- While the Republican presidential contest for 2016 is delightfully, crazily up for grabs, you probably figured there was one thing you could bank on: Rick Perry would never run again after humiliating himself so memorably in 2011 and 2012.
- Think again! The Man from Oops is back, now sporting a pair of "make-you-look-smarter" glasses and becoming a regular media darling. Last week he was charming Jimmy Kimmel on a broadcast from SXSW.
- Then he was sounding reasonably alert on Morning Joe, making Eugene Robinson gush and giggle.
- And voila! Next thing you knew, Perry was popping up on Fox and Friends, making sure to remind everybody of his Official Story About What Happened in 2012: "You know I had major back surgery six weeks before the election kicked off."
- The Rick Revival began in earnest at CPAC, where the four-term Texas governor brought 'em stomping to their feet with such stirring lines as this old chestnut, about the few things government should do: “Defend our country, provide a cogent foreign policy, and what the heck, deliver the mail, preferably on time and on Saturdays.”
- "America's all about second chances," Perry has taken to insisting, everywhere he goes.
- He's become all swole with evangelical candor, too, confessing his "humbling" campaigning sins. “I did not prepare well enough to run for the presidency of the United States,” Perry admitted on Morning Joe. (This came as stunning news to those who watched him in 2012.)
- Governor Goodhair, as he's known back home, managed to commit only one newsworthy gaffe in the process of reintroducing himself to the American public—and it was nowhere near as "oopsy" as the stink bombs he dropped in 2012. This time Perry told Mika Brzezinski that the debate about equal pay in Texas (or the lack thereof) was "nonsense." Hey, no biggie!
- So, see: Perry seems to have learned his lesson! He's turning his humiliating performance in defeat into a charm offensive! He's spending tons of time in Iowa! Perry 2016!
- Heck, even Ted Cruz says—publicly—he might vote for "terrific" Perry rather than, you know, running himself. (If you believe that, we've got some prime farmland to sell you in West Texas ...)
- There are a few problems with this bandwagon, though. What Perry most needed to learn to do, as anyone who watched him "debate" in 2012 knows very well, was sound reasonably intelligent when he talked. While he's smoother and better-prepped in these recent appearances than he was in his supposedly pain-pill-addled state in '11 and '12—plus,those glasses!—that's not saying very much.
- The man still can't spit out a sentence that parses on paper. "It may be that it's time for a new Monroe Doctrine is to be discussed," he intoned solemnly to the Morning Joe crew.
- Whenever Perry runs out of things to say about an issue, which is often, he falls back on a cliche—about the battlefield and what one must do on it, about something folksy from his drab little home town of Paint Creek, or about how lucky he is to a) be an American; b) have such an amazing woman for a wife; c) be a Texan; or d) all of the above.
- (The answer is d.)
- Another stumbling block for Perry: His main claim to presidential qualifications is still the Texas economic "miracle" he's supposedly performed by gutting regulations and paying big companies to bring mediocre jobs down South by the truckload. Washington Monthly's current cover story is devoted to blowing up the whole "miracle" myth—finding that not only isn't it so darned miraculous, "its lessons hardly confirm conservative ideology."
- Even so, it's that terrible challenge of talking good that will continue to haunt Perry the most. Even when he's sounding sharp and witty, he tends to make no sense—witness his turn this week on Fox's Hannity, where he declared the debate about raising the minimum wage to be just plain silly. “We oughta be talking about the maximum wage people can make,” he opined.
- Think about that one for just a minute: Rick Perry, champion of unfettered free enterprise, wants to talk about capping wages? He surely didn't mean that, but what did he mean? It all makes about as much sense as, well, Rick Perry running for president again.
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