When I asked, some months back, what, besides slavery, Gov. Rick Perry disliked about the Constitution of the Confederate States of America, I thought afterward that maybe I'd been a little too flippant.
You can be a strict-constructionist, Ninth and Tenth Amendment-loving conservative and find what you need in the Federal Constitution without embracing the Southern rebels' rival document.
But then, in the GOP debate Monday night, Perry said this:
I'm saying that the state of ... Texas is under assault by [the] federal government. I'm saying also that South Carolina is at war with this federal government and with this administration.
Perry went on to cite a variety of what he considers federal abuses of states' rights, on labor issues and the autonomy of religious charities. But he was asked by Fox News Channel's Juan Williams specifically about a South Carolina law requiring voters to show identification in order to vote. The law, and Obama administration's opposition to it, is a fairly straightforward example of both sides pressing for partisan advantage. Democrats want to make it somewhat easier for minorities to vote; Republicans want to make it somewhat harder.
It's politics as bloodsport. Both sides engage in it, and have for years.
Yet Perry chose to hit the nuclear button.
He chose to cast the issue in grandiose terms of a state at "war" with the federal government. Not just any state. Perry said this in South Carolina—"about 100 miles from the spot where the first shots of the Civil War were fired more than 150 years ago," as the Washington Post noted. He said this in South Carolina on Martin Luther King Day. Perry knew exactly what he was saying and where he was saying it. He knew his choice of words would carry symbolic weight.
This clown can't disappear to his infamously-named Texas hunting camp fast enough.