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In Texas, blaming the messenger

The fertilizer plant that blew up last month in West, Texas, killing at least 14, had not been inspected by state authorities since 2006. That doesn’t mean Texas is necessarily to blame. But the apparent lapse in oversight does mean that Texas Governor Rick Perry has more important things to do than attack a California cartoonist, Jack Ohman, for pointedly raising the question of whether the state’s penchant for lax regulations played a role in the tragedy.

Last week, Ohman published a cartoon in the Sacramento Bee that prompted Perry to demand an apology. (Ohman’s syndicated cartoons sometimes appear in the Globe, but this one did not.) The first panel showed the governor, in front of banners saying “low tax” and “low regs,” boasting that “business is booming in Texas.” The next panel shows a massive explosion. “I won’t stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans,” Perry said.

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But the cartoon was mocking Perry and his antiregulatory views, not the West victims. And as Ohman explained in a response to the governor, the cartoon had an important backstory: Just before the explosion, Perry had set out on a road trip to Illinois and California trying to woo businesses to Texas by touting the state’s tame regulatory environment.

Ohman’s cartoon was provocative, but it made a valid point. Perry has some explaining to do — which might be why he seems to prefer talking about cartoons.

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