In case you haven't heard, Gov. "Slick Rick" Perry served in the Air force for 5 years in the 1970s and retired a Captain. He dishonored that privilege both during his speech announcing his candidacy and last night on a soapbox in Iowa, alleging the military doesn't respect Obama as their Commander in Chief!
Perry subsequently accused Obama of being America's "greatest threat" and linked him directly to the national debt, which Perry called a "black cloud" (he used the term, "dark cloud" during his stadium "revival"). He also accused Fed Chief, Ben Bernanke, a Bush appointee, of being guilty of treason and deserving of "being treated ugly" if he came to Texas. Did he mean how they treated Adlai Stevenson in 1963 when he came to Texas (e.g., they spat on him)? Or did he mean how they did Kennedy in 1964, where they applauded his assassination?
Though outrageous and incendiary, it's instructive to consider ex-Captain Rick "Black Cloud" Perry's seditious sentiments in the context of his extreme views on a variety of subjects, e.g., that military spending is the only GOOD Government spending and that social spending has essentially compromised national security. In his book, Fed Up: Saving America From Washington, Perry promotes an uber-hawkish foreign policy and portrays various treaties made by the U.S. as bordering on treason (For more on Perry please click on here for excellent segment aired on Democracy Now).
But this is not unprecedented. President Kennedy faced similar threats 50 years ago. In 1962, Kennedy and his advisers were alarmed by the power that right-wing fanatics exercised in the military and its links to extreme religious influences, uber-hawks like Barry Goldwater, militant right-wing political forces in Texas, and others advocating a preemptive nuclear war against the Soviets. Some, like Airforce Chief of Staff, General Curtis LeMay, talked of a military coup against Kennedy. Others opposed to Kennedy, like the Texan and extremist, General Edwin Walker accused Harry Truman and Kennedy’s Secretary of State of being communists. Also, the influential Ayn Rand had publically compared Kennedy to Hitler and portrayed his administration as fascist.This was 3 years after Eisenhower warned the nation, "Beware the military industrial complex" AND Kennedy was a war hero! How much more powerful have they grown in the intervening 50 years? At least Kennedy, like FDR, had a large and poweful labor movement backing him up. That movement is now a mere fraction of what it was.
In response to the threat he faced by these right-wing fanatics, Kennedy supported the making of the film, Seven Days in May (based on the book) to raise the country’s awareness. Here’s Kennedy’s press secretary talking about this, as well as some scenes from the movie.
In the movie, Burt Lancaster plays Air force General, James Scott (a composite of LeMay and Walker). Lancaster’s character plots a military coup to originate from a secret base in Texas. A key scene from the movie shows Scott giving a speech at a “patriotic revival” held in his honor in a stadium before a crowd of frenzied and fanatical conservative supporters (about 1 min. into the video). Scott preps the crowd for his "devinely ordained" ascendancy to the position of Commander-in-Chief and President, much as charismatic ex-Airforce Captain Rick "Black Cloud" Perry did during his political "prayer revival" before a crowd of bigoted fanatics in the stadium rented for the occasion. That's when Perry also used coded language, linking Obama to the "dark cloud" hanging over the country.
One can't escape being as concerned over the ascendant Rick Perry and his forces today as Kennedy was about the role of the right-wing, military, and Texas (where his assassination was met by standing ovations in more than a few right-wing quarters), and how the right-wing and Texas continue to disproportionately influence the fate of our Nation. (Recall George W. Bush, and how 9/11 happened on HIS watch, the effect of his wars and tax cuts, his supreme court picks, his enabling right-wing religious fanatics to have their way in the military, his authorization of torture, his stacking of “true believers” in the Justice Department and other important and sensitive political positions and Government Departments and his and fellow Texan Karl Rove’s giving record numbers of them "civil service protection" just before leaving office so Obama couldn’t fire them and they could bureacratically constrain his Presidency, etc. etc. etc.)
An additional cause of concern is the resurgence of the popularity of the FDR/Kennedy/Jesus -hater, Ayn Rand, and her fictional hero, John Galt. Significantly, sales of Rand's Atlas Shrugged tripled since Obama became President, selling over a million copies in the last two years alone. I’m particularly struck by how Rand's use of the term, “communist” and “socialist” to describe FDR’s administration and reforms (a view of FDR also shared by Rick Perry), and “fascist” to describe Kennedy’s, has been adopted by her followers, the Tea Party, Conservatives, and right-wing media who casually describe Obama the same way AND mean it.
And perhaps most disturbing is how the “religious right” has merged with the Tea Party and adopted Ayn Rand as its Goddess - even though Rand was an atheist who despised Christianity (because of Jesus’ concern for the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable and the requirement that his followers do the same). As such, given the Tea Party Pharisees’ excommunication of THAT Jesus from their brand, the elevation of the Randite, Rick Perry to potential John Galt “savior status,” and the sanctification of Rand’s nostrums as the right's "spiritual gospel," were she alive today I bet even Rand would forsake her atheism and convert to this new, “Crusader Christianity,” and its free-marketeering brand of religion (For more on the abuse of religion and other contradictions on the right, please see my article, CRUSADER CHRISTIANITY, TEA PARTY CULT, & THE LEFT ).
Clearly, there is much to be concerned about given Perry's ascendancy and his direct connection to the right's religious dominionism and its agenda of “full spectrum dominance” and privatization of the public sphere, which Washington Post columnist, Steve Pearlstein portrayed as a "jihad" and "holy war" being waged by "right-wing zealots." This jihad includes the right's ability and willingness to use deception, political power, and technology to suppress voting as well as electronically manipulate election results. And lest we forget - its willingness to economically and politically destabilize the government and country, most recently the "debt ceiling crisis," which it manufactured to further its agenda.
Confronting the threat of the likes of Perry, his political forces in Texas, and the extremist right-wing nationally is no less urgent now than it was 50 years ago. Let us not only pray, but take consequential action to make sure that the same fate that befell Kennedy and the Country back then does not befall our President and Nation now.