Rick Perry trapped in the bubble

An old story in the Texas Tribune (“Rick Perry’s Taxpayer-Funded Security Costs Rise“) is a good reflection of why Rick Perry’s presidential campaign floundered.

It’s not that Perry was spending as much as $400,000 a month in security or getting $92,000 in retirement benefits even as he draws a six-figure salary as governor. It’s not that his job comes with state planes and almost $10,000 a month house. The problem is that Perry seemed completely comfortable with a level of special benefits that was completely alien to most citizens. Perry campaigned as an anti-Washington candidate while taking part in some of the behavior that drives anti-Washington voters crazy.

In short, Perry had already fallen prey to what ails DC. He became accustomed to life in the bubble that surrounds select public officials and makes them look too much like the royalty Americans quit looking up to a couple of centuries ago.

Being insulated from the world is an inevitable part of being president. After years of leading the Allies through World War II and eight years as President, Dwight Eisenhower did not know how to work a rotary phone. George H.W. Bush had not driven a car for decades when he was president. Ironically, our presidents has become such an important representative of the American that the security around them has isolates them from us.

George W. Bush seemed largely immune to this. Bush was always seemed in touch with average people. I remember it stretching back to his decision to shun the luxury boxes at Rangers’ games and sit in the stands with the rest of the fans. He still has great seats, but he is out there in the heat with the rest of the fans.

The “imperial presidency” has been a worry of scholars for almost half a century and voters don’t like presidential candidates who are too comfortable in the bubble. Perry can be very good at conveying a down-to-earth quality when he meets with people, but he allowed himself to become insulated from voters by the trappings of an imperial governorship. In the end, that may have contributed to his failure to communicate with the Americans he wanted to represent.


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