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March 07, 2014 11:10 AM Rick Perry Wows ‘Em at CPAC

By Ed Kilgore

So we hear the best-received speech of the whole CPAC conference so far was by the warhorse Rick Perry this morning, which had the crowd standing and hooting and cheering.

I watched the whole thing (and you can too if you have the stomach). It was mostly a standard-brand shout-out-with-red-meat to Republican governors and their wonderworking powers as compared to the dreary socialist prison states of the godless Coasts. But near the end, after an earnest recitation of the federal government’s enumerated constitutional powers (never mind those pestiferous Supreme Court decisions on the Commerce Clause and the Spending Clause and other such elitist bushwa), Perry delivered a classic cheer-surfing paen to the wisdom of his audience (a lot of it sounded borrowed, rhetorically, from Howard Dean’s “You’ve got the power!” perorations a decade ago) and the perfidy of the federal government. And probably the peak of audience appreciation was his roared demand that Washington “Get out of the health care business! Get out of the education business!”

Insofar as this speech will probably be mentioned every time we hear of the otherwise dubious proposition of a Rick Perry comeback in 2016, it’s reminiscent of his 2012-cycle campaign book, Fed Up!, which similarly rejected the idea of federal involvement in anything Washington wasn’t doing in 1789, and gave him some uncomfortable moments on the campaign trail.

So we might as well get it over with and start demanding that Perry tell us whether all this high-decibal originalism means he favors the abolition of Medicare and federally guaranteed student loans, just to cite two extremely popular federal programs that rather blatantly run afoul of his strictures on what Washington should and shouldn’t be doing. Without question, a lot of those people cheering Perry’s CPAC speech would favor killing these programs instantly, along with Social Security, all environmental regulations, and all low-income assistance programs. So is that what Rick has in mind? Do tell.

UPDATE: Perry also, of course, touted his own state’s “economic miracle.” If you haven’t read Phillip Longman’s demolition of that myth, now would be a good time to check it out, particularly if the CPAC gig does indeed revive his presidential hopes.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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