Rick Perry, the Republicans' Messiah?
By Kathleen Parker
Rick Perry's rapid lead over previous Republican front-
runner Mitt Romney was predictable. But it is not a good
sign for Republicans hoping to reclaim the White House
and further highlights the crucial battle within GOP
circles: Who is the godliest of us all?
That's the mirror-mirror question for Republicans.
Forget charisma, charm, intelligence, knowledge and that
nuisance, "foreign policy experience." The race of the
moment concerns which candidate is the truest believer.
This was always a tough hurdle for Romney, whose
Mormonism is reflexively distrusted by Southern
evangelicals. Even so, in the absence of a better
candidate, Romney had a fighting chance to win his
party's support. Then came Perry.
Talk about a perfect-storm, composite candidate. Combine
Elmer Gantry's nose for converts, Ronald Reagan's folksy
confidence and Sarah Palin's disdain for the elites -
and that dog hunts.
Perry doesn't just believe, he evangelizes. He summons
prayer meetings. He reads scripture while callers are on
hold. Not incidentally, he's a successful governor.
Perhaps most important, he's a wall-scaling fundraiser
whose instincts make him a force of nature in the
If you're Romney, Perry is a nightmare that's still
there in the morning. If you're Barack Obama, maybe not
Perry's political instincts were in evidence when he
timed his entrance into the race just as everybody else
was trying to grab straws in the Iowa poll. If life is
high school in adult relief, Perry is the guy who shows
up in a truck with a winch and pulls the car out of the
ditch while those other guys are looking for a jack.
Whether you like his politics or not, he emits a
pheromonal can-do-ness. Apparently, plenty of
Republicans do like his politics, which has much to do
with the very devil-may-care attitude that eventually
will become Perry's cross to bear. Gallup's recent
polling shows him not just passing Romney, but dusting
him. Among Republican voters, 29 percent now swear their
allegiance to the Texas governor, almost double the 17
percent for Romney.
Huddled around the exhaust pipe are, you got it, the
jack handlers: Ron Paul (13 percent) and Michele
Bachmann (10 percent), followed by Herman Cain, Newt
Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman in the single
Perry's campaign strategy is to talk only about jobs-
jobs-jobs, no matter what the question. That's both
smart and necessary, but jobs-jobs-jobs isn't the money
trinity with his base. Perry already hit that station
with his prayer rally and various dog whistles to the
congregation: He's not sure anyone knows how old Earth
is, evolution is just a "theory" and global warming
That we are yet again debating evolutionary theory and
Earth's origins - and that candidates now have to
declare where they stand on established science - should
be a signal that we are slip-sliding toward governance
by emotion rather than reason. But it's important to
understand what's undergirding the debate. It has little
to do with a given candidate's policy and everything to
do with whether he or she believes in God.
If we are descended of some blend of apes, then we can't
have been created in God's image. If we establish
Earth's age at 4.5 billion years, then we contradict the
biblical view that God created the world just 6,500
years ago. And finally, if we say that climate change is
partly the result of man's actions, then God can't be
the One who punishes man's sins with floods, droughts,
earthquakes and hurricanes. If He wants the climate to
change, then He will so ordain, and we'll pray more.
Perry knows he has to make clear that God is his
wingman. And this conviction seems not only to be
sincere, but also to be relatively noncontroversial in
the GOP's church - and perhaps beyond. He understands
that his base cares more that the president is clear on
his ranking in the planetary order than whether he can
schmooze with European leaders or, heaven forbid, the
media. And this is why Perry could easily steal the
nomination from Romney.
And also why he probably can't win a national election,
in which large swaths of the electorate would prefer
that their president keep his religion close and be
respectful of knowledge that has evolved from thousands
of years of human struggle against superstition and the
kind of literal-mindedness that leads straight to the
Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive, but Perry
makes you think they are.
Wikipedia: "Kathleen Parker (b. 1951) is an American
syndicated columnist. Her columns are syndicated
nationally by The Washington Post. Parker is a
consulting faculty member at the Buckley School of
Public Speaking, and is a regular guest on television
shows like The O'Reilly Factor and The Chris Matthews
Show. Parker describes herself politically as 'slightly
to the right of center."
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