Piqued Too Soon

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Memo to Rick Perry: THANKS FOR MAKING ME WRONG.

Back in June, I was worried about Rick Perry. I really was. He seemed to be everything the Republican Party was looking for. A super-duper Christian who prayed for rain and had a giant evangelical rally in a stadium, flaunting the church-state boundary like he was Newt Gingrich flaunting marriage vows.

He was relatively young. He was very white. He wasn't Mitt Romney. And he had something that worked great in politics - a story that sounded good until you looked at it for more than five minutes. And since nobody in politics looks at anything for more than five minutes, Rick Perry's fake "Texas Miracle" of economic recovery could have, I thought, propelled him into the Republican nomination and possibly the White House.

Today is the Iowa caucus. As of the last poll, Rick Perry was expected to come in, at best, fifth. Out of six. Just edging out Batshit Bachmann, who's in last place despite telling everyone that she's (a) from Iowa, and (b) Margaret Thatcher. I'm not sure how posing as a vaguely-remembered British politician from three decades ago isn't shooting Michele to the top of the polling, but politics is strange.

So what the fuck happened to Rick Perry? Well, two things, basically. The first is that he turned out to be really really bad at his job. And by "job", I don't mean "Governor of Texas". He's awful at that too, but he's awful in that way a whole lot of Americans really like, so that wasn't an obstacle. No, I mean the job of being a politician. Of coming across like he has the slightest fucking idea what he's doing or talking about.

This became Perry's official neck-mounted millstone with his infamous "oops" moment in whichever one of the countless debates the Republicans had, where he couldn't name the three Cabinet departments he wanted to eliminate. But here's the thing - that wasn't a fluke. Or even a sign that he needed to prepare more. He's been fucking up ever since.

This was Rick Perry, just last week. "Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source."

Now, you can read this one of two ways. First, that Rick Perry is an idiot and doesn't know that Canada is a foreign country. Or second, Rick Perry, the man who did a half-assed job of painting over a rock labeled "NIGGERHEAD" on his ranch, thinks "foreign" means "brown people from the other hemisphere". Only one of those two readings would help him with the Republican base.

A day later, Perry didn't know what Lawrence Vs. Texas was. Now, you can't expect every candidate to be up-to-date on every Supreme Court decision, even the notable ones. But you can expect Rick Perry to be aware of a Supreme Court decision he personally lost, by fighting to keep sodomy in Texas legal for straight people and illegal for gay people. But Perry didn't know, and instead tried for a clumsy-ass pivot. ACTUAL PIVOT TIME!

"I wish I could tell you I knew every Supreme Court case… I’m not a lawyer but here’s what I do know, I know they’re spending too much money in Washington, D.C.” Yeah, Rick. Do something about that wasteful government spending. You know, like how the Texas government wasted millions defending a Big Government plan to control just which body parts could touch each other legally. Good fucking plan, moron.

It gets better. This is how Rick Perry started the year 2012, talking about his campaign on the relatively friendly ground of Fox News Sunday. "I think we had bumps and grinds, but most campaigns have bumps and grinds. But the issue is the campaign is smooth and Iowa is a great ground game for us, and I feel very comfortable we are going to do good on Tuesday. Wednesday morning we'll find out whether or not who was right."

Bumps. And grinds. No wonder Perry is sliding slowly down the polls, crying on the inside and wondering why his daddy doesn't love him.

Now, all this would be pretty damning stuff if American politics operated as a meritocracy. But we know it doesn't. Herman Cain did better than Perry and knew even less. For fuck's sake, Rick Perry is following in the nigh-literal footsteps of George W. Bush, whose command of the issues and the English language was almost as bad as Rick Perry's, yet managed to run the country into the fucking ground for eight years.

So what's different? I think it's this. George W. Bush may not have known words, or things, but Dubya never really tripped over his own shit. He was dumb enough to not say what he meant, but not so dumb that voters suspected he didn't mean what he said. Or even know what he said. They could identify with Dubya's brand of stupid.

But when Rick Perry fucks up, he forgets stuff he wants to do. Or stuff he just did. Or, hilariously, talks like his campaign is center stage at a titty bar. You don't want to have a beer with Rick Perry, because you're pretty sure he'll forget to show up. Or he'll forget what beer is. Or he'll forget that the skinny end of the bottle goes in his mouth.

Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann's performance today could be a watershed moment for the Republican party. We might actually be able to identify exactly what kind of stupid and crazy, respectively, Republicans still won't embrace. I'm not sure how helpful those data points will be, but I'd rather have them than not.