…why the Perry campaign is silent today. Last week spokesman Mark Miner fired off releases on Tuesday (2), Wednesday (2), and Friday (1). Today, nada. OK, I’m probably making a mountain out of a molehill, but it has occurred to me that the last couple of weeks haven’t exactly been great for Perry, and maybe wiser heads inside the campaign have concluded that when you are on the defensive and in the center of a national media firestorm, it is not the best time to go on the attack. As I said, I’m just wondering, and what I am wondering is whether the Perry campaign is rethinking its hyperaggressive attack strategy.
The latest example of hyperaggression was Perry’s charge that Cameron Todd Willingham, whose 2004 execution for killing his three children in a fire that experts say was not arson has been the subject of national debate, is a “monster.” He was no angel, that’s for sure, but Perry overreached in an effort to sway the debate in his favor. Now he has placed the burden of proof on his shoulders to make his charge of “monster” stick.
The Chicago Tribune has been all over the Willingham case, and the Hutchison campaign, in its morning e-mail, seized on the paper’s most recent reporting.
Charge: On Thursday, officials in Corsicana, Texas, released a sworn affidavit from the brother of Willingham’s wife that he signed shortly before the execution. In it, he claims that Stacy Willingham told her family that her husband confessed to her before the execution.
Fact: In 2004, Stacy Willingham told the Tribune that Willingham never confessed. Earlier this year she told David Grann, a reporter for The New Yorker magazine, that she stood by her statements. She came to believe that Willingham was guilty after she reviewed the case herself.
In addition, on the same day that Stacy Willingham’s brother claimed she told the family that Willingham had confessed, she spoke to the local newspaper, saying that during her last meeting with him, he maintained his innocence.
She did not mention a confession.
Perry’s tendency to pour gasoline on the fire – a poor metaphor, I realize, given the nature of the crime Willingham committed – keeps getting him into trouble. It is part of an aggressive pattern that began when the campaign ambushed Hutchison in her initial campaign tour and continues in press releases and on campaign web sites like washingtonkay. It comes down to this: He isn’t acting gubernatorial. He isn’t acting like a nine-year incumbent. The Perry camp has a lot of very savvy folks who have run a lot of successful races, but this is the first time they have had to deal with a candidate who has lost his discipline.