'Cause I Said So…

Missing The Point On The Gardasil Story

By now we have all heard something about the 2007 decision of Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) to sign an executive order mandating the Gardasil vaccine for all girls entering the sixth grade in Texas schools receiving money from the State of Texas. One of the most fair and comprehensive articles on the web about this incident has been written by Ben Howe (@Ben_Howe) at RedState.com (@RedState), Vetting Rick Perry (http://www.redstate.com/aglanon/2011/08/17/vetting-rick-perry/).

I’m not going to rehash everything in Mr. Howe’s article. What would be the point? Read it. It’s very good. Instead, I’m going to use Mr. Howe’s article as a jumping off point.

The trouble with almost all the reporting and opinion writing I’ve seen on the incident is that they all seem to miss the point of why this is important, if not necessarily fatal, when looking at the presidential candidacy of Gov. Perry. How did I get it and few others seem to? I don’t know. Maybe because I have no personal ax to grind. No, I’ll admit it, I am not the biggest fan of Gov. Perry; however, I did vote for him in every general election in which he ran. So, I can’t exactly be seen as his biggest detractor, either. So, let’s get to it.

The important thing about this incident is not the vaccine itself. Though I understand the problems many people have with vaccines, I am an advocate of necessary vaccines.

The important thing about this incident is not the mandate. Though I understand the concerns of libertarians and parents’-rights activists, many other vaccines are required to enter Texas’ state-funded schools. (However, I must say that mandated vaccinations for venereal diseases does push the envelope a bit much, and I would be opposed to it.)

The important thing about this incident is not allegations of influence peddling. Though I share the concerns of many regarding this candidate’s history of bending to corporate interests, there has been no evidence given of anything more than garden variety campaign donations and corporate lobbying involving Merck. (I don’t like the way it smells, but it’s perfectly legal.)

No, the most important thing about this incident is executive overreach by Gov. Perry.

The executive and the legislative branches have completely different duties and authorities. Governor Perry by-passed the Texas State legislature when he signed that executive order. Instead of having someone sponsor the desired legislation and letting it go through the appropriate process, he basically amended State Law by his own, independent action.

Did Gov. Perry have any right under the Texas constitution for such an act? Did Gov. Perry have any administrative authority under state law for such an act? No to both. As a matter of fact, his order was widely understood to be both constitutionally and legally dubious. Amongst the public furor arising from the order’s announcement, both houses of the state legislature passed measures denouncing Perry’s order, and not just for the publicly controversial parts. The legislature knew their authority had been commandeered by the Governor.

Now, Gov. Perry did rescind the order, after the public uproar. He did apologize for the nature of the order, the particulars concerning the vaccine and the mandate. However, he never apologized for assuming the authority to make the order in the first place. He never tried to explain why he had assumed such authority, except to say “I hate cancer”. (Well, don’t we all?)

So, why do I consider this the most egregious part of the entire affair? Circumspection.

When picking a candidate for President, we have to consider their experience. In this incident, Gov. Perry has shown a disregard for the constitutionally defined duties of his office. We are all too aware of our current President’s disregard for limits to his power, with his signing of executive orders and his appointment of “Czars”. How can we criticize President Obama’s actions, but accept out of hand similar actions done by our own candidate? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical of us?

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