se­ces­sion re­mark was the­atri­cal, and so is bring­ing it up

A con­sti­tu­tional ex­pert ad­vised at the time of Perry’s com­ments that the Civil War long ago van­quished se­ces­sion as a le­gal op­tion.

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO&STATE - By W. Gardner selby

Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Bill White harkened to a moment we’ve re­viewed be­fore when he told del­e­gates to the Texas Demo­cratic Party’s con­ven­tion in Cor­pus Christi: “In Rick Perry’s Texas, the gover­nor threat­ens to leave, to se­cede from the great­est coun­try.”

White was re­fer­ring to an episode on April 15, 2009, when the Repub­li­can gover­nor dis­cussed se­ces­sion in re­sponse to a re­porter’s ques­tion af­ter a tea party rally. But did Perry threaten to se­cede? Perry’s com­ments came when As­so­ci­ated Press re­porter Kel­ley Shan­non asked him if he thought the tea party rally re­flected a na­tional move­ment. Perry an­swered that it could be. He said peo­ple feel stran­gled by spend­ing and tax­a­tion and they want help, ac­cord­ing to an AP record­ing we re­viewed in April 2010. Shan­non then asked Perry about some as­so­ci­at­ing him with the idea of se­ces­sion or sovereignty for Texas.

“Oh, I think there’s a lot of dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios,” Perry replied. “Texas is a unique place. When we came in the union in 1845, one of the is­sues was that we would be able to leave if we de­cided to do that.

“You know, my hope is that Amer­ica, and Washington in par­tic­u­lar, pays at­ten­tion. We’ve got a great union. There is ab­so­lutely no rea­son to dis­solve it. But if Washington con­tin­ues to thumb their nose at the Amer­i­can peo­ple, you know, who knows what may come

out of that? So. But Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty in­de­pen­dent lot to boot.”

At the time, Perry’s com­ments were widely in­ter­preted as in­di­cat­ing the Repub­li­can gover­nor thought se­ces­sion could legally oc­cur; he sub­se­quently did not back down from that con­clu­sion.

How­ever, a con­sti­tu­tional ex­pert ad­vised at the time that the Civil War long ago van­quished se­ces­sion as a le­gal op­tion.

San­ford Levin­son, a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas School of Law, said the Texas Con­sti­tu­tion, the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion and the Joint Res­o­lu­tion An­nex­ing Texas to the United States of 1845, do not be­stow an ex­plicit right for the state to re­turn to a re­pub­lic. Levin­son said there is “no pos­si­bil­ity what­so­ever that the United States or any court would rec­og­nize a ‘right’ to se­cede.”

Levin­son noted that the 1845 res­o­lu­tion al­lows Texas to break into five new states, and it doesn’t spec­ify whether that would re­quire con­gres­sional ap­proval. But, he said, that’s dis­tinct from se­ces­sion.

Does Perry’s “who-knowswhat-might-come” com­ment sup­port White’s state­ment that Perry threat­ened to leave the union?

Us­ing the Nexis search tool, we found 169 ma­jor news­pa­per ar­ti­cles link­ing Perry and se­ces­sion. None quoted Perry threat­en­ing to push for se­ces­sion, though crit­ics and co­me­di­ans framed his words in that way.

Typ­i­cally, San An­to­nio Ex­press-News re­porter Roy Bragg wrote in an April 19, 2009, ar­ti­cle: “The gover­nor didn’t make an ac­tual threat to se­cede.”

An Oc­to­ber 2009 ar­ti­cle in The Dal­las Morn­ing News quoted Al­li­son Cas­tle, the gover­nor’s spokes­woman, say­ing Perry’s in­ten­tion in his April com­ment “was to point a crit­i­cal fin­ger at the fed­eral govern­ment, not to en­cour­age aban­don­ing the U.S.”

White cam­paign spokes­woman Katy Ba­con con­tends that Perry’s “spec­u­la­tion, say­ing the state could se­cede if it wanted to, is a saber-rat­tling threat. Think about se­ces­sion and all that is as­so­ci­ated with it. He was not talk­ing about it in a his­tor­i­cal navel-gaz­ing” or con­sti­tu­tional-in­ter­pre­tive fashion.

What we find: In a po­lit­i­cally the­atri­cal moment, Perry edged to­ward a se­ces­sion threat. Not then nor since, how­ever, has he said Texas should quit the United States. (You would’ve read all about it.)

White’s sim­i­larly the­atri­cal state­ment at his party’s con­ven­tion is False.

Bill White State­ment: ‘In Rick Perry’s Texas, the gover­nor threat­ens to leave, to se­cede from the great­est coun­try.’

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