How NOT To Win Friends and Influence People, Rick Perry Style

Texas Governor Rick Perry
Image by eschipul via Flickr

This is not a partisan blog, I swear. But when it comes to lessons in how not to communicate, the current crop of GOP presidential candidates is the gift that keeps on giving.

First there was Mitt Romney and his unique comedy stylings. Then Michele Bachmann and her little grammar problem. And now we have Rick Perry.

I suppose it’s wrong to pile on, now that his campaign is said to be on life support. (By the same experts who long ago pronounced Newt Gingrich, the current frontrunner, dead in the water.)

Anyway, Perry has thrown up the proverbial Hail Mary pass, proposing that Congress be turned into a part-time institution and cutting members’ pay in half. Weird, yes, but bold.

Then he took it a step further by challenging Nancy Pelosi to debate the issue. Doubly weird, since a) he’s not running against her and, b) she’s not in charge of Congress anymore. But again, bold. Here was his invite:

I am in Washington Monday and would love to engage you in a public debate about my Overhaul Washington plan versus the congressional status quo. I think it would be a tremendous service to the American public to see a public airing of these differences. Let the people decide. If Monday doesn’t work, perhaps we could find a time in Iowa over the course of the next month to discuss these issues in front of the people of America’s heartland.

Okay, this odd gambit is probably good for garnering a some much-needed attention. Fine. But no, he couldn’t just leave it at that. He had to undercut whatever seriousness might have been attached to his proposal with this little threat:

Should you choose not to respond or engage in such a healthy discussion, I will take it to mean you will continue your obstructionist ways in the face of much needed Washington reform.

Really, Rick? You had to go there? Do you talk to our constituents with that mouth?

For her part, Pelosi responded with this zinger:

“It is my understanding that such a letter has come in,” Pelosi said in the Capitol Thursday. “Monday I’m going to be in Portland in the morning, I’m going to be visiting some of our labs. I’m in California in the afternoon, that’s two. I can’t remember what the third is.”

Which brings us back full circle. Humor. Having a sense of one is good. It trumps pettiness every time.

And Rick? Don’t go running with the big dogs.