Last week, I wrote about President Obama's seeming inability to decide what kind of leader he wanted to be. For a man who is so well grounded and self-assured in his personal life, he appears confused about his own public profile. It's as if he's so rational that he chooses which persona to put on each day after reading the morning papers. For Obama, deciding which kind of leader to be is like choosing which tie to wear. "Axelrod, should I wear the post-partisan today or the populist?"
As much as I appreciate reliance on facts and rational arguments, it's not enough. In order to be successful as a leader, a politician needs to be both book smart and emotionally intelligent. Bill Clinton was a good example. He had all the intellectual bona fides that Obama has, but he also could say that he felt your pain in a way that you might believe he actually did. Obama wouldn't feel my pain along with me; he'd understand that pain was being felt and that a policy solution was required. There's a difference.
But then there's the opposite extreme, and it's looking right now like the presidential contest next year could be between Mr. Spock and Yosemite Sam.
Texas Governor Rick Perry ain't no pointy headed intellectual, no sir. He proved that in last Thursday's debate, and his performance was so bad that it's possible that he could be the shortest-tenured front-runner in the history of presidential politics. But never count out an incoherent Texan with lots of money behind him. I trust I don't need to explain why.
So, here's a brief and incomplete roundup of interesting, non-intellectual stuff that Perry has said.
He's said that if Ben Bernanke came to Texas right now, why they'd treat him "pretty ugly." I have no idea what that means, but this is a state that executes people every other Tuesday just to stay in practice. If I were Bernanke, I'd stay put in Washington.
Perry has also said that Social Security -- you know, the Social Security that keeps older Americans and people with disabilities from falling even further into abject poverty -- is nothing but a "monstrous lie" and a "Ponzi scheme." That's right, the one part of America's frayed social safety net that actually provides a little social safety, particularly for the middle class, turns out in the guvna's eyes to be pretty much the same thing as a Bernie Madoff investment strategy. Why, if it were up to Rick Perry, if Franklin Roosevelt were alive today, he'd be serving 150 years in prison right there with Bernie. Or maybe worse. After all, down in Texas they treat 'em pretty ugly.
Perry also treated a lot of people pretty ugly on his way up the Texas political ladder. He beat Jim Hightower, a true American hero in my book, for Texas Agriculture Commissioner by promising the repeal of a law that required ranchers to warn migrant worker off their fields before spraying with pesticides. No need to have big government health care when we've got a guy like that looking out for us in the White House, no siree.
Then there are the recent wildfires all over Texas, which gave the governor a chance to explain why he didn't believe that global warming was a reality.
And here's my favorite Rick Perry fun fact. He names his boots. Yep. Damn. Sure as shit. One is named "Liberty" and the other is named "Freedom." They're both right boots.
Rick Perry is a nut, pure and simple. The fact that this guy is even being seriously considered for nomination to national office by a major political party says a lot (too much, really) about the state of our political culture right now.
So, President Spock, lay in your coordinates and figure out how to beat this Klingon cowboy.