Bach­mann takes shots at Perry’s con­ser­va­tive cre­den­tials

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY RALPH Z. HALLOW

Rep. Michele Bach­mann’s two-pronged at­tack on Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the Sept. 12 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial de­bate — ac­cus­ing him of “crony cap­i­tal­ism” and usurp­ing par­ents’ rights in his ill-fated 2006 plan to vac­ci­nate Texas school­girls against the HPV virus — could prove ef­fec­tive in rais­ing doubts about the GOP front-run­ner among both tea party back­ers and so­cial-re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives, ac­tivists in both camps said.

Whether the po­ten­tially ex­plo­sive HPV is­sue Mrs. Bach­mann raised will per­ma­nently dam­age Mr. Perry’s bid — and dis­tract the GOP field from fo­cus­ing on Pres­i­dent Obama and his eco­nomic record — is an­other mat­ter, one that con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists of vir­tu­ally all stripes seemed de­ter­mined to avoid.

Knocked out of the first tier of can­di­dates by Mr. Perry’s en­try into the race, the Min­nesota con­gress­woman riled some Repub­li­can loy­al­ists — and brought smiles to Democrats ea­ger for cam­paign-trail am­mu­ni­tion — when she hurled the twin charges against the Texas gov­er­nor in the Sept. 12 spir­ited de­bate in Tampa, Fla.

Mr. Perry again con­ceded that his ex­ec­u­tive or­der, man­dat­ing the in­oc­u­la­tion of pub­lic-school girls against a par­tic­u­larly vi­cious, sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­ease un­less a girl’s par­ents de­clined to par­tic­i­pate, was poorly con­ceived and met with strong pub­lic dis­ap­proval be­fore be­ing called off.

But he de­nied that he was prac­tic­ing crony cap­i­tal­ism or was in­flu­enced by a $5,000 cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion from the drug com­pany that stood to ben­e­fit from the in­oc­u­la­tion or­der. He noted he had raised $30 mil­lion in that same gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paign.

“If you think I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended,” Mr. Perry said.

But Mrs. Bach­mann did not back down, re­ply­ing, “Well, I’m offended for all the lit­tle girls and the par­ents that didn’t have a choice.”

How much the ex­change will hurt the Repub­li­can front-run­ner was a hot topic of de­bate on Sept. 13.

“Crony cap­i­tal­ism is still bet­ter than so­cial­ism, which both the tea party and so­cial con­ser­va­tives strongly op­pose,” Ian An­drew Dodge, founder of the Maine Tea Party Pa­tri­ots, told The Washington Times af­ter the de­bate. “Granted, these are nor­mally hot is­sues, but I don’t think these are killer is­sues, not this time.”

But oth­ers say the con­tro­versy raises doubts about Mr. Perry’s con­ser­va­tive bona fides.

“Nei­ther a $5,000 cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion from Merck, nor heavy-hand­ed­ness on the HPV vac­cine is likely to en­dure as a last­ing is­sue, but they are re­minders that Gov. Perry’s con­ser­va­tive cre­den­tials are not with­out blem­ish,” said Colin Hanna, founder of the re­li­gious ad­vo­cacy group Let Free­dom Ring.

Cal­i­for­nia tea party ac­tivist Nathan Mintz said the econ­omy re­mains the dom­i­nant is­sue “and this Bach­mann at­tack is not stick­ing,” not­ing, as Mr. Perry has done, that par­ents could opt out of the in­oc­u­la­tion or­der.

But he also ac­knowl­edged that an “opt-in” ap­proach would more clearly have pre­served parental pow­ers.

Some of the party’s most vis­i­ble so­cial con­ser­va­tives are both­ered less by the pay-for-play al­le­ga­tion than by the in­oc­u­la­tion is­sue. But even then, many say that the Texas gov­er­nor re­mains the party’s best bet for 2012 right now.

“The ‘crony cap­i­tal­ism’ charge has no ba­sis and — for good rea­son — will not stick,” said re­li­gious-right leader Jim Gar­low, chair­man of Re­new­ing Amer­ica’s Lead­er­ship. “How­ever, con­ser­va­tives are fun­da­men­tally un­happy with Perry’s de­ci­sion re­gard­ing HPV for the very rea­son Bach­mann pointed out — that is, parental rights. Con­ser­va­tives feel he was and is wrong on that is­sue.”

“He made a mis­take, which he ad­mits, although his mo­ti­va­tion was one we ap­pre­ci­ate — pro­tect­ing life,” said con­sti­tu­tional scholar and Lib­erty In­sti­tute Pres­i­dent Kelly Shackelford.

Mr. Perry has cul­ti­vated per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with the na­tion’s lead­ing so­cial con­ser­va­tives with a national day of prayer and a meet­ing with 200 in­vited guests at the ranch of a Perry friend out­side of Austin last month. Some now seem will­ing to go the ex­tra mile for him.

“The only way that the ex­ec­u­tive-or­der is­sue will unite con­ser­va­tives against Perry is if the de­bate never pro­ceeds past sound bites,” said David Bar­ton, pres­i­dent of the national pro­fam­ily or­ga­ni­za­tion Wall­Builders.

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates (from left) Michele Bach­mann, Rick Perry and Mitt Rom­ney.

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