Maybe Texas Gov. Rick Perry doesn’t want to be president. Perhaps he’s simply tone-deaf. Or maybe he’s the most undisciplined pol since Sarah Palin. How else to explain a simply bizarre interview with Parade magazine practically on the eve of his big policy roll-out — an attempt to breath life back into his campaign?

First there was the birtherism:

Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?

I have no reason to think otherwise.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he” —

Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

But you’ve seen his.

I don’t know. Have I?

You don’t believe what’s been released?

I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.


That came up.

And he said?

He doesn’t think it’s real.

And you said?

I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the president of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.

(Imagine if Palin had said “distractive”; The media would have been down her throat.) Notice how he indulges the lunatic birthers but then wanders back to safer ground saying that Obama is president, after all. He’s simply not willing to tell the extremists to knock it off. As Dana Milbank wrote this weekend, “the wild new turn the birthers have taken should serve as a timely reminder to Republican leaders that they need to push back more forcefully against the angry and the unstable in their ranks. Too often, they have done the opposite.” (He cites Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as one offender; Jindal is, of course, a prominent Perry backer.) Perry here is playing to the lowest, and looniest, denominator.

He didn’t stop there:

In 2010, you hinted at the possibility of Texas seceding, although you never said that word.

Actually, I didn’t. Let’s not misrepresent it.

Okay, let’s say you become president and the state of Massachusetts says the same thing, what would you say to them?

You’re going to have to be more specific. Let’s say somebody stands up at an event and says, “Secede.” My response would be that we have a great country. I see no reason that we would ever want to dissolve it, but I do understand why people get frustrated when government does not work the way our Founding Fathers meant for it to. I totally understand why people would shout that out. Do I think it’s a realistic thing? No.

You’re going to have to be more specific?! Apparently he thinks the matter was not definitively determined by the Civil War.

This is plain nuts. If Perry actually believes this stuff, and that the problem with secession is merely a lack of practicality, he’s unfit for office. But if, instead, he’s just engaging in Texas-style banter and playing to the extreme right wing, what should we think? In that case, it would seem that he has one of the tinniest ear in politics and that he simply doesn’t understand the rest of the country isn’t Texas. In any event, this sure isn’t going to get his campaign back on track. This is just another self-inflicted wound, one at a very inopportune time.

The Perry campaign has not yet responded to a request for comment