The Ace Up Rick Perry's Sleeve
Rick Perry has a secret weapon. The polls are against him and his own party may not like him as much as they like a centrist, establishment Conservative, but his potency and visibility is only just coming into focus.
His secret weapon isn't his record as Governor of Texas, although there is a record of jobs creation in Texas during Perry's time as Governor that will help him immensely.
It isn't his flirtation with secession. His repeated allusions to the right of secession are too numerous to be merely 'jokes.'
It isn't his true blue Texan credentials.
It isn't his huge faith based presence or his 'Response' rally in Houston. His proud refusal to separate Church and State meets with little resistance. Legal attempts to block his flaunting of Office to promote his specific religiosity have all but failed. Perry, in this sense, is a kind of Rick Warren figure without the touchy-feely, self-help reflections.
Perry's arsenal - consisting of one or all of the above points - may or may not win him the Republican nomination, but they aren't his secret weapon. Rick Perry, you see, says what's on his mind, and he does it with no apologies. He is similar to George W. Bush in that sense, but Rick Perry's swagger is hugely different. Perry is the molotov cocktail to the Bush's lit match. Perry is the Fraternity President to Bush's bumbling frat pledge. Perry shares many of Bush's mannerisms and personality traits, but they are not in league with one another politically, which gives Perry the chance to excise himself from all the political baggage associated with 2001-2008.
Perry - a square-faced, lantern-jawed Malboro man in a tight suit, employs out-sized rhetoric that boosts him head and shoulders ahead of the competition, even when he's dead wrong or lying. Here are just a small sampling of a few very recent quotes:
What you're hearing is speech that I have spent months describing here, in these pages, as speech that is hugely effective on the conservative consciousness. After the aloof, professorial distance of President "Let Me Be Perfectly Clear" Obama, many Americans, particularly Republicans, are falling over themselves for a President who speaks and holds himself the way Rick Perry does.
After I first began exploring Perry's persuasive and potent rhetorical gifts, others in the media began, like me, discussing his love of brief statements. It's true: brief sound bites require less explanation and have a way of implying more than they say. Perry's statements about Obama - that the Military doesn't respect him, for instance - have never been literally uttered, but instead, vague implied in very brief statements. This is an incredibly slippery - and ruthless device - when used right.
Perry voters harbor conservative views and are terrified of the spiraling economy. Perry voters are fired up by Michelle Bachmann, but still terrified of a woman at the helm, and terrified of the rest of the world somehow usurping the United States. Perry - who resembles a Dick Tracy villain with a drawl - uses the power of brevity and everyday speech to get people aligned with his views. Obama's major problem - in fact a problem with putting a Constitutional Law expert and egghead in the highest office - is rhetoric. He simply cannot avoid sounding like an Academic Journal, and even when he lets his guard down, he sounds more like 'Reader's Digest' than 'American Rifleman.'
Perry is the possible future President who, through his rhetoric alone, promises to lead from the front and charge fearlessly into perceived moral and racial injustices that many bigoted conservative voters are afraid to express for fear of being labeled bigots. While I'm in no position whatsoever to call Perry or his supporters racist (I have seen no evidence to support this claim), his rhetorical style breezily capitalizes on racist fears, as does Bachmann's.
Rick Perry's swagger reminds us of George W. Bush's swagger, but Perry's rhetoric is more fiery, less jokey, and much more intimidating. He makes the former President Bush Jr., look like a frat pledge. In fact, Perry makes most of the other candidates look like frat pledges. His ham-fisted persona - a kind of Josh Brolin pumped with Venom - frightens me a little bit.
Perry, who is still being bested by Mitt Romney and even Ron Paul in many recent polls, is still an incredibly potent and primal force who shouldn't be underestimated. I could see him putting Palin or Bachmann on the ticket alongside him, at some point after the primaries are over, much as Kerry did with Edwards or Obama with Biden. While his aggressive, confrontational style may not win him the Republican nomination, it assures him longevity. When his time in Texas is through, it will certainly bring him in confluence with Sarah Palin's career trajectory - that of "celebrity pundit in search of an elected office."