Whenever any kind of important national incident unfolds, an odd sort of expectations springs up around President Obama. A crisis in Ukraine, according to the new, unwritten rules, means the president isn’t supposed to golf. A crisis in Israel, the rules now dictate, means no traveling to fundraisers. And so on.
But it now seems possible that the rules won’t just apply to Obama. Katie Glueck reported the other day on Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) facing similar questions about his travel schedule.
Ebola came to Texas. And Rick Perry went to Europe.Now the Republican governor, a likely presidential contender, is back in Austin and scrambling to avoid a damaging perception problem like the “oops” moment that doomed his first shot at the White House.
On Oct. 12, the governor left for a long-planned trip to Europe, and soon after, two cases of Ebola were confirmed in his home state. After Perry’s aides told reporters he didn’t intend to cut the trip short, the governor scrapped his schedule and returned to Texas.
Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist with deep Texas ties, told Glueck, “Crisis management is actually something Perry has done pretty well in the past. But, in this case when the national spotlight was on Texas, Perry was missing in action. And based on pure politics, this is a situation where he could have taken command and control and looked presidential. He’s trying to jump back on stage now, but at the very least, he missed the first act because he was in Europe.”
McKinnon added that it’s “likely” Perry “missed the moment.”
Actually, it’s arguably worse than that. The Politico piece was good, but it overlooked an important detail: this wasn’t the first time.
Earlier this month, shortly after the first confirmed Ebola diagnosis in the United States, Perry also left Texas to attend an Iowa fundraiser, helping raise campaign cash for a state House candidate who happens to be Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) grandson.
As Rachel explained om the show a couple of weeks ago:
”Amid questions about whether Texas really has been on top of the situation, Texas Governor Rick Perry today left the state and instead went to Iowa to do a fundraiser for a Republican state representative who you haven’t heard of, and who probably Rick Perry hadn’t heard of before about five minutes ago. It’s a person who doesn’t necessarily mean anything to Rick Perry other than the fact that Perry would like to run for president, so he has to do fundraisers for state representatives in Iowa in order to try to curry favor with that state’s Republican Party.“So, even though the first Ebola case is happening in Texas and at times, the reaction to that case and dealing with that case in a public health level has seemed a little out of control, Governor Perry left Texas today and went to Iowa.”
We can speculate about how this might affect Perry’s national ambitions, though it seems likely voters will have forgotten all of this by the time the nominating process begins in earnest. It’s not too tough to imagine an attack ad or two from GOP rivals saying, “When the going got tough, Rick Perry got going out of town,” but there are probably more potent areas of criticism.
Still, for a political world often preoccupied with “optics” and theater, it’s apparently Perry’s turn to feel a sting Obama finds familiar.