By Lynn Ashby 6 Sept. 2010
The problem began when former Houston Mayor Bill White won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to run against Gov. Rick Perry, the incumbent Republican. White proposed a debate. Perry said he would “accept anytime, anywhere, anyhow.” White suggested May 2. Perry said that was “too soon to prepare answers to all the dirt and rumors and outright lies you’ve been telling about me.”
White suggested August 12. Perry said that was “too late to answer to all the dirt and rumors and outright lies you’ve been telling about me.” White said for Perry to set a date. Perry replied that he refused to debate White until he revealed his income for the years he was mayor. White refused, which raised a lot of questions as to what he was hiding. After weeks of this back and forth, the former mayor released his income for the years he was in office, showing His Honor had made millions on investments – perfectly legal but highly unusual, especially since much of it was made by betting against the Astros and Texans.
Next came a press release from the White campaign: “Now that Bill White has made public his income records for the years he was mayor, the Governor must live up to his promise to debate.” A Perry press release followed shortly reading: “Gov. Perry, who refuses to accept federal funds with all those strings attached by the Godless, liberal Washington bureaucrats, proudly announces he has closed the state’s budget gap of $18 billion by using federal stimulus funds, which come from a different source. And, no, he will not debate White until the self-styled former mayor releases his income taxes during the time he worked as a deputy U.S. energy secretary, causing $4-a-gallon gas, not to mention the Louisiana off-shore oil spill.”
As White contemplated releasing his tax records while a deputy energy secretary, he suggested a debate on July 1. Perry refused, explaining that he was too busy “preventing those Godless Muslims from building a mosque in Marfa, a known hot-bed of Al-Quida terrorists.” Perry then demanded that White release his tax records covering the years he was head of “that socialist, big government group, the Texas Democratic Party – if there really is one.”
Dr. Filibuster J. Foghorn, professor of political science at the Houston Ship Channel Community College, wrote in an op/ed article, “The front runner in a political campaign never wants to debate the also-ran, and give him or her name recognition. Especially if your name is so vanilla. I mean, Bill White? Why not John Doe?” At one point, Perry did agree to debate, but insisted it be in Esperanto. “I think that’s just south of El Campo,” an aide explained. Besides, the aide continued, “Perry had already debated. “Just run the tape and substitute White for Hutchison.”
A reporter asked the governor’s office, “When will the governor meet with newspaper editorial boards around Texas as he has in every one of his previous campaigns?”
“The governor will not be meeting with any editorial boards. He doesn’t believe in newspapers, or the press,” said the press aide in a press release. The release went on to question White’s income while he ran a lemonade stand when he was 12. “What’s he hiding – besides that outbreak of salmonella?”
White, in a speech to the P-TA Booster Club in Fort Davis (he was having trouble generating crowds), called for Perry to release his own income records, noting that during two decades of full-time government service, Perry has accumulated a net worth of about $1 million. In one real estate deal, appraisers said Perry bought the land for $150,000 below market price and sold it for $350,000 above the market price for comparable real estate.
“I’d love to explain,” the governor said, “because I demand total transparency in officeholders’ finances. But all my money is in a blind trust, even the 200 shares of AT&T I bought last week, and the $20,000 in municipal bonds that matured in June. Since I don’t know anything about my finances, I can’t release them. But that’s the kind of stupid question you’d expect from such a low-down, creepy, probably perverted arsonist who won’t run a high-level, civilized campaign like I run.”
White suggested a debate for August 23. Perry angrily replied: “Not during Ramadan, have you no sensitivity to our Muslim brethren?” A debate was finally set up for a Sunday morning in a Walmart in Dalhart, but after everything was ready – podium, TV cameras, spin artists – Perry was a no-show. When quizzed later, a governor’s aide explained, “We thought it was a Dalhart in Walmart.”
The aide also challenged White for pointing out that, during this great recession with so many Texans out of work, school funds slashed, aid to poor orphans reduced, why was Perry living in a $9,900-a-month rented villa in west Austin and spending another $168,000 a year for stewards, maids and cooks? Why didn’t Perry use some of that $1 million that Fox News gave to the GOP Governor’s Campaign Fund and save Texas taxpayers their money?
“And what about Nebraska leaving the Big Twelve?” the aide retorted.
The largest newspapers in Texas, along with the PBS station in Austin, called for a debate between White and Perry on Oct. 19. White immediately accepted. The governor said he’d check his schedule, but he thought he had a haircut appointment that day, “And those permanents can take forever.” The governor suggested that each candidate send an aide to debate. “Or perhaps a second. You remember what happened to that coyote that attacked me, don’t you?”
“Why won’t you debate?” White whined in a face-to-face showdown.
“This is neither the time nor the place,” said Perry. “Now get off my curb. It’s 3 a.m.” In a final press released, Perry declared, “I’ll debate that bald, little commie anytime, anywhere, anyhow.” At least, that is a general translation from Esperanto.
Ashby is debatable at email@example.com