3 Points on Rick Perry

By James Fallows

See UPDATE below.

1) Until I saw clips of him in the past two or three days, I hadn't realized how much watching and seeing Perry is just like having George W. Bush back in our living rooms. Maybe this will be an ingredient for strong conservative support. I can't imagine that any sophisticated Republican operative thinks it's a plus in winning 270 electoral votes. When Republicans ran against the first post-Nixon Democratic president, in 1980, they didn't try to find someone who looked and sounded like Tricky Dick.

2) Just after Sarah Palin was nominated three years ago, I argued that anyone who moves all at once from state-level to national-level politics is going to be shocked by the greater intensity of the scrutiny and the broader range of expertise called for. Therefore that person is destined to make mistakes; the question is how bad they will be. For Palin, they showed up in her disastrous first few interviews, especially with Katie Couric. Perry is getting his own introduction to this principle just now.

3) For the past few months, Democrats have had the suspicion that Republicans are playing a double or even triple-game in opposing the Obama Administration on spending and deficit issues. At the most principled levels, they're upholding their belief in a smaller government. At the next level down, they're trying to limit Obama's operational successes wherever they can. And, most cynical of all, they understand the idea of "the worse, the better." The surest path toward beating Obama next year is for the economy to stagnate or decline.

Perry's comments about Ben Bernanke cut through any such subtlety. If Bernanke "prints money" in the next 15 months, toward the end of forestalling a recession or preserving jobs, Perry would consider that "almost treasonous." This is the kind of thing you just don't hear from national-level politicians, and for a reason. (For starters: the punishment for treason is death.)

Obama looks better the more the Republican field displays its outlook and temperament. Romney looks better the more the anyone-but-Romney alternatives come into full view.

UPDATE: Brad DeLong of Berkeley, with whom I usually agree, somewhat snottily contends that Republicans have been saying this all the way along. When it comes to thwarting Obama, and playing the game of "the worse, the better," of course they have, as many people including me keep pointing out.

But when it comes to presidential candidates making accusations of treason, a capital offense, against (Republican-appointed) financial officials, unt-uh. That is obviously what I was talking about, and that is in fact new. As I am sure DeLong will realize on second thought.
 
Update-update: As he has in fact acknowledged in a gracious update.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/08/3-points-on-rick-perry/243679/