The Spectacle Blog

Bachmann and Santorum: Perry a Compassionate Conservative?

By on 9.13.11 | 9:10AM

Well, that was interesting.

"It" being the CNN/Tea Party debate for GOP presidential candidates.

Is the real Rick Perry emerging? A Rick Perry whose identification with the concept of freedom and liberty is as sketchy as… Mitt Romney's was and is on mandated health care?

More directly: is Rick Perry really a better coifed version of George Bush and Karl Rove's confection called the "compassionate conservative?"

The issue arose when Congresswoman Michele Bachmann smartly took Perry's self-admitted mistake of vaccinating 12-year old girls for a sexually transmitted virus and said the vaccine came from a pharmaceutical company (Merck) represented by Perry's ex-chief of staff. A contribution followed Perry's decision.

Perry, stung, said the contribution was $5,000 and he resented the notion he could be bought for $5,000. At which point Santorum jumped in to say that Perry completely missed the idea that what was at stake was liberty -- and that the fact Perry had mandated this vaccine showed that he had a lack of understanding on the issue.

What's going on here in its own interesting way is that the core -- and viable -- conservative arguments for the fundamental principles of liberty have been getting through. Bachmann, deeply involved with the Tea Party and a longtime liberty advocate not only demonstrated her understanding of the point, she may have surfaced Perry as almost as much of a Rockefeller Republican in his instincts as Governor Romney has been with his own health care issues.

Pennsylvania's former Senator Rick Santorum underlined the point, saying there is "no government purpose served by having little girls inoculated."

Perry worsened his conservative image by using the Romney tactic of deploying the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution in defense of a controversial decision. Romney has used the Tenth, which leaves the powers not in the federal government to the states, to defend his support for a mandated health bill in Massachusetts. Perry is similarly using the Tenth in what appears to be the same way -- defending his support for the Texas Dream Act which allows some illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition. Perry's answer was so egregious even Romney took him to task, talking about the importance of the law. Illegal immigrants are, of course, illegal. Outside the law. By definition.

Bottom line in this debate?

The Bachmann and Santorum one-two punch on the vaccine issue, narrowing it to an issue of big government/crony capitalism influence peddling and the issue of individual liberty may have dealt Perry a real blow to his conservative image. Added to the Romney punch on tuition for illegals, the conservative red flag goes up.

Is the real Rick Perry what George Bush and Karl Rove used to praise as a "compassionate conservative"?

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