Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rick Perry's Book of Laughter and Forgetting

I am getting tired of reading that Perry is dealing with his debate melt-down with good humor. What he's doing is doubling down on the shtick that makes him capable of forgetting which federal government agency he'd do away with.  As with all of Perry's humor, it pastes a genial face on bullying, belittling reflex.

Immediately following the debate, Perry approached reporters with some do-it-yourself-damage control:

“I’m glad I had my boots on tonight, because I sure stepped in it out there.
Well, I tell you what, I named two more agencies in government than what the current administration has talked about getting rid of, and the Energy just wouldn’t come out. So anyways, those three agencies of government — Education and Energy and Commerce are part of it, and the bottom line is, I may have forgotten Energy, but I haven’t forgotten my conservative principles. And that’s what this campaign is really going to be about, laying out our tax plan.
Look, I’m focused on my issues, and my issues are about our tax plan, it’s about our budget, it’s about our cutting spending, it’s about giving Americans real hope for a vision that you get this country back to work again, and it’s really not that difficult. The fact is you just have to have some courage. From time to time you may forget about an agency that you are gonna zero out, but everybody tomorrow will understand that the Energy Department needs to be done away with…

Let's leave for the psychoanalysts the excretory imagery (I stepped in it...the energy just wouldn't come out). The "thinking" here is all over the lot, but the assumptions are revealing.  As when Perry asserted that unconditional support for any Israeli governmental action is "easy" because he's a Christian, the primary assumption here is that principles trump knowledge. With "principles" and "courage" and "vision," policy is "not that difficult." Knowledge of  federal agencies that extends beyond their symbology is unnecessary because "everyone will understand" that they need to be done away with if tough-talking conservatives say they do.  Secondarily, the tax plan is serious -- what he's focused on -- and the agency abolition is by implication just an excretory reflex, something that will "come out" naturally, expelled by the right principles.

The pattern here is similar to Perry's earlier assertion that any insult to Social Security -- Ponzi scheme, criminal enterprise -- is appropriate, because some as-yet-undetermined type of radical reform is necessary.  Denigration is sufficient unto itself. Knowing your principles is the same as knowing your enemies, or rather your whipping boys. No need to substantiate the attack -- just make it scurrilous enough, and people will understand. As here: don't engage with a college student who has some faith that Social Security will be there when he retires (perhaps because he knows that its projected shortfalls are modest and easily fixed).  Just insult the little Lord Faunterloy, with a smile.

Doubling down on the "ignorance is strength" meme, the home page at invites supporters to vote: "What part of the Federal Government  would you like to forget about the most?" There's a click-through menu:

Like the communist regime of Milan Kundera's memory and imagination, Perry's program for America is a Book of Laughter and Forgetting. This is shtick on a level with Can's 9-9-9 plan -- with Perry's characteristic sneering edge.  Perry's kill-kill-kill plan. Ha ha ha.

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