With Texas Gov. Rick Perry seemingly all but certain to enter the Republican presidential sweepstakes—the latest talk is of an official launch late next month—Texas Monthly writer Paul Burka has penned a Perry primer designed to prevent keep East Coast media elite types from embarrassing themselves with falsehoods and clichés. I found this point, rebutting an oft-repeated claim about the governor’s limited power, especially interesting:
4. Texas is not a “weak governor” state. A common misconception. It used to be true, but during his historic governorship, Perry has reinvented the office as a power center. This may be his greatest accomplishment. Yes, our state constitution, written the year before Reconstruction ended, created a weak governor’s office (as did most constitutions of the states of the former Confederacy). We had two-year terms (the Legislature changed it to four-year terms beginning with the 1974 election) and a fragmented executive department with power divided among the governor, the lieutenant governor, the comptroller, the land and agriculture commissioners, the attorney general, and the railroad commission. But Perry has used his appointment power to install political allies in every state agency, effectively establishing a Cabinet form of government and making him vastly more powerful than any of his predecessors. In this regard, the Texas politician he most resembles is LBJ, who, Robert Caro reports, once told an assistant, “I do understand power, whatever else may be said about me. I know where to look for it and how to use it.” Rick Perry, to a tee.
You can find the whole thing—including Burka’s pointed closing note that today’s Texas is not just a collection of cattle ranches and oilfields, but “urban state of 25 million people”—here.Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.