The Perry campaign: Where is the message discipline?

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Suggesting that the head of the Federal Reserve’s policies border on treason one day. Questioning global warming the next. Rick Perry is not on his game. The campaign appears to be shoot-from-the-hip. (I’m told that he recanted his stance on HPV without telling anyone what he planned to do.) Why in the world is Perry talking about things that aren’t the major concerns of most Americans? Perry likes to talk off the cuff. That works fine in Texas. We’re used to his rhetorical excesses and he can be fairly certain that his assertions are not going to be challenged. But when he goes to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate and impugns the integrity of scientists concerning global warming, it’s going to be noticed. Here’s what he said, quoted in the Washington Post’s “The Fact Checker”: I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. Yes, our climates change. They’ve been changing ever since the earth was formed. But I do not buy into, that a group of scientists, who in some cases were found to be manipulating this data.” What possible political gain can be gleaned from an attack on the integrity of climate scientists? Furthermore, if you’re going to debunk global warming, the time to do it is not in the middle of summer, when, somebody might point out, his home state is languishing in a record heat wave. The Washington Post assessed his claims, under the headline, “Rick Perry’s made-up ‘facts’ about climate change”: The question of whether humans have contributed to climate change in recent years has generated increasing skepticism among the American public, especially as proposals to deal with the problem, such as reducing carbon emissions, have come with high price tags. But Perry is wrong to suggest that that skepticism has gained strength among scientists. To the contrary, various surveys of climate researchers suggest growing acceptance, with as many as 98 percent believing in the concept of man-made climate change. A 2010 study by the National Academy of Sciences, which surveyed 1,372 climate researchers, is an example of this consensus. Readers can click on the link to The Fact Checker, above, for the entire piece, in which Perry teamers Ray Sullivan and Mark Miner do not come off persuasively in their defense of Perry’s position. In fact, the Post’s observations of Perry’s defense of his remarks is a clean kill. * * * * If Perry had made his remarks on climate change in, say, Amarillo, it is likely nobody would have paid much attention to them, nor is it likely that a local reporter would have insisted on substantiation. Perry has had it easy for ten years. Now he may be paying a price for his success. He didn’t have to be on top of his game to win in Texas. He could make unsubstantiated statements without fear of being called out for them — and in any case, newspaper readership in Texas is not robust and local TV doesn’t do much political coverage. The Perry team’s response to the Post concerning climate change was lame and less than credible on its face. Threatening the head of the Federal Reserve, even in jest (if it was jest) is not a winning strategy. The word that best captures Perry’s statements in this campaign is: “reckless.” I ask again: Where is the message discipline?

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