Thomas Sowell

One of the problems in trying to select a leader for any large organization or institution is the tendency to start out looking for Superman, passing up many good people who fail to meet that standard, and eventually ending up settling for a warm body.

Some Republicans seem to be longing for another Ronald Reagan. Good luck on that one, unless you are prepared to wait for several generations. Moreover, even Ronald Reagan himself did not always act like Ronald Reagan.

The current outbreak of "gotcha" attacks on Texas Governor Rick Perry show one of the other pitfalls for those who are trying to pick a national leader. The three big sound-bite issues used against him during the TV "debates" have involved Social Security, immigration and a vaccine against cervical cancer.

Where these three issues have been discussed at length, whether in a few media accounts or in Governor Perry's own more extended discussions in an interview on Sean Hannity's program, his position was far more reasonable than it appeared to be in either his opponents' sound bites or even in his own abbreviated accounts during the limited time available in the TV "debate" format.

On Social Security, Governor Perry was not only right to call it a "Ponzi scheme," but was also right to point out that this did not mean welshing on the government's obligation to continue paying retirees what they had been promised.

Even those of us who still disagree with particular decisions made by Governor Perry can see some of those decisions as simply the errors of a decent man who realized that he was faced not with a theory but with a situation.

For example, the ability to save young people from cervical cancer with a stroke of a pen was a temptation that any decent and humane individual would find hard to resist, even if Governor Perry himself now admits to second thoughts about how it was done.

Many of us can agree with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's contention that it should have been done differently. But it reflects no credit on her to have tried to scare people with claims about the dangers of vaccination. Such scares have already cost the lives of children who have died on both sides of the Atlantic from diseases that vaccination would have prevented.

The biggest mischaracterization of Governor Perry's position has been on immigration. The fact that he has more confidence in putting "boots on the ground" along the border, instead of relying on a fence that can be climbed over or tunneled under where there is no one around, is a logistical judgment, not a question of being against border control.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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