The Perry Problem in a nutshell

Americans want a President that personifies a certain lifestyle, but they don’t want a President that actually lives that lifestyle.

You want to see Bush clearing brush so it feels like he’s a good hardworking rancher. But you want him to clear brush like for 20 minutes once a year and actually do the hard work of governing the rest of the time.

You want to see Clinton stop by a McDonalds and kiss a baby so it feels like he’s a simple man just working as hard as possible to do good for his family. But you don’t want him to literally eat at McDonalds every day (while kissing babies).

Even those crazy (staged) pictures of Putin help give his nation a sense of identity; a rugged, manly, no fear identity. But you don’t want him to run around doing everything shirtless.

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So here’s the Perry problem: he isn’t a personification. He is the real thing. He is a good ol’ Texas boy who went to the school that Texans joke about being the school for people that can’t get into any other school, who got horrible grades at that easy school, who was on the cheer squad instead of any academic clubs, whose idea of a fun weekend is shooting guns, who actually once killed a coyote with a laser sighted pistol while out on a jog, who wins (state) elections by holding as few debates as possible and by using character assaults on his opponents at the few he actually goes to instead of talking in depth about policy ideas and issues, who likes to talk about succession and treason and legitimately seems to think that the federal government is the root of all problems that anyone in the country faces about anything on any given day, and who, as we are beginning to see, has made it as far as he has made it mostly by relying on his looks and vocal tone (and political party/advisors) rather than smarts or intellectual curiosity.

The Perry Problem is that the nation (and moreover Republicans) want a Ronald Reagan in the sense that we want someone that knows how to play a cowboy and awaken that instinct we all have inside to be wild and free and live exciting lives. But the nation doesn’t actually want a cowboy President. They want a fake cowboy that can take the job of being President 200% seriously at the end of the day.

We want a President that we would enjoy having a beer with. But we don’t want to literally drink beer with the President every night. The President should, you know, be on the phone with other heads of state or his/her generals and have the desire and energy to spend 16+ hour long days doing that for every day for four years straight (with a little vacation mixed in, of course).

In Rick Perry, we may have seen the first candidate to truly not understand the distinction between these two sides of the coin.

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Perry has his cake and eats it too

So Rick Perry decided to give a speech about foreign policy today. As long as you don’t try to read closely and use logic, there is a little bit of everything for everyone:

I do not believe that America should fall subject to a foreign policy of military adventurism

Anti-Bush Doctrine!

We should only risk shedding American blood and spending American treasure when our vital interests are threatened

Pretty much Bush Doctrine neoconism, depending on the definition of threatened!

we should always look to build coalitions among the nations to protect the mutual interests of freedom loving people.

Some Obama-flavor foreign policy! Mixed with a dash of Texas twang.

It’s not our interest to go it alone. We respect our allies, and we must always seek to engage them in military missions.

What a pussy!

At the same time, we must be willing to act when it is time to act. We cannot concede the moral authority of our nation to multi-lateral debating societies

Oh nevermind! He didn’t really mean what he said about allies. He just kind of sort of meant it because it sounds nice but we can ignore it when we feel like it!

Daniel Foster at NRO’s The Corner reacts:

Like I said, I know there are ways of cashing out these concepts so you get something consistent (e.g. defining our “vital interests” broadly enough to support preemptive war; have a conception of multilateral legitimacy that includes ad hoc “coalitions of the willing” but is agnostic about the U.N.). But the debate on the Right at the moment is, very roughly speaking, between the Bush Doctrine and good ol’ fashioned realism, and Perry certainly sounds like he’s trying to help himself to both.

There is a great female writer/blogger out of Texas named Erica Grieder who has been writing about the inner personality of Rick Perry for a little while. Her main argument is that Rick Perry is primarily a politician at heart, and his purported extremism should be largely ignored because it is a facade.

It is an interesting point of view, even if it is both comforting and scary at the same time. On the one hand, he isn’t batshit insane. On the other hand he is very mold-able, willing to defer to his advisors and/or public opinion for political positions and policies. That sort of thing got Bush in a lot of trouble. Not politically, but in terms of governing. He seemed to trust those around him more than he trusted himself, and people like Rumsfeld and Cheney, who had both been players in Washington since the early 70s, were largely free to pursue the things they had dreamed of accomplishing many decades ago. And that didn’t turn out so great.

To get back on point, Perry’s speech on foreign policy is probably the clearest sign yet that he is not only a too malleable politician but also one that doesn’t have a clear vision about the world, yet. Can one be formed (or coalesced from his consciousness) before the campaign season gets serious? Probably. He’s going to have to do a lot better than “we want coalitions except when we don’t and we want to avoid wars except when we need to go to war”.


Perry@RedState Liveblog

1:11 Already breaking out the end times rhetoric. “America last great hope of the world” or smth

1:12 Making a weird predictable defense of the American dream by saying government sucks and shouldn’t help anyone to secure the American dream

1:13 “Spreading the wealth punishes success” “failed stimulus plans”

1:14 Perry tries to pretend he cares about unemployment rates for hispanics and blacks. The room went eerily silent, no joke.

1:14 “Obama’s policies have prolonged the recovery”. Well, Perry is showing himself to be Bachmann with a penis, basically. Nuance be damned!

1:15 Perry wondering how it happened that America might fail to pay its bills. Perry also loves Dubya, who inherited the surplus. Might be a good place to start the investigation.

1:16 Holy shit, Perry is tripling down on the crazy factor. No wonder he is the most favored Tea Party nominee. I was expecting him to pursue a sort of “compassionate conservative” path, of being subtly extreme and outwardly conciliatory. He is doing the exact opposite. This is an “Obama is the great satan” speech.

1:18 I really wonder what the headlines out of this will be. Perry is giving a hardcore speech on a day that he could have set himself up to be the “sane” Bachmann. If Bachmann wins Ames, I suspect she’ll be making the case tomorrow that she is the “sane” (and “electable….electable….electable” [if she says it enough times it might come true]) version of Perry.

1:21 It is worth noting that RedState is extremely far to the right. Erick Erickson has been advocating no debt ceiling raise for the last month. They’re probably like the firedoglake of the right, to look at it one way.

1:23 Hammering about “Four Principles” Used the phrase “generational theft” which is scary when Perry says it, but seems like a phrase that would poll well for speeches.

1:25 Talking about “good hearted Americans” who he seems to imply only come from the midwest. Rick Perry: Uniting the middle of America cuz fuck the coasts!

1:26 Perry quoting Thatcher. Smart move. This is a crowd that would care and appreciate that. Doubt he’ll use the line elsewhere though.

1:28 Uses the phrase “central planners” again. I believe it shows up on his website as well. Oy. The irony is that China is growing and investing so well because of good (and unilateral) central planning. Says he’ll repeal Obamacare. Which isn’t an extreme position anymore in the right, but he says it in a way that’s more belligerent than most others.

1:29 This is completely not what I was expecting. Doesn’t Perry understand that he could win this nomination by being the public moderate that everyone knows is extreme below the surface? He just ripped off the mask and shouted “Hide your kids, hide your wife, I’m here to slaughter the government to nothing.”


Predictions about Perry

1) He’ll be the front runner one month from now

2) He’ll be the teflon candidate of this election- no attacks will stick to him. He has that Bush mindlessness that someone like Romney lacks (and that someone like Bachmann exhibits as craziness instead of mindlessness) that allows Perry to joke off attacks and pivot credibly.

3) Get ready for a lot of “he’s like Bush…but even more stereotypically Texan”. If he can fend that off in a way that it doesn’t linger (something like going on SNL and joking about his similarity to Bush in tone and appearance, in order to show it doesn’t bother him and to get it behind him), he’ll possibly have a clear path to the nomination.

4) Only thing that could derail him (if he gains traction in the first place) is Palin running.

Dear lord I’d love to see her run.