Talk about begging the question. Politico's Jonathan Martin wrote an article exploring competing theories about GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry's intellect, but the title of the story -- Is Rick Perry Dumb? -- gives the piece a pretty unambiguous frame.
Martin goes on to paint a portrait whose contours are pretty similar to those of another Texas governor turned Republican presidential candidate -- Perry is a man of action and instinct rather than a thinker, more comfortable with political fights than policy analysis. The article makes the parallel clear early on, referencing a famous early George W. Bush gaffe by asking whether Perry is dumb - or just misunderestimated? An anonymous former Republican governor takes it a step further, gleefully dubbing Perry Bush only without the brains.
The article is also full of supporters and rivals testifying to how Perry's political prowess has allowed him to accumulate power and influence (he has never lost an election). But Martin's seems to start with an assumption -- the first four paragraphs state pretty clearly that potential Perry is, by all accounts, no so bright -- and then challenges people to refute it.
There are a couple problems with this approach. The first one is that the article gives a platform for people to deride Perry, whether the mysterious former Republican governor who sneers from beneath the cloak of anonymity or the Democratic legislators who have battled the governor. Martin references the chatter picking up among his [Perry's] enemies and taking flight in Republican circles, but he surely realizes that he is to a certain extent legitimizing these misgivings by lending them Politico's broad reach and credibility.
The article has worth as an examination of the dynamics underlying the Republican nominating contest, insofar as it documents resistance in the Republican establishment to Perry's perceived shortcomings. But it reads too much like an takedown piece.
It's also important to note that, regardless of the article's content, the headline and first few paragraphs alone advance a narrative -- Perry as another shoot-from-the-hip, anti-intellectual Texas governor candidate -- that becomes part of the broader story of the presidential race. Already, the perpetual echo chamber of the Internet has produced a cascade of reaction stories that, if they don't implicitly embrace the Rick Perry is dumb meme, at least embed the question in our consciousness: Politico Asks: Exactly How Dumb is Rick Perry? from the Atlantic Wire; Is Perry Dumb? wonders David Frum.
Not that there aren't some serious doubts out there about Rick Perry. But this article instantly loses credibility because of the immediate suggestion of bias, something that is well attested to in the comments thread.