Are the New York Times' editors just discovering that there's no love lost between George W. Bush and Texas Governor -- and potential GOP presidential contender -- Rick Perry? Or are the Times' editors kicking up dust to make trouble for an anticipated Perry run?
The Times reported yesterday that Governor Perry is breaking with former President Bush. The fact is the Bush-Perry break began years ago. Perry has never been a fan of Mr. Bush's "Compassionate Conservativism" -- or as true-blue conservatives term it, "Less Big Government Managed Better." Perry, it appears, holds old fashioned conservative principles, and less big government is still too big. And wasn't managing big government better Jerry Ford's and Nelson Rockefeller's idea?
The Bush-Perry feud bubbled to the surface last year when Perry ran for re-election as governor. Though Mr. Bush prudently kept a low profile, Bush supporters, including former Secretary of State James Baker and Dick Cheney, and key advisers, like Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, jumped in to support Perry's primary opponent, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. The topper was George H. Bush's public endorsement of Hutchison's candidacy.
The Perry-Hutchinson contest was a classic maverick versus establishment showdown, with Hutchison painted into the establishment corner. Texans tend to like mavericks -- especially when their conservative bona fides are stronger. Perry also had an excellent track record as governor. Perry won the primary contest in a romp and went on to trounce former Houston Mayor and Democrat standard-bearer Bill White in the General Election.
Should Governor Perry declare his candidacy for president, don't expect former President Bush's team to lift a finger in support of Perry. But to what extent Bush's backers and minions oppose a Perry bid is an open question. Rick Perry would make an unapologetic, formidable GOP presidential nominee. The New York Times -- and liberals, generally -- have begun to grasp that fact. Stirring up the Bush-Perry feud is one way of making the road ahead tougher for Rick Perry -- or so hope the Times' editors.