Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination now, 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 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 feels the need to apologize to 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 Rick Perry, keep in mind that he plays this game too. When asked to explain the difference between himself and Bush, Perry responded that Bush 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.'"
Rick 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, Santorum is a fairly famous Catholic, but that's tomaytoh, tomahto for Keller, apparently.
"Every faith," 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."
Perry's twang offends liberals who think everyone should talk like Barack Obama, a man of cosmopolitan and learned diction. Of course, 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.
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 the Alvin and the Chipmunks B-sides, and NBC's Andrea Mitchell would lead with the disturbing reports that Sarah Palin quoted Biden inaccurately on her Twitter account.