Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rick Perry, Traveling Man

To paraphrase John Greenleaf Whittier, Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: Rick Perry.

You might not link the bodacious Texas governor and Republican presidential hopeful with travel and transportation in a word-association test, but Perry and travel are more closely linked than you may think.

For one thing, there is the matter of Perry's own travel, which is considerable. The galivanting govenor is campaigning hard for the GOP nomination, which means hitting the hustlings in state after state. Just how much he's spending to do this - and who is providing the money - he declines to say, which, under Texas's ever-flexible regulatory regime, is legal. (See the Houston Chronicle's take at, posted August 20).

Perry, while not a travel, tourism and transportation wonk as such, has nevertheless built a considerable track record of transit oddities.

Such as:

* He wanted to build a big toll road in Texas but backed off when property owners complained about losing land to eminent domain - that sounds like Big Guv'mint right there, don't it?

* Perry boosted a bill to outlaw full-body patdowns at Texas airports by Transportation Security Administration personnel who use them to keep terrorists off of airplanes; that plan, too, was dropped.

* Campaigning in Iowa, Perry vented about U.S. Department of Transporation rules that require farmers to pay for commercial driver's licenses if they drive their tractors across nearby roads. Just one problem: there is no such rule. Nor is there any such plan, according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who was forced to issue a press release to counter the vaporous claim by the potty Perry.

In the meantime, Perry's in-state critics charge that he has let the Lone Star State's highways go to pot by failing to spend enough money to keep them up, let alone build new ones. That might mean taxes, which is, of course, an affront to Perry's tea party supporters.

In fact, government and taxes are responsible for creating America's transportation infrastructure, from the transcontinental railroads of the 19th century, to air-mail contracts and fat subsidies to the fledgling airlines of the 1920s, to the interstate highway system of the 1950s and '60s. Most recently, Washington helped out commercial airlines with government loans when the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 caused carriers to lose bags of money in the travel free-fall that followed.

I don't often write about politics in this blog. But, you know, sometimes the real world has a way of intruding into the world of travel.

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