RSS
Why is Rick Perry distancing himself from his controversial book?
The GOP presidential hopeful's Fed Up! was released less than a year ago, but the author is already trying to bury its provocative arguments
Texas Gov. Rick Perry at a book signing in June 2011: The GOP presidential candidate is stepping back from his fiery criticism of Social Security, which he branded in the book as a Ponzi scheme.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry at a book signing in June 2011: The GOP presidential candidate is stepping back from his fiery criticism of Social Security, which he branded in the book as a Ponzi scheme.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
I

t's only been nine months since Texas Gov. Rick Perry released Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America From Washington, a book arguing that the country's social safety net — from child labor laws to Social Security — is unconstitutional, and comparing Social Security ("a crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal") to a Ponzi scheme. Now, however, just a week into Perry's presidential campaign, his team is disavowing the book. "Fed Up! is not meant to reflect the governor's current views," says Perry's communications director, Ray Sullivan. It's a "look back, not forward" that is "not in any way a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto." What should we make of Perry's rapid about-face?

This is a transparent campaign tactic that no one will buy: Perry's book is "not some 20-year-old graduate thesis" that he wrote years before going into politics, says Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress. It's a "substantial, nationally published manifesto," copies of which the governor was proudly signing just months ago. In fact, he was promoting it and its arguments as recently as last Monday in Iowa. And now Perry's staff is saying he's not accountable for anything in this book. Come on.
"Just one week in this campaign, Rick Perry disavows his nine-month-old book"

Perry obviously didn't plan to run for president: "Every candidate experiences a bit of whiplash" when he's thrust into the national spotlight, says Adam Sorensen at TIME. That's especially true for politicians who rise from the state government level to a national presidential campaign. (Remember, Mitt Romney was pro-choice back when he was Massachusetts' governor.) But Perry's case is special. Social Security enjoys "hallowed political status," and "Perry's spine-bending contortions" to limit his book's damage makes it clear "he was not premeditating his presidential bid last year."
"Rick Perry was against Social Security before he was for it"

But he shouldn't disavow the book at all: Fed Up!, though divisive, is a thoughtful, well-researched book, says David Weigel at Slate. "Why should it dog his campaign?" Perry's arguments on Social Security are very strong. He quotes Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman to construct an argument that the problem with entitlement spending is its "self-fulfilling nature" — in other words, "the ratchet effect that makes voters depend on shaky government programs instead of imagining a world without them."
"Rick Perry really doesn't like Social Security"

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week