Rick Perry should say, “I’m sorry, I never should’ve ordered that all adolescent girls in Texas get the HPV vaccine.”  He danced around the issue last night, making it clear several times that, regardless of whether or not his HPV-mandate was good policy, his “heart was in the right place.” 

Last time I checked, Perry is trying to appeal to conservatives, not liberals. Perhaps “my heart was in the right place” would work with the latter group, but conservatives know that the path to big government is paved with good intentions.

Here’s another mandate to consider: ObamaCare’s individual mandate.  Certainly, if asked what his intention was, President Obama (remember, he was once an opponent of a universal mandate) would say that his heart was in the right place when he ultimately signed off on a mandate, and that he wanted to “help” Americans make a good decision (to carry insurance). 

Critics might point out that, without the individual mandate, ObamaCare would’ve lost the political support of insurance companies.  Indeed, now that the possibility of a Supreme-Court-severed-and-stricken individual mandate looms on the judicial horizon, many wonder what insurance companies will do; they won’t have the 30+ million new customers the mandate promised, but they’ll still have the micromanagement of their businesses through regulations such as guaranteed issue to those with pre-existing conditions.

Similarly, critics of Rick Perry – like Michele Bachmann – would point out that a pharmaceutical company (Merck) stood to gain a lot of customers when Perry ordered mandatory HPV vaccination.  In last night’s debate, Perry defended himself by explaining that Merck only contributed $5,000 to his campaign (a small number in the world of politics).

But President Obama and Governor Perry would both be better off politically if they’d avoided these top-down mandates.  Americans (and surely Texans) don’t want the government to “help” (read: force) them to make the decisions that are right for them.  In fact, a new poll today shows that an overwhelming majority – 82 percent – of Americans don’t think the government should be able to require us all to buy health insurance.

Perry should review those polling numbers, and think about admitting to a great mistake when he ordered the HPV-vaccine mandate.  If instead he goes on defending it, saying he “erred on the side of ‘life,'” that may make us wonder what the alternative was… Erring on the side of liberty?  The two aren’t opposed to each other, and most Americans – and Texan girls and parents – would choose what’s best for their individual lives, if given the liberty to make those choices.