There is this thing about writing. When you publish something under your name, you own it, for better or for worse. I have experienced the "for worse" side of it. It's no fun, as Rick Perry is finding out. He wrote a book, presumably with assistance, called Fed Up. In it he said a lot of harsh things about the New Deal and Social Security ("a Ponzi scheme") and a whole lot of other government programs. Then he went to New Hampshire and found out why Social Security is the third rail of American politics--and here came another flip-flop.
CBS' "The Hot Sheet" blog, citing the Wall Street Journal, cites Perry campaign spokesmen Ray Sullivan as saying he had never heard Perry suggest that Social Security is unconstitutional and described "Fed Up" as "a review and critique of 50 years of federal excesses, not in any way as a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto" -- "a look back, not a path forward." Spokesman Mark Miner told CBS that the book "reflects 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." Any way you read these comments, they amount to a disavowal of what Perry has written about Social Security.
I wrote yesterday about Perry's lack of a "normalcy compass" -- the instinct to recognize the traditional boundaries of the argument in contemporary American politics. The third rail is still the third rail. Maybe Perry has spent so much time around the Tea Party that he thinks they are ready to ditch Social Security. But I doubt it: Many of their members are probably eligible to receive it.
It's hard to understand why Perry, who has spent so much effort fighting Obama and the federal government, seems to be repeatedly surprised when people don't seem to agree with his ideas. Does he really think that most Americans want to rein in the EPA for insisting on clean air? Does he really think that most Americans don't believe in global warming? Does he really think that evolution is just "a theory that is out there" rather than accepted science? Does he really think that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme? An astute politician should be asking himself by this point, Do the people I speak with agree with me or not? Perry was in the mainstream in Texas, because the mainstream has moved far to the right. But that isn't true of America as a whole, at least not yet.
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