By MARSHA MERCER
Two years before the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” landed in bookstores. Its subtitle: “Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.”
Two years before the 2012 election, Rick Perry’s “Fed Up!” hit bookstores. Its subtitle: “Our Fight to Save America from Washington.”
Both politicians addressed the sense Americans had that the political process had gone wrong and offered their own policy solutions. But where Obama, then a senator from Illinois, built on his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention, writing about “just how much we share: common hopes, common dreams, a bond that will not break,” Perry, the governor of Texas, attacked the capitol.
“America is great,” he writes.“Washington is broken.” Perry also opines that “Cynics will say that I decided to write this book because I seek higher office. They are wrong: I already have the best job in America.”
Oh, Lordy, that man can talk.
You don’t have to be a cynic to think the author of “Fed Up!” is rounding up voters outside the Lone Star State. As we’ve seen in the last few weeks, though, Rick Perry thrives on extravagant speech.
When he’s not warning it would be “treasonous” for the Federal Reserve chairman to stimulate the economy in a presidential election year, and if he did, “we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas,” Perry is dismissing evolution as “just a theory” with “some gaps in it.”
And, speaking of cynicism, Perry claims research scientists manipulate data on climate change, “so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.” Social Security is a “monstrous lie,” he says, “a Ponzi scheme.”
And, while insisting that “most Americans do not yearn to be dependent on government subsidies” like food stamps or want Washington as “caretaker,” he conveniently forgets tens of thousands of dollars in federal farm subsidies he and his father received while farming.
He jumped into the presidential race Aug. 13 and already has talked his way to the head of the class of Republican contenders.
A Quinnipiac University poll Wednesday found Perry the favorite for the GOP nomination, confirming recent findings by CNN and Gallup. If one poll is a fuzzy snapshot, two begin to bring the picture into focus, and three or more sharpen it.
Yes, Perry may be enjoying a temporary boomlet in popularity as a newcomer running against the establishment. No matter that he’s a lifelong politician, having held public office since 1984.
Or, he may have ridden onto the presidential rodeo with his cowboy boots and bluster at the right moment. Many Republicans are hankering for someone who talks like they think.
If Obama has been inscrutable and Ivy League, Perry is Texas A&M, a yell leader as emphatic as an exclamation point. Perry’s promise to work every day in the White House to make Washington “inconsequential in your life” goes down like sweet tea with the tea party crowd.
And here’s the cherry on the Perry sundae: He irritates progressives, intellectuals and liberal commentators no end, which adds to his luster among people who have no use for so-called elites.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called Perry’s comments on climate change “vile.” A news story on politico.com this week asked, “Is Rick Perry dumb?”
The consensus of political watchers was that while he’s no pointy-headed intellectual, he is a smart politician. Dumb like a fox, several said.
After Karl Rove helped Perry win an election as Texas agriculture commissioner in the 1990s, Perry said his own mind was like a chicken pot pie while Rove’s was a well-organized refrigerator, “pickles here, salad there.”
Perry, 61, a fifth-generation Texan, not only has rugged good looks, a folksy manner and the gift of gab, he lovingly evokes bygone days. In his 2008 book “On My Honor,” about scouting, the Eagle Scout wrote about his childhood:
“Our spot of farmland was perched along the rolling plains of West Texas. Dad called our area the Big Empty. I called it paradise. I had thousands of acres to explore, a dog I called my own, and a Shetland pony. We had every amenity a boy could need: electricity because the Rural Electrification Agency, REA, had made its way out our road…”
Whoa, pony, hold on there. The REA is a federal agency, born of FDR’s New Deal. Washington doesn’t get any more consequential in people’s lives than when it brings the lights.
Even a man who wants to be president ought to know that.
© 2011 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.