Losing your horse

Jan 20, 2012

Back before warfare became mechanized, one of the worst things that could happen, especially in the cavalry, was to have your horse shot out from under you on a battlefield.

This left you naked, vulnerable, and without any way to get back to your lines if the bugle suddenly sounded retreat. The temptation must have been overwhelming to try to get another horse, fast, by any means necessary. I thought about that yesterday, when what had been obvious for days finally became official:

Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped out of the race for the Republican Presidential nomination. For weeks, his candidacy had been first mortally wounded, then a national joke.

Once he proclaimed he wanted to abolish three cabinet-level positions and then was only able to name two, his candidacy went from serious to merely fodder for Stephen Colbert.

For some days, I had been idly wondering how Macomb County Congresswoman Candice Miller felt about all this. Miller, a former Michigan secretary of state, always struck me as a savvy politician with a realistic sense of herself and a good sense of timing.

Politically, I disagree with her on a wide range of issues. But I  admired her personally. She was an entirely self-made woman with very little education beyond high school who got into local politics in Harrison Township almost by chance. In nineteen ninety-four, she became the first Republican to win the secretary of state’s office in more than forty years, and they haven’t lost it since.

When she left office nine years ago she won what is now a safely Republican congressional seat, and has been there ever since. But four months ago, she took a gamble and went out on a limb. She endorsed Rick Perry for president, in a state where Mitt Romney was the official Republican Party favorite son.

That didn’t seem all that crazy back then. Perry was riding high in the polls. He was on the cover of the major news magazines and winning the hearts and minds of the Republican faithful, who just couldn’t warm up to Mitt.

If Perry’s campaign had been successful, Candice Miller would clearly have been in the catbird seat if she wanted a cabinet position, or merely needed more pull and influence to benefit Michigan and her district.

But alas, the Perry campaign had trouble standing up to the glare of the national media spotlight, and soon crashed and burned. To her credit, Candice Miller didn‘t bail out. And to Perry’s credit, Miller was one of only five elected officials the Texas governor mentioned and thanked as he rode off into the sunset yesterday.

As he ended his campaign Governor Perry endorsed Newt Gingrich, who literally may have been too busy yesterday with his latest sex scandal to notice, or care. Having recovered her political compass, Miller, a lifelong sailor, showed no signs of following her former leader down that mine-filled trail.

She merely wished Perry the best, and added “I look forward to watching with every Republican as the voters decide who the candidate will be, and I will fully support whoever secures our nomination.” Which, at this point was good politics.

It’s a lot easier to survive having lost your horse if you aren’t at war with the other troops on your own team.