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Aug 17 2011

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For Perry, Rookie Mistakes and Lasting Impressions

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It's a Campaign, Not a Manhunt...

“It’s not personal, it’s only business.”

That legendary line, from “The Godfather,” needs to be papered all over Perry campaign headquarters.

Four days into a presidential campaign that seemed to hold much promise, Team Perry suddenly appears more like a posse out to bring justice to the impudent, the Texas way.

In only four days, Governor Perry  has managed to create fresh controversy, stoke fears about his own viability and distract from the issues with eye-popping comments about President Obama and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, that were nothing short of boorish, mean-spirited and unpresidential.

It is the language of a towel-snapping fraternity house, not a serious presidential campaign.

Specifically, in talking about the the Fed’s policy of Quantitative Easing – of all things – Perry said, ““If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion.

Treason? Even in the rest of the lower 48, that accusation is a fighting offense.

Say what you will about QE II and the possibility of QE III, but Bernanke, has been an effective Fed Chairman at a most extraordinary time. His forceful actions in the fall of 2008 most likely saved the US and the global economy from a far worse economic contraction than what we experienced. He has been a steady hand on the tiller as we have navigated rough economic shoals and financial shocks.

He has been anything but incompetent, or worse, consciously working to undermine the US economy and to say otherwise diminishes the accuser.

As almost every successful campaign for public office knows – from dog catcher on up – you criticize the policies, not the person.

In same vein, Perry’s comments on President Obama were unnecessary self-inflicted wounds.

Asked if President Obama loved his country, Perry demurred, telling the reporter to go ask the President.

That was frivolous and petty.

How about this no-brainer as an alternative. “I did not get into this race to question President Obama’s love of country. I’m in this race to contest the President’s vision for our country. With complete control of Washington in his first two years in office, we had a front row seat to what President Obama meant by “hope and change. The results have been bigger government, bigger deficits and bigger unemployment numbers.  I know we can do better.

It is PR 101. Use a craven attempt by a reporter to bait you into an unproductive narrative, and turn it into an indictment of your would-be opponents’ policies. Instead, we are left with the impression that Perry believes Obama doesn’t love America.

The man personally ordered Osama bin Laden’s death for crying out loud.

You are simply not going to win a debate about love of country.

To add insult to injury, Perry all but called out President Obama for not having served in the military as Perry has. “One of the reasons, one of the powerful reasons, that I’m running for the presidency of the United States is to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on the uniform of this country respects highly the president of the United States.”

Such an unnecessary and self-inflicted wound.

John McCain, whose service and sacrifice for America dwarfs all recent and current presidential aspirants, refused to call out candidate Obama for his lack of military service. Now that Obama has had three years as Commander in Chief, it makes little sense to deviate from McCain’s high road.

How about this alternative: “I promise that I will keep America’s armed forces second to none.  That begins by reviewing President Obama’s dangerous policies that will strip the Defense Department of hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade, despite the critical need to replace equipment that has worn out or been lost.”

You make the same point, but its about policy by providing for the troops.

Maybe these are growing pains that every campaign goes through. Having taken so much time to prepare for the race, it seems odd that the Perry campaign would come on so brash and unbalanced on the onset, but there is still time for the benefit of the doubt.

But the real risk for the Governor is that these unscripted moments threaten to turn the caricature of Perry, favored by his political opponents, into the narrative of Perry that will be drip fed to the rest of us as 2012 begins in earnest, disqualifying him from the nomination.

I am a proud New Yorker by birth. But I don’t suffer from the hubris that all of America would find the same joys in New York as I do.  America is a big country with proud regional values and successes that stretch from coast to coast; traditions that are dismissed at one’s peril.

And for all its size, America is bigger than Texas.

A word to the wise as the Perry campaign charts the waters from here.

 

 

 

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