My hometown newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, reprinted the column but with a different title: "Perry's spirited touchdown of a speech may help him in 2016."
While the Statesman's title is somewhat more specific and less subject to misinterpretation -- just imagine some of the potential embarrassing answers to the Dallas newspaper's rhetorical question -- the suggestions made by the author for Rick Perry's renaissance just won't work, in my humble opinion.
But first to Leubsdorf piece.
Leubsdorf, who admits to having been one of the Gridiron officers who helped pick Perry for the Republican speaker slot at the Washington annual Gridiron dinner, claims that the Texas governor's performance at the dinner gave him "an opportunity to start rehabilitating his national image."
What does Leubsdorf base this reassuring judgment on?
Well, Perry's speech was "hilarious." The Texas governor poked "fun at himself and his fellow GOP candidates" (I thought he already did that during his debates to no avail). "[H]e remains attractive as a person," whatever that means, and so on.
Oops, let me take that comment back, the one about "whatever that means" referring to Perry's attractiveness. Perry clarified that himself in his Gridiron speech: "I like Mitt Romney as much as one really good looking man can like a really good looking man and not break Texas law."
I have not seen videos of the Gridiron dinner -- nor do I want to see them -- but I am sure the audience just rolled on the floor laughing at that one.
And yes, Perry must have been hilarious. Not only did Leubsdorf think so, but:
Afterward, the press and political notices were glowing. "Perry steals the show at the Gridiron dinner," according to the Washington Post headline. "I think he did himself some good tonight," former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said afterward.
Now, if Barbour says that Perry did himself good, that is good enough for me.
But there is more. Even the Huffington Post had this glowing report on Perry's performance:
Rick Perry spoke at the annual Gridiron Dinner on Saturday evening, where he won over the exclusive crowd with a series of jokes on gay marriage and his former presidential primary opponents.
... Later during the dinner, Perry noted that he majored in "animal husbandry," which he said is "what Santorum thinks happens as a result of gay marriage."
Perry's crack about Santorum appeared to be in reference to the former Pennsylvania senator's infamous comments about "man on dog" sex.
And, again, I imagine that the "exclusive crowd" just hooted-and-hollered at those sidesplitting jokes.
To be fair, Leubsdorf does point out that "what really sunk Perry's presidential bid was his lack of substantive knowledge about national and international issues," and that "Perry can get only so far by displaying the naturally friendly personality and genuine sense of humor that often did not come through in his 2012 campaign."
Leubsdorf further admits that Perry does need to spend considerable time learning about "the complex issues with which presidential candidates have to cope..."
All true. But, in my humble opinion, Leubsdorf still misses the core issue here.
I sincerely believe that while the goofs, gaffes and oops' certainly did not help Perry, he was rejected by Republicans on the issues regardless of his "attractiveness" or sense of humor, and that he certainly would have been rejected by Americans during the general election because of his core views, ideology and hislack of knowledge of and experience in critical national and international issues.
While you can force-feed a candidate facts and figures -- as was done with Sarah Palin -- and even write his or her speeches ("word was that [Perry's gridiron] speech benefited from the help of noted GOP wordsmith Landon Parvin"), you cannot so easily change a candidate's substance, prejudices, ideology and values -- as is evident with the former Alaska governor.
Now, what was Leubsdorf's question again?