The ‘Oops’ Campaigns of Rick Perry and Herman Cain

“Watching Rick Perry fail to recall the third part of his own answer in tonight’s debate was like seeing a thoroughbred get euthanized on the track after a fall. It was shocking, grisly and impossible to look away. Seems like the race is over for this horse.” ~Adam Sorensen

That was an ugly 50 seconds of television no matter which side you’re rooting for.  I actually found myself feeling sorry for the man, hoping he’d come up with whatever it was he wanted to say, and, unlike Sorensen, I did look away for a second or two.  If someone is going to screw up, I’d rather it be for something they’ve said or done as opposed to something as human and unintentional as a case of brain freeze.  There is much about Perry to criticize and mock.  This specific incident isn’t one of them.



So, is it all over for Perry?  Well, yes…he just doesn’t know it.  In truth, it was over for Perry right after the first debate he took part in back in September.  But people like Perry and Cain and Bachmann have no real sense of awareness of how ignorant they are.  I imagine it’s all part of being ignorant to begin with.  And it’s what allows a guy like Herman Cain, a non-intellectual buffoon if ever there’s been one, to enter a debate on the economy so totally unprepared.  Cain failed to answer a single question in last night’s debate.  Instead he offered the same canned 9-9-9 response as if every solution to every problem somehow involves taxing the poor into oblivion.

Cain was asked last night what he’d do to make sure that the financial disaster Italy is experiencing does not adversely affect the U.S. financial system.  His response

“Just like a dollar must be a dollar when we wake up in the morning, just like 60 minutes is in an hour, a dollar must be a dollar.”

[...]

“This administration has done nothing but put stuff in the caboose, and it’s not moving this economy.”

Laugh or cry, it’s a toss-up.  The man is clueless and appears to have no interest in being otherwise.  And as long as conservatives like the idiots in last night’s audience who applauded his every word, refuse to ask more of the Herman Cains of the Republican party, politician’s like Cain and Palin will continue to stand front and center of the party.

For the few conservatives who do understand the damage being done by conservatives like Herman Cain, it’s a major concern.  Here is how Peter Wehner, a conservative who has worked in the Reagan and Bush (1 and 2) administrations, expressed it.

I understand early on there was a certain freshness to Cain’s style. But we’ve now had several months in which we’ve been able to watch Cain in debates, during interviews, and at center stage, raising this question: Has any recent major presidential candidate shown as little mastery of the basics, when it comes to policy matters, as Cain? … Yet some defenders of Cain actually celebrate his lack of knowledge, portraying it as a virtue, a sign that he’s an outsider, a non-establishment figure, authentic, the appealing anti-politician.

But this has very little to do with whether or not one is a slick, pre-packaged politician and has everything to do with whether an individual who seeks to be president has taken the time to study, even minimally study, the urgent issues facing our nation.

In the 1980s, one of the Republican Party’s main sources of attraction to younger conservatives like myself was its growing reputation for intellectual seriousness … The way such things happen is by rewarding intellectual excellence among those vying for the presidency rather than making excuses for their lack of knowledge.

Today’s Tea Party Republicans just don’t get it…or just don’t care.

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Bush – Perry Metamorphosis From Hell

I took the George Bush/Rick Perry illustration I did last month (actually, I had to recreate it – long story), messed around with it a bit in Proshow Producer, added music and turned it into a video.  I call it Metamorphosis from Hell.

Full screen, speakers on and don’t blame me if you have problems falling asleep tonight.




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Rick Perry’s Pay-to-Play Bonanza

Rick Perry has a number of monkeys on his back (e.g. “Social Security is a Ponzi scheme”) but the one that might be his ultimate undoing is the mounting evidence that Perry was a great practitioner of pay-to-play.

Statesman:

Perry often gives the state’s most prestigious appointments to major campaign donors. Of the 3,995 people Perry appointed from 2001 to June 2010, 921 of them or their spouses gave his campaigns more than $17 million, and Perry has collected more than $6 million from the people he appointed to university boards of regents, according to Texans for Public Justice , a liberal watchdog group. Regent posts are among the most prestigious a governor can dole out.

The Texas Tribune:

Over the past decade, the men and women chosen by Gov. Rick Perry to govern state universities have given his campaigns at least $5.8 million, according to an analysis by The Texas Tribune. About half of the governor’s appointed regents gave to his campaign; of those who gave, the average total given was about $64,000. The top giver, University of Texas System Regent Paul Foster, gave nearly $400,000.

WSJ:

… one of the governor’s signature economic development initiatives—the Texas Emerging Technology Fund—has lately raised serious questions among some conservatives.

[...]

All told, the Dallas Morning News has found that some $16 million from the tech fund has gone to firms in which major Perry contributors were either investors or officers, and $27 million from the fund has gone to companies founded or advised by six advisory board members. The tangle of interests surrounding the fund has raised eyebrows throughout the state, especially among conservatives who think the fund is a misplaced use of taxpayer dollars to start with.

“It is fundamentally immoral and arrogant,” says state representative David Simpson, a tea party-backed freshman from Longview, two hours east of Dallas. The fund “opened the door to the appearance of impropriety, if not actual impropriety.”

Crony capitalism has existed for as long as politicians have been around…forever.  It can be argued, I imagine, that the latter could not exist without the former.  Caesar undoubtedly scratched a few backs along the way to ease his rise to becoming Dictator of the Roman Republic  That’s how the game is played and in this case, “They all do it!“, is a fair statement.  Understood.  But the issue here is not that Perry doled out jobs and appointments to those who contributed to his political campaigns.  It is the degree and manner in which Perry, the Tea Party’s darling, has issued political favors in exchange for campaign contributions.

If Rick Perry truly is the champion of change as his supporters would love to believe, then he’s got a serious problem for there is nothing in his record to suggest that he is anything other than an unscrupulous power-hungry politician.

For a brief history on how crony capitalism became the latest Republican catchphrase, check out this piece in The New Republic.

More on Perry from Hardball.

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Republicans Debate, Anarchy Wins

Cross-posted from Jimmy Zuma’s blog at Tucson Sentinel.

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There were clear winners and losers in the latest Republican debate, held at the Reagan Library. But before we score the candidates, it’s worth noting the two über winners. The first was Ronald Reagan. While I remember Reagan as the affable con artist who decided kids were properly fed if their school lunch included ketchup, the candidates invoked him some two dozen times.

The other big winner of the night was the political model known as Anarchy. The elephant now has a circle-A tattooed on his butt. One after another these candidates proved that the Republican Party no longer stands for conservative principles like small government. It now stands for dismantling government altogether.

From ending all regulation (Paul) to ending progressive taxation (Cain) to ending Social Security (Perry) to ending Medicaid (Perry again) this group of candidates is running on a platform of ending a federal role in government. (The party was previously on record for wanting to end Medicare, product safety regulation, the EPA and the Department of Education.)

Rick Perry even talked about “cutting off the head of the snake.” It was an odd analogy. He’s running to be the head, isn’t he? But enough meta-analysis, here’s how the winners and losers stack up.

Biggest winner: Rick Perry
Perry didn’t win the debate. But he did perform well enough to solidify a two person race. He made the biggest gaffe of the night, calling Social Security a “Ponzi Scheme.” But otherwise, he answered every attack credibly, accomplishing what he needed to.

Perry also got the biggest applause of the night, when the moderator noted he’d executed more prisoners than any other governor. Apparently revenge is pretty darn popular in the R-party these days.

Best performer: Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney won the debate. He gave the best performance and was only one of two candidates (with Huntsman) who seemed presidential. He made no major gaffes and successfully answered attacks from Perry—obscuring his record on health care (he used to be for it) and deflecting his record on job creation (he wasn’t very successful at it.) Most notably, he deflected the factual criticism that his private sector experience was as a corporate raider.

The One Trick Pony who got put out to pasture: Michele Bachmann
No better analogy fits Michele Bachmann than the tired, old ride-pony that limps around the same corral all day. Supporters are abandoning her in droves. In the debate none of the other candidates showed any interest in her. Even the moderators didn’t seem to be interested in asking her a question. But every time they did, she’d shout “ObaaaamaaCare!” no matter what the question or what the topic.

At one point, she didn’t speak for twenty-two minutes. It was a pleasant relief.

Running for Vice President: Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich never thought he could be president. For Newt, running for president is a way to pay the bills. Now, he is positioning himself to be someone’s vice president. He doesn’t care who. But neither Romney nor Perry would ever choose him. Running for VP at the debate simply shows that neither would even take his calls.

Best qualified: John Huntsman
If we have to have a Republican as our next president (and it looks like we probably do) John Huntsman is the best of the lot. He’s an old school conservative who eschews signing pledges because “they can limit your ability to govern.” Huntsman is the strongest on governing experience, the deepest on foreign policy and the most compelling on cooperation. He was Obama’s Ambassador to China and a successful governor of Utah. And he respects both science and literacy.

Of this motley lot, Huntsman is the only one who believes in government. But he’s too moderate to win the nomination.

Former Oddball: Ron Paul
Ron Paul gave up his oddball role to accept the position of cranky-drunk uncle. Consider this bit of circular logic. Paul posits that we should get the government out of the business of regulating drugs. He argues the government does a bad job because of influence by drug company lobbyists. So we should let the drug companies regulate themselves. Scratching your head yet? He also spoke out against federal air traffic control.

In the last election Paul suffered from having repulsive supporters. And, well, his girly-shrill voice doesn’t help. Realistically, he could only be president on Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

Current Oddball: Herman Cain
Cain’s major platform is a consumption tax. He’d impose a nine percent sales tax on top of whatever your state now charges. He’d then lower individual and corporate taxes to an alliterative but otherwise nonsensical nine percent as well. He also argues that we should replace Social Security with “the Chilean model.” As the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson noted, “I covered Chile. That model is privatization. He just doesn’t want to use the word.”

Can anyone else imagine the Republican Party taking its cues from Latin America? Cain also doesn’t know he can’t win.

No longer a candidate: Rick Santorum
Like most Americans, I can’t remember a word he said. His campaign is so bereft that he had to do his own spin room.

And there you have it, the Republican candidate pool. Yahoo is also looking for a new CEO these days. I wonder if they will choose someone who doesn’t believe in the internet.

 

Jimmy Zuma is a longtime advocate for disability rights and a strong voice from the left.  Jimmy blogs at Smart v. Stupid and his writing is published in the The Tucson Sentinel, DC Water Cooler, Open Salon and OpEd News.

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The Debate – It’s Down To Two

In case anyone had doubts, the first five minutes of last night’s debate made it clear that the Republican primary has come down to a Romney / Perry match-up.  The other six candidates were barely on the radar.

Santorum:  Why is he still there?  Why was he ever there?  He must know by now that he doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning this thing despite whatever words God whispered into his virgin ears.

Cain:  The man is simply ridiculous.  He tries so hard to come across as an ideas man but appears totally unaware that running a country differs somewhat from running a pizza empire.  Cain made it clear that he wants to privatize Social Security.  He denies this and says instead that he wants the US to follow the Chilean model.  What is the Chilean model?  It’s the privatization of Social Security.

Gingrich:  This is the Republican’s real ideas man.  His major problem is that those ideas belong to a nasty prick who is overloaded with excess baggage – none of it good.

Paul:  Yawn.  His ‘we-don’t-need-government’ shtick has gotten old.  Last night he claimed that Americans don’t need the FAA and that air safety would best be served by handing it over to the private sector.  How does anyone take this kook seriously?

Bachmann:  It was over for Bachmann the day Perry announced his candidacy.  There are only so many Tea Party votes available and Perry’s got the majority of those locked up.  And by the looks of her poor performance last night, Bachmann is understanding that her claim to fame in this primary will be that she won the Iowa straw poll.  Bye Michele.

Huntsman:  If there was anyone Dems should have feared from this Republican field, it was Jon Huntsman.  The man has the smarts, the experience and the demeanor to be a credible president.  His ideas on matters both fiscal and social show him to be a solid conservative but unfortunately for him, he lacks the extremist Tea Party mentality to win the primary.  At any other time, a conservative expressing a belief in science (evolution and climate change in this case) might have been forgiven given his or her greater credentials.  In this era of Republican insanity, not so.  Which brings us to…

Romney and Perry:  If there is a second Republican for Dems to fear in a general election with Obama, it’s Mitt Romney.  Much like Huntsman, Romney has the intellect and background to appeal to independent voters.  But despite his efforts to make himself more palatable to the crazies, his hard right turn on issues still leaves him a couple of notches short of Rick Perry’s lunacy – a lunacy, by the way, which Perry solidified with his reaffirmation last night that Social Security is a “big lie” and a “Ponzi scheme”.  While that view might win him favor with an idiot base, it’s going to cause him major headaches in the general election.

Jonathan Chait explains the differences between Romney and Perry.

The media seems to consider Romney the winner. Pardon the condescension, but they’re not thinking like Republican base voters. Romney approaches every question as if he is in an actual debate, trying to provide the most intellectually compelling answer available, within the bounds of political expediency. Perry treats questions as interruptions. What scientists do you trust on climate change? I don’t want to risk the economy. Are you taking a radical position on social security?  We can have reasons or we can have results. His total liberation from the constraints of reason give Perry a chance to represent the Republican id in a way Romney simply cannot match.

In this way Perry eerily apes the style of George W. Bush, who was also mocked for his intellectually vapid debating style, but who succeeded in rallying Republicans behind him. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I suspect the Bush-Perry debating style broadcasts a subliminal message of strong leadership. Romney feels compelled to bind himself to the parameters of the question before him. Perry ignores them. It is, in a sense, an alpha male move. I am not going to lower myself to your premise about scientists. I am going to declare my principles.

A Perry win, I think, gives Barack Obama the best hope of winning in 2012.  Given the disastrous Bush legacy, can Americans possibly put a Bush clone in the White House?

In any case, the low point of last night’s debate had to be the spontaneous applause from the conservative audience when the subject of the high number of executions under Perry’s watch came up.  Andrew Sullivan summed up the moment perfectly.

Here’s why I find it impossible to be a Republican: any crowd that instantly cheers the execution of 234 individuals is a crowd I want to flee, not join.

Whatever one’s thoughts on capital punishment might be, applauding the death of 234 people is downright creepy.

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