Earlier today my friend Kate Galbraith (of the Texas Tribune) and I took a little trip to Bastrop to cover a media availability related to the wildfires and ongoing recovery just outside of Austin. According to the media advisory sent out Friday evening, "On Saturday, Gov. Rick Perry will give remarks and be joined by emergency management officials for a media availability following a tour of wildfire damage in Bastrop County." But as Kate explains in the article she and her colleague Jay Root published shortly after our return, Perry actually didn't show up--which is kind of strange, and not something I'm aware of Perry having done before.

His staff said that it was a logistical issue. The location for the avail had been changed earlier in the afternoon--at 2:23pm they sent out an email blast with the new address--and, according to his spokesperson Allison Castle, taking questions from the annoyed journalists around 4:30, by the time they arranged the new location they realized that it would take so long for the governor to get there that everyone would have to wait. And since the point of the conference was to talk about the recovery, etc., then what's the problem?

This official explanation obviously doesn't make sense. When they announced the new address, I was still drying my hair in Austin. I didn't pick up Kate until 3:15, and we were in Bastrop by 4, even accounting for the fact that we got delayed looking for the address on a different stretch of Highway 71. And incidentally, Kate called Castle at about 345 to confirm the directions and Castle told her not to worry about rushing, because the governor was running late. In other words, it doesn't take two hours to drive from Austin to Bastrop.

Considering that I've been going around saying that Perry is politically savvy, which I think is true, I feel a special obligation to point out when he's done something clumsy. This wasn't good for Bastrop or for the state--I think we all had questions we wanted to ask that now have no answers (mine was going to be, "Given that the drought is ongoing, what precautions can we take in the future to reduce the risks of fires?"). It's not good for Perry either. Now we're all writing about his mysterious absence. Maybe there was some genuine problem that for whatever reason the staffers wanted to keep under wraps--a round of food poisoning, say, or some pressing but secret state business--or maybe he just decided to blow it off. But thinking about it logically, it would seem that something happened since Friday evening that changed his political calculus on the presser. A minor issue, no doubt, but a noteworthy no-show. Earlier this week, at a press conference he actually did show up for, he thundered in response to a question about debate prep that he's not thinking about politics right now. For some reason I'm not convinced.

ETA: Thinking about it overnight, I increasingly suspect it has something to do with the increased scrutiny over Perry's cuts to the forest service budget and so on. See Grits for Breakfast for a Texas take on that, the Huffington Post for some national criticism.
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What Governor Perry would have seen had he showed up
 



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