Recently, I was standing in the Wheatsville Co-op checkout line when the new issue of Texas Monthly caught my eye. On the cover was a bespectacled Rick Perry along with the headline, "Rick Perry exits the stage." I threw a copy in with my groceries and watched as it inched down the conveyor belt.
As the cashier placed my kale and almond butter into my reusable bag, we made small talk. When he picked up the magazine to scan it, his eyes dropped to the cover and our conversation came to an abrupt halt. The cashier studied the photograph, and when he looked back up at me, it was with a scowl.
"Do you think he really needs those glasses?"
As Colbert points out, the native Texan has eschewed his cowboy boots for loafers and has threatened to move to California. If that isn't setting yourself up for a presidential run, what is?
As we prepare for the 2016 presidential run, the nonstop news cycle has vetted everyone from Sarah Palin to Donald Trump as a potential candidate. But Perry? Certainly he would never run again. Why put himself through another year of being the butt of late night jokes?
President Perry buzz has been heating up around Texas for a while, but it's only been over the past week or so that the national media has jumped on board. Is it just that the news cycle tired of Chris Christie speculation and mumbles about Marco Rubio? No. It's because Rick Perry got himself a new pair of specs.
For some, eyeglasses represent being able to see better. For others, including Stephen Colbert (who hilariously mocked the specs on Wednesday's episode of The Colbert Report), these glasses aren't just any glasses — they're presidential glasses.
As Colbert points out, the native Texan has already eschewed his signature cowboy boots for loafers and even threatened to move to California. If that isn't setting yourself up for a presidential run, what is?
When Perry threw his hat into the presidential ring in 2011, he was greeted with cheers from the GOP and groans from the Democrats. Perry was painted as a very viable candidate to compete against President Barack Obama in the upcoming election — at least for a few months. All of that came crashing down with the "oops" heard 'round the world. Suddenly Governor Good Hair had turned into Governor Dum-dum, the subject of Saturday Night Live sketches, countless op-eds and even part of a book. The error ended Perry's chances immediately and eventually cinched the nomination for Mitt Romney.
While his reputation suffered on the national level, here in the Lone Star State he really didn't seem all that worse for the wear. He headed into the 2013 Texas Legislative Session and spent time threatening to steal businesses from California and New York (and then California again). And somewhere between the LA radio ads luring folks to Texas and exercising his veto power, Perry got glasses.
Between the political columnists and the talk show rants, Perry's spectacles have turned into a national spectacle (the spectacle of the spectacles if you will).
Though some folks like Andy Borowitz of The New Yorker (and certainly the art director at Texas Monthly) took notice and have been speculating on his spectacles ever since he first debuted the glasses last fall, the story reached a national fever pitch this week. Between the political columnists and talk show rants, Perry's spectacles have turned into a national spectacle (the spectacle of the spectacles if you will).
The reason for the national attention is thanks to Rand Paul, who engaged in some school yard taunting in a column for Politico. "Apparently his new glasses haven’t altered his perception of the world, or allowed him to see it any more clearly," the senator wrote. Low blow, Paul, low blow. He might as well have said, "Let the wild rumpus about Rick Perry's glasses start!" And start it did.
One op-ed in the Washington Post, which used the opportunity to talk in a "shallow and frivolous way about the physical appearance of a male politician for once," took the Clark Kent approach.
If he is anything like me, Rick Perry has been secretly hoping that the response of people when he put on his now-trademark glasses would go something like this.
People: Man, Rick Perry — what a disaster that was in 2012.
(Rick Perry puts on glasses)
Same People: (blown away) WHOA! Who’s this new guy? Haven’t seen him around the convention! He looks smart! I hope he runs!
It was a sentiment echoed in Colbert's rant, in which he said his favorite candidate is, "Texas governor, and cartoon of a Texas governor, Rick Perry." Colbert continued, "The governor has completely reinvented himself with a pair of glasses. He can't lose now. They make him look smarter, more serious and ... oops."
So, do Rick Perry's new hipster black frames mean he's going to make another presidential run? Probably. During the past nine months or so Perry has morphed from a boot-wearing Texan into someone a bit cooler, a bit smarter — someone who looks like he would fit right in at parties with big-city donors on both coasts.
Or maybe he just looks like he's lived in Austin for 14 years.