In his 10th year as governor, he says elect him for another four years, and he’ll serve the full term, and won’t run for president in two years.

Now check the crystal ball: the next year, he runs for president.

No, no, that’s not Rick Perry, the Republican governor of Texas – although he is in his 10th year, is running for a four-year term, and has repeatedly denied any presidential ambitions.

The governor we’re talking about is Bill Clinton, Democrat of Arkansas in 1990. Clinton promised to serve all four years if re-elected.

In 1991, Clinton wanted to run for president. Wife Hillary told Austin adman Roy Spence that Clinton was nervous about his pledge.

“Bill made a contract with the people of Arkansas to not run and he’s really worried about it,” she said, according to a 1996 Clinton biography by former Washington Post reporter David Maraniss.

Spence, close friends the Clintons since they ran the McGovern-Shriver Democratic presidential campaign in Texas in 1972, said it was important to “lance that boil.”

Hillary asked how.

“Your enemies will hold it against you, but your friends don't have to,” Spence advised. “They'll want you to run. Get in the car and drive around Arkansas and seek the counsel of the family members.”

Clinton traveled the state and talked to supporters. He got enough encouragement to try to change things in Washington that he took back his pledge, and announced On Oct. 2, 1991.

In the present, Perry is on the cover of the April 26 Newsweek, posed with the capitol as a backdrop. He was interviewed by Evan Smith, editor in chief of the online Texas Tribune, for a joint effort with Newsweek writers.

The cover headline: “What Governor Rick Perry’s Hard-Right Creed Tells Us About America.”

Smith told Perry he had “sounded like a presidential candidate” when speaking to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference on April 9.

A condensed excerpt from that rambling speech:

“Washington is telling us, ‘We’ll let you know what medical procedure you can have, how much of your earnings we’re gonna take to pay for it, and we’re gonna tell you how to educate your children ...

“There is this endless struggle going on ... between socialism and democracy ... This country is definitely tilted in the wrong direction, and we need to stay focused on what really matters ...

“Government’s pretty simple, I think. Have a strong military; secure our borders; and deliver the mail – on time. That’s it. One out of three is all we’re getting right now, that’s for sure. And until you can get those three right, how about leaving everything else alone?”

Smith: “Are you considering running and would you consider it?”

Perry: “No and no.”

Smith: “You are not considering running for president. You will not run for president.”

Perry: “That’s correct.”

Smith: “Under any circumstances?”   

Perry: “That’s correct.”

Smith: “There is no way.”

Perry: “No, sir.”

Smith: “Vice president? Would you be willing to consider that?”

Perry: “No. I don’t care about going to Washington, D.C.”

A condensed transcript of Smith’s Q&A interview is at

These kinds of pledges aren’t new, and breaking them isn’t all that rare. Perry repeatedly mentioned that his Republican primary challenger Kay Bailey Hutchison had broken her own pledge to serve only two terms in the U.S. Senate, and is now in her third.

And Carole Keeton Rylander (now Strayhorn) said when seeking re-election to a six-year Railroad Commission term in 1996 that she’d serve all six. Two years later, she ran for state comptroller.

If Perry gets re-elected, we’ll see whether he was serious.

Contact McNeely at or (512) 458-2963.


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