Political Opponent Targets Rick Perry with ’Sex’ Ad
American politics, like the process of evolution, or, perhaps more appropriately, like the Cold War, has become a matter of competing parties leapfrogging one another for whatever advantages they can gain. Though the methods that arise might be practical, they sometimes risk losing the thread of ethics and good taste.
Whether such is the case now that a Ron Paul supporter has taken out a newspaper advertisement looking for the juicy details from anybody who might have "had sex with Rick Perry" might be debatable, given how low the index for political conduct has sunk.
Right-wing politicians -- especially anti-gay politicians -- made a specialty of speaking about those they saw as opponents, be they liberals or the GLBT community, in a manner that, if not directly calumnious, was certainly suggestive and highly inflammatory. In 2008, Sarah Palin dismissed those on the left as being less than "real Americans," while Michele Bachmann is haunted even now by declarations that gays lead "very sad lives" marked by "abuse" that somehow made them turn gay.
Along the way, there’s been a proliferation of sex scandals involving politicians from both parties, with an endless parade of anti-gay Republicans seeming especially prone to publicly disclosed peccadilloes involving others of the same gender -- the most recent example being Phillip Hinkle, an anti-gay Indiana lawmaker who reportedly offered a male teenager money for "a really good time," drove the young man to a hotel, and then offered the teen and his sister hush money.
It may, therefore, be merely a matter of skipping the process of accident, circumstance, and eventual disclosure for a candidate’s opposition to seek political advantage by soliciting sexual dirt, even on someone as evidently squeaky-clean as the Texas governor. Perry is an evangelical Christian who announced his presidential aspirations immediately after attending a prayer rally that he had helped to organize.
Rick Perry has suffered the slings and arrows of rumor before now. Seven years ago, whispers circulated that suggested Perry is a closeted gay man, and that he and his wife had separated. When Politico contacted Perry’s team after Perry’s declaration that he was running for the presidency, the online publication found Perry’s staff was prepared to address those long-cold rumors anew.
"As you may know, Rick and Anita Perry first met in grade school, went on their first date together in 1966, have been lovingly married since 1982 and are parents to two grown children," Dave Carney, of Perry’s staff, told Politico. "This kind of nameless, faceless smear campaign is run against the Perry family in seemingly every campaign, with no basis, truth or success."
Perry’s camp called the rumors "false and misleading."
"Texas politics is a full contact sport, live hand grenades and all; unfortunately there are always going to be some people who feel the need to spread false and misleading rumors to advance their own political agenda," Carney added.
Politico noted that similar brass-knuckles tactics had entered the national level of politics in the 2008 elections, when the persistent, and utterly unfounded, rumors about Obama not having been born in the United States began. Other rumors accused Obama of secretly being a Muslim.
But Ron Paul supporter Robert Morrow was evidently undeterred. The Huffington Post reported on Aug. 18 that a newspaper ad placed in the Austin Chronicle and paid for by the Paul supporter asks, "Have you ever had sex with Rick Perry?"
The ad isn’t necessarily looking for word of a same-sex assignation. Judging by its text, anyone of any gender with a prurient tale to tell will do.
"Are you a stripper, an escort, or just a ’young hottie’ impressed by an arrogant, entitled governor of Texas?" the ad asks. "Contact CASH [Committee Against Sexual Hypocrisy], and we will help you publicize your direct dealings with a Christian-buzzwords-spouting, ’family values’ hypocrite and fraud."
The ad does, however, contain a message specific to the GLBT community.
"Note to gay people," the ad’s text reads. "If you know the truth about Rick, please QUIT covering for him."
Aside from the long-ago rumors, none of which were ever substantiated, there has been no inkling that Perry has ever been unfaithful, either with a woman or with another man. But in an age of fishing expeditions for politically damaging pay dirt (the intensity with which Republicans focused on Bill Clinton during his two terms in the White House set a new standard), the new operating assumption is that everyone is guilty of something -- it’s just a matter of finding out what.
The Huffington Post suggested that the ad’s outrageous -- almost satirical -- forthrightness might be a form of pushback, given Perry’s famously shoot-from-the-hip rhetorical style, recalling that Perry has slammed the Federal Reserve as "almost treasonous," saying of the Fed’s Ben Bernanke and efforts to stimulate the American economy in the wake of the Wall Street meltdown that started when George W. Bush was still in office, "If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas."
Later, after being criticized for his remarks about Bernanke and the Fed, Perry stated, "I am just passionate about the issue and we stand by what we said."
Salon.com reported on Aug. 18 that Morrow is a Republican also, characterized Morrow’s anti-Perry stance as a "single-minded jihad" against the Texas governor. Salon also reported that Morrow has acknowledged CASH is a one-man operation: "Is it a real group? No. It’s just me," he told the site.
Morrow also claimed insider information on putative secret sexual dealings by the governor, telling Salon that he had heard ribald anecdotes about Perry from Austin-area strippers. The newspaper ad is meant to encourage genuine disclosures, according to Morrow, and not to generate smoke where there is no fire.
"I think it’s only a matter of time until somebody credible comes forward," Morrow told Salon.
Perry has come out against GLBT family rights. As a presidential contender, he presents a serious challenge to GOP frontrunners Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney, both of whom are also outspoken against gays and their families.
Romney, in particular, is seen as vulnerable to Perry as a challenger for the GOP’s nomination. Perry holds an appeal for evangelical religious conservatives that Romney, a Mormon, was not able to muster in 2008 and has not been able to claim this time either.