Monday, 22 August 2011

Is "Crazy" Rick Perry Pinky or the Brain?


Although it's only August of the year before the 2012 presidential elections, the air is, as they say, heating up.  I fear from the rhetoric it's going to be a particularly nasty campaign, which given the way 2010 went, is saying a lot.

The governor of Texas, the unctuous Rick Perry, has apparently tossed his ten-gallon hat into the ring, and I have to say, I am shocked by the reaction of the Democratic party noise machine to the announcement.

Perry is behind at least a couple of other candidates in the GoP (most notably, the ideologically pliant Mitt Romney), so it's odd that the mouthpieces are focusing on him; more to the point, not so much that they are focusing on Perry, but how they are focusing.

In reading political blogs, editorials in mainstream newspapers, and listening to broadcast and cable news, the apparent meme that is going to be deployed against Rick Perry is not that he's done a bad job in Texas, or that his performance is somehow disqualifying, or that he lacks experience.  Or even, for that matter, that the current president deserves to be re-elected because he's done such a bang-up job.

No; what has been said, over and over again, is that Perry is not wrong in his thinking, but that he is "crazy."

Several friends and peers on social media have picked this up and run with it.  One friend actually wrote that Rick Perry is "bat shit crazy."

"Bat shit crazy?"  That's not something I've ever seen in the DSM-IV manual, a book that I use in my job in neuroscience research frequently.

What exactly has Rick Perry done to provoke this diagnosis?  Well, among other things, he proposes to repeal the 16th and 17th amendments.  The former, of course, empowered the federal government to levy income taxes; the latter took the election of senators from the hands of state legislatures and provided for direct elections by the people. In the words of the writer, Perry is crazy because he wants to "bake his personal opinions and bias into the Constitution."

Now, setting aside the absolute and frank irony that "baking his opinions" into the constitution here is in fact overturning amendments that themselves were the result of a previous person's "baking his opinions" into the Constitution, I don't see how a person, seeing an obvious problem, proposing to follow the laws set out by the framers to alter the Constitution as it was meant to be amended is "crazy."

Perry may be wrong; but it apparently is no longer enough to argue that the opposition is simply wrong.  They are insane.  They are wild-eyed, bigoted lunatics sort of like cartoon characters Pinky and the Brain.


Governor Rick Perry, Wild and Crazy Guy

This particular line is being used not just on Rick Perry, but other Republicans (Michelle Bachmann recently appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine in a particular example of extreme yellow journalism, in a photo plainly chosen to fit the theme that she, like Perry, is simply as mad as a March hare.)

I expect we're going to be treated to this for the next 15 months - the GoP candidates and their solutions are not wrong per se, but just too nutty to even consider.  We're going to hear over and over how they are "anti-science" (whatever that means), irrational, crazy, raving lunatics.  We'll hear about how they are climate-change "deniers" (a very carefully chosen and market-researched term to parallel the lunatic fringe who deny the Holocaust).  That they believe in "intelligent design," and reject "evolution," which is a truly bizarre attack, given that a President's belief in the origin of the species seems to me to have nothing to do with the powers he or she has as the chief executive.

To those who have studied history, it is worthwhile to recollect that, during the Soviet era, "enemies of the state" were often put away based upon phony charges of insanity.  Rather than sending political dissidents off to prison, they were "diagnosed" as crazy (not sure how you translate "bat shit crazy" into Russian) and put into mental hospitals.

You see - if you "denied" that the status quo wisdom being offered by The Party was the right course, well, that was ipso facto evidence that you must be out of your tree.

I reckon in the 2012, the Democrats will rely on this line not because they are communists (itself a laughable attack one hears from the right), but because they frankly have nothing else to say.

President Obama can hardly run for re-election based on how well he has handled the country.  He cannot point to Texas, which according to an analysis of the data here show the state to have stood apart from the employment collapse of the rest of the country and argue how that disqualifies Governor Perry.  He could try to argue that the governor doesn't really affect job creation, but then the whole argument propping up his tax and spend agenda of never-ending stimulus collapses.

So what's left then is to smear Perry with a lot of emotional, if dubious, attacks of the sort we are now seeing.


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