Rick Perry’s presidential campaign launched today on the premise that you don’t need to be able to count to three as long as you can push the red button. But amid his militaristic orgy of self-praise, dumb media people had a dumb media argument about the emo twins flanking Perry. Caitlyn Jenner was involved.

A lot of pundits critical of Perry apparently watched his announcement on mute and didn’t realize who the mopey hellhounds around the Guv were. They sure looked like sad sacks. This led to snark.

Perry, however, was flanked by Marcus and Morgan Luttrell, Texan twin brothers and longtime veterans of the Navy SEAL teams’ “war on terror” operations. You may recall the Navy Cross-earning Marcus from his depiction by Mark Wahlberg in Lone Survivor. “I’m surrounded by heroes,” Perry gushed, setting the tone for his candidacy as a president who will fuck the VA and ravage military pensions, but can salute correctly.

Conservative pundits were beside themselves that liberal pundits might not recognize the Luttrells. What effete, wine-sipping diffidence! What stupidity! Disqualify them now from having opinions on things. But the chest-beating conservative pageant took a sudden side turn into Mr. Toad’s Transphobic Ride with a nudge from normally staid libertarianishish reporter (and erstwhile workin’ friend of mine) Dave Weigel:

This is a variation on a conservative theme developed several evenings ago, a built-up frustration with the performative praise lavished on Caitlyn Jenner and her public coming-out. It’s yielded several dumb hairy-gonads memes, including one that falsely alleged ESPN had snubbed a war veteran with one leg and one arm to bestow upon Jenner its “Arthur Ashe Courage Award” and one that idiotically pushed a photo of toy soldiers as realer heroes than Jenner.

Of course, the irony in this most recent case is that a lot of fans of Marcus Luttrell probably have fuckall of a clue what Marcus Luttrell looks like, if not “something like Marky Mark.”

The only way you can have seen Luttrell in recent years is if you watch a lot of Fox News, because his status as a pop hero is attributable less to his Navy Cross for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action than to the machinations of conservative partisan political interests that also gave us Sarah Palin. That’s no reflection on him—none of us know the real him!—but on an ambition machine that finds it easier to play militarist identity politics than to articulate and advocate nuanced policy plans.

Which brings us back to a question we should actually be asking about Rick Perry’s self-coronation: Why is a presidential candidate’s best first photo op to be flanked by two enlisted ex-special forces grunts in front of a C-130?

That question sounds naive, because it’s hard for America to get more knee-jerkily military-worshiping than it already is. Lone Survivor, the movie, has grossed $150 million. The most recent paean to a Navy SEAL, American Sniper, now stands as the highest grossing war film of all time. Carhartt, tactical caps, and AR-15s are so hot right now. And opiners like Weigel and everybody to his right grumble that we still give short shrift to war heroes in this country. If our war heroes’ shrift were any longer, we’d be Soviets.

Nobody in the media wants to rassle with such naive questions. Conservative and liberal tastemakers would rather bitch about whose heroes are more heroic and in-touch with Real America. Perry—who polls around 2 percent of even GOP voters, a distant ninth among once and future presidential candidates—is gliding around wearing his Air National Guard service like he’s Dwight Eisenhower, and touting as his military surrogate Luttrell, a retired and somewhat bashful Navy first-class petty officer. Great optics, as they say in the Northern Virginia swamps and parlors. Great brand identity. But where are the generals and admirals? Or even the diplomats and professors? Does Perry have no Giambastiani, or Clark, or Franks, or Jones? Nah. In place of any coherent global strategy, Perry will substitute performative jingoism. And tweetin’ scorekeepers in the media will let him.

Contact the author at adam@gawker.com.
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