Rick Perry is the embodiment of liberals' worst nightmares

But what sets Perry apart and earns him his niche in the far right corner of Mount Rushmore has nothing to do with the gyrations of the 2012 campaign. Indeed, Perry is not only a presidential candidate, but also a cowboy-booted sociological experiment. It is almost as if Perry’s political persona was constructed by bundling together all the fears and phantoms in the left-wing anxiety closet. Since the hysteria of the 1950s Red Scare, no Republican figure has matched Perry in his God-given ability to give liberals the heebie-jeebies. Others can rival the governor’s disdain for academic achievement (Palin), his cross-on-the-sleeve religiosity (Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee), and his antipathy to Social Security and Medicare (Paul Ryan and Barry Goldwater). But never before has a top-tier presidential candidate embodied the whole lethal package—and more…

TO BE SURE, there’s more to Perry than his cowboy boots—footwear rarely worn on the Upper West Side or in Brookline—and his standard-issue “unproven theory” claptrap about evolution. And the problem with extrapolating a presidency from all these Perry-isms is that it is hard to tell at this stage in the campaign how much is conviction and how much is clever pandering to the Tea Party zealots. Personally, I am intrigued by the theory of Dave Mann, editor of the Texas Observer, that Perry’s only governing ideology is “crony capitalism.”

But whatever his underlying beliefs, Perry could give both Bachmann and Palin lessons in liberal baiting. The swagger and the bristling self-confidence suggest a political leader who is often wrong, but never in doubt. It is all so reminiscent of another wrong-way-Corrigan president. Intellectually, it is easy to remember the Texas-sized enmities that divide the Bushies and Perry. But emotionally, every time liberals hear that Perry twang and those dropped “g’s,” the instinct is to quake at stumbling into a horror-movie remake entitled, Mission Accomplished 2: Return to the White House.