You can tell that Rick Perry’s stock has dropped since his well-publicized gaffe last week, because now he has to hang out with bottom-tier Republican candidates. CBS News has released this oddly compelling video of Perry broing down with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul prior to Sunday night’s foreign policy debate, as Newt Gingrich waits aloof in the background. Newt Gingrich is potentially too presidential for Rick Perry now. It’s like when the captain of your high school drill team is disfigured in an accident* and learns to be a better person, except Perry is probably not learning. His exchange with Paul and Santorum is remarkably instructive for us, though, as it offers a rare chance to evaluate these men as people rather than as political marketing constructs. The result is weirdly touching. Props to Pete for the link, and video after the jump.
Like most Republicans, Rick Perry knows that government is the problem. But like a shining, lantern-jawed metaphor for his fellow candidates, he is not so clear on which aspects of government need to go. Definitely regulation. Probably taxes, especially for rich people. And uh, when you get right down to it, there’s no need for…um…ah…I’m smiling warmly right now. Is it working? At least my agitation has spread to Ron Paul, who is now waving his hand around like it’s trying to fly away. Video:
It’s possible that will not be good for his campaign.
Yesterday, Rick Perry told an audience in Jefferson, Iowa that “as the son of a tenant farmer, I can promise you I wasn’t born with four aces in my hand.” First of all, beware people who apply the word “promise” to statements of fact. Second, he was alluding to Mitt Romney’s remark in the Florida debate that “being dealt four aces doesn’t necessarily make you a great poker player,” meaning that job growth in Texas wasn’t necessarily Perry’s doing, and correlation does not amount to causation. That translation is why I’ll never be President, right there. The American people—even Republicans—don’t want to vote for someone too fancy. Contemporary conservatism is for rich people, but it’s not about rich people; it’s about the assumption, latent in every patriotic heart, that we will eventually become rich. The great contradiction of American politics is that the President should be an ordinary guy.
My new favorite micro-generic hallmark of the Michele Bachmman news story is the phrase “and then she did this.” It crops up again and again in baffled coverage from veteran reporters, and I think it captures something particular about her. What Michele Bachmann says so consistently contradicts what Michele Bachmann just said that her weirdness seems inevitable, and yet it keeps managing to surprise. After a while, her political communication takes on the sort of art-for-art’s-sake quality one sees in, say, Dadaism. It makes so little sense that you must accept it only for what it is—and then she did this. What Bachmann did this time was tell The Today Show that an anonymous woman approached her after Monday’s debate to say that her daughter got inoculated for HPV, and then she “developed mental retardation.” Is Bachmann saying that you shouldn’t vaccinate your child against preventable disease? Is she saying the HPV vaccine retards you? No—that would be irresponsible. But she is saying that “this is the very real concern, and people have to draw their own conclusions.”
In all the chanting for death and keeping promises to seniors, we lost track of the other exciting development from the CNN Tea Party Republican Debate. Wolf Blitzer fielded questions from Twitter, one of which asked the candidates what they were doing to attract the Latino vote. Before Herman Cain could angrily shout whom?, Rick Santorum jumped on it:
Santorum is doing the same thing to attract Latino voters that he’s doing to get votes from outside his personal church: nothing. When I first read this quote in print media, I assumed his “illegal—I mean Latino—voters” was a snide jab. Now I’m not so sure. We are talking about the man who, at the first Republican debate, said that if—when!—Rick Santorum becomes President, “the world as we know it will be no more.” Whether he just said illegal already and had it in his cache memory or was deliberately conflating ethnic identity with false citizenship, Santorum can be forgiven, because he was pursuing the objective of the debate: messing with Rick Perry.