The Rick Perry Hunting Lodge Story: A Trivial Distraction?

What was written on a rock outside of a hunting lodge in Texas 30 years ago doesn't really matter all that much.

I’m no Rick Perry fan, but I find myself agreeing with Rod Dreher’s take on this entire controversy about the name of Perry’s former hunting lodge:

It’s more than a little mind-boggling to contemplate that this kind of penny-ante stupidity and racial insensitivity is deemed newsworthy enough by the Post to put on the front page. A couple of days ago, Perry called for the U.S. military to invade, in effect, Mexico to take on drug cartels. Hello! That’s huge. Perry could have been hunting for years at a deer camp called Rod Dreher Was Stalin’s Cabana Boy, and it would be trivial, given the magnitude of the challenges facing the country’s next president, and their proposals to address them. It is far, far more significant that a man who still has a decent chance at being the GOP nominee thinks it would be a good idea to send American troops into Mexico to conduct crimefighting operations than that this man used to hunt at a deer camp with a racially insensitive name (a middle-aged white Republican from small-town West Texas as lacking the racial sensitivities of the Washington Post newsroom — wow, who could have imagined that?).

The world teeters on the brink of a global depression. Millions of Americans are out of work, or don’t have enough work, and there are no prospects of things getting better in the short run. The American military is mired in an unwinnable Asian land war. We don’t have the luxury to worry about whether or not the men or women who aspire to lead the country were sufficiently sensitive about the name of a sporting venue in their past. As far as I’m concerned, if President Obama can fix the economy and bring the troops home, he can play golf at Honkyhead with my blessing.

Some might argue that apparent insentivity about an obvious racial slur is somehow indicitive of Perry’s views on race. As The Texas Tribune found out when they started asking, though, even Perry’s political opponents don’t think the story amounts to much of anything:

Even some of Perry’s fiercest Texas critics say they do not believe he is racist. They point to his record of appointments as evidence: He appointed the state’s first African-American state supreme court justice, Wallace Jefferson, and later made him chief justice. (Jefferson’s great grandfather was a slave, “sold like a horse,” Perry once said with disgust.) Perry’s former general counsel and former chief of staff, Brian Newby, is black; so is Albert Hawkins, the former Health and Human Services Commissioner who Perry handpicked to lead the massive agency in 2002.

“He doesn’t have a racist bone in his body,” said former Democratic state Rep. Ron Wilson, who is black and served with Perry in his early years in the Legislature. “He didn’t then, and he doesn’t now.”

Added Dallas Democratic Sen. Royce West, who is also black: “I don’t agree with him on policy issues, but you can point to many things he has done that were sensitive to ethnic minorities.”

(….)

Wallace Jefferson, the first black chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, said the hunting ranch name controversy is “much ado about nothing,” and argued the implication that Rick Perry is insensitive to matters of race is flatly wrong. Jefferson, who was appointed to the post by Perry, and whose great-great-great-grandfather was a slave owned by a Waco district judge, said the reality is quite the opposite: Perry “appreciates the role diversity plays in our state and nation.”

Jefferson said he can recall his first conversation with Perry, in 2001, like it was yesterday. The two men both had fathers who were Air Force officers, and Jefferson said Perry shared his view that in all circumstances, merit mattered, not race.

“To imply that the governor condoned either the use of that word or that sentiment, I find false,” Jefferson said.

So there you have comments from people that actually know Perry, including members of the opposition. If Perry harbored some kind of a racist attitude, it strikes me that there would be some kind of evidence in support of it other than a rock on the ground outside of Paint Creek, Texas, and one would think that his political opponents would be more than willing to point to examples of it. The fact that they haven’t suggests that there’s nothing there, and that yesterday’s Washington Post story was little more than an attempt at a journalistic hit piece. If the Post wanted to do a story about Perry and Texas, then why aren’t they writing about the crony capitalism, or checking into the claims he makes about job creation in Texas? Isn’t that just a little bit more important than something that happened when a good portion of the people who will be voting in 2012 were still in school? Instead of obsessing over these kinds of trivialities, let’s see the Washington Post concentrate on something that matters for once. They used to know how to do that.

Herman Cain, who had initially criticized Perry when asked about it on two Sunday morning talk shows, basically said today that he considers the matter closed:

Herman Cain pushed back Monday against criticism that he had unfairly called opponent Rick Perry “insensitive” when asked about a rock displaying a racial epithet at a ranch leased by the Texas governor.

“All I said was the mere fact that that word was there was ‘insensitive,’ ” Cain said outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, N.Y., according to the National Review. “That’s not playing the race card. I am not attacking Gov. Perry. Some people in the media want to attack him. I’m done with that issue!”

(…)

Cain seemed eager to put the issue behind himself Monday, asking reporters to instead ask about “what’s important to the American people” rather than “beat this distraction to death about a word that appeared on a rock.”

“I really don’t care about that word,” Cain said. “They painted over it. End of story! I accept Gov. Perry’s response on that.”

Cain’s response on Sunday had been the main reason that this turned into a two-day story. Will this put an end to it? It should, but I doubt it will. We’ll probably even get a question about it at the next Republican debate. Because, you know, there’s really nothing important to be talking about right now.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Race and Politics, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. ponce says:

    I’m not sure Herman Cain, a man who has publicly stated that black voters have been brainwashed, is a very good judge of who is and who isn’t a racist.

  2. john personna says:

    Geez, how many posts does it take at OTB to cover a trivial distraction?

  3. Fiona says:

    Yep, a trivial distraction, but that’s what our infotainment mainstream media sees as “news.” Far easier to spend hours on this non-story than to report on something complex like the debt crisis in Europe or the nation’s economic woes.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    It’s not only a trivial distraction but just plain silly. Here in Oregon there has been an effort to “clean up” geographic names which were English translations of Native American names. In the Columbia River Gorge Cock Rock was changed to Rooster Rock. Now it doesn’t look anything like a rooster but it does look like a …. . Another example is Mt Washington, it was originally Squaw Tit. Once again it doesn’t look anything like George Washington but it does look a lot like a ….. … .

  5. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I guess I’m out of the loop. I literally don’t know to what this post is referring. Also, is the Washington Post still actually in circulation or is that a typo?

  6. Eric Florack says:

    Hey, so-called main-stream media: Don’t confuse us with exploding debt, joblessness, inflation and the stories about corruption within the Obama administration. We should be hearing about the painting on the stone. That’s by far more important, right?

  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Man, that joke you do, you know the “[Whatever-the-topic-at-hand-is] is that still around/alive/in existence?” It never gets old.

    Seriously, never stop doing it.

  8. mattb says:

    From a cultural analysis perspective, the fact that there’s been so much controversy boils down to two main things:

    1. Our ongoing discomfort when it comes to race issues.

    2. The idea that, despite all of our talk about being a single nation, we are still very divided — not just in terms of race, but in terms of concepts about being part of a “modern” America. This has as much to do with the idea of Texas (and most of the South) as being backwards as it has to do with anything else.

    This has legs because Perry is a “conservative” and is attempting (along with others) to define what conservative values are for this present generation. And part of what makes Perry’s conservatism “truer” than Romney’s is that it’s based in exactly the sort of American that ISN’T completely modern (and where something like Niggerhead isn’t assumed to be a big deal).

  9. michael reynolds says:

    Yes, it’s a distraction from the fact that the Koch Brothers — bankrollers of the Tea Party — are apparently involved in criminal activity. Criminal activity that came kinda close to treason.

    That would be the Koch brothers who bankrolled the de-certification of public unions in Wisconsin. Which OTB very much approved of, IIRC.

  10. Loviatar says:

    Up From Libertarianism

    You may formally renounce your libertarianism. You may insist on keeping the label while justifying what amounts to joining the conservative coalition on the grounds that “Economics is primary, and the Republican Party is the lesser of two evils economically,” or explaining away operational liberalism because, “while liberals tend to overreach in regulating the free market, at least they want to keep the Hand of the State away from your nether parts.”

  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    I’m not sure Herman Cain, a man who has publicly stated that black voters have been brainwashed, is a very good judge of who is and who isn’t a racist.

    lol, ya ,lets get a brainwashed liberal to judge that, pick a color if you will….

  12. Actually, I think it does matter, but not for Perry’s nomination, but for the reasons noted in my post from earlier today.

  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    Yes, it’s a distraction from the fact that the Koch Brothers — bankrollers of the Tea Party — are apparently involved in criminal activity. Criminal activity that came kinda close to treason.

    That would be the Koch brothers who bankrolled the de-certification of public unions in Wisconsin. Which OTB very much approved of, IIRC.

    Dude Harry why?

  14. ponce says:

    it’s a distraction from the fact that the Koch Brothers — bankrollers of the Tea Party — are apparently involved in criminal activity. Criminal activity that came kinda close to treason.

    That’s yesterday’s news.

    Today’s Koch Brothers story is Paul Elliot, the Hilary Clinton campaign manager the Koch Bothers have hired to lobby the State Department on behalf of their Keystone XL pipeline project:

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2011/09/former-clinton-elliot.php

    Them Koch Brothers are very busy boys.

  15. Jay Tea says:

    The more people talk about how the Koch brothers or others are funding the Tea Party movement, the more I keep asking: how? The Tea Party is extremely low-budget, by choice, just like they don’t have any national leadership or organization. They don’t want or need funding.

    I understand how the Left uses this as their model for organizing almost exclusively (examples available upon request, but let’s start with Organizing For America, President Obama’s personal astroturfing squad), but guys — it ain’t the only way. Honest.

    Stop projecting.

    J.

  16. James in LA says:

    Hank Williams Jr. has been banned from ESPN’s Monday Night Football opener because he compared a golf match between the President and the Speaker of the House as the same as Hitler playing golf with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

    Too bad the tea party in general cannot be banned. Continuing to denigrate the Presidency means it will be absolutely worthless when conservatives eventually retake the office. It also demeans our country, which includes all of us.

    But it won’t be Republicans. It will be what rises from that impending grave.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    @ponce:
    They are busy aren’t they? And yet, while OTB has all the time in the world to toady the rich, and distract with stories of Perry’s hunting lodge, there’s absolutely no time to talk about this story.

    Must never diss the money.

    Worship the money.

  18. ponce says:

    And yet, while OTB has all the time in the world to toady the rich…

    Hmmm.

    Toadying here at OTB?

    I’m not sure about that.

    I think it more has to do with confirmation bias, the urge to ignore information that contradicts your political beliefs.

  19. @michael reynolds:

    And yet, while OTB has all the time in the world to toady the rich, and distract with stories of Perry’s hunting lodge, there’s absolutely no time to talk about this story.

    Speaking for myself, I have not had the time to read the Koch stories and therefore have not even contemplated writing about them to this point (I may, or I may not–we shall see). I happen to have read Coates’ commentary about the Perry lodge, and it inspired one whole post.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: If I had to make a guess, I would bet that Michael wasn’t referring particularly to you…

  21. WR says:

    @Jay Tea: Right. And all the TV time for all the ads for Tea candidates appeared magically out of the air.

  22. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Sorry, Steven, that shot was not aimed at you. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

  23. @michael reynolds: No worries. I just figured since I am part of the collective “OTB” that it was only fair for me to respond based on my own part of said collective.

  24. ponce says:

    All members of the collective are equal, but some are more equal than others.

  25. jan says:

    @Jay Tea:

    The more people talk about how the Koch brothers or others are funding the Tea Party movement, the more I keep asking: how? The Tea Party is extremely low-budget, by choice, just like they don’t have any national leadership or organization. They don’t want or need funding.

    Jay Tea, the tea party is an enigma which the left really cannot explain by any other means than to discredit it with slurs. It was a spontaneous combustion movement, politically erupting after the 2008 elections because people had enough of big government, as it was being implemented on both the right and the left elitist parties.

    Unlike some of the leftist rallies, though, these people self-fund most of their activities. Like you said they charter their own buses, make their own signs, and clean up after themselves.

    Also, whatever monetary linkage the Koch brothers may have to this movement is no more (and probably a great deal less) than Soros has funneled to the left via move-on and a slew of other multi-named liberal organizations. Besides Soros’s money, the left is funded by big union money, Hollywood, and a plethora of wealthy business donors. So, I find it laughable when so much is made out of the right’s access to money, when the left is so far ahead of the right in raking in the big dough.

    And again, it was Obama who broke his finance pledge commitment to McCain in the ’08 campaign, because of all the money that floated in, legally and illegally, into the dem coffers. Somehow this is either dismissed or forgotten during these discussions revolving around the evils of Republicans and money.

    Like jay said, it is projection……

  26. Jay Tea says:

    @James in LA: Too bad the tea party in general cannot be banned.

    The fascist is strong with this one…

    J.

  27. Jay Tea says:

    @WR: Right. And all the TV time for all the ads for Tea candidates appeared magically out of the air.

    I can’t even pretend to know what the hell that means.

    Campaign donations are all documented and reported. (Unless, of course, you pull an Obama and deliberately disable the standard security measures that would detect foreign or fraudulent contributions on your web site, but I digress.)

    Good lord, teh stoopid is so strong in this one…

    Back to your kennel, lickspittle.

    J.

  28. Hey Norm says:

    @ JTea/Jan…

    “…The more people talk about how the Koch brothers or others are funding the Tea Party movement, the more I keep asking: how? The Tea Party is extremely low-budget, by choice, just like they don’t have any national leadership or organization. They don’t want or need funding…”

    Keep poking your head in the sand.
    All it takes is some basic looking around.
    The facts won’t fit your ideology though…so you probabaly won’t be able to accept the facts.

  29. WR says:

    @Jay Tea: Umm, Jay? Have you heard of the Citizens United decision? Have you heard of Super Pacs? Have you heard of Freedom Works? Of Karl Rove?

    No, I didn’t think so.

  30. Eric Florack says:

    Hank Williams Jr. has been banned from ESPN’s Monday Night Football opener because he compared a golf match between the President and the Speaker of the House as the same as Hitler playing golf with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

    Apparently, while comparing Hitler to a Republican is acceptable, comparing him to a Democrat is not.

    Too bad the tea party in general cannot be banned. Continuing to denigrate the Presidency means it will be absolutely worthless when conservatives eventually retake the office. It also demeans our country, which includes all of us.

    LOL. Banning other political views. Isn’t that Hitler as well?
    And where was the complaint about demenaing the country when the left was drawing their Hotler comparisons to Bush?

    Gee.

  31. Eric Florack says:

    there’s absolutely no time to talk about this story.

    At tye moment the hame page has several posts up on this story.
    Meanwhile, none of the massive ddbt incurred by Democrats, the play for Pay with unions, the outright corruption, the joblessness, etc…

    And you say JT needs to look around?

    What planet are you on, Reynolds?

  32. @Eric Florack:

    Apparently, while comparing Hitler to a Republican is acceptable, comparing him to a Democrat is not.

    Do you have a comparable example? I can’t think of one.

    The best I can do is the Dixie Chicks, who were simply embarrassed by Bush, and they were banned on country radio stations and had people smashing their albums.

    Banning other political views. Isn’t that Hitler as well?

    I agree with you here, actually. We shouldn’t be talking about banning our opponents.

    But, to be clear, if ESPN doesn’t want Hank William, Jr. associated with their products, they have that right.

  33. Eric Florack says:

    Do you have a comparable example? I can’t think of one.

    Oh, I’ll bet you can find a few if you look.

    And yes, ESPN has that right. I also have the right to respond, as do all Americans.
    One wonders if the net will have the smarts to respond to the torrent of support Bocephus is getting just now. I tend to doubt it.

  34. @Eric Florack:

    I didn’t say Bush was never compared to Hitler, I asked for a comparable example. (Nor, just to be clear, am I defending any Hitler comparison). It is simply glib of you to say “Apparently, while comparing Hitler to a Republican is acceptable, comparing him to a Democrat is not..”

    Plus: you elide the Dixie Chicks example.