Honestly, some weeks I don't even have to write this column. It just falls from the heavens like manna. I pick it up and post it. This was one of those weeks.
Rick Perry. The name alone is enough to elicit chuckles. Big hat. Silly boots. Cowboy swagger.
The Texas governor likes to hold stadium-sized prayer rallies in which he fills a fraction of the stadium and talks to God. Two years ago he held a rally to ask God for rain. Today, Texas still bakes in a historic drought, suggesting that if there is a God, he's got better things to do than listen to Perry. Three weeks ago Gov. Perry did it again, holding a prayer rally to save the nation's economy. Two days later, Dow Jones tanked more than 600 points, inspiring late-night comedians and TV pundits to suggest that Perry's prayers felt more like a curse.
When he is not talking to God, Perry is running his mouth to the craziest people in America, the tea baggers, and in 2009 he seemed to be flirting with secession — though the word never passed his lips. Two weeks ago he was in Charleston, the site of the original secession and the beginning of the Civil War, to declare his presidential intentions. Was this coincidence?
Coincidence or not, it has been like catnip to pundits and columnists. Writing in U.S. News & World Report Robert Schlesinger said, "And while talking about secession undoubtedly plays well among the three in 10 Texas voters ill-informed enough to think it's a serious political statement, it also makes the rest of the country (and likely the rest of the state) roll our eyes in bewilderment at the Lone Star Clown."
True enough, but Perry knows where his natural base is, and the Lone Star Clown is already planning a bus tour of the Palmetto State. I am confident he will get the welcome he came for. But what does that say about the people of South Carolina?
As I write this column, Gov. Perry has been a presidential candidate for less than a week, and he has already been caught in at least one screaming lie and one statement so outrageous that only a certified tea bagger — or South Carolina GOPer — could not be offended.
In one campaign stop he said he does not believe in manmade global climate change (as if his belief had anything to do with it) and went on to say that "hardly a day goes by" that some scientist is not caught faking data to support the global warming argument.
In fact, no scientist has been caught faking climate data and only the fools who live in the Fox News bubble could believe such a lie. But there are thousands of such people in this state, and they will be laying palmetto branches in front of Rick Perry's bus.
This is also be a good place for Perry to repeat Mitt Romney's statement that "corporations are people" with all the rights of humans. In this right-to-work state with the lowest level of union membership in the nation, this will be music to the corporate culture. What it means for people is unclear.
It will be interesting to see if Perry challenges the patriotism of native son and Fed chief Ben Bernanke while he's here. Last week he said Bernanke would be "treacherous" if he tried "printing money" to deal with the current economic crisis. He seemed to be threatening Bernanke when he said "we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas."
I'm sure this schoolyard tough talk will play well in South Carolina, but I am also confident that most Americans would like a little more subtlety, a little more dignity from a man who aspires to be our president.
Leno, Letterman, Maher, Fallon and the folks at Saturday Night Live would love to see Rick Perry in the White House. It would mean for them the same thing it means for me: years of free material. But leading the United States of America — leading it morally and politically — is serious business. I see no evidence that Gov. Perry is up to the task. And it is easy to understand why. There is little in the backward and parochial political culture of Texas that would prepare a person for running a huge and complex nation such as the United States.
Like his predecessor, George W. Bush, Perry already seems to be in over his head. He does not understand that more people are laughing at him than with him.
Perry's candidacy guarantees that we will have an exciting campaign — at least through the Republican National Convention. Let's hope it ends there.