Today Rick Perry put out a flat-tax plan which is a considerable upgrade from Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 idea.
Perry’s idea isn’t perfect, but it’s built as something which could actually pass and which is designed to move the American people gradually into a completely new way of handling their taxes – all without the rancor and political mayhem of a wrenching change in tax policy.
This is worth a great deal of discussion, and in some quarters it’s getting some. Particularly among the intelligentsia, and of course some of that discussion is predictably disappointing – as in the case, for example, of National Review’s Reihan Salam, who somehow thinks Perry’s plan is an “embarrassment” because under it no American will pay more than 20 percent of his income in taxes. Or Peter Morici, who goes ballistic over the optional nature of the flat tax because he says it wouldn’t do away with the IRS or the deductions some folks might want to keep in the short term – ignoring the political reality that if you try to switch to a flat tax program on a cold-turkey basis the Democrats will so demagogue the thing as to make it politically impossible to pass.
But strangely, that’s not what the legacy media is interested in. What are they talking about now?
Obama’s birth certificate, and how Perry ginned up the issue.
Bear in mind of course that Perry didn’t particularly do that. He did an interview with a reporter from PARADE Magazine that went something like this…
Q. Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
A. I have no reason to think otherwise.
Q. That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—
A. Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.
Q. But you’ve seen his.
A. I don’t know. Have I?
Q. You don’t believe what’s been released?
A. I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.
A. That came up.
Q. And he said?
A. He doesn’t think it’s real.
Q. And you said?
A. I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the president of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.
Again, go back to the first question. What was it again? Oh, yeah…
Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
Does that sound like Rick Perry decided to gin up the birther issue? Not to me. It sounds like Parade ginned it up and Perry decided to offer a relatively candid answer. Which was pretty clear, namely that Perry doesn’t think it’s a big issue but that there are some people in the anti-Obama crowd, including a certain New York billionaire who wants to be involved in the presidential race in some form or fashion, who don’t think it’s completely put to bed.
That isn’t exactly an endorsement of birtherism. It’s more like a tweak of Obama. In fact, it’s absolutely a tweak at Obama. The evidence? Well, CNBC’s John Harwood brought the issue up again toward the tail end of a very substantive interview about economics, job creation and his flat tax…
JOHN HARWOOD: Mitt Romney after the President released his birth certificate earlier this year said that issue’s done and settled, I accept it. You chose to keep it alive in your interview with Parade magazine over the weekend. Why’d you do that?
RICK PERRY: I– it’s a good issue to keep alive. Just– you know, Donald’s got to have some fun. So– and the issue is this.
JOHN HARWOOD: But it sounds like you really do have some doubt about it.
RICK PERRY: Well, look, I haven’t– I haven’t seen his– I haven’t seen his grades. My grades ended up on the front page of the newspaper. So, let’s– you know, if we’re going to show stuff, let’s show stuff. So. But, look, that’s all a distraction. I mean, I get it. I’m– I’m really not worried about the President’s birth certificate. It’s fun to– to poke and add him a little bit and say hey, how about– let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.
JOHN HARWOOD: Well so–
RICK PERRY: But here’s what’s really serious. Is we got people sitting around watching this interview while the president has killed 2 and a half million jobs. That’s serious. And that’s what we got to better get right.
JOHN HARWOOD: But are you saying that your comments about that are kind of a joke? Or do you seriously have unresolved questions like Donald Trump has about them?
RICK PERRY: I don’t have a clue about where the President– and what this– birth certificate says. But it’s also a great distraction. I’m not distracted by it. If those of you in the media want to talk about it that’s fine, but I hope what you’ll really get focused on is how are we going to get this country back on track. Because if we don’t, America’s next generation is not going to have as good a future as what we had, and that’s what I’m concerned about. I know how to do that. And you do it by giving a flat tax. You get these regulations pulled off of businesses, and you allow entrepreneurs the confidence that they can go risk their capital.
In other words, Perry is still irritated that he got to see his transcript from Texas A&M on the internet while Obama’s grades are a matter of national security. So why not fan those flames?
Normal people get that. Why not take a poke at Obama? It’s not like the White House isn’t running its mouth 24/7 in response to everything Perry says. He put out his energy plan last week and within an hour of its rollout the Obamites were denouncing it as a slavish commitment to the “energy of the past,” as though somehow oil, natural gas and coal aren’t going to comprise the vast majority of America’s fuel source for the foreseeable future. And Obama has proven that fact beyond a shadow of a doubt with the Solyndra, SunPower and Fisker debacles.
Obama’s people have also taken shots at Perry’s tax plan, calling it a bad deal for the middle class – which is pretty interesting considering that the plan was specifically designed to be anything but that since it’s an OPTIONAL flat tax, and if you’d be worse off paying the flat tax than you are now you can keep filing as you currently do.
So why not, at the end of an interview in which you’re discussing your tax plan and are prompted by a question on an issue of no particular importance, throw a bomb or two?
Because if you do, the left-wing media will immediately consider it a gotcha moment and begin howling. WaPo’s Dan Milbank, who cares deeply about the well-being of the Republican 2012 field…
If at first you don’t secede, try the birther movement.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who more than once has dipped his cowboy boot into the secessionist swamp, has found a new outlet for his fringe instincts. The Republican presidential candidate has revived questions about President Obama’s birth certificate.
But political professionals expect more from a mainstream candidate such as Perry. After Perry’s birther Parade, strategist Karl Rove lectured his one-time friend Monday in a Fox News appearance. “You associate yourself with a nutty view like that and you damage yourself,” he said. Rove added that the pandering to Trump “starts to marginalize you in the minds of some of the people whom you need in order to get the election.”
Good advice, but Perry won’t follow it. Whether it’s secessionism or birtherism, he seems determined to prove that nothing succeeds like excess.
And then there was CBS News’ treatment of the comments…
If Perry wants to vault over Cain and Romney for the GOP nomination in the coming months, poking Mr. Obama with the birther stick won’t do much to help him gain the credibility he needs as a presidential candidate who will appeal to the mainstream.
Even the Washington Examiner’s David Freddoso, who has written an entire book about Obama’s unsavory past, said that Perry had “fatally beclowned himself” by even answering questions about the issue.
I don’t think Perry is a birther, I just think he believes that he helps himself by pandering to birthers. (Who knows, maybe he’s holding out for the Trump endorsement.)
At best, Perry’s comments convey the impression that birtherism is some kind of harmless joke. He cannot possibly believe that — he has previously gotten mileage with similar, meaningless gestures to his Right, toying “in jest” with secession and nullification and a variety of other silly ideas designed to go nowhere and make a lot of noise in the right quarters around election time. He knows what he’s doing, but only so well.
And he’s really stepped on the wrong landmine this time.
Why? A significant number of people who don’t have any use for Obama question his Americanism – and while only a very few think the birther angle is worth pursuing they get a kick out of seeing the issue be stirred up. It’s a cheap way of questioning Obama’s credibility and of reminding a core constituency that you don’t think Obama represents the country with the requisite zeal.
Is it a particularly noble way to go? No. Does anybody really believe this election will be won by Marquis of Queensbury rules? Don’t think so. Obama and his flunky Vice President are pushing their jobs bill by accusing Republicans of being pro-rape and the president is openly backing the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is absolutely rife with criminality, anti-Americanism and divisive class warfare – when he’s not accusing Republicans of trying to pollute the air and the water.
In such an environment, we’re supposed to care that Perry wants to fling some dirt Obama’s way when he’s asked about the birth certificate?
Here’s a question – why was the question asked in the first place?
Six months ago, the media went on a warpath about the birther issue and asked every Republican elected official in America to weigh in on it. And specifically to weigh in on a particular side of it; namely that of course Obama was born in Hawaii and all this birther foolishness should be stopped immediately.
The best example was when David Gregory cross-examined John Boehner on the issue…
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Boehner had it right. Not his job to tell the American people what to think, and not his problem if Obama hasn’t convinced some people that he was born in Hawaii.
Fundamentally, Perry’s comments are no different. He said the birther thing was a fun distraction, and it is – if not, Trump wouldn’t have made so much hay about it and even when Obama released a birth certificate you wouldn’t have had as many people as you did who said there were issues about the file. They did that not just because they’re racists or they hate Obama, but because it’s fun to talk about.
The media knows this. Otherwise, why would Perry get asked about an issue that was dead six months before he got into the campaign?
But Perry said two things. First, he hinted that he thinks he’s already had to undergo a more detailed vetting than Obama did in the entire 2008 campaign, which is precisely right. And second, he said that it’s a B.S. issue to take up time about.
Which really ought to put the thing to bed.
Perry probably could have said something to Parade like “Why are you asking me about Obama’s birth certificate? Why don’t you ask me about my favorite color instead if you’re out of questions which mean something?” Of course, had he done that he would have completed the inevitable comparisons to Nick Saban which have been bubbling up over the last few weeks and likely deflated himself as a sought-after interview at a precise time when he needs a larger media presence.
But what seems most apparent coming out of this entire kerfuffle is that the press was presented with a substantive and important economic program which promises to create millions of jobs, transform the nation’s economy and public fisc, revolutionize entitlements and balance the federal budget within 10 years – and what animates them is a flip answer to a stupid, irrelevant question.
And for this, Rick Perry is supposed to be at fault.
Looking at this, one can certainly agree we’ve got a problem here. But the problem isn’t Perry’s media skills. Rather, it’s the fact that we have a press corps which is unwilling or incapable of handling serious policy and instead is looking for pablum for the masses.
And whatever Perry’s failings might be, the media’s failure to present the public with real issues is a much larger issue.