COMMENTARY | Rick Perry has inherited the media-spun mantle of American national politics once worn by President Gerald Ford, that of a not-quite-ready for prime-time buffoon prone to embarrassing gaffes. In the national media's coverage of Perry's appearance at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm's College, the focus was on the Texas governor's erroneously stating that the voting age was 21 (it has been 18 since the passage of the 26th Amendment in 1971) and giving out the wrong date for the election. (Be it the New Hampshire primary or the 2012 presidential election, he was off on both counts.)
However, if Perry's appearance at St. A's is any indication, his real "sin" is not the "flubs" relished by the media but the fact that he is boring. As I sat watching Perry both in the audience and at the podium, I was struck by a seeming dichotomy between his "private" and "public" personas.
Governor Perry was in Goffstown, New Hampshire Tuesday, November 29th, to give a speech primarily focusing on illegal immigration. Accompanying Perry was the controversial Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, who has aggressively cracked down on illegal immigrants in his jurisdiction. A supporter of New Hampshire primary front-runner Mitt Romney in 2008, Arpaio announced his endorsement of Perry for president.
When Arpaio took the podium after being introduced by Perry, he was met with a few boos. He gave a short and rather passionless plea for Perry, focusing on Perry's integrity and his experience in dealing with illegal immigration as governor of Texas, which shares a border with Mexico.
Perry then took over, vowing that he would close the border and choke off the influx of illegal aliens within one year of taking office. He then gave his standard stump speech bashing Washington and calling for a balanced budget constitutional amendment that would turn Congress into a part-time institution. He took some questions from the audience but was generally evasive.
Rick Perry is an attractive man with a good resume. But he was a problem that is far deeper than his gaffes: He is boring on the stump. He lacks the pizzazz of a Ronald Reagan or a Bill Clinton, that charisma that draws an audience in, or the quirky, immediate personality of a John McCain (no charmer he), the authenticity of which was highly attractive to Granite State voters. (A New Hampshire favorite, McCain won the first-in-the-nation primary in both 2000 and 2008.)
When you watched Rick Perry on the sidelines, you got glimpses of an engaging persona, yet, when he took the public podium, his charisma sagged and he became bland. It was said of Al Gore that he was extremely charismatic and engaging and a great conversationalist in private, but when he gave a public speech, he morphed into a wooden Indian.
When he was a Democratic state representative in 1988, Rick Perry served as the chair of Gore's presidential committee in the Lone Star state. (He switched parties a year later.) Watching Perry's "wooden Indian" routine at St. A's, I can't say I'm surprised. The man touted earlier this year as "another Ronald Reagan" turned out to be more like the dud that was the public persona of presidential contender Al Gore.
- Rick Perry
- President Gerald Ford
- illegal immigration
- Joe Arpaio