It’s becoming apparent that the public would be better served if presidential candidates were interviewed not by reporters but by an algorithm that randomly generates pearls of inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom. Presidential candidates would face the same exposure to tough questions as they do today, and struggling news networks could tighten their belts by doing away with some unnecessary operating costs.
The latest example of the phenomenon in which liberal clichés serve as a guiding philosophy comes to us courtesy of NBC News reporter Kasie Hunt. She sat down with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry ahead of what many anticipate will be his second run for the White House. In that exchange, Perry was candid about his lackluster performance on the debate stage in 2011, culminating in a painkiller-fueled episode in which the candidate stumbled over the three agencies he hoped to shutter as president. It was the “oops” heard ‘round the world, and it cemented the impression in the minds of millions that Perry lacked the intellectual faculties necessary to serve as commander-in-chief.
This was the same criticism that dogged Perry’s predecessor in Austin, a figure who nevertheless went on to occupy the Oval Office.
“Are you smart enough to be president of the United States?” she asked.
“Running for the presidency is not an IQ test,” Perry replied. “It is a test of an individual’s resolve. It’s a test of an individual’s philosophy. It’s a test of an individual’s life’s experiences. And I think Americans are really ready for a leader that will give them a great hope about the future.”
There isn’t much to love about that answer, but nor was it a stumble that should disqualify him from holding higher office. It was a rather boilerplate response to a question that didn’t really merit a thoughtful reply. The question is more reflective of the reporter’s biases than it is an honest inquiry of a man who occupied the executive mansion in one of the nation’s most populous and economically prosperous states for over a decade.
It seems, however, that Hunt’s question, and Perry’s response, had their desired effects. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump came up with no fewer than 11 ways in which he thought Perry could have answered that question more gracefully.
2. “Yes, of course.”
3. “Yes, of course, and I’m frankly amazed you think that’s an appropriate question to ask. Do you ask it of everyone you interview?”
His fourth proposed response is perhaps most instructive. “Is that a serious question?” Bump wrote in the voice of a hypothetically irate Perry. “Are you seriously sitting there and literally insulting my intelligence?”
Of course, had he said this, I would be quoting articles of political analysis demanding that the unduly aggressive and probably misogynistic Perry retire permanently from public life. The fact that Bump appears to concede that a proper response to Hunt’s perfectly silly question would be to call it valueless indicates, however, that he can see that what inspired this inquiry was not a desire to educate voters or to learn more about Perry, but to set a trap.
Perry might have answered this question without the poise demonstrated by Marco Rubio as he steers around one media landmine after another, but it wasn’t a terrible answer. The press will, however, treat it like one. Maybe Perry 2.0 isn’t any more ready for prime time than was Perry 1.0. But if that’s the case, this question and the governor’s response to it do not make that clear.
An earlier version of this post indicated that this interview occurred recently. This exchange was recorded several months ago.