Rick Perry has made anti-Washington conservatism the heart of his reelection. Critics say he's just doing it because he faces a challenge from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. But the roots of Perry's anti-Washington message go back several years - even if it meant throwing George W. Bush under the bus.
Back in 2007, while stumping for Rudy Giuliani in Iowa, Perry touted the former New York mayor as a "real fiscal conservative" (not like his predecessor in Austin). Here's what he said at the Thunder Bay Grille in Davenport, Iowa:
"George Bush was never a fiscal conservative, never was -- wasn't when he was in Texas. When I inherited the place in 2001, the session of 2001, our resources started going down. We had a little bit of a depressed economy. But they had spent money - '95, '97, '99 - George Bush was spending money. George has never, ever been a fiscal conservative."
And Perry said in running for president, Bush hid his record on spending and overstated his record on tort reform.
"Karl Rove did a good job of going up there. But they never talked about the spending. They talked about what he did on tort reform. It was okay, I mean they did some things in '97 that were better than what we had. It wasn't anything like what we did in 2003."
Rick has praised George W. Bush recently too though... I know I saw him on tape recently saying "God Bless George Bush" although I can't find it now... I think there has to be a distinction between saying "Bush is not a fiscal conservative" and flat out disavowing Bush. Lots of Bush fans like Bush because he kept us safe from terrorism, because he gave us tax cuts, and because he was a man who understood faith. Those same Bush fans are none too happy with bailouts, big spending, and big deficits.
I think if Rick had had trouble choosing between Bush and Ann Richards or between Bush and Obama he might be in hot water, but the people who would be boiling the water all agree with what Rick was saying about Bush not being fiscally conservative.
I think Rick's comments also show that he is aiming for the fiscal wing of the Republican base more than he sometimes gets credit for. The easy thing to do is to say Rick is getting the social conservatives therefore Kay must be getting the fiscal conservatives. I think Rick is trying to get both, maybe even fiscal conservatives more than social conservatives. I wish someone like Wayne would ask him flat out about that. Same with Kay. Make them personally tell us how they view this race shaping up.