Former Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs surfaced Tuesday morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and may have tipped the Democrats' strategy regarding how they plan to attack newly-announced GOP candidate Rick Perry: label him a flip-flopper and try to paint him as a crazed Tea Partier and, yes, even a birther.
Responding to a question from Mark Halperin regarding Gibbs's thoughts on some of Perry's comments in Iowa, Gibbs questioned Perry's commitment to America for raising the issue of Texas seceding from the Union in 2009. But that was only the beginning. He then turned to the birther accusation.
“Any day now, Rick Perry will ask to see the president's birth certificate,” Gibbs said. “But, look, these are the kind of crazy arguments that you have and the kind of crazy things that you're going to see much, much more of, as each of the three candidates seeks to outdo each other to pledge allegiance to the tea party to pick this nominee:"
The birther accusation isn't even worth discussing, so what about all the talk of secession? Did Perry really want to pull Texas from the Union?
The Austin American-Statesman covered the controversy back in 2009 when the story was big. According to its report, Perry never advocated secession, but only defended Texas's right to do so (being married to a Texan myself, I can tell you Texas's right to seceed is frequently a boasting point). In fact, the second paragraph of the story says, "The idea of secession — which Perry did not endorse — surfaced suddenly Wednesday after Perry appeared at an anti-tax "tea party" at Austin City Hall, where some in his U.S. flag-waving audience shouted, 'Secede!'"
That's pretty clear. But it goes on:
According to The Associated Press, Perry suggested in response to a reporter's question that Texans might at some point get so fed up with Democratic-led actions in Washington that they would want to secede.
"There's a lot of different scenarios," Perry said. "We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that? But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot."
On Thursday, Perry called potential secession a "side issue of Texas history. ... We are very proud of our Texas history; people discuss and debate the issues of can we break ourselves into five states, can we secede, a lot of interesting things that I'm sure Oklahoma and Pennsylvania would love to be able to say about their states, but the fact is, they can't because they're not Texas."
A Perry spokeswoman said Perry believes Texas could secede if it wanted.
As the Statesman points out, defending a right to do something and advocating for it are two very different things.
The comments by Gibbs were in response to Perry allegedly questioning Obama's patriotism. Perry said on Monday that Americans want a “president who is passionate about America." When asked later if President Obama loves America, Perry told a reporter to “go ask him."
He wasn't done, though. Later he questioned the president's fitness to be commander-in-chief:
“I think the military men and women respect the commander in chief regardless of who it is. I think they really like to see a person who’s worn the uniform in that office and, you know, I think that’s just a true statement and I wouldn’t back up off of it an inch,” Perry told a group of reporters trailing him on Monday. “Go ask your veterans if they’d rather see somebody who’s never served as the commander in chief.”
Welcome to campaign season.