I bow to no one in my admiration of brother Nordlinger, but have to break with him on his most recent Perry-related comments. Perry has certainly sought to project the image as the fire-breathing, coyote-shooting, don’t-mess-with-Texas conservative, but his record raises some questions about that image. His immigration policies are anathema to many (although certainly not all) conservatives. And rather than recognize that continuing those policies on a national scale would cause some heartburn to his base, Perry has doubled down. In the first debate, he effectively accused those who differ with his support for the Texas DREAM Act of racism. And in the second, he expressly accused the same people of being heartless. (There were many Republican straw pollers in Florida this weekend who, upon learning to their surprise of their heartless racism, decided they would rather vote for a black man with a nice story of overcoming Stage 4 cancer and a tidy 9-9-9 plan. Perry apparently guilted them into it.).
Similarly, while he has distanced himself from his Gardasil executive order, his mea culpa tells us as much about his thinking as his original decision. He thinks of the decision as a process foul and one justified as a defense-of-life decision, a rather limitless justification. We’ve already tortured too many readers at the mere mention of Gardasil (it’s a little like the reaction of Billy Crystal’s Miracle Max at the mention of “Humperdink”) to delve further into that topic. But suffice to say that if you’re going to cultivate a particular image, you’ll need to back it up. And it’s fair game for the rest of the field to take him on where he is weak. Plus, it has been remarkably effective. Perry looks not-ready-for-prime time. And if he can’t coherently defend a relatively minor decision on vaccination, how’s he going to do on the bigger issues of the day?
Now, to preempt some of the comments that will follow, I remain not in the tank for any candidate. If I had to vote today, I’d probably figure something out. But I’m not sure I’d be all that happy about it.