“If it’s not on his schedule, it’s irrelevant to him.”

That’s what one of Rick Perry’s *supporters* has to say about him.

That’s what one of Rick Perry’s supporters says about him. The headline asks the question: “Is Rick Perry Dumb?” The story implies the answer: “As dumb as a box of rocks.”

Or, as one Republican governor is quoted as saying, “Bush without the brains.”

And if you’re wondering, no, that wouldn’t be an improvement on the older model. A political party in which “Rick Perry” names a serious Presidential candidate rather than serving as a punch-line (as Dan Quayle did) is not fit to share power.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

24 thoughts on ““If it’s not on his schedule, it’s irrelevant to him.””

  1. Shorter “Is Rick Perry Dumb”: Yes.

    “He can take political instructions well,” and “he pays careful attention to polling data” do nothing to change that answer. Low cunning is not intelligence.

  2. He might not be able to teach constitutional law, but you don’t get repeatedly elected governor of the second largest state in the union without have a pretty nutritious pot pie up there. Politico’s conclusion is apt:

    “The political graveyard in Texas is buried full of people who have underestimated Rick Perry,” he said. “We had a U.S. senator who did that and she didn’t even make the run-off. Sooner or later, they’re going to figure out that he’s not just lucky, he’s good.”

  3. Bruce,
    George W Bush is highly talented in every issue important to a high-school politician: physical appearance is handsome but not excessively so, cheerful demeanor, remembers names, slaps backs. He was nearly elected President on the basis of being cheery and harmless, and was re-elected President somehow. He is, by the account of nearly everyone who’s ever interacted with him, intellectually lazy, poorly educated, and profoundly incurious. Political success proves you’ve got some talents in some areas, not that you’re bright.

  4. Bruce: Mr. Perry is politically canny and intellectually incurious. Such a president would be as much a failure as one who was intellectually astute but awful at politics. But the latter would be a failure for accomplishing too little good. Mr. Perry would be a failure, like Bush, for accomplishing too much evil.

  5. “..His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing. Upon my quoting Thomas Carlyle, he inquired in the naivest way who he might be and what he had done. My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to me to be such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.
    You appear to be astonished, he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.
    To forget it!
    You see, he explained, I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.
    But the Solar System! I protested.
    What the deuce is it to me? he interrupted impatiently: you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”
    This is Watson describing one of his earliest conversations with Sherlock Holmeshttp://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/DoyScar.html

  6. Curiosity and a keen intellect make for an excellent scientist, journalist, or scholar.

    The virtues that make one a good political leader in a democracy are not necessarily the virtues that make one a good doctor, general, writer or pastor. What was the line about FDR? “Third-rate intellect, first-rate disposition,” or something like that?

    I’m no particular fan of Gov. Perry, but I half-believe his own people must have planted this “Is he dumb?” simply to provoke a cycle of liberal gloating and conservative wagon-circling.

  7. Oliver Wendell Holmes said of Roosevelt – “a second-class intellect, but a first-class temperament.”

  8. dave,
    Your testimony as to the curious gaps in the knowledge of the noted Actual Person (and politician) Sherlock Holmes is duly noted.

    Both dave and Bruce,
    look back to the accounts of Bush given by those who have worked with him. I and others like me aren’t sneering at his lack of credentials (indeed, technically Bush perhaps has those, with two ivy-league degrees), we’re bemoaning his utter vacuity, his inability to comprehend and to debate the issues at hand, or perhaps his complete unwillingness to apply himself to such a task. The Paul O’Neill book is particularly damning, but far from unique.

  9. Forest Gump is smarter than Barack Hussein Obama, so anyone to replace this joker will be an improvement in 2012 when it comes to intellect. But hey, I think Bruce is right, this is a sweet setup by someone in the bowels of the Republican party. Keep wagon circling liberals, parrot that line that Rick Perry is dumb. See if that gets you as far as it did with George Bush.

  10. OK, now we’ve had two citations of fictional characters, each risible in its own special way; an aspersion against the intelligence of Obama (which is par for the course, but really quite ludicrous, whatever you think of his Presidency); several attempts to defend the intelligence of Rick Perry and George W Bush; and a few people pointing out that deriding the intelligence of the Republican redounds to their political benefit.

    The last of these, I will perhaps buy. I am willing to believe that both George W Bush and Sarah Palin have benefited from public resentment against the pointy-headed intellectuals who dare to point out their obvious imbecility. Indeed, Resentment is possibly the defining theme of the modern Republican party, and rarely needs a factual basis.

    So: maybe it’s politically unwise to assert that Perry is far from intelligent. But it’s being unfair doesn’t make it unfair or untrue.

  11. Er, in that last sentence “it’s being unfair” s/b “its being unwise” – both a trivial but annoying punctuation error and a rather more serious wrong word. Sorry about that.

  12. As long as reality cooperates with Rick Perry and doesn’t do anything not on his schedule, he will do just fine. If the enemies of the United States have the common courtesy to put their activities on his calendar, he will be able to protect Americans against their doings. Just so long as foreign markets never depart from what he has in his daybook, our economy will be safe from shocks from outside. Sounds good; what could possibly go wrong? Why should the elitists be allowed to force their notions of fitness to govern on everyone else?

  13. @Mark–“As dumb as a box of rocks.” –Oh, come on! That’s one notch above a bag of hammers!

    @Warren Terra–“George W Bush is highly talented in every issue important to a high-school politician”–you forgot one: instant bad nicknames.

    @Bruce Ross–“you don’t get repeatedly elected governor of the second largest state”–you do, if you are the box of rocks that rocks are voting for. “I’m no particular fan of Gov. Perry”–“Whom are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” Actually, I do believe you–you’re just desperately looking for a rationalization of stupid voter choices. That’s a pointless exercise.

    @Sean–“Mr. Perry would be a failure, like Bush, for accomplishing too much evil.”–You’re giving W too much credit: he’s had plenty of accomplices, some of them still holding offices in Congress

    @Dave Schultz–“he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory”–As Rick Perry would say, “It’s just a theory!” Seriously, if you want a bipolar addict with other autistic tendencies–but very high IQ–to be your next president, Sherlock Holmes is your guy. But we were talking about Rick Perry. You are confusing encyclopedic knowledge with intelligence–Rick Perry has neither.

    @Bux–“Forest Gump is smarter than Barack Hussein Obama”–Welcome to the box of rocks, Mr. Bux. You’re exactly the type of voter Rick Perry is looking for! Would you like a pair of googly eyes to make it more realistic?

  14. Rick Perry is the prototype of the right sort of Republican. He is just clever enough in a rough Brett Butler, sort of way to flourish in the dumbed down Republican debates, but genuinely thick enough, and anti-science enough, that no one would mistake him for a being thinking man’s Republican. Eventually you get the candidate you deserve and Perry fits the GOP like a glove. Even scandals are unlikely to hurt his popularity, they may even add to his attractiveness. The GOP mind-set loves a good looking roguish cad who is also a bible thumper that can validate their concerns that they are losing their country to liberals. Perry hits all the right buttons, for the GOP. He may be tough to beat if the economy doesn´t noticeably improve. Of course, he will be an unmitigated disaster!

  15. Shadow Fox, great summary, and anon, I’m afraid so. Does the Texas governor believe his idiotic religious rhetoric, or is he just pandering for votes?
    By Christopher Hitchens in Monday´s slate.

    Is there any evidence, if it comes to that, that Perry has ever studied the theory of evolution for long enough to be able to state roughly what it says? And how much textual and hermeneutic work did he do before deciding on the “inerrancy” of Jewish and Christian scripture? It should, of course, be the sincere believers and devout faithful who ask him, and themselves, these questions. But somehow, it never is. The risks of hypocrisy seem forever invisible to the politicized Christians, for whom sufficient proof of faith consists of loud and unambiguous declarations. I am always surprised that more is not heard from sincere religious believers, who have the most to lose if faith becomes a matter of poll-time dogma and lung power.

  16. ShadowFox,

    Let me be more precise: Not in this lifetime can I imagine voting for Rick Perry. I was rather a fan of John McCain going way back and never understood the hype about Barack Obama, but compared with the caricature of the latter-day GOP standard-bearer that is Perry, our current president is Solon reincarnated.

    All that said, the fact that any good elected official needs a brainy staff does not mean that the principal needs to be an intellectual. Let me mangle another famous American political anecdote: “Mr. Stevenson, you have the vote of every thinking American.” “Well, thanks, but I need a majority.”

    Funny thing, though: That allegedly thick-headed Ike’s reputation has only grown over the generations.

  17. Bruce’s suggestion that a President doesn’t need to be much of an intellect since he/she merely has to have a “brainy” staff is true in theory, but we only need to look back to the GWB administration to see how this works out in reality. Bush chose personal comfort and loyalty over intellect in selecting staffers. That’s how we ended up with Gonzalez, Miers and Rice, and how the egregious mistakes of Cheney, Rumsfeld and others were tolerated for so long.

    You can have a bunch of smart staffers, advisors and cabinet officers surrounding you, but what do you do when they disagree with each other (as they invariably do)? Ultimately, it is the President’s responsibility to ensure that competency is demanded and that good judgment is exercised in making final decisions. There are just too many examples of missteps by the GWB Administration that disprove that the theory that a mediocre President can successfully delegate like the CEO of a corporation.

  18. Two points:

    Remember George Allen (Mr. Macaca)? Also elected, and definitely not capable of assimilating anything complicated.

    I would say that what made Bush toxic was that he was incurious and lazy–and also determined to be and appear decisive by never admitting error and never changing his mind. I’d be perfectly happy with a second-class intellect with a first-class ability to pick good people and (usually) listen to them: this
    is probably FDR (consider who he had in his cabinet, or at the top of the armed forces).

    Of course, when your main advisor is Dick Cheney you have an additional problem.

    Does Perry have the kind of personality that made Bush prone to bad personnel picks and over-rigidity? I do not know–but what needs to be looked at is who he has appointed to what.

  19. as a texan, i can tell you that perry is an incredibly polarizing political figure. the folks who vote against him consist in almost equal parts democrats and republican. many republicans in my workplace sneeringly refer to him as “guv goodhair.” in the last election cycle here, they voted for hutchison in the primary and then white in the election. unfortunately, my home state’s politics is dominated by dittoheads, tea partyists, and palinistas. remember that this is a place where executing a (probably) innocent man is a demonstration of strength of character. i am an 8th generation native of this state whose ancestors have been dying here since the 1830s. i am also a liberal democrat. i refuse to abandon my home to these right-wing nutbags and i work patiently to try to change as many minds as i can.

    i tremble at the thought that perry might bring to the u.s. the misery he has brought here. miracle my hind end.

  20. @DCA- Whether Perry is stupid, a bad administrator or a closet genius who hides his lamp under the biblical proverbial bushel basket, I don’t care. The man is a viscious SOB (as was G W Bush) who will do all in his power to wreck the US government (as did G W Bush).

  21. Warren Terra — You noted that Bush was “by the account of nearly everyone who’s ever interacted with him, intellectually lazy, poorly educated, and profoundly incurious.” Key words, “nearly everyone.” I would agree myself, except… there’s an article buried somewhere on the Internet from several years ago, citing the well-known historian John Lewis Gaddis, that testifies to Bush’s having read one of Gaddis’s books, invited him to the White House, discussed the book intelligently & recommended it to his Cabinet members.

    As a former USAF pilot I also have to acknowledge that both Bush & Perry made it through Air Force pilot training, which requires not only physical skills but also self-discipline and a modicum of intelligence. So although Bush made many catastrophically wrong decisions in the White House and Perry is both mean-spirited (the death penalty business) and a hypocritical manipulator of the truth (the job creation business), neither should be underestimated in terms of their appeal to a broad mass of American citizenry. I think the Democrats have a chance to beat any contemporary Republican who slavishly toes the Tea Party/Religious Right line, but they need to hammer home, repeatedly, some simple truths about these guys. What they’ve said and what they’ve done. Again and again.

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