Opposition researchers usually have to sift through long-forgotten archives to find juicy footage of a candidate so they can use his own words against him, as Judd Legum, Hillary Clinton's research director in 2008, explained to Politico's Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman. But the dirt-diggers working for Rick Perry's rivals will have a much easier time. Perry gave them plenty to work with in his book Fed Up, published last year. One of the passages most ready-made for attack ads is his musing on how Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme" and a "failure," plus its passage required "violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles of federalism and limited government." Mitt Romney's campaign is already gearing up to use it against Perry in Florida, an early primary state packed with old folks.
As Politico notes, Perry once said, "I wouldn't have written that book if I was going to run for the presidency of the United States." Oops. Now what? He can back away from the comments -- as he appeared to do when his spokesman told The Wall Street Journal that the book was "a look back, not a path forward" -- but that risks making him look like a weaselly flip-flopper, as several strategists told Politico.
What other gems are in Perry's book? It's not just Social Security he finds offensive -- Perry hates the whole New Deal. In fact, as the Texas Tribune notes, in the fourth chapter, "Obama is repeatedly compared to FDR -- and Perry doesn’t mean it as a compliment." One clue to how Perry will handle the most inflammatory parts of his book is that since getting into the race, he's kept up his Obama-FDR comparisons. He told Sean Hannity in August:
"What's dumb is to oversee an economy that has lost that many millions of jobs, to put unemployment numbers that over his four years will stay probably at 9 percent, to downgrade the credit of this good country, to put fiscal policies in place that were a disaster back in the '30s and to try them again in the 2000s. ... That's what I consider to be the definition of dumb."
Conservative columnist Byron York writes in The Washington Examiner that Obama won't be able to run on hope in 2012 -- with this economy, "he'll have to run on fear -- that is, on convincing voters that Republicans are just too scary to elect." York was referring to fear-mongering that Perry was a theocrat. But it looks like plenty of people are freaked out over Perry's economic stuff, too. Which it looks like Perry is quite proud of. Another clue that he won't run away from what he wrote in his own book, from the eighth chapter:
"The branding of the 'Compassionate Conservative' meant that the GOP was sending the wrong signal that conservatism alone wasn't enough. For the first time we were acting like Liberals who call themselves progressives, running away to some degree from who we were, and what we stood for."