Political Animal


August 16, 2011 2:15 PM ‘O that mine enemy would write a book’

By Steve Benen

Politicians writing books — or at least putting their name on ghost-written books — has become so common, it’s practically expected. A book is one of those “must haves” for any official/candidate who intends to maintain a national presence. Whether the book is any good is largely immaterial — in fact, they’re almost universally awful — because the point is to use the text as a tool for media outreach, fundraising, etc.

Indeed, the political figures involved generally aren’t stupid, and know to be exceedingly careful about what goes into the book. There’s no point in putting controversial ideas in your book, handing a potential weapon to future political critics.

With this in mind, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) published Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington nine months ago, back when he was still certain he wouldn’t be a presidential candidate. Matt Yglesias, an obviously patient man, took the time to read it.

Rick Perry’s November 2010 book Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington is not a typical “campaign book” from a political candidate. For starters, its forward is written by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, nominally one of Perry’s rivals for the nomination. For another thing, its overall tone much more closely resembles that of a B-list conservative radio host looking to stir up controversy and sell books than of a cautious politician trying out poll-tested lines. Consequently, while the book is by no means a good one, it’s certainly a lot more interesting than most comparable works.

“Interesting,” in this context, isn’t necessarily intended as praise. In fact, Matt goes on to list the “Top Ten Weirdest Ideas in Rick Perry’s Fed Up,” and there are some real doozies in there, including Perry writing about his disgust for Social Security and bank regulations, his belief in global “cooling,” and some bizarre ideas about what caused the Civil War. My personal favorite is Perry’s belief that the Great Depression ended during World War II, “when FDR was finally persuaded to unleash private enterprise,” which is practically the exact opposite of what happened.

Ezra Klein also read the book, and came away with a similar impression: “This is not a boring book. More to the point, it’s not even a book about Rick Perry. It’s a book about Rick Perry’s ideas. And his big idea is that most everything the federal government does is unconstitutional.”

Perry’s defenders seem to believe “it’s somehow unfair to quote Rick Perry’s … extreme views accurately,” since there are parts of Fed Up! that are perfectly sane. That’s not a great argument.

Presumably, the Perry campaign will come up with a more coherent way to deal with the governor’s book, but while the aides work on that, Fed Up! is not only going to be a goldmine for Democrats who’ll look forward to quoting the text at length, it also may become the most important pre-election book from a candidate in decades.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • delNorte on August 16, 2011 2:32 PM:

    Quick! Somebody needs to write a "perry-dee" under the pen name of Rick Parry ("With an 'A' for America!)!

  • Alki on August 16, 2011 2:32 PM:

    O that mine enemy would write a book

    LOL. Who knew Perry could be so accommodating!

  • T2 on August 16, 2011 2:39 PM:

    Perry's book is a trove of quotes. At least one per page as inflamatory as today's threat to do something "ugly" to the head of the Federal Reserve.

  • Ralph Kramden on August 16, 2011 2:44 PM:

    "Rommel you magnificent bastard! I read your book!" - George Patton (according to the movie "Patton")

  • whichwitch on August 16, 2011 2:49 PM:

    As the great Molly Ivins said - �In Texas, we do not hold high expectations for the [governor's] office; it's mostly been occupied by crooks, dorks and the comatose.�

    And one more little gem of wisdom from Molly - �Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.�

    Nuff said.

  • Rochester on August 16, 2011 2:53 PM:

    Um... Perry isn't the "enemy" per se. More accurately said, he's the incompetent compatriot. The embarrassing family member we'd like to avoid introducing to decent folk.

    Just saying. "Enemy" is a pretty strong word.

  • cb on August 16, 2011 2:59 PM:

    Soon-to-be Matt Yglesias blurb on the book jacket:

    "A cautious politician... The book is...a good one... interesting..."

  • Josef K on August 16, 2011 3:01 PM:

    Five will get you ten the excuse they're going to settle on is that Perry didn't actually write any of it, that it was all the work of ghost writers. Ralph Reed used the same excuse back in the early-1990s for everything controversial written by his then-boss Pat Robertson.

    If so, somebody should point out that Perry nevertheless put his name to it, meaning he either approved of it or he's so careless he didn't even read what was published under his name. Neither are qualities one wants in a President, I think.

  • jjm on August 16, 2011 3:09 PM:

    Sounds like another of his Southerner screeds. Still angry at the Civil War.

    Doesn't probably mention how much more the federal government sends to Texas than the state pays in....

  • max on August 16, 2011 3:19 PM:

    They will say none of the statements in the book were meant to be interpreted as factual statements and the irony will be lost on them.

  • Daniel Kim on August 16, 2011 3:29 PM:

    In the Commendatory Verses on Don Quixote:

    To the book of Don Quixote of la Mancha

    Thy constant labour let it be
    To earn thyself an honest name,
    For fooleries preserved in print
    Are perpetuity of shame.

  • T2 on August 16, 2011 3:40 PM:

    just for fun, Google "Rick Perry gay" and see what you get.

  • dcsusie on August 16, 2011 4:32 PM:

    Salan's 'takedown' of Yglesias reminds me of the best line from Tina Fey's most recent SNL turn as Sarah Palin:

    "And I hope the lamestream media aren't goin' to distort my words by, ya know, quotin' em verbatim."

  • pea on August 16, 2011 4:39 PM:

    He seems to be good at finding sugar daddies. See today's LA Times for a very interesting article on who's funded his campaigns and how they have benefited. We need more such journalism, and the info needs to be shared.

    Even though I am more cynical by the minute, I continue to be amazed at how corporations (or heads of same) can give X and get back 10X or 100X. What a deal! How cheap it is to buy the govt. Can't we liberals just pony up and buy it ourselves? It might be cheaper than the $1 bil I hear O is expected to raise. Jeez.

    Personally, I'm thankful I don't live anywhere near the low-level radioactive waste disposal site run by Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons (donor to Swift Boat for Peace, etc). I can well imagine how well maintained it will be. (think oil spill in Gulf) Perry facilitated his business by signing a controversial law to allow them to do business, and another law preventing competition, and stocking the regulatory agencies w/ his yes-men. Those who worried about the environment were out-voted,worn down, and eventually "quit in disgust." Not unlike the Koch bros' agenda in Wis and elsewhere. Actually, reminds me of the Camora in Naples (they probably read the book and took notes).

  • Steveo on August 16, 2011 5:55 PM:

    "It also may become the most important pre-election book from a candidate in decades."

    Not a fan of The Audacity of Hope, huh?

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  • max on August 17, 2011 8:48 AM:

    One of the most ridiculous aspects of Rick Perry is his determination to appear tough and genuine while in real life he is a special interest bagman and a demagogue in a cowboy hat. We have real problems and we live in a complex world. We don't have the luxury of enduring another Texas clown show.