Maybe Not Misunderestimated After All

Just because he wears cowboy boots and drops his G’s doesn’t mean he’s a dummy. Perry may be a small-town boy who went to an ag school (Texas A&M University), but he’s an extremely cagey and strategic politician who has been among the state’s most successful governors at getting what he wants. Put another way: Even if he’s not book smart by University of Chicago standards, he’s plenty street smart – and street smart is still smart. The better lens through which to regard Perry is inside vs. outside, establishment vs. anti-establishment, elitist vs. jus’ folks. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that jus’ folks is jus’ dumb.

–Evan Smith (“5 Myths About Rick Perry,” Washington Post, 8/21/11)

Whatever his brain power is, he was elected three times governor of Texas. He is now a first-tier presidential contender. He’s smart enough to be President of the United States. He’s smart enough to be elected, I think. At this point, I think we can stipulate that. So whatever his book smarts are, I think that’s irrelevant for this discussion. He has clearly met the bar in Texas several times. The voters in Texas have said three times he’s smart enough to be governor, and he’s had a record that he’s now running on.

ABC World News senior Washington editor Rick Klein (Fox NewsOn the Record, 8/29/11)

Liberals often say Republicans are stupid, but they really believe it with regard to Gov. Perry. For liberals, credentials and holding fashionable opinions are more important markers of intelligence than knowledge or accomplishment…. Gov. Perry scorns their opinions, and he went to Texas A&M, not Harvard or Yale. So when a new book said his is “the brainiest political operation in America,” liberals were shocked.
–Jack Kelly (“Kicking Rick: Mainstream Media and Democrats Fear the Texas Governor, So They Smear Him,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/4/11)

What those dummies Bush and Perry have in common, other than having been Texas governors, pilots and cheerleaders (what is it with Texas?), is that they’re not stupid at all…. They’re smart enough to know that most people in this country didn’t go to Ivy League colleges — or any college for that matter…. Until someone emerges to remind Americans of who they are in a way that neither insults their intelligence nor condescends to their less-fortunate circumstances, smart money goes to the “stupid” politicians, who are dumb as foxes and happy as clams when their opponents misunderestimate them.
–Kathleen Parker (“Not So Dumb After All,” Washington Post, 9/18/11)

I will tell you: It’s three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone: Commerce, Education and the–what’s the third one there? Let’s see…. OK. So Commerce, Education and the– … The third agency of government I would–I would do away with the Education, the … Commerce and–let’s see–I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.

–Rick Perry (Republican presidential debate, 11/9/11)

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.