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Perry’s Ignorance is Not a Virtue

ABC News reports Texas Governor Rick Perry admitted he didn’t know about the Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, a case which struck down the state’s anti-sodomy law and similar laws in 13 others. The case was decided while Perry was governor, and he even wrote about it in his book Fed Up!, calling it one of the court cases in which “Texans have a different view of the world than do the nine oligarchs in robes.”

But in Iowa yesterday, Perry said, “I wish I could tell you I knew every Supreme Court case. I don’t, I’m not even going to try to go through every Supreme Court case, that would be — I’m not a lawyer.” He added, “We can sit here and you know play I gotcha questions on what about this Supreme Court case or whatever, but let me tell you, you know and I know that the problem in this country is spending in Washington, D.C., it’s not some Supreme Court case.”

Asked by a columnist with the Austin American Statesman for clarification on whether he knew what the case was about, Perry responded, “I’m not taking the bar exam…I don’t know what a lot of legal cases involve.” When told that the Supreme Court case struck down the Texas sodomy law, Perry said, “My position on traditional marriage is clear…. I don’t need a federal law case to explain it to me.”

This episode illustrates why some of us are wary of those (like Perry and Herman Cain) who make a virtue of being outsiders and seemingly take pride in their ignorance, as if it’s proof of their outsider status.

To devalue the significance of “some Supreme Court case” is silly and unwise, to say nothing of being at odds with Perry’s own past statements. Lawrence v. Texas was hardly an obscure case, especially for a man who was serving as governor of Texas at the time. And to ask Perry to comment on the case hardly qualifies as a “gotcha question” (an all-purpose defense for people like Perry, Cain, and Sarah Palin).

I, for one, appreciate politicians who have actually done their homework before they run for president, who demonstrate intellectual curiosity and a command of the issues. Knowledge isn’t a substitute for wisdom, of course — but neither is knowledge antithetical to it. And Rick Perry has shown, time and time again, that he’s simply not prepared for a presidential run. This is one reason why he won’t win the GOP nomination.


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