Rick Perry, Intellectual

by Tim Cavanaugh

In the process of announcing himself as a serious candidate for the presidency in 2016, Texas governor Rick Perry Friday showed America a new persona that is both more laid back and more souped up than prior Perrys.

Perry, seen above rapidly drawing a crowd to the National Review booth at the Conservative Political Action Conference, needed to his outdistance the legendarily unready impression he gave to voters in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. That outing is now remembered for a debate flub during which he was unable to name the three federal departments he intended to cut. As seen in this old video, Perry’s memory failed him despite a friendly assist from then-Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who deftly played Karl Malden to Perry’s George C. Scott.

Perry’s roof-raising speech Friday, which was festooned with ten-dollar words and an emphasis on state governance as a mechanism for crowd-sourcing solutions, broke through in part because it came in a new package: Perry the collected-but-not-cool thinking man, wearing a muted tie, a bespectacled elder statesman whose long tenure as chief executive of the Lone Star state bestowed wisdom on him while showering prosperity on Texans.

Here’s the visual package in a blowup of the above picture, from Perry’s appearance with National Review’s Jim Geraghty. You can’t see Perry’s sensible shoes, but he’s working a subdued, knees-together posture, modestly leaning in to his interlocutor, fully committed to the pursuit of better solutions.

Bias confession: This reporter’s heart is with Cruz and/or Paul, but the Republicans have a very deep bench of governors. America’s most recent experiment with electing a senator to the White House has now been exposed as a folly the nation was smart to suppress during the preceding four decades. The 2016 candidate will be a governor. Perry brought a new self to CPAC, and his idea-guy act proved a better vehicle to move the crowd than his previous instantiation as a big Texan in cowboy boots.

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