- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, at least in the national polls. Undoubtedly that’s the main reason so many East Coast pundits and Beltway wags are making fun of him. He likes guns. He’s from Texas. He talks funny. He’s a - gird yourself now - Christian!

New York magazine and others mock his harmless Bush-like pronunciation of nuclear (“nuke-ular”). They’re scandalized that he doesn’t go to a golf course to relax, but to a shooting range. It’s already a cliche among liberals to describe him as the sort of cartoonish, ignorant cowboy they thought George W. Bush was (though to date, nobody has felt the need to apologize to Mr. Bush for misinterpreting him).

And before we bust out the world’s smallest violin - or, I guess, the world’s smallest fiddle - to play the world’s softest sob song for poor Mr. Perry, keep in mind that he plays this game, too. When asked to explain the difference between himself and Mr. Bush, Mr. Perry responded that George W. went to Yale while he went to Texas A&M.

“In other words,” joked Conan O’Brien, “Rick Perry’s idea of instilling confidence is to say, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not as smart as George W. Bush.’ “


Mr. Perry’s overt Christianity horrifies many of his liberal critics. Bill Keller, the outgoing editor of the New York Times, agonized recently that “Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are all affiliated with fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity.” Actually, Mr. Santorum is a fairly famous Catholic.

“Every faith,” Mr. Keller writes, “has its baggage, and every faith holds beliefs that will seem bizarre to outsiders. I grew up believing that a priest could turn a bread wafer into the actual flesh of Christ.”

I hope his current priest doesn’t mind when he calls Holy Communion “baggage.”

Mr. Perry’s twang offends liberals who think everyone should talk like Barack Obama, a man of cosmopolitan and learned diction. Of course, Mr. Obama pronounces “corpsman,” “corpse-man” - as if our Navy were staffed with heroic zombies. One would think he’d have picked up the right punctuation during his travels to all 57 U.S. states.

Mr. Obama’s gaffes earn no traction the way, say, the last president’s “Bushisms” did. Nor do they cause bowel-stewing panic at MSNBC the way Sarah Palin’s flavorful patois does.

And don’t even get me started on Joe Biden. He could show up at a Russian state funeral in a Speedo and pith helmet, singing like Alvin and the Chipmunks, and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell would lead with disturbing reports that Sarah Palin quoted Mr. Biden inaccurately on her Twitter account.

Let’s cut through the clutter. A lot of people on the East and West coasts are bigots and snobs about “flyover types.” They equate funny accents with stupidity, and they automatically assume someone who went to Texas A&M must be dumber than someone who went to Yale. Overt displays of religion trigger their fight-or-flight instincts, causing them to lash out irrationally.

My favorite example? When Sen. John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, University of Chicago professor Wendy Doniger wrote that Mrs. Palin’s “greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman.”

When I read such idiocy, it’s impossible for me not to love Mr. Bush, Mr. Perry, Mrs. Palin, et al., for their enemies.

But here’s my problem: I find the prospect of another four or eight years of defending these cultural distinctions to be intensely wearying.

My weariness is hardly a major consideration for anybody, but I think it reflects a larger problem. Conservatism is starting to have an identity-politics problem all its own. I think conservatism needs to spend less time defending candidates for who they are and more time supporting candidates for what they intend to do.

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