As Gov. Rick Perry addressed business leaders in New Hampshire last Friday, he was asked about the two-count felony indictment he's facing back home. His answer, according to ABC News: "I've been indicted by that same body now for I think two counts, one of bribery, which I'm not a lawyer, so I don't really understand the details here." Bribery? Really?
It's been nearly two weeks since Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) was indicted on two felony counts, and at this point, some critics of the indictment are still struggling with the basic details. That includes the governor himself.
Over the weekend, for example, Peggy Noonan told a national television audience the case against Perry is an example of "local Democratic overreach." Reminded that this doesn't make sense -- local Dems weren't involved in any way -- Noonan said the case "looks crazy" anyway.
A day prior, Perry seemed just as confused. The Houston Chronicle suggested it might be another "oops moment" for the Texas governor.
The "details," for what it's worth, are that Perry was indicted on two counts: "abuse of official capacity" and "coercion of a public official." The governor may think he was charged with bribery, but he was not.
The broader question, however, is why Perry, a likely presidential candidate, seems so confused. I realize the governor isn't, shall we say, detail-oriented, but he's facing two felony counts. If convicted, the penalty could include jail time.
Sure, there are going to be legal nuances to the case that can be left to attorneys, but maybe Perry should at least know what he's been charged with?
Of course, in nearly every political story, there's a context to keep in mind. Candidates develop a reputation and become known by their strengths and weaknesses -- and those perceptions ultimately shape a prism through which events are seen. Chris Christie is a bully; John McCain is a cantankerous hawk; Mitt Romney is an out-of-touch gazillionaire, etc.
But if the general knock on Perry is that he's a little slow on the uptake, he'll have to work that much harder to prove he's sharp enough for the job.
He can start by remembering which criminal charges he's currently facing.