Today in Perry: An undebatable improvement, Israel, and Anita

The governor gets good grades for his performance in Saturday’s foreign policy debate despite questions about Israel policy, and the Dallas Morning News profiles the Perry marriage.

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DO CALL IT A COMEBACK
By the time Saturday Night Live parodied Rick Perry’s last debate performance, the narrative had changed. In fact, if Perry was still at Texas A&M, his GPA would be on the rise. Time’s Mark Halperin gave him a B+—second only to Newt Gingrich—after Saturday’s foreign policy debate in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Morgan Smith and Jay Root of the Texas Tribune concurred: “His best debate performance yet on in a subject area that arguably ought to be his weakest—foreign policy and national security.”

But even more than Perry’s surprising command of that material was his confident and mostly gaffe-free presence. As Smith and Root observed, even the fact that he said “forewithal” (instead of, apparently,“wherewithal”) attracted little negativity. As Halperin further raved, “If Perry had performed this way from the beginning of his late-starting campaign he probably would still be up with the frontrunners….if he can perform like this in the upcoming Iowa debates, he could change the game. Again.”

START AT ZERO?
While his debate performance impressed the pundits, one bold statement perplexed a few. Perry said he’d reevaluate all U.S. foreign aid by starting each budget at zero. The idea found plenty of agreement on the debate stage, but quickly had the public (including a Twitter-submitted debate questioner) asking, “What about Israel?”

“Obviously Israel is a special ally, and my guess is we would be funding them at a high level,” Perry said. “But everyone should come in at zero.” His campaign quickly doubled-down on that sentiment with a quick tweet.

That prompted this reply from the Republican Jewish Coalition: “Hoping @perrytruthteam will brief their man on 10-year Memorandum of Understanding that governs US- #Israel funding levels.”

At the Daily Beast, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA agent who has consulted on foreign policy for the Obama administration, was also critical, writing, “Perry’s idea is bad news for Israel and shows how little he understands its needs.” He continued, “The reality is that military budgets are planned on multiyear cycles. Friends don’t rethink their friendships each fiscal year.”

BIG BUCKS BUY
With lots of anonymous quotes about nervous Perry “bundlers” jumping ship last week, the still-flush-for-now campaign is spending $1 million on Fox News ads. As the New York Times reported, it’s unusual (and four times more expensive) to go national instead of focusing on Iowa and New Hampshire at this point in primary season.

The story suggests it’s the Perry campaign’s way of reaching out directly to, “Republican opinion makers and donors — many of whom have their office televisions tuned to Fox News all day.”

RICK AND ANITA: A LOVE STORY
The Dallas Morning News’ Scott Farwell’s Sunday A1 story (paywalled) follows up his profiles of Perry’s parents and their son Griffin to take us inside of the history and dynamic of the Perry marriage. Well, sort of.

Perry’s sister, Milla Perry Jones, is the main source for a kid-gloves story that is otherwise built on past public statements and secondary sources (as well as Farwell’s recent sit-down with Perry’s father Ray).

Austin lobbyist Bill Miller, who once employed Anita, delivers the best anecdotes, including one about the governor having trouble cutting his steak during Miller’s office Christmas dinner at the Four Seasons in Austin.

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