By Josh Israel and Scott Keyes on Jul 8, 2013 at 3:47 pm
With his announcement Monday that he will not seek an unprecedented fourth full term as Governor of Texas, Rick Perry (R) will retire from the office in January 2015. Sadly, he will leave behind a record of right-wing extremism that few could match.
Here are ten of the worst moments from his 13 years as governor and his “oops” 2012 presidential campaign:
1. He allowed Texas to become the nation’s worst polluter. Texas under Perry has led the nation in carbon dioxide emissions and is home tofive of the ten worst mercury emitting power plants in the country. Rather than try to do something about this, Perry sued the federal government to try to avoid complying an EPA ruling that the state was in violation of the Clean Air Act. A proud climate change denier, Perry called the 2010 BP oil spill an “act of God” while speaking at a trade association funded by BP. And his solution to the nation’s economic ills in 2011: more oil drilling.
2. He executed a likely innocent man and impeded an investigation into the matter. In 2004, Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in Huntsville, Texas after being convicted of arson and the murder of his three children. Despite significant evidence that arson had not caused the fire (thus exonerating Willingham), Perry refused to grant a stay of execution. Five years after Willingham was executed, a report from a Texas Forensic Science Commission investigator found that the fire could not have been arson. As the commission prepared to hear testimony from the investigator in October 2009, Perry fired and replaced three of its members, forcing an indefinite delay in the process. With a record of executing juveniles and mentally disabled, Perry said in a 2011 GOP presidential debate that he had “never struggled” at all with his decisions to administer the death penalty to more than 230 people.
3. He actively sought to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Perry argued that Texas and other states should be able to opt out of federal entitlements like Medicaid and Social Security — even though such a move would actually cost his own state’s economy billions of dollars. Despite their popularity and success, he called these programs and Medicare “Ponzi schemes,” and suggested they are actuallyunconstitutional.
4. He consistently backed legislation to restrict women’s reproductive rights. Perry has made news in recent weeks for his embarrassing attacks on State Senator Wendy Davis (D) and his efforts to ram through a likely unconstitutional bill to shut down the vast majority of Texas clinicsthat provide abortion. But his attacks on women’s reproductive choice are nothing new; in 2011 he pushed for and signed “emergency legislation” to require women to have unnecessary sonograms prior to abortions.