Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is Perry Too Stupid To Win? Is Romney Too Detached?


Stoking the cravings of Republican primary voters' thirst for victimization of their heroes, Perry's team is encouraging stories like David Frum's wondering aloud whether their candidate is a moron or, like millions of Republican voters, intellectually mediocre. And of course, Frum isn't the only wonderer wondering. Yesterday Jonathan Martin came right out with the question of the day: Is Rick Perry dumb?

Basically, the answer is yeah, he's pretty dumb-- kind of just like Bush, but without the brains-- but, more important, it hasn't mattered in Texas politics, won't matter in the GOP primary and, to millions of voters, won't matter in a general election either. Look, this is the guy who's going after the segment of the population who have been conned by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity that Social Security is no good.
Doubts about Perry’s intellect have hounded him since he was first elected as a state legislator nearly three decades ago. In Austin, he’s been derided as a right-place, right-time pol who looks the part but isn’t so deep-- “Gov. Goodhair.”

...The Texan’s loyalists reject the suggestion, asserting that it owes to political bias and sour grapes, but Perry himself seems to welcome the low bar. He cracked on the campaign trail earlier this month that the difference between he and Bush was that he went to Texas A&M and the former president attended Yale.

But conversations with both Perry admirers and critics reveal a more complicated assessment about the mind of a politician who has never lost an election-- and ranks as the longest-serving governor in Texas history.

He is not an ideas man. Perry hasn’t spent his political career marking up the latest Cato or Heritage white papers or reading policy-heavy books late into the night. Advisers and colleagues have informed much of his thinking over the years.

“He’s not a guy who’s going to go up to the Aspen Institute,” said longtime Texas lobbyist Bill Miller, a Perry fan. “It’s not the way he’s made.”

Miller said Perry learns what is necessary to be effective.

“If he should know about John Locke, he’ll know about John Locke,” said Miller. “If it’s not on his schedule, it’s irrelevant to him.”

China policy, for example, has surely not been much on Perry’s mind during his time in Austin.

And that showed when, in an interview last week with Laura Ingraham, he responded to a question about whether a rising China is good for the United States with platitudes that prompted the conservative talk show host to complain that he was only offering “broad generalities.”

In the end, American voters don't mind mediocre minds who share their prejudices and promise to have good advisors. It worked for Reagan and Bush and it's done wonders for Perry. Besides, he was smart enough to figure out how to make himself a millionaire while working as a "public servant"-- and, more important, without winding up in prison for taking bribes.

Bachmann's call for oil drilling in the Everglades isn't going to hurt her in the Republican primary. And Perry's lack of intellect is actually going to help him more than it hurts him. Let's face it, how many intelligent people vote in Republican primaries? And then there's the bungling, stumbling, weird "front runner" who no one seems to like and who can't relate to the Fox-radicalized base of the Republican Party, Willard Romney.
Mitt Romney says he’s on the same page as tea party activists, but some national organizations affiliated with the movement say the GOP presidential candidate hasn’t made much of an effort to get to know them.

In fact, these tea party organizers say they can’t recall the former Massachusetts governor ever speaking at a tea party gathering, unlike nearly all of his primary opponents.

“To my knowledge, Mitt Romney has never requested to participate in one of our tea party events or rallies,” said Jacqueline Bodnar, a spokeswoman at FreedomWorks, the Washington, D.C.-based organization led by former House leader Dick Armey. The group helped organize events like the 9/12 March on Washington in 2009 and annual “tax day” rallies.

Bodnar said there has been very little contact between FreedomWorks and Romney. The group’s president, Matt Kibbe, briefly met with Romney during the 2010 election season, she said.

Another national figure in the movement, Mark Meckler, a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, also said Romney “certainly never reached out to our organization, not that I’m aware of.”

...“Saying he is ‘in sync’ with the tea party movement is a huge stretch, especially considering his open support for government-run health care in Massachusetts and his wishy-washy views on cap and trade,” Bodnar said. “You can’t support those positions and then call yourself an advocate of limited-government in the same breath.”

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