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Rick Perry Steals Bill Clinton's 2004 "Send Me" Riff

August 13, 2014

Watching Rick Perry 2.0 get Biblical on his audience this weekend in Iowa has some conservatives seeing starbursts again. "Dressed all in black, Governor Rick Perry took the podium at the Family Leadership Summit and quoted the book of Isaiah," Breitbart News gushed. "Here am I, send me!" he said.

Now, if this riff sounds familiar, it should. And not just because Perry delivered an almost identical exhortation to Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition during the Texas governor's aborted White House run in 2012. As it turns out, Bill Clinton made the "send me" refrain from Isaiah 6:8 the centerpiece of his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Of course, Bill Clinton (around the 18:00 minute mark above) asked Americans to "remember the scripture" on John Kerry's behalf, not his own:

Now let me tell you what I know about John Kerry. I've been seeing all the Republican ads about him. Let me tell you what I know about him.
During the Vietnam War, many young men, including the current president, the vice president and me, could have gone to Vietnam and didn't. John Kerry came from a privileged background. He could have avoided going, too. But instead he said, "Send me." (Cheers, applause.)
When -- when they sent those swift boats up the river in Vietnam, and they told them their job was to draw hostile fire, to wave the American flag and bait the enemy to come out and fight, John Kerry said, "Send me."

Five times Clinton preached it, "Send me." Soon, the audience was responding in kind, giving the DNC the feel of an old time revival.
Which is no doubt why Governor Rick Perry, once again hoping to out-God his rivals among the Iowa GOP's evangelical voters, made the no-brainer decision to appropriate Bill Clinton's rhetorical device for his own purposes. As Breitbart summed up his performance this weekend:

"We've all been called to perform, we've all been called to duty, you've been called to make your community, your state, your country better," he reminded the activists.
Perry reminded them of secular leftists, who would demand that they keep their faith out of the public arena.
"I don't believe that, I don't believe that at all," he said. "I think that you were called to be involved in the public arena," he said. "We are all called ... to stand in the gap and cry 'Here am I, Send me!'"
Their values were fundamental to the fabric of America, Perry explained, and it was clear that they were under attack.
"I tell you, somebody's values are going to get legislated - the question is whose values are going to get legislated," he said.

As it turns out, it didn't take Perry 10 years to pilfer Bill Clinton's formula. At least as far back as 2011, he was repackaging the same pitch for the religious right voters who dominate the Republican primary process:

I just want to challenge you tonight that the values that are going to be decided in Washington DC and in our state capitals, somebody's values are going to be what are used to put legislation in place. I think the question is: whose values? And are people of faith going to stand in the gap for the unborn and for the traditional values that America was founded upon? Or are we going to continue to cede more ground to the secular left because of their threatening to sue us or the ACLU or the various, sundry groups. I think we don't have a choice. If we're going to get our country back, we have to stand in the gap; we have to be the ones that will stand up. As it says in Isaiah, in chapter 6:8, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I; send me!'"

Picasso is said to have remarked, "Good artists copy; great artists steal." Unfortunately for Rick Perry, the same does not go for politicians, especially when the thief is a cro-magnon conservative stealing from the likes of Bill Clinton. Or to put in language even Rick Perry could understand: "Oops."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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