Perry Provides More Evidence for my Hypothesis

Perry proves again that he really doesn't know why he is running (plus a few comments on his proposal).

Last week, in a post called Peter Principle Politics, I noted a few things about the Perry campaign, including that he is “grappl[ing] for themes upon which to campaign,” that he was “making up propositions as he goes,” and that his proposals to date were “not the stuff of deep thought.”

His new set of reform proposals (which Doug Mataconis has outlined for all to review) underscore all of these points.  What he has provided is a vapid set of mostly recycled nonsense that his team has assembled on the fly because he needs something new to say (as the old stuff he has said to date isn’t getting him anything other than sagging poll numbers).

Perry is simply proving he doesn’t know what he wants to be president but, unlike Herman Cain, knows that he isn’t supposed to just plead ignorance on policy.  As such, he is throwing stuff on the wall to see what sticks (jobs! flat tax!  reform!).  I do not expect candidates to have clear opinions on every issue, nor do I expect them to be philosophers.  I do, however, expect them to have some idea about why they want to be elected president aside from the fact that, well, they would like to be elected president.  Some evidence of having thought about what they would like to accomplish in office, along with the ability to articulate it, would be a nice place to start.

I would, by the way, more than welcome a candidate running on a reform platform.  Indeed, I am of the opinion that we don’t talk enough about potential systemic reform in the Unites States.  However, reform can be a complicated issue and it is clearly one that requires some thought and should not simply be the result of a strategy session focused on jumpstarting a dying campaign.

I will say that I actually support the notion of doing away with lifetime appointments for judges, although not for the reasons that Perry states, but that is a whole other subject.

I also think that his part-time legislature idea is simply an attempt to copy the Texas model (which has a session every other year).   This is just being cutesy and is not the product of adequately thinking through the proposal (I know, I know).  The fact of the matter is, one could argue that Congress is too part-time as it is (for example:  has anyone seen an actual budget in recent years?).

Indeed, Norm Ornstein of AEI wrote a column a few years ago for Roll Call that the Congress needs more regular work hours:

it is still worth proposing one reform that I believe could truly transform Congress: the regular five-day workweek. Despite this year’s efforts, the fact is that Congress continues basically to operate on a three or three-and-one-half day week. There are usually no votes or other must-do activities on Monday or Friday and no real need to be in the Capitol or on the floor until midday on Tuesday. Members also push the leaders to get them out early enough on Thursday to catch planes back home.

Ornstein noted on Morning Edition this morning, that he believes that Congress remains too part-time as it is and that Perry’s plan would be problematic:

Legislative expert Norm Ornstein, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, agrees that Congress is broken. But he doesn’t think Perry has the right fix.

“The big problem is that members of Congress aren’t spending enough time in Washington. And this current House has the smallest number of days in session in modern memory, and they’ve pretty much pushed a lot of urgent matters, including many of these budgetary matters, off the table.”

Ornstein warns that a weaker, part-time Congress would leave a vacuum, that’s sure to be filled by a more powerful President or by lobbyists.

None of this strikes me as appealing.

BTW:  I understand why Perry is attacking Congress, given its popularity at the moment.  Of course, that doesn’t make his proposals good ones, nor does any of this demonstrate anything other than a cynical attempt to crawl back up the polls.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. michael reynolds says:

    He’s running because he’s a handsome man, looks good in a suit, and various Texas power brokers thought it just might work.

  2. Dazedandconfused says:

    I caught an interview he gave just after he announced he was running. He said it was a close thing, and what tipped the scales was something GW Bush asked him: “You don’t want to wake up one morning at 70 wondering IF you could have done it, do you?”

    He hasn’t designed his career or prepared himself to be President. Perfectly content to be Governor of Texas for Life, before a bunch of people suddenly decided to convince him otherwise.

  3. jan says:

    @michael reynolds:

    This is one of the odd and few times I agree with you.

  4. Boyd says:

    …a whole nother subject.

    Embrace your inner Texan, Steven. You know how these things are said, let go of your fancy airs and talk normal, pardner!

  5. superdestroyer says:

    Instead of repeatedly posting about irrelevant Republicans, why not do a few posts on the Democrats proposals is Nancy Pelosi is Speaker in January 2013. There is an infinitely greater chance of that happening that Perry every being president.

    Why is posting about irrelevant Republicans so irresistable to most bloggers. Why put any effort into analyzing people who have zero effect on policy or governance in the U.S.

    Why not do a post on what President Obamam proposed during the summit in Hawaii. Aren’t those proposals more relevant than what the irrelevant Republicans are saying?

  6. @superdestroyer: Well,

    1) He’s not irrelevant until he is out of the race. Further, it is a behavior that transcends Perry and is worth keying an eye out for in the future.

    2) I did post (granted, a briefer one) about Obama’s new policy of basing Marines in Australia.

    3) Perhaps most significantly, however:

    a) If you don’t like such posts, you don’t have to read them (the photos and headlines tend to be a tip off as to their content).


    b) There are plenty of places to start one’s own blog for free if one feels there is a vacuum in need of filling.

    If you are interested in my own personal approach to the medium, go here.

  7. Barry says:

    James: “BTW: I understand why Perry is attacking Congress, given its popularity at the moment. Of course, that doesn’t make his proposals good ones, nor does any of this demonstrate anything other than a cynical attempt to crawl back up the polls.”

    Extremely cynical, considering that GOP obstruction is what’s tanked Congress’ popularity.

  8. Lucinda says:

    Hey hey hey, take a gdeanr at what\’ you\’ve done