Thursday, September 1, 2011

Should We Take Rick Perry Seriously?

Recently, David Brooks, one of the conservative columnists at the New York Times wrote an interesting op-ed President Rick Perry? which concluded:
[Mitt] Romney might be able to beat back the Perry surge. In the meantime, it’s time to take Perry seriously. He could be our next president.
For those of us who are not part of the Tea Party right, Governor Perry is an interesting if not scary curiosity.  He is one who has such an intense dislike of our federal government that he once suggested the secession of Texas from the US.  Now he wants to head that same federal government.

So should we take Rick Perry seriously?  Could he really be our next president?  I say ‘yes’ to the first question and ‘not likely’ to the second one.

Certainly his opponents have to take him seriously.  For right now, he is being given free reign by his opponents, especially former Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in the hopes that he will self-destruct before having to take him on.  That may well happen.  But this passive strategy of underestimating Governor Perry could well backfire, especially if the unemployment rate continues at or near this high rate through the 2012 election as is being forecasted by many economists.  So Romney now and if Perry gets the nomination, President Obama will have to take him seriously enough to call him out on some of his extreme views.  Certainly badmouthing a beloved program like Social Security as a Ponzi scheme is not going to endear him to many people.

At present, Governor Perry has taken a sizeable lead in the polls over his Republican opposition.  Does that mean that he is a shoo-in for the nomination?  Not necessarily.

Perry has certainly created a lot of buzz around his campaign.  That’s nice but it doesn’t necessarily lead to victory.  Sarah Palin created a lot of buzz for John McCain’s floundering campaign when he picked her as his VP running mate.  Everybody wanted to have a chance to interview Sarah.  What outrageous thing would she say next?  But eventually the novelty wore off and her lack of experience and knowledge became a liability to McCain’s campaign.

More recently, Michele Bachmann was the ‘flavor of the month’ after her win in the Iowa Straw Poll.  She was on just about every political interview show as we wondered what would happen to our country under a President Bachmann.  Then Perry came along and she has now been overshadowed in the polls.  If buzz will win the Republican nomination, then he has a clear edge over Romney.  But the mainstream Republicans may well decide that Romney would be more electable in the general election and go with him.

But even if Perry gets the nomination, he has provided a tremendous amount of ammunition that can be used against him in the general election. 

His book Fed Up! published only last November presented a number of controversial (at least to those who are not Tea Partiers) views by someone who at the time had no stated intention of running for president.  But with these views in print, he will eventually have to explain himself in response to the many questions that voters and the media will undoubtedly have waiting for him.

He is running on his record as governor of Texas.  But as detailed in a recent NYT editorial, Gov. Perry's Cash Machine he has taken crony capitalism to a new level.
The exchange of campaign contributions for government contracts, favors or positions is all too common in Washington and around the country. It has been developed to an especially high art — or more to the point, a low art — by Gov. Rick Perry in Texas. For a presidential contender who insists that big government is the country’s biggest problem, it is particularly cynical.

There are nearly 600 boards, commissions, authorities and departments in Texas, many of which are of little use to the public and should have long been shut down or consolidated. They are of great use to the governor, who more than any predecessor has created thousands of potential appointments for beneficent backers and several pro-business funds that have been generous to allies.
So much for the virtues of small government.  And while “pay to play” is considered business as usual by many in Texas, he will have a lot of explaining to do now that he is under the national media spotlight.

But no matter how many disagreeable things we may find out about Gov. Perry during the campaign, if he wins the nomination, President Obama will have to do more than simply ask people to vote for him because of Perry’s negatives.  He must give enough people positive reasons to vote for him — especially on the all-important issue of jobs.

Soon we will hear President Obama’s plan for addressing our job crisis.  And with the economy in such terrible shape and all of the suffering that entails, he needs to present a bold plan that will give us hope that things will get better someday.  Sure, the Republicans in Congress will oppose just about any idea he comes up with.  But if that happens, he must make his plan the centerpiece of his campaign to offer a contrast to the Republican ideas of little more than tax cuts, slashing regulation, and cuts in government spending.

If the president decides to play it safe and offer something less bold in an attempt to compromise with the Republicans, his base supporters may finally throw up their hands in despair and decide to stay home for next year’s election.  And then yes, Rick Perry could very well be our next president.  God help us all!