Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks at the Defending the American Dream Summit sponsored by Americans For Prosperity at the Omni Hotel on Aug. 29, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.
Mike Stone/Getty

‘Presidential’ is a subjective term

It’s not exactly a secret that Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) intends to launch a second national campaign in the near future, and the Associated Press reported over the weekend that recent developments have given Perry a chance to “look presidential” at an opportune time.
The first diagnosed case of Ebola in the United States, and the revelation that dozens of others in Texas are now being monitored, is a potential health crisis that gives Republican Gov. Rick Perry another real-time leadership test and a chance to look presidential – or ineffective – on a national stage.
The once and possibly future White House candidate has seized on similar opportunities before. He deployed 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border this summer after assailing what he called the Obama administration’s inaction amid a surge of unaccompanied immigrant children pouring into U.S. territory…. During recent trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, where presidential primary season begins, Perry bragged about dispatching the National Guard to the border in August.
Of course, in reality, Perry’s deployment of Guard troops served absolutely no practical purpose whatsoever. The policy was panned by local law enforcement, and it cost a fair amount of money with no discernible results.
What we’re left with is an ill-conceived idea that failed to actually accomplish anything. But for some, that may not matter – Perry looked “presidential” while advancing a pointless policy.
As for the Texas governor’s response to Ebola developments, there’s trouble for Perry on this front, too.
On Tuesday, the first confirmed Ebola diagnosis in the United States was announced in Dallas. On Friday, as Alan Rappeport reported, Rick Perry left town to help a state House candidate in Iowa raise some money.
Gov. Rick Perry will make another pilgrimage to the Hawkeye State [on Friday] to raise money for State Representative Patrick Grassley, the grandson of Senator Charles E. Grassley. […]
Mr. Perry has been eager to clear his schedule for nearly everyone running for office in Iowa. In the last year, Mr. Perry has made more than 20 campaign stops there, many for state legislative candidates and county Republican organizations, according to Robert Haus, one of the governor’s strategists.
If you missed the show on Friday night, Rachel summarized the larger context:
“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.”
Remember, this is his “chance to look presidential.”
I can appreciate why the “imagine if Obama had done this” line of argument is a little too convenient at times, but the benefit of the approach in this instance is that we don’t have to imagine it – for years, Republicans have pretended to be outraged about the president balancing official and political responsibilities. One of the most common complaints from Karl Rove is, “Can you believe the president is attending a fundraiser while [insert name of crisis here] is going on [somewhere on the planet]?”
And yet, here’s Perry, leaving Texas altogether for a state House candidate’s fundraiser in Iowa, amid questions that Texas hasn’t handled an Ebola diagnosis especially well.
Let this be a reminder to the political world that there’s an important difference in looking presidential and being presidential.