged voter who had lost his six-figure job and now worked as a handyman.

“My son lost his job because of this administration,” she added.

Griffin Perry

Blaming the Obama administration is, of course, second-nature for those on the radical right. But Anita Perry may have forgotten that, on October 13, 2011, she said that her son had eagerly resigned.

She recalled that her husband assembled the family to discuss his run for the Presidency last May.

“So, our son Griffin Perry is 28. He loves politics, and he just couldn’t wait. He said ‘Dad, I’m in!  I’m in! I’ll do whatever you need me to do. I’ll resign my job. I’ll do what you need me to do.’” she said in a speech at North Greenville University.

Anita Perry might have considered that there is a difference between voluntarily resigning from a job and being involuntarily fired from it.

And she might have consoled herself with the truth that, having a family fortune and the income of his attorney-wife to rely on, Griffin Perry wasn’t in danger of standing in a breadline anytime soon.

So why would Anita Perry stoop to mingling with those she considers her social inferiors?  And why would she pour out her woes to people she would otherwise cross the street to avoid?

Simple.  She needed them.  Or, to be more accurate: She needed their votes.

True, her husband was hauling in huge campaign donations that dwarfed those of his rivals. But money can’t vote.

And with an estimated 14 to 25 million Americans unemployed, the Perrys had to reach beyond the minority of voters who would qualify for their country-club membership.

Of course, the voluntary resignation of her son wasn’t the only complaint Anita Perry had to make.

“We are being brutalized by our opponents, and our own party,” she told a South Carolina audience on October 13, 2011. “So much of that is, I think they look at him, because of his faith.

“He is the only true conservative–well, there are some true conservatives. And they’re there for good reasons. And they may feel like God called them, too. But I truly feel like we are here for that purpose.”

Actually, it was Rick Perry–through his surrogate spokesman-pastor, Robert Jeffress–who had repeatedly attacked the Mormon religion of his then-campaign rival, Mitt Romney.

Jeffress told reporters at the Values Voter Summit in Washington he believed Mormonism was a “cult.” While Perry has said he didn’t agree with the charge, he refused to repudiate the remarks–or support–of the influential Baptist pastor.

It was the same strategy favored by demagogues like President Richard Nixon: The “respectable” Nixon took the high road, while ordering his subordinate, Vice President Spiro Agnew, to attack the patriotism of anyone who dared disagree with him.

Why is all of this important?

Because the priorities of the leader of an organization usually determine the priorities of that organization.  And those priorities, in turn, derive from the character of that leader.

So consider the character traits that Perry has so far revealed:

  • He used surrogates to attack the religion of his opponents.
  • He holds his own religious beliefs sacred.
  • He sought to slash programs for the poor.
  • He piled up millions of dollars for himself.
  • His family believes he has been chosen by God to redeem the nation from becoming “soft” and “Godless.”
  • His family believes themselves entitled to ignore laws that are supposed to govern all Americans.

It’s fascinating to imagine the verdict Plutarch would deliver on American politics today. After all, he did shrewdly analyze the ruthless political maneuverings of such despots as Alexander and Julius Caesar.

No doubt, would-be despots like Donald Trump and his self-righteous cronies like Rick Perry would find Plutarch’s verdicts highly upsetting.

And Americans who believe in liberty would find those verdicts incredibly frightening.

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