Opinion: Does a 'Rascally' Rick Perry Have Bill Clinton Worried?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 02:34 PM

I had a flashback on Tuesday when President Bill Clinton gave a speech to a group of firemen in Midtown Manhattan and called Gov. Rick Perry of Texas a “good-looking rascal” whose anti-government platform was “crazy.”

That rhetorical sleight of hand—raising an alarm about Perry’s potential attraction to voters while simultaneously smack-talking him--reminded me of a conversation I had in mid-2001 with a Clinton staffer.

At the time, the ex-president was newly settled in Harlem and putting together his globe-trotting, post-White House agenda. His successor, George W. Bush, was wallowing at the start of his first term with mediocre poll numbers. There was open talk among Democrats about Bush looking like a beatable, one-term incumbent.

But the staffer, an acquaintance, said this was the advice he’d heard Clinton giving to various Dems about President Bush: "Do not underestimate the guy. He's a canny pol. We need to beat him like a drum." Meaning, criticize him relentlessly. Meaning, soften him up while you have the chance because you never know what events might intervene to flip the equation. Cut to: Bush on the pile at Ground Zero a few months later with bullhorn and, as it turned out, re-election firmly in hand.

Perhaps Clinton is now sending a similar signal to his party about Perry: the Texan’s flavorful ideology and flagrant religiosity may make him a marginal character to us, but be careful. His campaign has the potential to take off. Get your shots in early.

It may be that Gov. Perry has Bill Clinton worried.


More in:

Comments [2]

Arvin Kaufman

Thomas Goggins's comment supporting Bill Clinton is 100% correct.

Aug. 19 2011 01:55 PM
thomas goggin from nyc, ny

Mr. Clinton is right. Never underestimate the intelligence of the American people. Although Perry would end or dramatically change both social security and medicare and disrupt entirely the lives and fortunes of older citizens, who knows how stupid the electorate can be. This country elected George W. Bush twice. Case closed.

Aug. 19 2011 12:20 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Blog

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a blog, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at



Supported by