"He's just a smooth-talkin', long-tall slow-walkin'
So honey don't you fall for that fake Texas drawl
He ain't right for you
What you need's a man that ain't just a hat stand
When you get him home
All hat and no cattle ain't gonna get it done."
All Hat and No Cattle, Trace Adkins, singer
I can't say I didn't see it coming. I had a hammer, and I hammered out a warning about three years ago while I was still living within two-stepping distance of the capitol dome in Austin. But, alas, to no avail. Quoting me:
"While it is not my objective to raise alarm, I fervently believe that some of you just didn't get the memo back in 2000. Many voters seemed to be laboring under the misguided impression that the governorship of Texas must produce leaders with savvy and keen executive skills. We are incubating another one for a presidential run with all the usual players and groomers even now, and while you are free to vote for whomever tickles your electoral fancy in 2012 or 2016, be advised that the spoils of any gubernatorial race in Texas do not necessarily go to the sharpest cheese on the cracker.
Somewhere along the way (and it's probably detailed in the Texas Constitution, but I don't have enough interest to look it up) the powers of the governor were severely restricted, resulting in a rather weak office compared to other states. At Governors' Summer Camp, all the other governors make fun of Texas.
The real power behind the throne lies with the Lieutenant Governor. This person is, more often than not, wicked smart, hugely influential, a very effective political animal and is voted in year after year, even though people have a hard time remembering who he is unless he's been in office long enough to get a museum in his name. He (or she, although there hasn't been a "she" so far) is not the running mate of the governor and can keep his job no matter what yahoo is living in the mansion. If you ever read the late Molly Ivins, you already know what I'm saying.
Thus, current and former governors of Texas have seldom been required to possess more than a little affable, folksy charm to get the job. Although, every now and again, a prototypical candidate is so repellent that even Texans are offended and they elect a smart and effective leader by default. Governor Ann Richards, for example, narrowly slipped into the governorship after her opponent shared his happy youthful memories of his trips to "Boys' Town" across the Mexican border, and actually described himself as being "serviced."
Sadly, the rogue brainiac lasts only as long (about half a term) as it takes Texas to get annoyed all over again with a governor who knows big words and the office reverts to the aforementioned standard. Texas' current governor is carrying on that grand tradition.
Among his more admirable qualities is that he is follically blessed. So dense and attractive is the Governor's coif that he is known throughout the land as Governor Good Hair (thanks to Molly), or just plain Good Hair, if you don't stand on formality. Good Hair is equally gifted with the same sort of rhetorical command that you may have observed in another well-known governor from Texas."
Fast forward three years and, by now, you already may know that Rick Perry, wearing a slightly bigger tooled belt and having moved up from a saucer-size to a salad-plate-size belt buckle, with nary a follicle out of place and his folksiness turned up to 13, has managed an impressive showing in the Iowa Straw Poll. While Representative Michelle Bachmann still managed to lead the pack, I suspect that the voters hadn't yet heard that a new sheriff was in town. A plain-speakin', straight-shootin', America lovin', deficit spendin' hatin' man so close to his family that he is proud to tell you his own father-in-law performed his vasectomy.
Lordy. Most families express their enjoyment of each other's company by having a game night, or going camping together. There's close and then there's...what's that other adjective?...oh...that's right...disturbing. Even in Texas, your family doesn't normally participate in dad's vasectomy beyond picking him up at the urology clinic when it's over and giving him a Shiner Bock and a bag of frozen okra once they settle him down in his recliner
While a statement like that is kind of thrilling for the wicked-minded and I wish that Molly and Ann were still around to hoot and make lewd jokes about Rick and body parts that rhyme with "Rick", it does increase my earlier suspicion that we have a "hat" and no one is looking for any cattle. I wrote the previous article because of a confession that Perry made regarding his understanding of genetics, or lack thereof, which for a man who claims to be a rancher, made me wonder if he had ever even bred cattle. Or, where he thought Texas longhorns come from (answer: feral Mexican cattle crossbred with eastern cattle brought by the early settlers). To wit, the Governor stated that while he believes in genetics, he does not believe in evolutionary theory. And I added, "I always love it when politicians make these sorts of affirmative pronouncements – as if their belief or their disbelief in natural phenomenon gives it its legitimacy."
However you may stand on creation v. evolution, genetics is solidly on the side of evolutionary theory because it is the foundation of genetic drift. You can't stuff genetics into the creation side of the debate because genetics is all about change over time and across species, while creation is a single, one-time, whole and absolute event. I threw in a life-science refresher in the earlier column, because it fit into a completely different topic, but it's edited below:
"In normal reality, human-kind requires a male and a female (or, at least, their gametes) to produce offspring. Each parent has 23 paired chromosomes, which are a package of genes composed of DNA (the chemical that carries the genetic instructions for making the organism) in the nucleus of their cells; 22 pairs are essentially identical, but the 23rd pair is different. In females, the 23rd pair (those that encode the ovum and sperm, also known as the "germ" cells) has two like chromosomes called "XX", but in males, the pair has dissimilar chromosomes, "XY".
Mitosis (the replication and division of cells) and meiosis (the replication and division of reproductive cells) are observable events. You can watch this process under a microscope. A common procedure like in vitro fertilization proves over and over that meiosis is how we get more of us.
Because each fertilization is a brand new combo, species change over time due to random fluctuations of the appearance of different genes in a population. These fluctuations may become fixed, whether or not they have any real adaptive purpose. For example, the Governor's extraordinary bounty of hair (an anomaly among male legislators of a certain age with domes often as smooth as the granite capitol under which they labor), may become more frequent among future Texas politicians if he continues to reproduce successfully.* To phrase it more precisely – genetic drift from no hair among a population of legislators to follicular surplus.
You are different from your parents; your children are different from you, and so on, backward and forward throughout the timeline of any species. Genetic drift is one of the pillars of evolutionary theory, and while many factors impact the direction of the drift, it starts with the obvious fact that two individuals (absent cloning) produce kids who are not replicas of them, and might even express characteristics not seen in either parent. This reshuffling of the genetic deck allows for a few surprises in the next generation." And, often, enormous changes over many generations.
Recent inquiries into his religious beliefs indicate that Perry continues to find genetics and genetic drift unsupportable. No word yet on if he is for/against gravity or if he's pro/con on the sun being recognized as the center of our solar system.
So, here we are and I predict that Perry is likely to remain a strong candidate because he's super-cute and so gosh-darn down-home friendly (and he's not ashamed to come clean about his vasectomy). And my advice is still the same – you must vote your conscience. However, just a couple of observations and then I'll give it a rest.
I know a thing or two about Texas men and have been on more dates to the Alamo than I can remember. I admire their courtesy and outrageous enthusiasm for life, their great humor and mastery of a dance floor. You never have to ask yourself how you will deal with the rattler that's moved into the shed – your Texas man will take care of it for you, little lady. Then, he'll skin it out and offer to have a belt made out of for you if it's big enough, or a wallet if it's small. Hell, a real Texas boy will even grill it up on his electric wok just so as not to waste it (and I'm not making that up). I love the way Texas men look and dress and stride and flirt with every woman as if she were a rodeo queen.
But as much as I admire them, you should know that there are two kinds of Texans: 1) All hat and no cattle and 2) Big Hat and Many Cattle.
The Governor has a fine hat. But before you fall in love, walk around the barn and make certain his pasture has anything grazing in it.
*Written before the public announcement re: Perry's vasectomy.