Steve Benen: For eight years, just about every time George W. Bush was in the same room as someone with a post-graduate degree, the failed former president would tell the same joke: “I remind people that, like when I’m with Condi I say, she’s the Ph.D. and I’m the C-student, and just look at who’s the president and who’s the advisor.”
Republican crowds always cheered the line, reinforcing the anti-intellectual attitudes that too often dominate conservative thought … Rick Perry is cut from the same cloth.
… Perry made the joke during a speech yesterday at Liberty University, a school founded by crazed televangelist Jerry Falwell. The Texas governor didn’t say much about politics, but he spent a fair amount of time talking about what a lousy student he was.
Perry noted, for example, that at his small high school, “I graduated in the top 10 of my graduating class – of 13.” The crowd laughed and applauded.
…. Perry isn’t just celebrating anti-intellectualism; he’s living it. He doesn’t care what biologists, climate scientists, economists, historians, or dictionaries have to offer; Perry already has all the information he needs….
Ed Kilgore (New Republic): …. every one of (Rick Perry’s) supposed strengths turns out to be yoked to a big, potentially damaging weakness.
To begin, Texas’ economy may have done well during most of his ten-year-plus tenure as governor, but it’s done so at the price of very low levels of public services, high rates of poverty, and a long line of sweetheart corporate deals, not all of them successful, between Perry and some of his friends and allies, which could prove to be an opposition researcher’s playground.
Moreover, his budgetary record has also depended on some questionable accounting measures and a willingness to rely on the federal government he purports to loath (stimulus dollars played a big role in propping up the most recent Texas budget).
Second, while Perry has become a Tea Party favorite, he has done so in part by making inflammatory statements that may trouble even a healthy number of Republican primary voters, the most famous of which was his suggestion that secession might be on the table for Texas. In addition, he’s also made threats to withdraw the state from the Medicaid program … and even sought the power to opt Texas out of Social Security….
And finally, Perry is close to the Christian Right, but the fact of the matter is that he hasn’t chosen the most seemly of allies in that camp. As a follow-on to his famous “Pray for Rain” rally in April, he’s now planning an evangelical hoedown in August, called “The Response,” that features a sort of who’s who of radical theocrats, including John Hagee, the Christian Zionist leader whose support John McCain felt constrained to repudiate in 2008 after Hagee called Adolf Hitler an agent of God’s plans to return the Jews to their biblical homeland.
The expressed purpose of the upcoming event is to seek divine intervention to fix America, apparently via the propitiation of an angry God by the abandonment of such abominations as legalized abortion, same-sex relationships, and church-state separation…
Walter Rodgers (Christian Science Monitor): “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it,” instructed the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, “people will eventually come to believe it.”
….the big lie repeated about President Obama has been that he’s not a real leader … Some of this maligning reflects darker bigotry toward Mr. Obama. But it also shows our outdated and wrongheaded notions of leadership.
American culture mistakenly prizes bravado and arrogance as sure signs of leadership. Public showmanship – like donning a flight suit in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner – is easy. Quiet, cool, competence that gets results – like pulling together an international coalition to protect civilians in Libya in record time – is hard. It’s a bias we learn as kids. Our history books lionize war heroes, yet are often silent about the diplomats who prevented conflict.
Let’s recall the herculean tasks Obama has already accomplished (see here)
….Forgetting these and other accomplishments …. Goebbels-style nihilism that rejects anything Obama does as odious remains a powerful narrative. The good news is that Obama’s shrewd and calculated management of the hunt for bin Laden shows how hollow these critiques are…
….Obama’s hawkish critics chide him for allegedly “sitting on the sidelines” during recent uprisings in Yemen, Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and Syria. Take it from someone who has reported from across the Middle East: Sitting out potential Arab civil wars isn’t abdication of leadership; it is wisdom.
And yet, when facing near-certain humanitarian disaster, Obama wisely and rapidly put together a broad NATO coalition to deal with the Libyan revolt while keeping American involvement to a minimum – no boots on the ground and no dead Americans.
…A friend, a center-right voter, told me recently, “The reason I voted for Obama is because he has no hatred in him.” In another era of divisive bitterness, Lincoln preached, “with malice toward none, with charity toward all.” It’s worth noting how closely Obama’s philosophy of leadership approaches that.
Justin Elliott (Salon): Jackie Gingrich Cushman has decided to resurface the most damaging anecdote of her father’s political career: that Newt Gingrich demanded his first wife hash over details of their divorce while she was stricken with cancer in a hospital bed. Cushman suggests in a new column that the story is false.
But Cushman’s column, titled “Setting the Record Straight,” is directly at odds with the testimony of her mother from just a few years after the 1980 incident … the column is likely part of a conscious inoculation effort. Cushman writes a syndicated conservative political column and recently co-authored a book with her father.
Cushman doesn’t offer much in the way of details, besides saying that she was present during that 1980 hospital visit and that the media has repeated unspecified “untruths”… here is what Newt’s wife (also called Jackie) told the Washington Post in a Jan. 3, 1985, profile:
“He walked out in the spring of 1980 and I returned to Georgia. By September, I went into the hospital for my third surgery. The two girls came to see me, and said Daddy is downstairs and could he come up? When he got there, he wanted to discuss the terms of the divorce while I was recovering from the surgery … To say I gave up a lot for the marriage is the understatement of the year.”
Newt Gingrich’s spokesman, by the way, told me in March that Newt denies the “terms of the divorce” part of the story but acknowledges there was “an argument.”
The question becomes: Should we believe Gingrich’s wife from five years after the incident, or what his daughter claims 30 years later when Newt is gearing up for a presidential run?