Against Cervical Cancer, Before He Was For It

The good thing about Rick Perry, it is said, is that you know where he stands. Well, sometimes. Other times, he finds a way to rise above mere principle.

Jay Root of the Texas Tribune completely nails Perry on the question of Gardasil, a vaccine against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

In 2007 Perry tried to require vaccination against HPV, which is linked to cervical cancer, by executive order. The Texas legislature promptly passed a law reversing that order, and Perry, lacking the votes to sustain a veto let the bill become law without his signature. But he kept insisting he’d been right all along.

Here he is in 2007:

In the next year, more than a thousand women will likely be diagnosed with this insidious yet mostly preventable disease. I challenge legislators to look these women in the eyes and tell them, “We could have prevented this disease for your daughters and granddaughters, but we just didn’t have the gumption to address all the misguided and misleading political rhetoric.”

And in 2010:

Let me tell you why it wasn’t a bad idea: Even though that was the result I was looking for, and that becoming the standard procedure for protecting young women against this very heinous deadly dreadful disease, it caused a national debate. I knew I was going to take a political hit … at the end of the day, I did what was right from my perspective, and I did something that saved people’s lives and, you know, that’s a big deal.

That was then; this is now. Now Perry can’t afford to be outflanked on the Sexual Purity issue by Michelle Bachmann. So now Perry says he was wrong, but that he “listened.”

I signed an executive order that allowed for an opt-out, but the fact of the matter is that I didn’t do my research well enough to understand that we needed to have a substantial conversation with our citizenry. But here’s what I learned: When you get too far out in front of the parade, they will let you know, and that’s exactly what our Legislature did, and I saluted it and I said, ‘Roger that, I hear you loud and clear.’ And they didn’t want to do it and we don’t, so enough said.

Perry has now walked back both is support for states’ rights with respect to marriage and his support for public health with respect to HPV vaccination.

Not just a flip-flopper; a liar about his flip-flopping.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.