No one ever called him brilliant
Posted: Monday, October 31, 2011 7:02 pm
By DOUGLAS COHN
and ELEANOR CLIFT
WASHINGTON – Texas Governor Rick Perry may be sinking in the polls, but with more than two months to go before the Iowa caucuses, he thinks there is time enough for him to get back in the game. The man is ruthless. He has never lost a political race, and has a well-deserved reputation for doing whatever it takes to win.
Ronald Reagan liked to invoke what he called the Eleventh Commandment, which is to speak no ill of fellow Republicans. In Perry’s short time on the national stage, he has violated the Reagan rule more than anyone on the Republican side in recent times. He’s gone after Herman Cain on the abortion issue, Mitt Romney on immigration, and now he’s doubling down on both of them on tax reform.
Perry’s plan splits the difference between Cain’s gimmickry and Romney’s complexity, and is more about gaining political ground than offering a credible alternative to the tax code now in place. In fact, Perry would keep the current tax code and then allow taxpayers to choose between the old rules or a new 20 percent flat tax rate. Perry would also eliminate the capital gains tax and the estate tax, boosting benefits to the wealthiest Americans.
Perry’s meteoric rise in the polls and his equally dizzying fall has left him scrambling to reassert his candidacy. He has hired George W. Bush’s former campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh, a fellow Texan, along with the team that helped elect Florida Governor Rick Scott, a political novice who spent $78 million of his own money to narrowly win election. A former venture capitalist and health-care executive, Scott had settled the largest Medicare and Medicaid fraud case in history while at the helm of Columbia/HCA Health Care. He overcame a record that would otherwise be disqualifying with an aggressive advertising campaign.
Perry too has ample money for paid advertising. He has no qualms about attacking his fellow Republicans, and has left a long trail of vanquished opponents in his wake. Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has conspicuously refused to endorse Perry saying as delicately as she could last summer, “I’m looking for the candidate that has had real business experience. I am looking for Gov. Perry’s opinions on federal issues. I don’t know what they are, because he’s been critical of the federal government, but I don’t know what his positions would be.”
Perry is the longest serving governor currently in office, so people assumed he would be well-versed on the issues of the day. He turned out to be flat-footed in the debates, unable to hold his own in discussing issues and tongue-tied when launching his attacks on the other candidates. The late Mollie Ivins, a caustic observer of the Texas political scene, years ago dubbed Perry “Governor Goodhair,” and his dark wavy hair has stood the test of time.
His capacity for leadership on the national stage is another matter.
His energy plan is nothing more than drill baby drill, making no accommodation for life-altering climate change. His jobs plan is not transferable to any state that doesn’t have oil, and his tax plan is a huge windfall for the rich that ignores the rising tide of anger against income inequality currently sweeping the globe.
He is ruthless but to what end? Richard Nixon was a politician with a commensurate reputation for ruthlessness. Driven by grievances and longstanding resentments, Nixon carried within him the seeds of his destruction. But he was unquestionably brilliant, if misguided. With Perry, there is an overriding drive to win, and to destroy the opposition, but the goals seem parochial and fall short of what Americans have come to expect in a president, and no one ever called him brilliant. Published in The Messenger 10.31.11