Bum Steer of the Year

They just "had to" do it: Gov. Perry wins the granddaddy of dubious honors in newest Texas Monthly

They just "had to" do it: Gov. Perry wins the granddaddy of dubious honors in newest Texas Monthly

Austin Photo Set: News_Karen brooks_Rick Perry_Texas Monthly_Bum Steer_Dec 2011_cover
Rick Perry on Texas Monthly cover for their Bum Steers issue Courtesy of Texas Monthly

They didn’t want to do it, they say. They had to

Texas Monthly awards its famous “Bum Steer of the Year” award to Gov. Rick Perry when the January issue comes out next week, bestowing upon the Republican presidential hopeful the very granddaddy of Dubious Honors for what the publication views as supreme buffoonery unmatched by no other in the year 2011. 

Or, to quote the magazine: “An honor conferred on whatever individual we feel has been responsible for the biggest screw-up, gaffe, fumble, stumble, train wreck, or humiliation of the past twelve months.”

Believe, if you dare, that the monthly magazine was truly trying everything in its power, as it says by way of releasing the news this week, not to give that award to Perry, whose fumbling autumn on the campaign trail — even before the record-shatteringly disliked “Strong” TV ad — has led to an entire culture of Perry lampoons. 

But even if you don’t believe that the award is meted out with complete glee, it is difficult to argue with editor Jake Silverstein’s explanation that his undoing (and the moment Perry won the award) came on the night Perry spent 53 seconds during a debate drawing a blank on the name of the agency he wanted to dissolve if he were to become the next president. 

He eventually came up with it, and many would argue dealt with it the very best way he could have in the aftermath. 

But the damage, to quote a favorite media cliche, was done.

After all, there wasn’t a media outlet in the country that didn’t wonder aloud (to tens of millions of readers and viewers and listeners) if that wasn’t the death knell of a campaign already injured by weak debate performances. 

Part of the draw of that particular narrative was that he’d started out so spectacularly, and then dropped to bottom-tier so fast that even the media — which deals in spectacular failure — was breathless (though not speechless). 

In its explanation of why it chose Perry for the Bum Steer of the Year, the magazine defends its credentials of fairness toward Perry and defensiveness of Texas in the face of the smug Yankee press that likes to come down to Texas and make fun of the Lone Star State. Much like family defending dysfunctional family, many of us can relate to that.

But Silverstein writes that those painful 53 seconds of silence were what pushed them to do the thing they “had to do": put him on the cover with giant letters spelling out "oops" and a Post-It note stuck to his forehead. (No, they didn't enjoy that at all.) 

The only other governor to get this "honor" was Dolph Briscoe in 1976.

My personal favorite was in 2005, when Jessica Simpson got the Bum Steer of the Year and was featured on the cover with a shirt that read, “I’m with Stupid." That was the year she said she didn’t realize “Chicken of the Sea” was tuna.

Yeah. Bet that wasn’t a gut-wrenching decision, either.