If Rick Perry wanted to, he could turn the story of the hunting camp his family leased on its head, making those who blow it out of proportion look like fools while burnishing his own image. All he needs do is pull a page from Richard Nixon’s campaign for the vice presidency in 1952 when he briefly became a liability to the Republican ticket.
When then-Senator Nixon (he held the seat now occupied by Mrs. Boxer), the Republican nominee for Vice President, was “accused of improprieties relating to a fund established by his backers to reimburse him for his political expenses“, he took to their airwaves to defend himself — and attack his accusers.
He reminded Americans that he was a man from a modest background and could not pay for all expenses related to his office out of his own pocket. His wife did not wear a mink coat, instead wore a “respectable Republican cloth coat.” He did acknowledge, however, that he was keeping one gift:
One other thing I probably should tell you because if we don’t they’ll probably be saying this about me too, we did get something-a gift-after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was.
It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he’d sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl-Tricia, the 6-year old-named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.
For the Nixons, the family dream was to own a dog. For the Perrys, it was to find a place that could use as a hunting camp.
As Nixon did, Perry could make a speech about this dream, to find a place where his family could go to engage in the kind of recreation they enjoy. Just as the dog made the Nixons seems like an average family, so would this story make the Perrys seem like an all-American family, seeking a place where the family could gather together on weekends and for vacations.
Unfortunately, Perry could then say, “that beautiful place had a most offensive name. And just as soon as our family rented it, Dad and I decided to do something about that. We painted over the name. We never used that name, he would add, but instead enjoyed this beautiful part of our home state.” (If they called it something else, he could emphasize what they did call the place.)
He could embellish a bit, with the gist of his remarks being the recreation and relaxation his family enjoyed at this place and the efforts they took to cover up the name.
With this approach, he would come across as a regular guy who just wanted a place to enjoy recreation in the great outdoors with his good-hearted family, folks eager to eradicate an offensive name from a piece of property they didn’t own.