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Is Perry Suicidal or Just Sly with His Blunt Attacks

There are at least three ways of interpreting Rick Perry's controversial first week of presidential campaigning.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 8/19/2011, 12:48 AM

 

No one can say that Texas Governor Rick Perry, less than a week after announcing that he is running for the nomination of the Republican Party, has failed to make a splash.

He not only vaulted into a double-digit lead against the former front-runner Mitt Romney, but has also been involved in controversy. He had harsh words for the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Ben Bernanke, eliciting an admonition from Barack Obama that he was not running for a congressional seat or statewide office, but as a candidate for the presidency,  had to show more restraint and gravitas.

He also took on the environmentalists by claiming that the global warming theory may be flimflam designed to enrich research budgets. He then defended the education system of the state of Texas that teaches both evolution and creationism.

These positions have even provoked criticism from Republican quarters. From John Huntsman's camp came the rebuke that it was impossible to be elected president on an anti-science position.

There was more severe criticism over the Bernanke episode. Perry was totally unapologetic about the positions that he took and appeared to relish the prospect of continuing in that vein.

This produced a spate of speculation about what makes Rick Perry run his campaign the way he does.

Democrats, hoping to tarnish Perry as a prospective contender, answer the question by referring to him as just "another Texas Governor", meaning an arrogant simpleton. When more savagery is called for, they call him a George Bush without brains, giving the impression that Perry is gaffe-prone and should not be taken seriously.

The second theory is more Machiavellian, claiming that Perry is fixated on the Republican nomination and will do whatever it takes to get it. Environmentalism is about as popular among Republicans as Fox News is among liberal Democrats..

The attack on scientists and bureaucrats who would visit impoverishment on the American people in pursuit of their half-baked theories also comes acros well. Even the attack on Bernanke plays to a sentiment that feels that unelected bureaucrats and judges effectively thwart the will of the people acting through their elected representatives. The Republicans want sound money and the Federal Reserve, by keeping interest rates low, is cheapening it.

Once he has secured the Republican nomination- so the theory goes - Perry will try to pivot to the center, but then will have to live down the extremist positions that have been recorded for posterity, or at least for the campaign, when he takes on Barack Obama in the real contest.

ne can argue for a third theory. Rick Perry, a politician who has never lost an election is anything but a fool, particularly when it comes to politics. His current positions are not merely calculated to get him to Tampa, Florida, scene of the Republican convention, in good shape but to get him to the White House.

He does not believe that the triangulation that worked so well for a Bill Clinton or Tony Blair will work for him. Barack Obama with his academic style designed to show that he has occupied the middle ground in the debate has not received points for leadership. When the country feels itself in a crisis it will gravitate to a person with a clear sense of direction rather than someone who is wishy-washy. In short:

Perry feels that this is 1980 where a clear Republican voice like Reagan's can triumph by projecting a clear direction as well as by asking the question are you better off than you were four years ago?