His most famous speech as a candidate, “Defending Conservatism Against the Cancer of Trump-ism,” is still posted at his campaign website as I write this. Let me quote:
Donald Trump is the modern-day incarnation of the know-nothing movement.
He espouses nativism, not conservatism. He is negative when conservatism is inherently optimistic.
He would divide us along bloodlines, when conservatives believe our policies will work for people of all backgrounds.
He has piqued the interest of some Republican voters who have legitimate concerns about a porous border and broken immigration system. But instead of offering those voters leadership or solutions, he has offered fear and soundbites. This cannot stand.
Conservatism doesn’t foment agitation through identity politics. That’s what Democrats do. But as a supporter of socialized medicine, the stimulus package and Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump is quite suited to follow the Democrats’ example.
I, for one, will not be silent when a candidate for the high office of president runs under the Republican banner by targeting millions of Hispanics, and our veterans, with mean-spirited vitriol.
I will not go quiet when this cancer on conservatism threatens to metastasize into a movement of mean-spirited politics that will send the Republican Party to the same place it sent the Whig Party in 1854: the graveyard…
Resentment is the poison we swallow that we hope harms another. My fellow Republicans, don’t take the poison.
That’s practically a mission statement for #NeverTrump. Some Perry critics at the time claimed that he didn’t mean any of it and was just looking to make a splash to help his struggling campaign by throwing eggs at the media’s favorite candidate. Perry fans said no, he’s a true conservative who feels it in his bones. Just listen to him talk about the 10th Amendment. A man like that could never support a two-bit authoritarian.
You win, Perry critics. Utter disgrace:
“I believe in the process, and the process has said Donald Trump will be our nominee and I’m going to support him and help him and do what I can,” Perry said.
“He is one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen,” he added, saying Trump knows how to market and brand like no one he has ever seen…
When asked if Perry would consider being Trump’s running mate, he left the door wide open.
“I am going to be open to any way I can help. I am not going to say no,” Perry said.
He’s not the only fraud, needless to say. Rand Paul, the great conservatarian hope, who vowed in January to spend “my every waking hour … to try to stop Donald Trump from being our nominee,” reiterated yesterday that he’ll nonetheless support him. He’s got a Senate election to win, after all. So does his enemy John McCain, who also said he’d back Trump when asked yesterday despite Trump having famously mocked his heroism in war because he was captured by the VC.
Perry’s endorsement grates more than either of those does, though, partly because he was so ostentatious in flaunting his moral righteousness at Trump’s expense earlier in the campaign and partly because the “true conservative” niche he’s associated with has produced so many capitulators to Trumpism this year, starting with Hannity and Palin. The “true conservatives,” Ross Douthat noted recently, were the purity police of the GOP when tea-party conservatism was in vogue. They made an art of RINO-stomping. The whole reason Perry’s entry into the race in 2012 was greeted with such fanfare in righty media was because he was supposed to be the “true conservative” savior who’d put the boots to Romney. Along comes Trump, the platonic form of true RINOism, and Perry ultimately decides that not only does he have no conscientious objection to backing him, he’d even serve on a ticket with him. And to top it all off, Perry went this route on the very day that the supposed RINO king, Mitt Romney, was off telling an audience that he could never support a demagogue like Trump — which was Perry’s point in his speech last year. The RINO turned out to be a better conservative than the “conservative.” Fancy that.
We’ll see what Cruz does. A lot of conservatives will be watching him now. Cruz, though, at least has a selfish, cynical excuse for capitulating if he does, and I think he will: He wants to run again. He’s in his mid-40s and has his entire career ahead of him. He could end up president or on the Supreme Court. If that requires some kowtowing to an anti-conservative authoritarian, hey. What’s Perry’s excuse, though? He’s 66 and obviously not running again. He stands to lose nothing by holding out on Trump because he has nothing to gain by backing him. He already made the argument, at length, for holding out last July! And yet, somehow, here we are.