I’m not in the tank for Rick Perry. But I’m going to defend him while I offer him some advice.

Gov. Perry stumbled all over himself when the question of in-state tuition for the children of illegal aliens was raised in the GOP presidential debate last week. Instead of getting lost in the weeds stammering about having a heart, as he did, all he had to say was this;

“Because the federal government won’t do its job, illegal immigrants are a fact of life for us in Texas and that means so are their kids. Until the problem of illegal immigration is dealt with at the federal level, the people of Texas have to decide what to do at the state level. Children that were brought here didn’t break the law. Their parents did but the children didn’t. That’s why the Texas Legislature decided, with only four dissenting votes, that if a child of an illegal immigrant graduates from a Texas high school, that child will pay the same tuition at a state college as any other graduating senior in Texas. Texas must either pay the price of educating these kids or pay the price of supporting them and/or incarcerating them. Because of a derelict federal government, the people of the State of Texas, acting through their elected legislators, have made that choice and it’s a choice I support.”

He’d be standing on solid ground. If the federal government were doing its job, Texas wouldn’t be faced with hundreds of thousands of children brought here illegally by their parents. The federal government’s failure has created a problem that the state is forced to deal with. How the state deals with it is the state’s business.

Couch the defense of Texas policy in those terms, and you sound like a leader. Wander around the issue talking about having a heart and you open yourself up to exactly what happened last Thursday night.

I’ve spent some time alone with Rick Perry talking about a whole range of things, one of which is the fact that we’re both pilots. I have found him to be very direct and plain spoken. I believe that if we were standing face-to-face and discussing this topic, the words that I put in his mouth above are pretty close to the words that would actually come out.

So governor, here’s my advice.

Fire the consultants and be yourself. It’s your best shot at the White House.

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