And that's just the beginning. The Texas governor, who very well still might jump into the GOP presidential contest, has just issued a video invitation to the Response, an August prayer event in Houston. The event is sponsored by the American Family Association, a group known for its anti-gay rhetoric; its president told the Texas Tribune that Jews and Muslims who fail to accept Jesus Christ as their savior are headed for hell.
The liberal group People for the American Way mashed up Perry's invite with snippets of a few of the invited speakers doing their thing. Their thing tends to be anti-gay and anti-non-Christian stances, expressed so virulently it nearly looks like satire. But it's not, at all.
The contrast between Perry's smooth demeanor and the unhinged-sounding snippets is quite something to behold. He says Jesus, they say Oprah is a forerunner of the antichrist, homosexuality is an Illuminati conspiracy, President Obama should be violently overthrown, the Statue of Liberty is a "demonic idol,", and those mysterious bird deaths earlier this year in Arkansas were a result of DADT's repeal.
Clearly Perry isn't worried about drawing an explicit connection between government and religion, but an explicit connection to this particular brand of extremist religion seems certain to damage his national chances. True, Perry's not the one spouting this stuff himself (it's sort of like picking up dog droppings with a plastic bag — getting the dirty job done but keeping his own hands clean). And it's doubtful that there's much overlap between subscribers to People for the American Way's YouTube channel and the far-right evangelical voters Perry is dog-whistling at with his role in this event. If Perry is trying to present himself as the pro-business, job-creating, experienced alternative to Romney, it's not surprising that he would want to play up his Christianity, when Romney's Mormonism is part of what makes some likely GOP voters uncomfortable with him as a candidate. It's also a way to siphon off the evangelical crowd from Bachmann.
But Perry's theoretical appeal would also need to come from his electability in a general race. Gay marriage might be in the news, but it's far less a wedge issue than in recent years, especially among young people of all political affiliations. (And Oprah! She's perhaps the one thing around which Americans of all stripes can unite.) Perry wasn't blindsided with speakers he didn't know anything about; he sought out the AFA specifically as a co-sponsor. Swing voters, and even middle-of-the-road Republicans, aren't going to love his frothing-at-the-mouth friends.
For Prayer Event, Perry Teams With Controversial Group [Texas Tribune]
Video: Perry Invites Public to "The Response" [Texas Tribune]
Rick Perry Partners With 'Apostle' Who Thinks The Statue Of Liberty Is A 'Demonic Idol' [RightWingWatch]