How far Perry is willing to go

It’s been about five months since the White House took the extraordinary step of unveiling President Obama’s long-form birth certificate, ending the “Birther” conspiracy theory once and for all. With the questions answered, unhinged conservatives were forced to move on to other areas of nonsense.

Well, most of them, anyway.

New comments by Rick Perry in Parade magazine have revived the issue of whether the Texas governor believes that President Obama was born in the United States.

In the interview, Mr. Perry was asked if Mr. Obama was born in the United States, and he replied, “I have no reason to think otherwise.” When pressed, he said, “Well, I don’t have a definitive answer.”

As part of the interview, Perry said the president hadn’t seen his birth certificate. When Parade said the governor had seen Obama’s, Perry replied, “I don’t know. Have I?”

Pressed further on whether he questions the legitimacy of the documents, Perry said, “I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night…. He doesn’t think it’s real.” Asked if he believes the materials are real, Perry said, “I don’t have any idea,” before concluding that the issue is “distractive.”

Not distractive enough to avoid discussing in an interview, apparently.

My first instinct is to consider the strategy behind comments like these. Does Perry have polling that suggests there’s still a lot of Birthers who, for example, are likely to participate in the Iowa caucuses? Is this part of the governor’s strategy to reconnect with the GOP’s right-wing base? Maybe Perry believes questioning the president’s legitimacy will move the campaign discussion away from some of his recent setbacks?

But on second thought, these questions very likely give the governor too much credit. Rick Perry is not exactly what one might call a “strategic thinker.” I suspect all of this should, in fact, be taken at face value — he had dinner with a nutty conspiracy theorist; they chatted about Trump’s silly ideas; Perry found the nonsense persuasive; and when asked about it, the governor said what he was thinking.

There’s no 11-dimensional chess here; Perry just isn’t terribly bright.