Perry: Media Bubble Boy

September 30th, 2011 at 12:13 am | 27 Comments |

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Texas Governor Rick Perry has had a tough week politically because of his weak performance at the last GOP presidential debate. He’s had to backtrack from comments he made and his standing in the polls has taken a hit. There’s been a lot of commentary regarding why Perry hasn’t done as well as he and his supporters have hoped.

While there are many factors underlying this issue, I’d suggest one reason for Perry’s lackluster performance is because he hasn’t faced direct, sharp questioning for much of his political career and he’s functioned in something of a bubble for quite some time. Right now, his policies and background are being scrutinized to a degree he isn’t accustomed to.

Perry hasn’t had to face harsh press scrutiny before for several reasons, some of which have nothing to do with him. For one thing, there isn’t a longstanding statewide watchdog press organization in Texas that a Governor cannot avoid. Texas Monthly and the Texas Tribune are the two biggest statewide news agencies in Texas.

Both are fine news sources, but Texas Monthly is as much a monthly lifestyle magazine as it is a news magazine and its political journalism is known more for process and personality stories than for investigative journalism. The Texas Tribune does a better job on that score, but it is a very new player to Texas media so it hasn’t been around for most of Perry’s career. The venerable Texas Observer certainly produces sharp, provocative journalism, but its leftist reputation allows it to be easily ignored by Republican officeholders and many mainstream journalists (which is a shame).

By and large, there isn’t a lot of harsh questioning from local media outlets, because the local press tends to want access to politicians and will avoid risking that access. Plus, Texas is such a large state that even if one local newspaper or television station decided to really go after a politician, that story would probably remain local. (Admittedly, this is less true in the internet age.) All of this would create a bubble around any Governor of Texas, but it’s worse with Perry because of longevity and the one-party statewide rule of the GOP since the mid-nineties.

Also, there’s also the Austin factor. Those of us who live in Texas outside of Austin often notice that Austin itself is a bubble, both for liberals and conservatives who live and work there. The culture of the capital city is insular and there’s a lot of ideological and personal cocooning there, more so than in many other cities, and that can create a cliquish bubble environment. It’s not uncommon for people who visit Austin from other Texas cities to say that visiting there was like going back to college, and that’s not always said as a compliment.

So in some ways, the Rick Perry bubble story is also a story of the Austin bubble. He doesn’t have a reputation for surrounding himself with people who will challenge his views or engage with new ideas and the general culture of the city he’s in doesn’t help on that score.(And to be fair, that isn’t a problem in Austin that’s limited to Republicans.)

It’s still far too early to count Rick Perry out of the GOP presidential race. While the air of invulnerability he had for a few weeks is gone, he still is a formidable candidate. But he would have been a more formidable candidate if he had more experience in defending his views and facing counter arguments and sharp questions. The reasons why he hasn’t had that experience aren’t limited to him, but the end results are being faced by him right now.

Recent Posts by Mark R. Yzaguirre

27 Comments so far ↓

  • Graychin

    You think that Perry’s recent problems are due to his lack experience defending his record?

    That’s just silly. Perry has an indefensible record. What goes on in Texas looks pretty bad when exposed before a national audience.

    Yet his record just might be awful enough to appeal to the sort of folks who vote in Republican primaries.

  • valkayec

    Your arguments for Perry’s inexperience in defending his positions are accurate. However, I have a few salient questions for any and all political candidates: why are your views so skewed that you need to backtrack? Are you not capable of thinking abut the consequences of your ideas, thoughts, and policies? Are you so insulated in your own mind and within your sphere of influence that you are incapable of understanding another’s point of view or how your ideas may be seen or understood? Are you not capable of thinking broadly, of questioning yourself, or grasping potential counter arguments? Are you incapable of imagining possible negative consequences to your stated ideas?

    For a quick anecdote, after Hamilton proposed the US monetary system to pay off the nation’s debt, Geo. Washington called in both Hamilton and Jefferson. He asked them for their opinion on creating a central bank. Hamilton, obviously, argued for the bank as it would provide the nation with the kind of stability that would win approval among its international creditors and set the nation on a sound fiscal and monetary footing. Jefferson, on the other hand, argued against the bank, saying the Constitution did not specifically provide for a central bank, therefore, it was unconstitutional. Washington thanked each of them for their opinions. After thinking over the opposing arguments presented to him, he told Hamilton that he agreed with him on establishing a central bank. The moral of the story: Washington took a pragmatic view of what was in the young nation’s best interest after hearing and digesting opposing arguments. He thought over what would be best before making a decision or proceeding. As a result, he did not have to apologize for his decision because he understood both sides of the argument and chose what he believed – and could articulate – to be the best course for the nation as a whole.

    • CleverButt

      For those of us, and for the candidates, who are not such diligent students of American history, probably today we need to be equally schooled in BOTH American history and also science before anyone might think about qualifying to run for office.

      As we have seen, it is just too easy to take cheap pot shots at Palin. But doing so is just like shooting fish in a barrel.

      Instead of this, would it not be far better to have someone running for the office of the US President who is far smarter than anyone here on FrumForum? And also why should we not expect any less?? Because this is the top job in the world, these days.

      Obviously, everyone likes Ike. And some also like McNamara.
      But I would prefer an amalgam of the two to run our world, today.

      Especially, I very much enjoy McNamara’s spiffy narrow tight necktie and Ike’s bald head.

      • Bulldoglover100

        Until you accept the fact that “changing positions” is actually lying then your never going to get an answer that allows you to sleep well at night.

    • Sinan

      Excellent example of the true American value, pragmatism. This concept triumphed over ideology up until the mid-1800s and with the help of John Marshall, the created our modern state out of the debacle of the Articles of Confederation. Pragmatism has always been our strongest approach in the face of dogged opposition right up to the early 1900s. FDR resurrected it at the policy level, Keynes codified it at the macro level and the SCOTUS finally understood that solving problems was more American than arguing endlessly about angels on the head of a pin. In other words, the idea that the founders views could be cherry picked to support or counter modern solutions to modern problems ran into the real world reality of a massive worldwide depression and a world war. Post WW2, pragmatism ruled in both parties until the far right distorted history to the point of suicide in the 1990s and beyond.

  • bdtex

    All Republican officeholders elected statewide in Texas operate in a political bubble. Since he became Governor of Texas,Perry puts on Sharron Angle running shoes when he gets anywhere near the press and he’s been dodging debates. It shows.

  • ottovbvs

    “It’s still far too early to count Rick Perry out of the GOP presidential race.”

    At the end of the day this is all that matters. Speculation about how or why Perry is incompetent at defending his positions is beside the point. It largely comes down to the fact that many Republican positions on economic management, SS, job creation, healthcare, tax policy, regulation of the financial industry and environment; are simply indefensible in any terms that a reasonable person could understand. This is going to be a problem the Republican candidate, whoever he is, will face in the general election because the stark differences between the essentially centrist and realistic Democratic positions and those of doctrinaire Republicans are going to be on full display. We’re already seeing a hint of it as Obama starts to pivot to election mode (what conservatives here call going populist). Hopefully Perry will be the candidate for the Republicans because based on what I’ve seen of these debates he’s the boy the base are pulling for whatever establishment chatterers like Frum or Yzaguirre (who are clearly appalled at the prospect of a Perry candidacy) may say.

  • Stewardship

    When I read the headline, I thought “bubble” as in stock market bubble. Just like Bachman 60 days ago, Herman Cain this week. Come Christmas week, there will be two candidates neck-and-neck in New Hampshire, both Mormon. Christmas and Hanukah will give the media the chance to fan the flames of “Is Judeo-Christian America ready for a Mormon president.”

    It’s cloudy and rainy here today, so my crystal ball might not be getting good reception…but that’s what I see today.

  • CleverButt

    Also, very sorry to need to insist that there should NEVER be life/death decisions put in the hands of Mr. Perry, based on his track record.

    I just feel very sorry for Perry’s cows and steers. Even though they, not like we, are just dumb fcking animals.

  • ottovbvs

    “It’s cloudy and rainy here today, so my crystal ball might not be getting good reception…”

    So Perry is a no hoper?

    • CleverButt

      It is cloudy. There is a Typhoon. People have died.

      But. No worries. The guys who are screwing us. Are still alive and well.

  • TJ Parker

    If Christie gets into the race, Perry will be the nominee!

    • CleverButt

      If Jesus Christ got into the race, then Perry would be the one to beat!

      • TJ Parker

        Hunh? Romney and Christie will split the elitist/RINO vote, leaving Perry to run away with the nomination and usher in the age of One Nation Under Jesus Christ!

  • Graychin

    By way of Daily Kos, here is the Gallup presidential primary poll from exactly four years ago this week:

    Hillary Clinton 47
    Barack Obama 25
    John Edwards 11

    Rudy Giuliani 30
    Fred Thompson 22
    John McCain 18
    Mitt Romney 7

    Yeah – it’s still a little early to count anyone out.

  • goplifer

    There are some additional factors at work in Perry’s awkward turn in the spotlight that might also help shed some light on GW Bush. The role of Governor is Texas is perhaps the weakest of any state in the union.

    A Texas Gov does almost nothing beyond propose a budget (once every two years) and sign/veto bills. In every other respect they are like an ambassador. Sometimes they do some legislative cajoling, but it’s nothing compared to what other chief executives are expected to do.

    As a consequence, the Governor enjoys this really pleasant role as a sort of state mascot. Traditionally much of the real heat in Texas politics is directed elsewhere while the Governor is free to go dancing with the pretty coeds (and the rest of the Legislature and lobbyists) down at the Broken Spoke.

    Its a poor preparation for a real job, and a miserable preparation for the most challenging job in the world, but Governor of Texas is a fantastic gig if you can get it. Perry’s either crazy or deluded for wanting to leave. Don’t be surprised if he changes his mind soon.

    • common_sense_independent

      goplifer, if the gov is a bogus job, then why do so many lobbyists want to hang out with him? it seems they would make better use of their time with the legislature.

      just curious.

      • balconesfault

        The Governor does get to make appointments for the Commissioners of some very powerful agencies in Texas. Consider whether a major industry coming to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to seek a permit variance or enforcement discretion would rather have some chits to call in, or just plead their cases simply on their merits?

        • goplifer


          The Governor has quite a bit of influence, much of it with no real oversight, like appointing boards, replacing judicial vacancies, etc. But when it comes to the hard work of setting policy, working out budgets, reaching legislative compromises – the guts of the Guv job in most other states, the Texas Governor hovers above it all.

          It creates tremendous opportunities for…let’s not call it corruption, exactly. But the Governor faces relatively little oversight or meaningful criticism while doling out tasty favors in all directions. It’s the greatest job in politics.

  • balconesfault

    So in some ways, the Rick Perry bubble story is also a story of the Austin bubble. He doesn’t have a reputation for surrounding himself with people who will challenge his views or engage with new ideas and the general culture of the city he’s in doesn’t help on that score.(And to be fair, that isn’t a problem in Austin that’s limited to Republicans.)

    Well, to be fair, that isn’t a problem among Republicans that’s limited to Austin…

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Texas is a relentlessly conformist state (which is funny for one the prides itself on individuality) and Perry is a prototype of what a white Texan is. And since it is a one party state he never had to face anything less than the center, even when running against the Democrats (a texas Democrat is pretty conservative compared to the NE) Criticizing him (on a personal level) is a bit like criticizing yourself so he likely found himself a bit non plussed when he was being ganged up on. GWB did not have this treatment when he ran, the establishment lined up behind him so much that it looked like a foregone conclusion he would win (until McCain pulled of the NH upset).
    When Texas becomes a minority majority state, then the bubble will disappear.

    • NotFooledTX

      Texas is already a minority majority state.

      • Frumplestiltskin

        no it is not, not as far as the voting age population goes and that is the one that matters. non voting children and illegals simply don’t have the cloat to affect change

    • TJ Parker

      In high school everyone is a non-conformist too.

    • rockstar

      The farther south you go , the more fiercely conformist white people get. Its sad, but it pays well. Just look at the public sendoff Jenny Sanford received, and she never worked a day in her life.

  • mickster99

    You mention “leftist reputation”. You mean like Che Gueverra or Leon Trotsky? Such a passe 70′s cliche. Sort of in there with “Commie Pinko Liberals”. I am quite liberal but think that “leftist” is a pathetic attempt to continue to conjure up all the 50′s McCarthy/Nixon/John Birch Society bogey men.