The crisis at our southern border, coupled with President Obama’s visit to Texas, has propelled Rick Perry back into the limelight. And Perry has made the most of this unexpected opportunity.
Perry would like to be known nationally for more than his embarrassing run for president during the last cycle. In the words of this article from Buzz Feed, the border crisis has enabled him “to be out in front on an issue he knows well: the border.”
According to the same article, Perry’s expertise “was on display when [he] took his spot in front of the dais” at a Homeland Security field hearing on border crisis last week. Perry “was treated less as Republican boogeyman by the Democrats on the panel and more like an expert on the subject.”
Even Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee — whom Perry called by her first name — was impressed, or pretended to be. She thanked Perry and “all of you in here in the state of Texas who have risen to accept this challenge.” “Texas will stand in the very noble position … to continue some of the hard work you’ve already been engaged in,” she added.
Perry scored points without appearing overly partisan. For example, he blamed the crisis on “bad public policy” without naming Obama. And he encouraged Obama to visit the border — a position which, in the context of similar calls by Texas Democrats, cannot be considered improperly partisan.
Perry’s handling of Obama’s visit stands in sharp contrast to Chris Christie’s conduct when Obama visited New Jersey just before Election Day 2012, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Admittedly, the circumstances were not the same. Christie needed money for his State; Obama needed the embrace of a prominent Republican. This week, Perry had no incentive to embrace Obama.
But many conservatives (me included) believe that Christie went too far. Perry, meanwhile, struck the right balance between respect for the office of president, self-respect, and conservative policy preferences.
Republican are, or should be, searching for a presidential candidate who combines a record of consistent conservatism with a record of success in running things. Scott Walker comes quickly to mind.
But Rick Perry also answers to this description, in my opinion. The question remains whether he’s a competent campaigner for our highest office. After this week, Republicans may be more inclined to want to learn the answer to this question.