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On Wednesday night Rick Perry took a huge step toward becoming the Republican presidential nominee. While his performance in his first GOP debate will not become the stuff of conservative legend, it was good enough. He did not embarrass himself with gaffes. He was articulate and there were no signs of the below-average intellect that those on the left have been telling us about for the last few weeks. Simply put, he appeared presidential.
It is worth noting that Rick Perry does not have much debate experience. Some of his past gubernatorial campaigns in Texas have not even included debates. He can be forgiven if he is rusty in the debate limelight the first time around. However, he can not survive if he does not improve on Wednesday’s performance as it included gaping holes that could easily be exploited. Not necessarily by Mitt Romney, but almost certainly by President Obama.
The defining moment of the Perry debate performance was when he took on the issue of Social Security. Perry restated his position from his oft-cited book ‘Fed Up’ calling the program as it now stands a Ponzi scheme(it is) and insisting that the plan absolutely must be reformed if it is to survive (it must).
Generally, any time a Republican so much as mentions possible changes to America’s most beloved entitlement program, Democrats are quick to demagogue that statement and use it to beat the GOP over the head until the political career of the person who said it is over.
Perry bravely and openly talked about the flawed nature of the program and sure enough, within minutes of his statement the Romney campaign issued a press release claiming that Perry was “…committed to abolishing Social Security.”
First and foremost, Mitt Romney should be ashamed of himself for twisting Perry’s position and politicizing this important issue. That’s the kind of behavior that we expect from Democrats and from the “career politicians” that Romney has been railing against in his stump speeches as of late.
But Perry needs to be very careful on this subject. Even if he beats back Romney, the Obama campaign will undoubtedly engage in even more vicious and misleading assaults on Perry’s position in the general election campaign.
Over the next few months, Perry must drive home the idea that he does not want to abolish the program and that the baby boomers will not see any changes to their benefits. Furthermore he must be careful not to give any specifics about his plan to reform the program. At least not until Barack Obama does the same, which is unlikely to happen at all. Any specifics, no matter what they are, will be twisted and deformed by Obama until every senior in the nation has been so terrified that there is a nationwide shortage of adult diapers.
Slightly less consequential was Perry’s answer on global warming. Like a growing number of Americans, Perry is skeptical of the nature and severity of climate change. Due to the current economic situation and legislative realities, no significant action on global warming is likely to occur any time soon. It’s a largely moot issue. Nonetheless, Perry’s skepticism will be used by Democrats—and Jon Huntsman apparently—to brand Perry as anti-science.
The next time the issue comes up, instead of countering with the issue of jobs as he tried to do on Wednesday night, Perry should specifically address some of the reasons for his skepticism.
He could bring up the now infamous East Anglia emails in which scientists were discussing the possibility of rigging global warming data in order to cover for the inaccuracy of climate models.
He might also mention the new findings of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) whose scientists have demonstrated a relationship between cosmic rays, solar variations and changes in the Earth's surface temperature, which could be proven to far exceed the impact of carbon emissions.
Or he might simply point out the consistent failure of climate models to back up the predictions of climate alarmists throughout the years.
Bringing up these points will not only allow Perry to appear thoughtful and informed on the matter, but will also force the Obama campaign to either address these uncomfortable inconsistencies on AGW theory or simply ignore the issue altogether.
But one way or the other, it is not enough for Perry to simply tout his skepticism without explaining in some detail why he is skeptical Failure to do so will lend undeserved credibility to the Left’s claim that Perry lacks intellectual curiosity, when in reality this label better describes those who fail to question the inconsistencies of the claims of the climate change alarmists.
Finally, while no one will deny Perry’s ability to look and sound presidential, there were moments in the second half of Wednesday debate where Perry’s answers were broken up with long pauses. These pauses made it appear that Perry was either tired or simply didn’t know what to say Whatever the reason, the habit was reminiscent of some of George W. Bush’s more uncomfortable unscripted moments.
If he hopes to go toe-to-toe with President Obama, Perry needs to be as consistently eloquent in off-the-cuff situations as he has proven to be when giving prepared speeches.
GOP primary voters are looking for a reason to abandon Mitt Romney completely and move their support to the Texas governor. But they will hesitate if they don’t believe that Perry can match Romney when it comes to making a coherent and convincing case for the conservative cause.
- Dan Joseph
Quiet. Grown-ups are talking.
Friday, September 09, 2011
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