Rick Perry has made plenty of overtures towards the possibility of another run at the White House in 2016, but 2014 has seen him challenged in his role as the governor of Texas.
First, there was the border situation, a challenge he’s handled about as well as can be expected. Certainly, Perry did more to protect the country than did Obama at the federal level. By calling Obama out on national TV, Perry drew mainstream attention to the problem, and he went a step further by ordering the National Guard troops to reinforce Border Security.
Then there was the politically-motivated indictment against him for refusing funds to the Travis County District Attorney’s office unless they fired drunk DA Rosemary Lehmberg. Somehow, this sensible exercise of power was deemed an abuse, and it is Perry, not Lehmberg, who now faces the most serious legal consequences. It’s still to be determined how this indictment will affect Perry’s political career.
Now, there’s Ebola. It’s only by circumstance that Texas finds itself home to the first American case of the virus, but the terrible incident paves the way for Perry to shine. Though he’s naturally taking a national backseat to the director of the CDC, the crisis will put plenty of spotlight on the Texas governor as he works to prevent a statewide panic.
Perry’s 2012 aspirations looked promising until he flubbed a debate, drawing a blank while trying to outline his presidential motives. It’s the kind of small misstep that means very little in the grand scheme of things, but it can ruin a campaign under the bright lights of television. Like Howard Dean’s ill-advised exuberance in 2008, Perry’s flub was enough to bring his White House aspirations to a temporary end.
Perry now has the chance to show the country that he has the kind of leadership chops the presidency requires. So far, so good. As governor in a situation like this, his primary role should be that of a rock, providing sensible and responsible messaging from the government at a time of great uncertainty.
At the same time, a wider outbreak of Ebola could mean more than just a Texas health crisis. Though he can do little to prevent it himself, Perry will likely shoulder the blame if the disease starts claiming citizens of the Lone Star state. Fairness has nothing much to do with it; politics are what they are. If Perry is smart, he’ll be focusing his energies on making sure that doesn’t happen in the weeks and months to come. He seems to realize this, announcing Monday that he had taken the executive step of creating an infectious disease task force to halt the spread of Ebola.
If he acquits himself (and if he is acquitted), it could put a nice feather in his cap as the 2016 Republican primaries approach. Amongst a crop of candidates who are as much RINOs as anything else, he brings with him a fairly rigid conservative message. It could be just the contrast we need to take down the likely Democratic candidate and all the failed liberal policies she brings to the table.