This may seem like an obvious point. But seriously: Does the Rick Perry campaign have any strategy at all to deal with the fact that a whole host of extreme views that would seriously complicate his general election chances are right there in black and white, right under his own byline?
Judging by recent events, the Perry campaign launched with no plan to deal with or explain what appears in his own books. Here’s another example. Time magazine has discovered that in his first book, Perry compared being gay to being an alcoholic:
in a little-noticed passage in his first book, “On My Honor,” a encomium on the Boy Scouts published in 2008, Perry also drew a parallel between homosexuality and alcoholism. “Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink,” he wrote. “And, even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she still makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender.”
In “On My Honor,” Perry also punted on the exact origins of homosexuality. He wrote that he is “no expert on the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate,” but that gays should simply choose abstinence. Perry’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on whether he maintains this view.
So: Asked if he still believes homosexuality is akin to alcoholism, the Perry campaign simply didn’t answer. That means we’ve now seen three different approaches from the Perry camp on how to deal with his printed views.
First, in response to questions about his book’s suggestion that Social Security may be unconstitutional and is an “illegal Ponzi scheme,” the Perry campaign distanced him from the book by claiming it was intended as “a look back, not a path forward.” In fact, the book did contain policy prescriptions. What’s more, as Jed Lewison notes, Perry himself recently cited his book approvingly as something that should be read as his blueprint for the future — one in which “there’s not going to be a Social Security and Medicare program.” That seems strikingly at odds with the campaign’s claim.
Second, in response to questions about whether Perry still believes his book’s assertion that repealing the 16th Amendment would be a good idea, his campaign issued a statement that conspicuously did not reaffirm his support for that position, and instead declared his support for more modest proposals. But then the campaign turned right around and claimed that the statement hadn’t distanced him from his book’s views on the 16th Amendment. So does Perry still think repealing the 16th Amendment is a workable option, or doesn’t he?
And third, the Perry campaign has now responded to his own book’s comparison of homosexuality and alcoholism with ... radio silence.
All this underscores that there isn’t much you can do about it when your controversial and extreme views are spelled out in black and white in books that boast your name in big letters on their covers.