That term might seem familiar, since it was recently the title of a TV show starring Kiefer Sutherland. It wasn’t just fiction. Selecting someone for the survivor role is a real safety measure taken each year during the President’s State of the Union address, when just about everybody in the executive and legislative branches is sitting there in the House Chamber, packed tightly together in one congested spot. That’s a juicy target. A terrorist attack, the opening shot in a war, or even some sort of terrible accident (a really unlucky plane crash maybe, or a really bad carbon monoxide leak?) could wipe out the entire leadership of the federal government in a stroke, unless some precaution is taken. So, every year, one person in the Presidential line of succession, somebody fairly low on the Cabinet totem pole, usually, is taken away to a safe place to wait it out, just in case. If Doomsday arrives and everybody else buys the farm, this “designated survivor” would be sworn in as President, thus ensuring “continuity of government”.
This year, the designated survivor was Rick Perry.
Think about that for a minute. Imagine it, post-holocaust. President Rick Perry. Rick Perry, POTUS. Really, the mere thought ought to be horrifying. It should provoke an autonomic gag response. Perry, after all, is one of the most well-marbled meatheads to ever hold political office – Governor of Texas, naturally, when he rose to national prominence – and is most famous for what used to rate as one of the most embarrassing gaffes in political history, an episode of neural vapour lock that pretty much ended his run for the 2012 Republican nomination for President. You might remember it; at one of the debates he stated very firmly, and with great certainty of purpose, that he would disband three superfluous government departments if he became President. Three, he said. No fewer. But then he could only remember two of them. He wracked his brains, but still, only two came out. “Ooops”, he said finally, dejectedly, admitting he couldn’t call the third one to mind. It was one of the other ones. Oh, you know, the one that does that thing about all the stuff. It was crucial it be done away with. Obviously. Central to his philosophy of sound governance. Ummm…
It was during the same run that Perry released this irredeemably heinous campaign ad, which wrapped homophobia in the flag and promised to end that rat bastard Barack Obama’s war on Christianity.
You don’t gotta plant your ass in the pew every Sunday to know somethin’s way out of whack when you got goddam queers driving tanks for Uncle Sam, but kids aren’t even made to recite the Lord’s Prayer in goddam school. Well don’t you worry son, ain’t gonna be that way once Rick is Sheriff.
That spot was mercilessly and relentlessly parodied – have a look on YouTube (search “Perry Strong parody”). My favourite takedown was the one linked below, which I reckon is the most juvenile thing in the history of political discourse, and was thus in this case utterly appropriate. First time I saw it, I liked to piss my pants a’laughin’.
Then there was this:
Yeah, Rick was a laughing stock, finished, but that was back when a mere gaffe at a candidate’s debate, or one embarrassingly pandering campaign ad, could do a guy in. It was a different time. Back in those days, carrying on like a prancing arsehole in a sequinned caballero suit could really hammer the last nail into a political coffin. That just ain’t so any more. We live in Trumpspace now. The rules have changed.
What was it again that thwarted Rick’s ambitions? A debate gaffe? Are you kidding? So what? Why, The Trump would have powered right through an imbecilic episode like Rick’s failure to recall that third department he wanted to eradicate, no problem. He’d have said something like “the EPA, Commerce, and another one, it’s a disgrace, a disgrace how many, I’ll pick a third one when I get there, and maybe a couple more, there are lots that deserve it, believe me”, and nobody would have batted an eye. In Trumpspace it takes a crapload more than that to wreck a campaign. Shit, in Trumpspace you can stand there at the podium and brag about the size of your Johnson. Really.
What’s a stint on Dancing With the Stars next to immortality as the pussy grabbing sex bandit of Access Hollywood? What’s a little homophobia next to an opening campaign salvo that goes: they’re sending people that have a lot of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people?
In this fresh new universe, all can be forgiven. Indeed, the healing, redemptive power of Trumpspace is so magical that suddenly even Rick Perry isn’t dead and buried any more. He’s back! He’s a Trump Cabinet appointee! The best part? Get this: it came out after his big debate gaffe that the department Rick couldn’t come up with in the stress of the moment was Energy. Yup. The Department of Energy. Who needs ’em, right? Rick probably figured that a department named “Energy” wrote useless regulations about the maximum voltage of overhead power lines, and what your local Exxon station was allowed to label “premium”at the pump. Useless, right? “It’s never produced one bit of energy, near as I can tell”, said Rick. Officious bureaucratic bastards tying everything up in red tape, that’s what they were. So what cabinet post does Trump give Perry? The Department of Energy. What else?
When Rick got there, and was briefed on the roles and functions he’d be overseeing, he learned that no, Energy doesn’t inspect pipelines and issue fines to car companies that lie about their MPG ratings, it has oversight of America’s vast arsenal of thermonuclear weapons. It does lots of other things too, but those guys at the Los Alamos, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, the folks who design and manufacture hydrogen bombs? They work for Energy. So do the people at the National Nuclear Security Administration, who see to the safe storage of the nuclear stockpile. It’s a really, really important department.
A little while after his orientation lecture, Perry, perhaps unaware that he was actually speaking out loud and not just thinking quietly to himself, said words to the effect that “If I’d known what they do I never would have recommended they be disbanded!” He did. I’m not making this up. Look it up, you don’t believe me.
It was this fine specimen, ladies and gentlemen, who served as the 2019 State of the Union Designated Survivor, the ensurer of continuity of government, the last bulwark against chaos in the wake of unspeakable catastrophe. Like I say, it ought to be horrifying and make you gag, etc., except no, not at all, because this is Trumpspace. Here, in this new dimension, Rick Perry as the last man standing sounds just about right, and not bad at all, considering.
Who would you rather? Somebody else in the Cabinet? Like who? Ben Carson? That corrupt old octogenarian Wilbur Ross? You can’t have any of the erstwhile “adults in the room”, they’re all gone, and so’s Nikki Haley. What, you’d prefer Mike Pence maybe? Steve Mnuchin? Who better than dear old Rick? Nobody, that’s who. Besides, Rick’s OK. He’s even kind of affable, in a dumbass sort of way. He’s also a little more than just a poor man’s Trump, you think about it – he’s only about 75-80% as dumb, or looks that way since he started wearing glasses anyway, and he isn’t an asset of the GRU getting it the wrong way in bed from Vladimir Putin, and that ought to be enough right there to make you happy.
Anyway, I think he’d be better as President. Better than Trump, and better than Pence, too, because when Rick spouts terrifying right wing Evangelical Christian hate dogma, he’s only pandering. He doesn’t believe that shit. He’s just goofin’ around. You put Pence in there and it’ll be the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale, but I bet a Perry administration would be kind of fun, actually. There might be big Texas-style BBQs on the South Lawn every Saturday, and maybe he could ride a horse around town, like Ryan Zinke did before he had to get the Hell out of Dodge.
All things considered, given how things work here in our current plane of existence, I’d designate Perry as our anointed Survivor any damned day.
Listen, you should just be grateful that Kellyanne Conway isn’t eligible. Neither is Bolton, praise Merciful God.