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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times

Texas Governor Rick Perry is not exactly a beloved figure in California. The swagger and the twang are all too reminiscent, for some, of another former Texas governor-turned-Republican-presidential-candidate, who twice lost the state by landslide margins.

He’s made sport of coming to visit, seeking to entice companies with thousands of jobs to pack up and move to the lower taxes and less-regulated environment of the Lone Star State.

But Perry seemed to come mostly in peace Wednesday night as he addressed members of the Commonwealth Club, a high-minded, old-line civic organization meeting at a grand hotel atop Nob Hill.

He was in San Francisco, the governor said, not to condemn the Golden State but rather to promote a good, healthy competition, the kind that can make both Texas and California, and ultimately the whole country, prosper. “America needs both California and Texas to be incredibly competitive, incredibly successful,” he said, to a sprinkling of applause from the audience of several hundred.

Perry praised the California climate, he praised the forests, the coasts, the parks and, above all, he praised the wine — “the finest in the world” — the latter drawing perhaps the loudest, most exuberant response of his roughly hourlong appearance.

Now, Perry said, gently, imagine the sort of onerous taxes and regulations that would make anyone want to flee such a paradise. “I’m not here to dis California,” he insisted. “I’m here to lay out what we’ve done in (Texas), economically, and let you decide which one of those economic policies best suits you.”

Perry, who waged a calamitous 2012 run for president, is widely seen as scouting a second attempt in 2016 as he prepares to step down in January after 14 years as governor.

He has returned to the national TV talk-show circuit, drawing largely favorable reviews, and filled his schedule with a combination of speechifying to groups such as the Commonwealth Club and more practical politicking, to gather potential IOUs.

His latest California visit was typical, including a meeting Sunday with Jewish Republicans in Beverly Hills, a breakfast fundraiser Tuesday for a state lawmaker in Bakersfield and a stop Wednesday afternoon at the conservative Hoover Institution think tank at Stanford University.

On Tuesday, in a showy bit of economic brinksmanship, he pulled up to a meeting with state lawmakers in Sacramento driving an electric Tesla sedan, a reminder that Texas is competing with California and three other states for a huge new battery factory that Tesla Motors is planning to build.

But Perry left that kind of braggadaccio in the parking lot, or somewhere outside the Mark Hopkins Hotel, when he arrived at Wednesday night’s forum.

He declined to engage, for instance, when a written question from the audience asked how “intelligent” people can support a Republican Party whose leaders reject the “accepted science” on evolution and global warming.

Eliding the matter of whether global warming was caused by human activity, Perry insisted the answer lay not in government intervention but a free market, which has always rallied to innovate America’s way through challenging times “I’d rather not try to divide this country into you’re wrong and you’re right, or vice versa,” he said.

He suggested that Democratic Governor Jerry Brown and the Democrats who run Sacramento, far from a bunch of liberal kooks, were the ones best able to set California’s course on major policy, just as legislatures in other states should guide their citizens without the intrusion of Washington.

Perry struck a rare discordant note, though, when asked, in another written question, whether he believed that “homosexuals can be cured by prayer or counseling.” The Texas Republican Party recently endorsed the notion in its platform.

“I don’t know,” Perry responded. “I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m not a doctor.”

“Is it a disorder?” pressed Greg Dalton, a club member and the evening’s moderator.

Perry cited a 2008 book he wrote, On My Honor celebrating the values of the Boy Scouts and defending its then-practice of excluding openly gay members. “I talked about that people make choices in life,” Perry said, choosing his words carefully, “and whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that.”

He compared it to alcoholism. “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that,” he said, drawing a smattering of groans and hisses.

Mostly, though, Perry seemed determined to stay within the friendly graces of the politely receptive crowd. (The Commonwealth Club draws its members from throughout the Bay Area, not just the far-left confines of San Francisco.)

His most surprising response came at the very end of the program, when asked to evaluate the perceived Democratic presidential front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton. “Very, very capable public servant, great secretary of State, first lady,” Perry responded, “Very capable.”

He walked off to a round of applause as big — or bigger — than the one that greeted him, though it seems doubtful that Republicans in a competitive primary will view that warm assessment of Clinton as kindly.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Trump speaking at Londonderry, NH rally

Screenshot from YouTube

Donald Trump once again baselessly claimed on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was "going to be over" soon, just hours after his chief of staff suggested the administration was unable to get it under control.

"Now we have the best tests, and we are coming around, we're rounding the turn," Trump said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. "We have the vaccines, we have everything. We're rounding the turn. Even without the vaccines, we're rounding the turn, it's going to be over."

Trump has made similar claims on repeated occasions in the past, stating early on in the pandemic that the coronavirus would go away on its own, then with the return of warmer weather.

That has not happened: Over the past several weeks, multiple states have seen a surge in cases of COVID-19, with some places, including Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin, setting up overflow hospital units to accommodate the rapidly growing number of patients.

Hours earlier on Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appeared to contradict Trump, telling CNN that there was no point in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus because it was, for all intents and purposes, out of their control.

"We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas," he said. "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

Meadows doubled own on Monday, telling reporters, "We're going to defeat the virus; we're not going to control it."

"We will try to contain it as best we can, but if you look at the full context of what I was talking about, we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines, we may need to make sure that when people get sick, that, that they have the kind of therapies that the president of the United States had," he added.Public health experts, including those in Trump's own administration, have made it clear that there are two major things that could curb the pandemic's spread: mask wearing and social distancing.

But Trump has repeatedly undermined both, expressing doubt about the efficacy of masks and repeatedly ignoring social distancing and other safety rules — even when doing so violated local and state laws.

Trump, who recently recovered from COVID-19 himself, openly mocked a reporter on Friday for wearing a mask at the White House — which continues to be a hotspot for the virus and which was the location of a superspreader event late last month that led to dozens of cases. "He's got a mask on that's the largest mask I think I've ever seen. So I don't know if you can hear him," Trump said as his maskless staff laughed alongside him.

At the Manchester rally on Sunday, Trump also bragged of "unbelievable" crowd sizes at his mass campaign events. "There are thousands of people there," he claimed, before bashing former Vice President Joe Biden for holding socially distant campaign events that followed COVID safety protocols.

"They had 42 people," he said of a recent Biden campaign event featuring former President Barack Obama. "He drew flies, did you ever hear the expression?"

Last Monday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) endorsed Biden's approach to the pandemic as better than Trump's, without "any doubt."

"The more we go down the road resisting masks and distance and tracing and the things that the scientists are telling us, I think the more concerned I get about our management of the COVID situation," he told CNN.

In his final debate against Biden last Thursday, Trump was asked what his plan was to end the pandemic. His answer made it clear that, aside from waiting for a vaccine, he does not have one.

"There is a spike, there was a spike in Florida and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas — it's now gone. There was a spike in Arizona, it is now gone. There are spikes and surges in other places — they will soon be gone," he boasted. "We have a vaccine that is ready and it will be announced within weeks and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military is going to distribute the vaccine."

Experts have said a safe vaccine will likely not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest, and that most people will not be able to be vaccinated until next year.

Trump also bragged Sunday that he had been "congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we have been able to do," without laying out any other strategy for going forward.

Nationally, new cases set a single-day record this weekend, with roughly 84,000 people testing positive each day. More than 8.5 million Americans have now contracted the virus and about 225,000 have died.

Trump, by contrast, tweeted on Monday that he has "made tremendous progress" with the virus, while suggesting that it should be illegal for the media to report on it before the election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.