The way liberals reacted to Gov. Rick Perry's announcement of his presidential candidacy suggests many think Santa Anna didn't do half enough damage as he should of at the Alamo. Why he didn't burn down the whole &$!&$!& country, is the question seemingly on many minds.
For instance, check out The New York Times website for reader comments on Perry: "Texas yahoo," "alpha male Texas quarterback type," "more whackos from Texas," "the Texas twang and the Texas swagger," "tiresome and stupid in a big Texas way."
Mah felluh Texicans, them there fellas don't like us. And, because of us, certainly don't like our elected governor. Is that a problem for him as he seeks the White House? The answer comes in two parts.
Part 1: The liberal venom and virulence hurled at Perry -- who hasn't even copped the GOP nomination yet, far less the victory in November 2012 -- suggests something far short of rational analysis. It suggests stark terror, a freezing of the blood. The Republicans, as liberals see it, might win this one. Out would go ObamaCare. The rich would grind the faces of the poor. There would be prayer in public places and American soldiers all over the world.
Perry's cheerful in-your-face-ness when he confronts the liberal power structure rattles their teeth. The principles he seems to take for granted -- American exceptionalism, the virtues of capitalism, the vices of regulation, the centrality of religion in human affairs -- are the reverse of modern liberal ideals. A man in the White House who was dedicated to those principles might...well, there wouldn't be much telling, would there?
And so fear, I take it, then seizes liberal hearts, and the liberal rhetoric grows in violence and intensity. Conservatives, it is true, commit rhetorical excesses of their own, as in calling Obama alien or anti-American. But the attacks on Perry -- wow! You'd think he meant to blow-up the White House within minutes of taking the oath of allegiance. Which brings me to...
Part 2: The slipperiness of Perry's mission: whipping up enthusiasm among Republicans without giving the Democrats ammunition to be stored for use in 2012. He gets a little broad sometimes when committing a funny -- "secession" for disaffected states or, this week, an "ugly" treatment for federal officials who print money and debase the currency.
A sound point -- he had one in both cases -- doesn't require wry humor to drive home. What you can joke about back home, you can't always say when speaking somewhere else. Thus wariness regarding throwaway remarks is common sense on the campaign trail. Perry must learn to think of reporters and interviewers -- even Texas ones -- as rattlers coiled to bite him. If he does, he will be right about 80 percent of the time, and he won't get bitten.
At this point, a third point intrudes and swallows up the preceding ones.
Manners, softness and well-buffed fingernails -- the stuff Easterners claim to appreciate in conservative politicians -- such attributes get you into the country club. They don't win today's elections.
A soft, polite Rick Perry in hushpuppies rather than cowboy boots would resemble anything but the leader Americans seem to be seeking: the kind, for instance, they lack right now amid economic and foreign turmoil.
Perry is right -- intensely so -- to bear down on the gospel of jobs, the creed of "getting America working again." Liberal critics may deride him about his passion for America all they want. But, it resonates in Texas and all across a population worried that too many of its present leaders are anything but passionate about a country in need of passion -- more so than at any time, possibly since the god-awful, mid-1970s.
The hullabaloo connected with Perry's advent on the national scene demonstrates by itself a presence, style and agenda that could suit the time, the place and the mood. We'll know more about that once he really gets moving along the campaign trail. For now, could we kind of just quiet down and pay attention, reasonable-like?