William J. Bennett, who is second to none when it comes to conservative gravitas (as the former education secretary and the author of numerous books), will be traveling with Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday in Alabama and lending advice to the governor as he rolls out his presidential campaign in South Carolina. Bill’s comment on his radio program today was short of an endorsement, but certainly a boost for Perry: “Gov. Perry and I are friends; we share a lot of interests and political views; we like to talk things over from time to time, and I sure am encouraging him to run for president.” Bill’s staff told me this is not an endorsement; it is an offer of advice and counsel.
Bill, even his critics would agree, is no fool and is unlikely to back a candidate that does not share his core beliefs or fails to evidence solid conservative instincts on the major issues. He is also not a man to mince words or withhold frank advice. That Perry would reach out to Bennett reflects well on the candidate. One of the most important things to know in politics is what you don’t know.
Bennett can certainly impress upon Perry the importance of discipline and thoughtfulness. These are not the qualities that helped make Perry governor, but he will need to find those traits now and apply them to the exacting task of running for president. Perry’s well-known zingers may have been amusing in Texas, but they will be self-defeating in a presidential run. The other candidates in the race are well past one-liners, so he will need to show not merely conservative beliefs but intellectual heft. He certainly is going to the right place to find it.