Most campaigns have to spend time and money putting together a research file on damaging statements their rivals have made. In Rick Perry's case, Maggie and I write this morning, the Texan has done much of his opponents' work for them:
Rick Perry describes Social Security as a “violent” attack on core American values. He says Sarah Palin may have been right that the Affordable Care Act created death panels. He says it was “unprincipled” to establish the Department of Homeland Security.
That’s not the provocative, distorted language of a 2012 attack ad – at least, not yet. Rather, those are words right out of the Texas governor’s 2010 book, “Fed Up!”, a slim volume that may be one of the biggest gifts ever given to the opponents of a presidential candidate. ...
Small chunks of “Fed Up!” have already entered the political bloodstream, such as Perry’s description of Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” and his talk of repealing the 16th Amendment, which permits a national income tax.
But that only scratches the surface of what’s inside Perry’s book, which is essentially a 185-page manifesto in favor of states’ rights and a dramatically scaled-back federal government. The strong ideological bent of the book isn’t necessarily the problem—it’s the sharp language and its exquisite suitability for attack ads that makes it so potentially dangerous to his candidacy, especially in a general election.
Perry faults Republicans for taking an “unprincipled” stance by voting in the wake of 9/11 to create the Department of Homeland Security, which he criticizes for its “massive” scale. (In the 2002 campaign, it was some Democrats who found themselves on the defensive for opposing the creation of DHS.) ‘
He takes a prominent shot at the Medicare Part D drug benefit, a popular entitlement among senior citizens that was implemented by President George W. Bush ... Then there’s the section on Social Security, which strategists in both parties believe could be lethal in a primary or November election. In a riff that lasts several pages, Perry calls Social Security the “best example” of New Deal-era programs that “violently toss[ed] aside any respect for our founding principles of federalism and limited government.”
To this point, Perry's campaign hasn't been forced to reaffirm or disavow some of the more incendiary statements in the book, which also includes sharp attacks on specific Supreme Court decisions and by-name slaps at current GOP officeholders. At some point, his campaign will have to go further than this:
In some respects, Perry is caught between two bad options in dealing with the book: He can either embrace its contents and reaffirm a set of controversial, guaranteed-to-inflame views, or back away from them and risk looking like a flip-flopper.
So far, he hasn’t done either.
Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner declined to address specific passages in Perry’s book, but said that “Fed Up!” represents the “governor’s view of how our nation got into the mess we find ourselves in today and reflects his understanding of what the role of government should look like in our lives.”
“The governor touches on numerous issues of the day and raises a number of ideas – all of which were designed to foster discussion and to encourage his fellow Americans to think about how we choose to govern ourselves,” he said.