Thursday, November 10, 2011

Here's what a GOP candidate could do now

I agree with those pundits like Larry Sabato and Michael Barone that Rick Perry's brain freeze last night was the worst moment that they can remember ever in a political debate. It wasn't so much that he had such a human moment. We can all relate to having a brain freeze and how the tension of the moment would exacerbate that moment. The problem is that this plays into the image that Perry has projected since he entered the campaign of someone who just can't be successful in political debates. And this is a year when the debates are really being determinative in how Republicans are viewing the candidates. And all someone has to do is picture Rick Perry on a stage with Barack Obama and the chances for Perry to make any sort of serious comeback is all over.

As Byron York writes, Perry has clearly not spent enough time thinking through why he's running and what policies he wants to implement. Thus, he lacks the facility with the issues to be more comfortable in the give and take of debates. Anyone can have a brain freeze moment, but he still is not demonstrating that he's ready for prime time.

He's toast for this election cycle and he will have to work to recover his reputation. One option would be to give some serious policy speeches to address his seeming weakness in policies. I'd suggest that he start off with a detailed presentation of where he'd cut spending. It's a conservative pipe dream to think that we can rid of one, much less three or five executive departments. But there are programs we can get rid of. And that ludicrous Christmas tree tax story provides an opening for one set of programs that the federal government doesn't need to be involved in.

A reader sent me a link to the Department of Agriculture's page on Industry Marketing and Promotion. Did you have any idea of how the USDA was entwined with the agricultural industries to "help" them market their products?
Current Research and Promotion Programs

* Beef
* Blueberries
* Cotton
* Dairy Products
* Eggs
* Fluid Milk
* Hass Avocados
* Honey Packers and Importers
* Lamb
* Mangos
* Mushrooms
* Peanuts
* Popcorn
* Pork
* Potatoes
* Sorghum
* Soybeans
* Watermelons
I'm sure that supporters of these programs would argue that these constitute a relatively small part of the USDA's budget, much less the entire federal budget. But a billion here, a billion there, and soon we're talking real money.

And the principle is what matters. Why should the federal government be imposing small taxes on agricultural items such as watermelon to fund information and marketing programs?

Every politician rails against corporate welfare. Mr. Perry could go through the budgets of our executive departments and agencies and tally up all these sorts of programs and explain his philosophical objection to such government participation in marketing private business's products.

Of course, Rick Perry has his own problems with somewhat similar programs in Texas.

That's a whole other problem.

So I present this idea for any of the candidates if they're looking for a way to capitalize on the Christmas tree controversy and connect it to their own approach to government spending.