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“A Barking Carnival Act”: An Endorsement For The Onetime ‘Cancer On Conservatism’

At various points through the Republicans’ presidential primary process, various GOP leaders and candidates thought they could derail Donald Trump with one big speech. Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, and others stepped up to the plate, delivered carefully crafted remarks on the dangers Trump posed to the party and the country, and hoped the weight of their words would change the trajectory of the race.

Each, obviously, failed.

Among the most notable of these speeches, however, came by way of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who invited the press to a DC hotel near the White House last July to deliver an anti-Trump stem-winder.

“My fellow Republicans, beware of false prophets,” Perry said at the time. “Do not let itching ears be tickled by messengers who appeal to anger, division and resentment. I will not go quiet when this cancer on conservatism threatens to metastasize into a movement of mean-spirited politics that will send the Republican Party to the same place it sent the Whig Party in 1854: the graveyard.”

Perry went on to characterize Trump as “a barking carnival act” who offers a “toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.” Keep all of this in mind when considering what Perry said yesterday. TPM reported:

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Thursday endorsed Donald Trump and left the door open to becoming the Republican vice presidential nominee.

“He is not a perfect man. But what I do believe is that he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and he will listen to them,” Perry told CNN. “He wasn’t my first choice, wasn’t my second choice, but he is the people’s choice.” […]

“He is one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen,” Perry told CNN.

When the subject turned to a possible role as Trump’s running mate, the Texas Republican added, “I am going to be open to any way I can help. I am not going to say no.”

No, of course not. Why say no to partnering with “a barking carnival act” who represents a “cancer on conservatism,” who’s poised to send your party to the “graveyard”?

The drama surrounding the process of a presumptive nominee choosing the vice presidential contender is always fascinating. People who actually want the job are supposed to be subtle – those who are too eager tend to lose out – and aspirants are generally expected to feign disinterest.

Perry’s comments yesterday were ridiculous given what he said about Trump last summer, but as it relates to the VP process, the former governor ably put his name out there.

What makes 2016 so unusual – one of the many reasons, actually – is that under normal circumstances, serving as your party’s running mate is generally seen as a pretty sweet gig. If you lose, the campaign still raises your stature and visibility, opening the door to a brighter electoral future. If you win, you hold national office and you’re one heartbeat from the presidency.

But with Trump as the Republicans’ presumptive nominee, the usual dynamic doesn’t apply at all. Many in the party, who would otherwise make a sensible VP choice, are already rushing to withdraw their names from consideration, unwilling to be tied to Trump. As the New York Times reported earlier this week:

It’s a time-honored tradition for politicians to deny any interest in the vice presidency. But this year, with the possibility of Donald J. Trump as the Republican nominee, they really mean it.

“Never,” said Chris Schrimpf, a spokesman for Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who is still running against Mr. Trump. “No chance.”

“Hahahahahahahahaha,” wrote Sally Bradshaw, a senior adviser to Jeb Bush, when asked if he would consider it.

“Scott Walker has a visceral negative reaction to Trump’s character,” said Ed Goeas, a longtime adviser to the Wisconsin governor. […]

A remarkable range of leading Republicans, including Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, have been emphatic publicly or with their advisers and allies that they do not want to be considered as Mr. Trump’s running mate.

I suppose it’s possible that all of these folks are playing the game of appearing disinterested, while quietly hoping for a call from the candidate’s vetting team, though by all appearances, they’re quite sincere.

For his part, Trump said yesterday he intends to announce his running mate “at the convention,” which begins in Cleveland in mid-July.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 6, 2016

May 8, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Donald Trump, Rick Perry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Texas Swagger No Longer Travels Well”: Rick Perry, George W. Bush, And The Death Of The Cowboy Conservative

Rick Perry, who dropped out of the 2016 presidential race on Friday, was always a long shot. It seemed hard to imagine that the erstwhile Texas governor could win the nomination in a field decidedly stronger than the one he failed to overcome in 2012. And in the end (which didn’t come all that long after the beginning), what Perry hoped to be a redemption song turned into a swan song. Mistakes were made. The campaign gambled Perry would make it to the first “varsity” debate and that donors and supporters would believe again. He didn’t and they didn’t. (A necessary disclosure: My wife advised Perry’s ill-fated campaign.)

There’s no guarantee Perry would have risen to the occasion even if he had made the main debate stage. There may be little correlation between being a good debater and a good president, but there seems to be a strong one between being a good debater and being a good candidate.

Regardless, Perry never really got the chance. So we are left asking questions like “What if today’s more prepared Rick Perry had run in 2012?” or “What if John Kasich hadn’t gotten into the race and bumped Perry out of that last debate slot?”

The world will never know. Yesterday’s rock stars are today’s forgotten men. The political gods are fickle.

But here’s one clear lesson of Perry’s failed campaign: Texas swagger no longer travels well. Blame changing demographics in America, and George W. Bush.

In my forthcoming book Too Dumb to Fail, I document how several Republican presidents, including Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, all profited politically by feigning a sort of everyman ignorance. After losing a congressional bid, Dubya reportedly vowed that he’d never be “out-countried” again. This was smart short-term politics, but it also reinforced the notion that the GOP was the “stupid” party. That’s a notion that haunts us, and Perry, to this day.

For a long time, though, being a “good ol’ boy” was decidedly better than being an effete urbanite, and Republicans liked this contrast. Times are changing. Republicans are running out of old, white, married, rural voters. Being a “cowboy conservative” ain’t what it used to be.

As I have long argued, conservatives should “modernize, not moderate.” Some of this does include emphasizing substantive policy positions that might better appeal to 21st century Americans. But a good bit of it involves style.

Younger, more diverse, and cosmopolitan voters aren’t so much embracing liberalism as they are rejecting what might be described as a caricature of a Republican. It’s an image, largely of Republicans’ own creation, that repels these voters culturally and aesthetically. A 2014 survey of millennials, for example, demonstrated that “[o]ften, they decided they were liberals because they really didn’t like conservatives.”

The stereotypes that George W. Bush helped cement about the “dumb” swaggering cowboy made it almost impossible for Rick Perry to reinvent himself. The two men were never particularly close, but the prospect of electing another Texas governor (literally, the next Texas governor after Bush) was always going to be a tough sell, especially since the two were stylistically very similar. Bush left office extremely unpopular, and didn’t just damage the Republican brand; he did specific damage to a particular type of Republican.

Consider the case of George Allen, who was thought of as a bit of a rock star as governor of Virginia and U.S. senator. Political insiders viewed him as the likely GOP nominee in 2008. But he fell apart, and I don’t think it was just the “macaca” gaffe that did it. It was also the Confederate flag, the cowboy boots, and the “Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia” line. (People assumed he reserved that for the young man he called “macaca.” In fact, this was his shtick. Allen said virtually the same thing to me the first time I met him and told him I was from Maryland).

It’s hard enough to get a second chance to make a first impression, but it becomes doubly difficult when your persona viscerally reinforces urban America’s pre-existing negative notions about Southerners. These biases and stereotypes may not be fair. But whoever said running for president would be? In the end, Perry’s accent and swagger were too much a part of our collective conscience for even hipster glasses to overcome.

 

By: Matt K. Lewis, The Week, September 14, 2015

September 15, 2015 Posted by | George W Bush, GOP Presidential Candidates, Rick Perry | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Perry Gets Winnowed”: He Had No Distinct Identity In A Huge Field Dominated By People Who Were Going Medieval

The “winnowing” of the vast GOP presidential field proceeded apace this weekend, with Rick Perry “suspending” his campaign. Officially, that means there are 16 “real” candidates left. Unofficially, CNN excluded Jim Gilmore from even its Kiddie Table debate this week, so there are a mere 15 left.

Perry’s withdrawal has been widely predicted since he stopped paying his campaign staff last month. Even as Team Perry argued that his Super-PAC was flush and the not-paying-campaign- people thing was an accounting problem, he lost his prize Iowa backer Sam Clovis, and in general began to emit the aroma of political death. The rest has been denouement.

The thing is: Perry was running a significantly deeper campaign than he did in 2012, when he alternated between pointing at Texas’ jobs numbers as a self-validating argument for a give-corporations-everything-they-want “economic development strategy,” and raging right-wing gestures aimed at everybody in the GOP who wanted to go medieval on the godless liberals.

This time around Perry impressed even me by making a speech reminding Republicans they were the party of the Fourteenth Amendment. It didn’t catch on. Nor did his regular reminders that he was (along with Lindsey Graham) the rare candidate in a field of war-mongerers who had actually worn a uniform. The CW will suggest that Perry never overcame his 2012 missteps. I’d say he had no distinct identity in a huge field dominated by people who were going medieval just as he was trying to move along to the Renaissance.

His withdrawal rebuts the idea that anybody with a Super-PAC can stay in the race right up until the convention, and will provide an interesting test of what happens to leftover Super-PAC money, as the New York Times‘ Jonathan Martin notes:

The super PACs backing Mr. Perry, collectively known as Freedom and Opportunity, had a raised more than $17 million as of earlier this summer, mostly from a handful of wealthy Texas families, dwarfing the amount raised by his campaign, which was limited by law to raising only $2,700 from each donor. Mr. Perry’s advisers were uncertain what would happen with the super PAC money, but noted that much of it came from a pair of Dallas executives, Kelcy Warren and Darwin Deason, and that they would be consulted.

Presumably, since Super-PACs are supposed to be “independent,” this one can do any damn thing it wants, other than covering the back pay Perry staffers are owed. They, of course, will be scrambling for a new gig, and despite this tiny “winnowing,” it remains a seller’s market for GOP political talent.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 14, 2015

September 14, 2015 Posted by | GOP Campaign Donors, GOP Presidential Candidates, Rick Perry | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“His Campaign Is Circling The Drain”: What Rick Perry’s Fall Tells Us About The GOP Primary Process

Rick Perry’s candidacy is not dead, it’s just pining for the fjords.

Perhaps I’m being unkind. After all, it’s only August, and there’s at least one example — John McCain in 2008 — of a candidate who hit rock bottom, was counted out by everyone, and came back to win his party’s nomination. But Perry is now struggling for his political life, when he should have been a strong contender for the nomination. How did this happen? We’re talking about a guy who was governor of the largest Republican-dominated state for 14 years, who created a businessman’s paradise of low taxes and almost no regulations, whose contempt for Washington is plain for all to see, who genuinely came from humble beginnings, who served in uniform, who’s a socially conservative, God-fearin’, gun-lovin’, tough-talkin’ Texan with a natural appeal to all of the party’s constituencies. And yet, his campaign is circling the drain. So can Perry’s floundering help us understand anything about the contemporary presidential campaign?

As I’ve mentioned before, candidates don’t depart presidential primaries when they decide their effort is doomed, they depart when they run out of money. Once the stench of defeat is upon you, it becomes harder to get media attention and harder to raise cash — after all, who wants to donate to a candidate who’s on his way out? There’s a moment on all of those campaigns when the staff is gathered together, and the campaign manager stands up in front of them with obvious pain in his eyes, and tells them that they aren’t going to be able to make the payroll. This is where the Perry campaign is now:

Former Texas governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign is no longer paying its staff because fundraising has dried up, while his cash-flush allied super PAC is preparing to expand its political operation to compensate for the campaign’s shortcomings, campaign and super PAC officials and other Republicans familiar with the operation said late Monday.

Perry, who has struggled to gain traction in his second presidential run, has stopped paying his staff at the national headquarters in Austin as well as in the early caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, according to a Republican familiar with the Perry campaign who demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Perry campaign manager Jeff Miller told staff last Friday, the day after the first Republican presidential debate, that they would no longer be paid and are free to look for other jobs — and, so far at least, most aides have stuck with Perry — according to this Republican.

Perry’s super PACs may still have plenty of money (as of a month ago they had raised nearly $17 million, a respectable if not spectacular total), since they haven’t had to spend what they raised on things like big ad buys. But that may be the first lesson of Perry’s desperate situation: super PACs can’t substitute for a real campaign. While it’s easier to raise money for them since they aren’t constrained by contribution limits, there’s only so much they can do to prop up their candidate when he’s in trouble. If what you need is some more advertising on your behalf to keep you competitive in a primary that’s days away, having a super PAC is great. If what you need is to maintain yourself over the long slog of the pre-primary period, they can do very little, because they can’t pay for your travel or your rent or your staff.

The second lesson could be that, just as everyone suggested, the first debate’s 10-candidate limit really could do damage to at least some of the candidates who didn’t make the cut. Perry was narrowly excluded, even though he trails others who made it, like Chris Christie and John Kasich, by a tiny amount. If he were running a lighter campaign — though I’m not sure, I suspect that the Santorum for President effort right now is two guys and a Geo Metro — he wouldn’t be too damaged by being excluded. But Perry is trying to run a serious effort, and that requires resources.

Perry’s struggles also show that while there may be second acts in GOP presidential primaries, your first act has to be a good one. Most of the people who have won the Republican nomination in recent years did so on their second try — Mitt Romney, John McCain, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush. But all of them performed pretty well in their first runs, essentially coming in second to the eventual winner. Perry, on the other hand, flamed out spectacularly in 2012. He may be a better candidate this time around, but it appears that few voters were waiting eagerly to hear more from him.

And finally, it’s a reminder that candidate quality matters. Perry may have been an effective politician in the Texas context, where the state is dominated by Republicans and his particular down-home style plays well, but it didn’t seem to translate to other places, four years ago or today. On paper, he may have looked like the perfect Republican presidential candidate. But that’s not where the campaign is decided.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The WashingtoAugust 11, 2015

August 12, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, Rick Perry | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Paradox In The Making”: For The GOP, Donald Trump May Be Evil Incarnate — Literally

What if a candidate for president were evil?

I’m not talking about the way “evil” is thrown around as an insult. I’m talking about real evil, the kind you find in the Bible. Chuckle if you must, but Donald Trump’s opponents are beginning to make the case that he is truly evil. And the deeper you look, the more you see that it’s no laughing matter.

The prevailing wisdom says Trump is riding high because the Republican base is raising a middle finger — once again — to the establishment. But the prevailing wisdom also says the base is dominated by Christian conservatives. That’s a paradox in the making.

Certainly, just because you’re Christian doesn’t mean you’re a wimp when it comes to politics. You can stand up and cheer, or grimly nod along, when someone — anyone — cuts through today’s tightly scripted Beltway blather with random rants and oh-no-he-didnt jabs.

But it’s becoming clear that Trump’s candidacy asks Christians to go much further than that — down the road of perdition, if Trump’s enemies are to be believed.

It all started when Trump went on record describing an attitude toward sin that would make the average churchgoer flinch. At the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Frank Luntz asked Trump to share with the audience whether he’d ever asked God for forgiveness.

“I don’t think so,” said Trump. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

He went on. “When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.'”

Many Americans would probably hesitate to be so forthright about their view of communion. But Trump’s apparent honesty threw his insurgent campaign in a scary new light.

In secular America, one of the most broadly accepted ways to describe Trump is with swear words. People straining to be decent often resort to calling him an ass. But in Christian America, there’s another term of opprobrium that gets more to the heart of the matter. It’s not just that Trump’s campaign revolves around his harsh and ungenerous demeanor. It’s that he’s all about sowing discord. It’s what he does. It’s who he is.

And sowing discord, in the Christian imagination, isn’t just mean or nasty. It’s evil.

For Rick Perry — a man who might very well have to sit out the GOP primary debates while Trump hogs the mic — it’s time to call a spade a spade. He didn’t explicitly call Trump an evildoer at the Opportunity and Freedom PAC forum in Washington, D.C. But he came about as close as you can get.

“In times of trouble, there are two types of leaders,” he warned, “repairers of the breach and sowers of discord. The sower of discord foments agitation, thrives on division, scapegoats certain elements of society, and offers empty platitudes and promises.”

Readers of Dante will recall that, in the Inferno, a special slice of hell is reserved for the sowers of discord — schismatics who tried to advance themselves by dividing institutions. For these evildoers, Dante meted out the poetically just punishment of physical dismemberment. Just as they hacked apart the human bonds around them, so their bodies now were sliced and diced forever.

Readers of the Bible will remember that Dante wasn’t just freestyling. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, God “tempered the body” of Christendom together so that “there should be no schism” and “the members should have the same care for one another.”

Or as Perry put it, the sower of discord “offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.”

“Enter ye by the strait gate,” runs an early English translation of Matthew 7:13; “for the gate that leadeth to perdition is large, and the way is broad, and there be many that enter by it.”

Trump’s candidacy, Perry went on, “cannot be pacified or ignored, for it will destroy a set of principles that has lifted more people out of poverty than any force in the history of the civilized world — the cause of conservatism.” In sum? Trump’s evil ways tempt Republicans to turn away from their greatest moral purpose — a sin worthy of damnation.

Perry is the first to advance this argument so bluntly. But we can expect it to catch on, because Trump’s candidacy is forcing the base’s hand. If The Donald can keep up his numbers without a come-to-Jesus moment, that either means that the base has become a lot less religious, or that it’s so frustrated that it’s willing to cast aside the better angels of its nature.

Either of those developments promise Armageddon for Trump’s bedeviled rivals.

 

By: James Poulos, The Week, July 24, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Rick Perry | , , , , , | 9 Comments

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