Perplexing and Persistent Focus on Rick Perry's Private Life

The more obvious speed bumps lie in his public record

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"I can assure you that there is nothing in my life that will embarrass you if you decide to support me for president," the Texas Tribune's Jay Root today reports Rick Perry told a group of conservative over the weekend. With his wife, Anita, by his side, Perry was responding to a "polite" but direct question about his private life by an attendee, Root says. The same questions percolated among attendees of a Manhattan Republican dinner in June, Politico Maggie Haberman reports.

Rumors about Perry's private life -- that he and his wife are divorcing over infidelities, for example -- have been thoroughly debunked by several Texas publications, from the Houston Chronicle to the Austin Chronicle, which called them "extraordinary in their baroque detail and remarkable persistence." The Austin American-Statesman's Ken Herman explains that the paper sent a reporter to meet someone who promised to have the dirt on Perry. When the reporter showed up at the "nasty little townhouse," he was greeted by a guy cleaning his fingernails with a knife. "This guy basically said, 'We don't want nothing, and you need to get the hell out of here,'" the reporter says.

Perry himself addressed the rumors in 2004, telling the Statesman there was no truth to them. But it's interesting that it's not just Perry's ideological enemies who are fixated on the rumor -- conservatives are intrigued too. Really, it's Perry's public background that conservatives should be concerned about:
  • Al Gore  His explanation for why he supported Al Gore for president in 1988 is that Gore was a conservative Democrat -- one who supported the Strategic Defense Initiative. But ABC News' Michael Falcone reports that Gore was skeptical of SDI, even calling it "an electronic Astrodome over the United States" in 1987.
  • Perrycare?  In 2001, Perry suggested a "binational" health care program that would cover both Americans and Mexicans. This plan has drawn increasing attention this week after Wonkette tracked down the original speech. And he wrote a letter praising Hillary Clinton's effort to reform health care in 1993.
  • Immigration  Perry supported a state-level version of the Dream Act, which would let illegal immigrants pay in-state tuition for college.
And yet the current conventional wisdom is that Perry's conservative cred is unimpeachable, leaving social conservatives wondering whom he might have slept with. Oddities of the campaign trail.
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