Texas Governor Rick Perry is a Marlboro man -- tough, rugged and handsome. While he may be the strong type, he is not the strong and silent type. Rick Perry does not keep his thoughts to himself, and those thoughts are most definitely unfiltered. Perry is part Hollywood tough guy and part extremist; he's got Thompson's persona and Goldwater's knack for messaging.
Much like Fred Thompson in 2008, Rick Perry is a tough, law-and-order guy. Both men have political experience but ultimately take the position of Washington outsiders. Perry has taken up the mantle of party savior, which had been Thompson's four years earlier. In the lead-up to the 2008 Republican primary, Fred Thompson was touted as a breath of fresh air because of his straight talk and machoness. Perry embodies that persona and also seeks to shake up the Romney establishment.
Thompson's downfall came in large part from inconsistencies with his tough-guy, conservative image. He could not shake off his peccadillo of having lobbied for a family-planning group to relax an abortion rule. Rick Perry's conservative faux pas was his executive order making HPV vaccines mandatory for young girls in 2007. Perry has since accepted this mandate as a mistake and tried to bury it with an aggressive show of Christian conservative outreach. However, more consistently Christian conservative candidates such as Bachmann and Palin may hogtie Perry with the HPV issue and unravel Perry's strong-moral-guardian image.
Rick Perry takes after Thompsan's image, but he's all Goldwater in not being able to keep his mouth shut. Every politico is prone to gaffes. Perry, like Goldwater did, just takes it to another level, saying things that scare mainstream America.
In his acceptance speech as the 1964 Republican presidential candidate, the Arizona senator said that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!" At that moment in history the country was on the brink of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Goldwater's "bring it on" kind of attitude in foreign affairs was reckless and poised the country for atomic annhilation. Lyndon B. Johnson captured this sentiment in the Daisy ad, the most famous of all campaign ads.
Rick Perry has Goldwater's reckless rhetorical streak. The topic is no longer atomic annihilation but economic annihilation. According to Perry, Ben Bernake is "almost treasonous," and social security is a ponzi scheme. Is the extremity of trying Bernake for treason and junking social security as a ponzi scheme a justifiable defense of liberty? Is part of Perry's solution to simply let certain states secede if they want to?
The extremity of these comments cannot be chalked up to gaffes. These are extremist stances that Perry holds and that he does not shy away from. In primary elections, extremity can win the day. Just as Goldwater won his party's nomination, so may Perry. Perry can play to the party base and capitalize on his Thompson-like, tough, law-and-order persona. In the end, it is unlikely that a Thompson-Goldwater hybrid can carry the weight in the general.
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