Likability watch: Who is Candidate Perry!


The dumbest reactions on earth: For better or worse, many voters will find a good deal to like about Rick Perry’s personal history.

In Monday’s New York Times, Deborah Sontag offered a standard candidate profile concerning Perry’s personal background. She wrote about the candidate’s upbringing in Paint Creek, Texas.

Sontag threw in one “Confederate” reference just to keep us happy. But trust us: Voters will find a lot to like in Candidate Perry’s smaller-than-small-town background.

Sontag’s profile appeared one day after a pair of New York Times columnists offered the dumbest possible reactions to Perry’s smaller-than-small background. Needless to say, the scribes in question were the twin regents, Collins and Dowd.

Lovers of irony will enjoy the idea that Maureen Dowd could devote a full column to the dumbness of others. But Dowd, dumbest scribe of the past thirty years, was on quite a tear this morning:
DOWD (9/16/11): Our education system is going to hell. Average SAT scores are falling, and America is slipping down the list of nations for college completion. And Rick Perry stands up with a smirk to talk to students about how you can get C’s, D’s and F’s and still run for president.


The Republicans are now the “How great is it to be stupid?” party. In perpetrating the idea that there’s no intellectual requirement for the office of the presidency, the right wing of the party offers a Farrelly Brothers “Dumb and Dumber” primary in which evolution is avant-garde.

Having grown up with a crush on William F. Buckley Jr. for his sesquipedalian facility, it’s hard for me to watch the right wing of the G.O.P. revel in anti-intellectualism and anti-science cant.

Sarah Palin, who got outraged at a “gotcha” question about what newspapers and magazines she read, is the mother of stupid conservatism. Another “Don’t Know Much About History” Tea Party heroine, Michele Bachmann, seems rather proud of not knowing anything, simply repeating nutty, inflammatory medical claims that somebody in the crowd tells her.

So we’re choosing between the overintellectualized professor and blockheads boasting about their vacuity?

The occupational hazard of democracy is know-nothing voters. It shouldn’t be know-nothing candidates.
After making that know-nothing, anti-science remark about our educational system, Dowd took after the rest of the nation. Everyone was stupid this day, including the nation’s students! She was mad at the know-nothing voters, of course—but also at the know-nothing candidates! But along the way, she offered these mots. Especially from a national journalist, this is a very dumb comment:
DOWD: Our education system is going to hell. Average SAT scores are falling, and America is slipping down the list of nations for college completion. And Rick Perry stands up with a smirk to talk to students about how you can get C’s, D’s and F’s and still run for president.

The Texas governor did help his former chief of staff who went to lobby for a pharmaceutical company that donated to Perry, so he at least knows the arithmetic of back scratching.

Perry told the students, “God uses broken people to reach a broken world.” What does that even mean?
Darlings! Whatever could that awful man mean?

As several anti-Perry commenters noted, Dowd’s question was massively dumb. The concept of “broken people” seems to be quite common for many Christians, as a quick Google search shows. This rather obvious possibility didn’t even occur to Dowd, who couldn’t wait to play the role of sneering East Coast liberal.

“God uses broken people to reach a broken world?” That isn’t part of our own cultural framework. But Dowd couldn’t wait to show the voters how pathetically dumb she thinks they are—even as she rushed to showcase her own cultural know-nothingness.

It has been 39 years since Pauline Kael made her famous clueless remark about the inscrutable public. (As reported in the New York Times: “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don't know. They're outside my ken. But sometimes when I'm in a theater I can feel them.”) Thirty-nine years later, people like Dowd can’t wait to announce that they themselves have no earthly idea about the outlooks, beliefs, culture and views of vast numbers of voters.

If Maureen Dowd didn’t exist, the RNC would have to invent her. But then, the high Lady Collins made a remark about Perry in Sunday’s Times that struck us as quite clueless too. Quite clueless, and politically dumb:
COLLINS (9/16/11): Rick Perry has never spent any serious time outside of Texas, except for a five-year stint in the military. Nobody sent him off to boarding school to expand his horizons. He grew up in Paint Creek, where he graduated third in a high school class of 13. He went to the most deeply Texas of all the state’s major institutions of higher learning. He was a terrible student, but won the prized post of yell leader, the most deeply Texas of all possible Aggie achievements. Then he joined the Air Force and flew transport planes out of Texas, Germany and the Middle East. “There was no telling what you were going to haul around on any given day, from high-value cargo like human beings to the colonel’s kitty litter,” he once told a reporter in Texas.
“Rick Perry has never spent any serious time outside of Texas, except for a five-year stint in the military.” Do you have any idea how dumb that will sound to a wide range of voters? A quick guess: Collins does not.

Dowd of course is a hopeless case; we remain puzzled by Collins. The ID line on her Sunday piece said this: “Gail Collins’s book on Texas will be published next year by W. W. Norton.” Uh-oh! Given the way Collins like to sneer at red states and the rubes within them, it’s entirely possible that her book will elect Perry all by itself!

We’re puzzled by Collins. She loves to sneer at folk in red states. But where in the world did she get the idea that this was the essence of her regency? Darlings! Collins grew up in St. Louis herself! And oh our god! She went to college in Milwaukee! But somewhere along the way, Collins adopted the idea that she exists to sneer at the rubes whose towns still have Dairy Queens.

This is stupid on the merits. Even worse, it’s politically dumb.

Just a guess: Voters will like Rick Perry’s small town background—especially once our side gets through with all the requisite comments.


  1. Bob, Bob, Bob, I'm beginning to think that you've consigned writing responsibilities to the Howl-O-Matic. While it is certainly imprudent to insult people to their faces, it is worth remembering that these sneering East Coast liberals are aiming their words at actual sneering East Coast liberals. Rural Texans will not be reading this stuff in great numbers. But wait, you think, Limbaugh and O'Reilly will tell the real americans what the catty females have said. You seem to forget that the right wing mouthpieces inform their listeners that liberals look down on them, as a matter of course, and without any substantiation. Limbaugh went to visit the troops and told them liberals are against them. He failed to offer any evidence to support his bizarre claim and he apparently failed to account for how the statement might affect the troops. People in rural Texas don't know who Dowd is, and they don't care. They will not vote against Obama because their feelings are hurt by the mean lady who lives in the splendid Georgetown townhouse.
    Stupid people may feel kinship with other stupid people for stupid reasons, but you seem to think that the sin is in pointing it out. "Let's not talk about Dad's drinking and it won't be a problem." Your Boston Irish Catholic roots are showing. Talking frankly about Dad's drinking probably won't make him stop, but it allows the rest of us to work on a program to avoid being sucked into his problem. Maybe you have a point, that the Perry supporters aren't stupid (you didn't actually say that, but let's pretend). They are sick, and it behooves the rest of us to call them out. You may not like how the notion is conveyed, but Molly Ivins' death created a vacuum and this is how it's been filled. Maybe if you directed some of your criticism at drunk Dad we could all begin to heal.

  2. I just wish I knew whether jaytingle's comment was real or a parody.

  3. Jaytingle said re Perry supporters: "They are sick, and it behooves the rest of us to call them out."

    "They are sick,..." What?!?!

    Some of my rural family here in Alberta, Canada agree with Perry's views on global warming. They would likely support the Republicans and Perry if they lived in rural USA.

    I can assure you however, that these members of my rural family are not 'sick.'

    And I probably should take offense at Jaytingle's generalization.

    Mostly I am exasperated with the faulty reasoning underlying these sorts of comments.
    And I realize I'm very grateful for Daily Howler's persistence.

    Jaytingle... please consider reading Daily Howler archives.

    To reason from my own life experience: It was only by chance that I was exposed to the science on global warming in publications that didn't begin with or were not embedded in this sort of tribal perspective, i.e. 'anyone who doesn't believe in global warming is sick and must have never lived anywhere outside their backwoods small town'.

    I seems to me that I've noticed that one of the main points of Daily Howler posts is the ridiculousness of generalizing about entire subsets of American people e.g. Perry's supporters.

    For me, some of what I take from Daily Howler posts, and other readings...Tribalism is destructive, while it has always existed, it is just not a logical or supportable view about the reality of human nature, and is obviously counter-productive in politics with regard to talking to your fellow citizen that happens to disagree with your views of politician, political party or issue.

    Isn't it an obvious truism that people vote for someone or some party for variety of reasons?

    And that how they came to those reasons is complicated. And not because they are 'sick.'

    They don't necessarily agree with the entire package. e.g. all of Perry's views, but on balance they make a choice that best fits with their interests or what they judge best for society as whole.

    People come to hold views for all sorts of reasons.

    I apologize for any righteousness in the tone of this email. Some two decades ago I was just as likely to have generalized something similar about liberals or socialism or whatever was the 'other' at that time in my life.

    Sam Gunsch
    Farmer's son
    resident of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

    Alberta: Home of the tarsands,
    lots of warming skeptics and deniers,
    but also lots of citizens concerned with global warming,
    Home of Big Oil, Big Coal
    and governed by my former political party, the Progressive Conservatives since 1971.
    but you know...while some of their policies might qualify as sick...I just cannot think of an entire subset of voters that are sick.

  4. It merely reinforces the same point, but I believe Collins grew up in Cincinnati. She was born there and went to high school there.

  5. I am with Bob all the way here. Dowd spreads the dumb virus among us liberals.

    And this one was just too much:
    >>>Perry told the students, “God uses broken people to reach a broken world.” What does that even mean?

    C'mon Maureen. You wear your Catholic roots on your sleeve. You really, really don't know what that means??? I mean, this is Christianity 101.