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Right Turn
Posted at 09:45 AM ET, 01/13/2012

Perry’s final belly flop

The Austin Statesman reports:

Gov. Rick Perry’s new line of attack against Mitt Romney that Romney is a “vulture capitalist” who used to pick apart businesses and leave with huge profits is not sitting well with his usual allies on the right.
Perry’s case against Romney and a similar one made by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich have come under attack from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others who say such criticisms don’t belong in a Republican primary.
The pushback against Perry indicates just how poorly his presidential campaign is going. Perry had hoped by now to be heading toward a one-on-one slugfest with the former Massachusetts governor in South Carolina. Instead, he is one of several Republicans hoping to stop a Romney nomination that seems increasingly inevitable. And as that sense of inevitability around Romney builds, key voices on the right are coming to his defense.

This might be more embarrassing than the “brain freeze” moment in the debate. I mean, who among us over 40 hasn’t experienced such a blank-stare moment, albeit not on national TV? The Bain attack, however, shows Perry, while less creative than Newt Gingrich, also lacks an essential quality for public figures: discernment.

Back when he announced his candidacy, I looked at Perry’s book, “Fed Up!” It was filled with dramatic and silly gimmicks (repeal the 16th and 17th amendments, send Social Security to the states, etc.) that suggested he doesn’t care about the quality of his ideas, only the volume of his rhetoric. He didn’t know much about entitlement reform, but by gosh, Ben Bernanke is a traitor and Congress should meet only once every two years!

When cajoled by his staff he belatedly rolled out an economic plan. (The one with the three agencies he would disband but couldn’t remember during the interminable “brain freeze” episode.) But he showed not much interest in it and rarely referred to it in debates. He did, however, give one weird speech with his “postcard you can do your taxes on” and a bottle of maple syrup.

One of the digs on Perry going into the presidential contest was that he was all about power politics, with not much sophistication about policy. He proved that in spades throughout the campaign. If there was a dumb idea — zero out foreign aid! — he was never far from it. If there was a simplistic answer to a complex question — set up a no-fly zone in Syria! — he was for it. Critics were unfair to call him stupid, but he was never thoughtful.

He now has his last hoorah in a state tailor-made for movement conservatives. (Certainly when he finishes toward the back of the pack in South Carolina he’ll finally feel free to return to Austin.) Rather than role out his conservative credentials, he played “me too” with Gingrich in braying at Bain. When he got tripped up by the amiable Sean Hannity in trying to justify his views, you knew he had almost given up trying to fake his way through a presidential race for which he had never prepared.

After being vilified for his anti-capitalist rant, he quickly changed subjects. No more “vultures” will be mentioned. You see, he didn’t believe what he said when he first said it, so it was easy to stop saying it.

Perry, once a respected figure in the GOP and a prominent Tea Party supporter, will return to Texas a diminished figure. The Texas Democratic Party is not exactly a smooth-running machine, but you have to imagine Perry’s political opponents will be emboldened to take him down a few pegs. Power relies on others’ respect for you. In Perry’s case, that’s now a scarce resource.

By  |  09:45 AM ET, 01/13/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign

 
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