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October 25, 2011 10:05 AM Stepping on his own ‘reset’

By Steve Benen

Chris Cillizza noted this morning that Rick Perry “is trying to push the ‘reset’ button on a presidential campaign that has faltered badly after a strong start.” That’s clearly true — the Texas governor has a new economic plan, he recently gave a big energy policy speech, he’s hired a team of new advisers, and Perry appears eager to put the recent collapse of his political standing behind him.

But instead of talking about Perry’s comeback strategy, the governor is stepping all over his own message by peddling “Birther” nonsense — again.

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Talking to CNBC’s John Harwood, Perry followed up on his questions about President Obama’s birthplace published in Parade over the weekend, rehashing the issue all over again. Perry told Harwood he’s “not worried” about the president’s birth certificate, but he nevertheless kept talking about it and Obama’s college transcript. “It’s fun,” Perry said, “to poke at him a little bit and say ‘Hey, how about let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.’”

Harwood gave Perry a chance to say he was kidding about all of this, but the governor wants to play both sides here — he’s calling it a “distractive” issue, while deliberately signaling to the right-wing conspiracy theorists that he’s sympathetic to their silliness.

Indeed, Perry said plainly that this is “a good issue to keep alive.”

In other words, there’s an actual strategy here. Perry wants the conspiracy theory to get some additional attention. Instead of having the political world spend the day talking about his economic agenda, he’s inviting observers to keep the Birther nonsense in mind instead.

This makes Perry look like a fool to sensible people everywhere, but all things considered, maybe he doesn’t mind — any serious look at Perry’s tax plan arguably makes him look even worse.

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.

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  • Josef K on October 25, 2011 10:11 AM:

    This makes Perry look like a fool to sensible people everywhere, but all things considered, maybe he doesn’t mind — any serious look at Perry’s tax plan arguably makes him look even worse.

    One quibble: Perry's tax plan inarguably makes him look worse, even beyond Romney's own bleeding afterbirth of an economic plan.

    When did we loose our collective minds so thoroughly that Perry and company aren't laughed at, and instead are treated as 'serious'?

  • Rathskeller on October 25, 2011 10:13 AM:

    No need to euphemize -- Rick Perry is quite stupid.

    Here, though, he's also making it clear that he's jealous of Barack Obama, who is indisputably smarter than he is while also being blackity black black.

  • bigtuna on October 25, 2011 10:15 AM:

    If there is one guy who should not want anyone to look at college transcripts, it would be Rick Perry. That 2.1 something GPA in Animal husbandry looks pretty weak to me.

  • c u n d gulag on October 25, 2011 10:15 AM:

    Obama's grades?

    I think there were actual animals in that time at Texas A&M who got higher grades than Dumbass Rick Perry, and he's talking about Obama's grades?

    I'm telling you, they're ALL performance artists!

    Every last one of them.

    They have to be - how else do you explain this?

  • martin on October 25, 2011 10:17 AM:

    Ok, I hereby retract yesterday's benefit of the doubt. My apologizes to Parade Magazine.

  • MattF on October 25, 2011 10:20 AM:

    So... where is the hard-driving political genius who dominates Texas politics? Who beat Ann Richards? I'm serious here. It looks to me like he's already given up.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on October 25, 2011 10:22 AM:

    What was that Mark Twain quote...
    Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
    No doubt here.

  • Diane Rodriguez on October 25, 2011 10:31 AM:

    Perhaps we have learned at least a little caution from embracing the last great hair man without adequate scrutiny. Hair does not a President make.

  • Todd for VT House on October 25, 2011 10:32 AM:

    He needs to release an add where he shoots a coyote then lights up.

  • Greg Worley on October 25, 2011 10:32 AM:

    27%, BABY! That's all you need.

  • T2 on October 25, 2011 10:38 AM:

    Perry doesn't care what he looks like, fool or otherwise. He's won every campaign he's ever run and therefore expects to win this one. It's him or Mitt so he's got at least a 50-50 chance. We can laugh at him, but if he's president, we won't be laughing any more.

  • Danp on October 25, 2011 10:38 AM:

    That 2.1 something GPA in Animal husbandry looks pretty weak to me.

    Especially when he takes that degree and becomes a cotton farmer.

  • Schtick on October 25, 2011 10:41 AM:

    Here we go again with another dude with questionable intellect running for President. Again from Texas. We should be afraid. Very afraid. Look what happened when we had a guy that couldn't talk and think at the same time or walk anywhere while posing for cameras. IMHO he won neither election but ended up as the President anyway and look at what happened. He had enough votes to make it easy enough to ensure the fix was in twice and we will be paying for that for many years to come.
    Mow we have another one convincing people he's a good ol' boy that goes to church on Sunday, talks to God/Jesus on a daily basis, and someone you'd just LOVE to have a beer with. Sound familiar? It must be how they are schooled in Texas, eh?
    READ MY LIPS!! NO MORE TEXANS!!!

    crapcha....oryprus fascinating....yes

  • AndThenThere'sThat on October 25, 2011 10:48 AM:

    I like the part in the clip when Karl Rove chides with Perry, "don't associate yourself with this sort of nutty fringe group".

    GOP primary voters polled

    51% believe Obama was born abroad.
    21% aren't sure where he was born.
    28% think he was born in the United States.

    That poll was released Feb. 15, 2011. That's where GOP primary voters stand on the issue post long-form birth certificate release.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0211/49554.html

  • square1 on October 25, 2011 10:52 AM:

    Someone is giving Perry bad advice. I have a hard time believing that his stumbles can be attributed to insufficient support among the birther contingent.

    By all accounts, Perry lost support due to poor debate performances and the Cain insurgency. Perry would be well advised to try to beef up the gravitas factor and chop Cain off at the knees (Cain has done the hard work for him by taking a de facto pro-choice position despite proclaiming to be pro-life).

    Perry is still in the best position to be the anti-Romney. He needs to learn from McCain in 2008: Don't panic, keep your head down, and be ready when the primaries roll around

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 25, 2011 11:10 AM:

    "...makes Perry look like a fool to sensible people everywhere..."

    Sensible people already know Perry's a limited human, to put it nicely. This is the guy who organizes prayer meetings in stadiums to pray for rain.

  • slappy magoo on October 25, 2011 11:16 AM:

    Rick Perry has a long sordid history of having unprotected anonymous gay sex in interstate rest stop bathrooms...

    What? It's a good issue to keep alive! It's FUN to poke him a little bit...

    Just not in an interstate rest stop bathroom, because he probably just had unprotected anonymous gay sex.

  • burro on October 25, 2011 11:27 AM:

    Gov. Blowhard is Shruby without the supervision. His natural inclination is to skew to the base, petty and stupid first, because it's what he understands.

    He goes there because it's just easier, and really, Gov. Blowhard is one lazy mofo.

  • June on October 25, 2011 11:28 AM:

    Aside from being virulently ignorant like "that other Texas governor," I see Perry also adopts Bush's smug, self-satisfied, ever-present smirk. And also Bush's "man of God" mantle that cloaks a callous, sociopathic ("I don't care") personality. Beyond the frustration of seeing Perry's non-stop nonsense being taken at all seriously, what I feel when I see Perry running for president (what I feel when I see ALL of the GOP candidates running for president) is somehow, deeply insulted.

    Under the glare of the spotlights, it becomes so clear that these folks shouldn't be running a 7-11, let alone running for president. Between them, they don't have a shred of vision, true intelligence, credibiltiy or compassion - and that goes for the "reasonable one," Huntsman as well - he pushes the same old GOP extremist crap, just in more muted tones.

    Every single day, this slate of GOP candidates offers up more evidence they are really just seeking to poke the country in the eye. They debase the whole notion of what it means to seek the presidency.

  • Stetson Kennedy on October 25, 2011 11:36 AM:

    Rik Perry wants to see Obama's grades??? I'm not sure you want to open that can of worms Little Ricky, you graduated from Texas A&M with a 2.0!

    How can anyone even graduate with a GPA that low?

  • Trollop on October 25, 2011 11:55 AM:

    Somebody's sig over at C&L makes me laugh every time:
    "Read my lips; No.. New.. Texans!!"

    Sorry Texans, I'll bet that there are some intelligent people there too..

    Rick Perry is a brainless hairwad secessionista.

  • DRF on October 25, 2011 1:22 PM:

    To the extent that Perry's comments on the birther issue are, in fact, deliberate (and who knows at this point whethter this was deliberate or an example of Perry talking without thinking), it seems to be that the explanation for this is that he is desparate to gain traction in the race. The birther issue might be deadly for him in the general election, but he first needs to win the Republican nomination and, in order to do so, he needs to energize the party's base to get behind him, rather than Cain, Bachmann, etc. In order to do this he has to adopt positions and strategies that will hurt him in the general election. Romney, thinking that he is the frontrunner, seems to be trying to straddle the fence by attempting to appeal to the base on one day and the more moderate part of the party and to independents the next.

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