After a string of high profile failures the likes of which are rarely seen in presidential-level politics, Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a rare debate challenge on Wednesday to a politician he’s not even running against: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Perry, notorious in his own state for avoiding debates with strong Democratic challengers, sent an open letter to Pelosi on Wednesday, offering to debate his own plan to reformat Washington, D.C., “versus the congressional status quo.”
And if she refuses to accept his challenge: “I will take it to mean you will continue your obstructionist ways in the face of much needed Washington reform,” Perry wrote.
(Update: MSNBC’s Mike O’Brien reports that Pelosi laughed at the request, saying she’ll be “out west” on Monday and not available to debate. She later wrote on Twitter: “Re: Gov. Perry–Monday I’ll be in Portland. Later visiting labs in CA. That’s 2. I can’t remember the 3rd thing.” Screenshot.)
In spite of his challenge to Pelosi,
which had received no response by Thursday morning, Perry has lost so much terrain in recent Republican polling that he’ll be hard pressed to reach a point in his career where he’d be expected to take on any Democrat, let alone their leader in the House.
A recent poll by the conservative FoxNews.com found Perry with just 7 percent support nationally, badly trailing all the frontrunners.
Another recent survey, from the Democrat-affiliated Public Policy Polling group, found that just 17 percent of voters had a favorable opinion of the Texas governor, versus 67 percent who saw him in a negative light: the worst favorability rating for any politician on the national stage today.
And it’s not just the polls that Perry is failing: though he started off as one of the best-funded candidates in the race, his debate gaffes have put a huge dent in his ability to generate donations.
It doesn’t seem like challenging Pelosi to a debate will be the thing to turn it all around.
Perry’s full letter follows, below.
Dear Leader Pelosi,
After reading about House Minority Whip Steny Hoyers’ outburst over my “Overhauling Washington” plan, I wonder if his obstructionism reflects your own opposition and that of the Democratic Caucus to urgent reforms the American public so vehemently demand.
After increasing the debt by $4 trillion in less than three years, no one can truly believe that Americans are satisfied with business as usual, and that a permanent political class in Washington can get us out of the mess you and your colleagues have created.
A part-time Congress with half the pay would still make $38,000 a year more than the average American Family. Do you truly oppose lawmakers spending more time in their districts? Is it so important for the Washington power brokers to build their fiefdoms of influence, including providing bailouts to Wall Street while businesses on Main Street are being boarded up every day?
Here is the fundamental question: do you believe Washington is broker? Before answering that question, consider these facts:
1) The Washington metro area is now the most affluent metropolitan area in the country because lobbyists, contractors, elected officials and bureaucrats have been insulated from the economic ruin prevalent in the private sector.
2) Congressional office budgets have doubled since 2000 while employers all across America are laying off workers
3) our nation’s total debt is nearing the size of our nation’s economy, increasing our dependance on competitors like China
4) the number of Americans out of work has increased by more than two million since January 2009, despite the massive stimulus package Democratic leaders promised would revive the economy, and;
5) on top of the job-killing spending policies of the previous Congress, employers are faced with a staggering $1.1 trillion in costs related to federal regulatory compliance.
Do you truly believe the answer to massive debt, over-regulation and bloated big government policies is to continue to protect the status quo, which enriches and empowers Washington insiders at the expense of the American people?
My plan would overhaul Washington, eliminating certain agencies and reducing the size and scope of others. It will force Congress to make the tough decisions to balance the budget or require a further reduction in their pay. It would end lifetime appointments to future appointees to the federal bench. I don’t want to tinker around the edges when the American People demand a complete overhaul of Washington.
Let me conclude with an invitation: I am in Washington Monday and would love to engage you in a public debate about my Overhaul Washington plan versus the congressional status quo.
I think it would be a tremendous service to the American public to see a public airing of those differences. Let the people decide.
If Monday doesn’t work, perhaps we could find a time in Iowa over the course of the next month to discuss these issues in front of the people of America’s heartland.
Should you choose not to respond or engage in such a healthy discussion, I will take it to mean you will continue your obstructionist ways in the face of much needed Washington reform.
Governor of Texas