Jason Stanford: Rick Perry loves the troops, hates feeding them
Texas has a new refugee crisis on the border, and this time it’s not a bunch of kids. When Rick Perry deployed the National Guard to the border, he remembered to go on Fox News, pose with assault weapons, and brag to Republicans in Iowa. But he forgot to make sure that our National Guardsmen and women got paid and were fed. Now they are turning to food banks to eat, underscoring how Perry’s big fake invasion of south Texas is really just a political put-up job.
Responding to the humanitarian crisis, Perry called up the National Guard and ordered them to the Rio Grande Valley to help deter drug smugglers. In a much-touted foreign policy speech, he even warned that ISIS may very well have snuck over the border to kill us all.
And while he’s been getting a lot of attention, he forgot about the troops he deployed. The guardsmen and women have been in the valley since Aug. 11 and weren’t due their first paychecks until after Labor Day. Our troops need to eat, so they’ve been turning to local charities set up to help the residents of one of the poorest areas in the United States.
“We were contacted that 50 troops that are in the valley don’t have any money for food or gas and they need our assistance,” said the leader of the local food bank.
It’s a cliché to work “oops” into any story about Rick Perry, but shouldn’t it tell us something that the word always fits so well? For a guy who wants to be commander in chief, Perry looks like an even bigger idiot than usual by sending troops to the border without packing them so much as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Maybe now Perry will send in the Red Cross to provide humanitarian assistance to the National Guard so they can go back to scaring away drug smugglers instead of dealing with the border kids.
This isn’t the first signal that Perry didn’t completely think this one through, and at this point I feel compelled to reassure you that I’m not making up any of what I’m about to tell you.
To pay for his military adventure, Perry declared an emergency but didn’t use money from the emergency fund because, he said, a real emergency such as a hurricane might come up.
So he raided the money ($38 million for two months) from funds in the budget for the Texas Department of Public Safety that were set aside for an emergency radio system—such as might be used in a real emergency like a hurricane. And then he told them that their mission was to offer support for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Come to think of it, the fact that all of this is true isn’t reassuring at all.
Perhaps less calming is that Perry’s tin-pot offensive will not only not do anything about the border crisis, it also probably won’t do squat about drugs. Our troops have no authority to arrest anyone and have been ordered by the adjutant general to “avoid confrontation.”
This mission has no end date, meaning Perry might have accomplished the rare feat of getting his troops mired in a quagmire in his own state. When asked to describe an exit plan or a win scenario, the adjutant general said, “We wouldn’t pull an Iraq. We would end it when we end it.”
“Pulling an Iraq” means something entirely different for most of us. It means sending troops off half-cocked with fully loaded weapons. It means dressing up political motivations with cockeyed rationales and sending troops into a no-win situation with no exit strategy.
Perhaps learning from how George W. Bush misled our country into war in Iraq, Perry has done a great job to spin the border crisis into political gold. But give Bush credit. He may have sent our troops into harm’s way for illusory reasons, but at least he remembered to feed them.
Jason Stanford is a regular contributor to the Austin American-Statesman, a Democratic consultant and a Truman National Security Project partner. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @JasStanford. His columns are distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.