Fellow Texan Congressman Ron Paul, who is a medical doctor, said the worst part of Perry's decision was not the medicinal part of the decision but how he ignored the legislative branch in mandating the STD inoculation designed to prevent cervical cancer. "That is what is so bad," Paul stressed. "I made a promise that as President I would never use the executive order to legislate." Paul added: "Some executive orders are legal. When the President executes proper function of the presidency, like moving troops and other things, yes it's done with an executive order. But the executive order should never be used to legislate."
Perry told the audience that he believed the mandatory, government-funded injections was the right policy, stressing he did allow a parental "opt-out," but that he now wishes he had consulted the legislature first. "It was [a mistake], indeed. If I had to do it again, I'd do it differently. I would have gone to the legislature." But Perry added in a comment to Rep. Paul that had no principled objection to using executive orders to legislate, citing as an example the Obama healthcare law passed by Congress. "Let me address Ron Paul just a minute by saying I will use an executive order to get rid of as much of Obamacare as I can on day one." The "mistake" Perry admitted to in legislating by executive order in the Gardasil case seems to have been merely that it was too controversial.
Perry also drew fire from Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann. Most observers have blamed Perry's entry into the race for sapping Bachmann's flagging polling numbers. In a September 9-11 CNN poll of adults, Perry has risen to frontrunner in the polls (34 percent), ahead of Mitt Romney (21 percent), Ron Paul (13 percent), and Bachmann (7 percent). Bachmann had been second in some national polls in the moments before Perry entered the race.
Bachmann noted that Perry's Gardasil executive order coincided with donations to his gubernatorial reelection campaign, and implied they may have been organized by Perry's former chief of staff, who worked as a top lobbyist at the drug company that provided Gardasil, Merck. "We cannot forget that in the midst of this executive order, that there was a big drug company that made millions of dollars from this mandate," Bachmann claimed. "What I'm saying that it's wrong for a drug company because the governor's former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company. The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political contributions to the governor. And this is just flat-out wrong. The question is, was this about life or about millions of dollars — and potentially billions of dollars — for the drug company."
Perry responded that "The company was Merck, and it was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raise about $30 million. If you're saying I can be bought for $5,000, I am offended." Perry did not address the fact that his former chief of staff was employed as a lobbyist for Merck.
Photo of Gov. Perry: AP Images