Today Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race to be the GOP nominee for US President in 2012. While many Americans will breath a sigh of relief that Perry is no longer be in the running for president, Texans, unfortunately, will still have to endure him as our state’s governor. Perry’s run will always be remembered for the “Oops” moment, and his many disastrous debate performances.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign fell apart for many reasons. The biggest of which is arrogance. It looks like he thought he could just show up, raise money, and win. Not having to campaign seriously for some time, then stepping into a Presidential campaign, was obviously a shock. Maybe the plan was to give the GOP electorate as little time as possible to look at Perry, and hope it wasn’t enough for to see the light? For that to be the case he would have needed to get in much later.
Another reason his campaign floundered was that Perry looked out of practice at campaigning, and never found a way to bounce back once his campaign started sinking. He has never faced the kind of scrutiny in Texas that he got from the national media, and his inept campaign didn’t know how to deal with running from behind. He’d never lost a race and thought that all he had to do was show up, with a big bag of money, and it was over. Well he did show up, and soon after he opened his mouth in a series of unscripted debates, it was over.
But the thing that is mind boggling is why the such a flawed candidate nationally finds such easy-going in Texas? It always seems to come around to the lack of media scrutiny he’s faced since becoming governor. There are several reasons for the lack of media scrutiny that statewide elected officials in Texas get. Of course budget cuts, and the change in the media landscape over the last 10 or so years has had considerable effect. But much of it has to do with what Jay Rosen calls “the church of the savvy“.
To the people inside it, savviness is not a cult. It is not a professional church or “belief system.” It’s not really an object fit for contemplation at all. But they would say that political journalists need to be savvy observers because in politics the unsavvy are hapless, clueless, deluded, clownish, or in some cases extreme. They get run over: easily. They get disappointed: needlessly. They get angry–fruitlessly–because they don’t know how things work in practical terms.
The savvy do know how things work inside the game of politics, and it is this knowledge they try to wield in argument…. instead of argument. In this sense savviness as the church practices it is the exemption from the political that believers think will come to them because they are journalists striving only to report on politics or conduct analysis, not to “win” within the contest as it stands.
Prohibited from joining in political struggles, dedicated to observing what is, regardless of whether it ought to be, the savvy believe that these disciplines afford them a special view of the arena, cured of excess sentiment, useless passon, ideological certitude and other defects of vision that players in the system routinely exhibit. As I wrote on Twitter the other day, “the savvy don’t say: I have a better argument than you… They say: I am closer to reality than you. And more mature.”
Now in order for this belief system to operate effectively, it has to continually position the journalist and his or her observations not as right where others are wrong, or virtuous where others are corrupt, or visionary where others are short-sghted, but as practical, hardheaded, unsentimental, and shrewd where others are didactic, ideological, and dreamy. This is part of what’s so insidious about press savviness: it tries to hog realism to itself.
The media used to be outside the club looking in, now they’re members of the club. And if they rock the boat too much they’re kicked out of the club.
To the extent they may share Mencken’s exuberant disdain for hoodwinker and hoodwinked alike, ambitious reporters are well-advised to keep it to them-selves. As a career strategy, thoughtful circumspection is advised. The uphill path to a sinecure on “Meet the Press” must be trodden carefully.
Many readers, for example, can probably identify a name-brand journalist such as Judith Miller, who fell into disrepute for parroting Bush administration propaganda about Saddam Hussein’s WMDs. But can you name anybody whose skeptical reporting made them famous? No, you cannot.
Perry’s shortcomings were unnoticeable at the state level, but were unmistakable at the national level. Because of that Perry wasn’t successful in his bid for the GOP nomination. This has hopefully cast a shadow over his future in politics, but don’t be on it. We must remember that Perry was his own worst enemy in this campaign. Voters seeing Perry unscripted, and left to his own devices, was devastating to his campaign. Let that be a lesson to all of us. Because, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.
Perry’s run cost the people of Texas and estimated $2,651,429.14.