"Forget liberals, many conservatives learning more about Perry get the feeling they’ve been had... And so they have."
Lee Wolverton. Executive Editor
Having shifted his campaign by force of raw vacuity from ascendancy to earthward plunge, Rick Perry is contemplating a compelling new strategy plainly superior to current devices.
He might skip upcoming presidential debates. There is risk in this, of course, principally that his absence will go unnoticed, or that it might be welcomed. The same soon might apply to his higher ambitions.
Presidential timber is cut from softer wood these days than it was when men named Lincoln, Roosevelt or Truman roamed the halls of the house that Adams built. Over the past 20 years, the leaders of the free world have included two ex-governors, one with the libido of a teenage boy and another with the vocabulary of a boy far younger. The former was eminently preferable to the current titleholder, a political neophyte groping in darkness while the country teeters.
Yet Perry stands in the shadows of each of these men.
Even Barack Obama’s critics, who give him credit for little, concede his skill as a campaigner. Perry lacks this, but that’s not necessarily what makes him off-putting. George W. Bush was an awkward debater and clumsy speaker — Gomer Pyle would have done better on the stump — but won twice.
What perturbs about Perry is a feeling that’s long prevailed in some corners of Texas but is now creeping over the rest of the Republican electorate, especially the governor’s badly needed conservative base, that he’s more huckster than ideologue, a damning sentiment if one hopes to win on values. Perry increasingly looks like the traveling evangelist for whom the jig is up. The debates have opened the curtain on Perry, and the people peering behind it don’t like what they see.
Forget liberals, many conservatives learning more about Perry get the feeling they’ve been had.
And so they have.
A reasonable examination of the governor’s record does not just chink his ostensible conservative armor; it applies a blow torch. His controversial push for the mandatory administration of the HPV vaccine to girls and his ties to its manufacturer are only a couple of the blights. He espoused a network of privatized toll roads and the use of eminent domain to seize rural farmland to make it happen. He drove through a business tax increase that small businesses called a “job-killer.”
The list is longer than Santa’s. Conservative Texans can recite it by rote. This explains why many Republicans whose conservative credibility is far stronger than Perry’s offer him only tepid backing. Still, there’s more to the phenomenon of Perry’s slide than his sale of political bills of goods.
Mitt Romney, the re-emerging GOP frontrunner, must explain to voters that government-run health care was acceptable in Massachusetts when he signed legislation into law as governor but is abominable as it’s been signed into law by Obama as president. It sounds like something out of an Abbott and Costello routine: “I’ve got shoes on … don’t mean I’m walkin’.”
But somehow Romney has explained it sufficiently well enough that he’s retained his place atop the polls despite the rippling unease he and his positions create.
Here is where Perry’s campaign has been at its most abysmal. Many of the thorniest questions he’s encountered should have been anticipated. When they came in debates following his entry into the race, Perry should have been prepared. Instead, he appeared dumbstruck.
Recently, it occurred to him that he ought to hire veterans of presidential campaigns to help him with his. One wonders why that notion didn’t strike him the moment he determined to run. He proposed a flat tax last week, conveniently following the rise of Herman Cain on his 9/9/9 plan. Perry spoke out against Texas allowing specialty license plates featuring the Confederate flag, requested by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which he previously supported.
Each of those moves hinted at a man in desperation, and no man is more desperate than a politician who’s sinking. Perry possesses enough campaign money to remain in the race long after it becomes apparent that he does not belong.
Whatever his fate, the governor has proved that his time as president is not now. To alter that conclusion, Perry needs to scrub away the political unction and determine not only who he is and that for which he stands but also how best to convey that image to the American people. That, ultimately, is a strategy far better than simply hiding until the next debate ends.
© 2011 Amarillo Globe-News: www.amarillo.com
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