Political pundits are ubiquitous and a dime-a-dozen, but the truly perspicacious and insightful are worth their weight in gold.
Dana Perino is one of those few and is America’s most impressive political analyst.
First a word about my standing to make such a judgment.
For over a half-century I have been a professor of political rhetoric and communication. In that time I have written almost a half-dozen books, over 150 op-eds, and made hundreds of appearances in electronic media, locally and nationally. I have observed political talk on all networks, including CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and the mainstream networks.
Pundits are not interchangeable: many are uninformed or inarticulate or do not know how to converse and be responsive with interlocutors. On the other hand, many are informed or articulate or know how to converse and be responsive with interlocutors. A few – very few – are all three: informed, articulate and know how to converse clearly with friendly and unfriendly sources.
Perino was the White House Press Secretary under President George W. Bush (2007-2009), following her being White House Associate Director of Communications and Deputy Press Secretary.
Currently, Perino co-hosts The Five with three other Fox conservatives and one liberal, usually either Jessica Tarlov or former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., both Democratic pundits. She also co-hosts “America’s Newsroom” with the almost equally insightful Bill Hemmer.
Perino is nearly ubiquitous with, as well, her many ad hoc appearances and her blog, “Everything Will Be Okay with Dana Perino,” echoing her generally uncloying optimism, evident in her books, such as, And the Good News Is…: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side and Everything Will Be Okay: Life Lessons for Young Women (from a Former Young Woman).
On The Five there is an interesting sociology. The best and most comprehensively informed liberal co-host there is Democratic strategist Jessica Tarlov, but it has been evident since her beginning that she was treated differently from others on the left. Tarlov is consistently interrupted by Greg Gutfeld, often irrelevantly and self-importantly, and condescended to by Jesse Watters. Tarlov hides her resentment often with a tight smile, but equally often she is rescued by Perino, and when Perino modifies Tarlov’s claims, the latter seems to accept it as a reasonable synthesis of views.
The final regular on The Five, Jeanine Pirro, with her background as a New York prosecutor and judge, is fine with legal topics, but is much less convincing on other topics.
Last week on “America’s Newsroom” Perino had paused momentarily the other day to address a few questions amid the commotion of the presidential helicopter, while responding to a clip of the president as he prepared to board Marine One and depart the White House.
Biden, alluding to the ongoing illegal migrant crisis at the U.S. southern border, had said, “I’ve done all I can do. Give me the power. I’ve asked for it from the very day I got in the office. Give me the Border Patrol, give me the people, give me the people — the judges. Give me the people who can stop this and make it work —”
Perino, who knows the conventions of presidential rhetoric, said plaintively, “That’s terrible to me. That’s terrible!…If they at the White House communications office want him to make news and want him to take questions, do it in a way where the American people, our allies, and our adversaries can hear him clearly, and then you won’t get all the questions as to his mental capacity, because you could actually hear him if he’s being coherent…I find it professionally insulting as somebody who used to work there, that they think that this is good enough for the president to just, to take a question like that when you can’t actually hear him above the rotating blades. The other day, he was at the Nowhere Coffee Company, and he answered a very important question about troops that have just been killed. It’s not good enough.”
The next day she opined on the inexplicability of Biden’s unique ignoring for almost exactly a year the East Palestine, Ohio derailment and its lingering awful consequences. Perino often references her years in the White House and contrasts W’s reactions pursuant to a crisis with the current president’s.
On America’s Newsroom there is an ongoing joke in the subject heading, “Dana Reads Sports,” referencing the one area in which she is not conversant but makes no pretense of expertise. That is what is called “being secure.”
Consistently, her answers are clear, articulate, and authoritative with qualifications within her background and acquired expertise, more so than any other political commentator.
When asked about Special Counsel Robert Hur’s Report on Biden on Fox, February 7, Perino prefaced her remarks by saying that she respects Biden and the presidency, but that she “cannot see how this continues.” Were she advising President Biden, she says, she would have focused on Hur’s conclusion that he recommended that no charges be leveled as a sitting president, and she added that she would have recommended that the president avoid any angry outburst.
Today (February 12) Perino said that Hur’s report constituted the “death knell” for Biden’s candidacy for the Democratic presidential election this fall. It was reminiscent of when Lyndon Johnson said of American support for him and the Vietnam War, “If we lose (Walter) Cronkite, we have lost the country;” she is that respected.
Perino does not exaggerate her reaction or fake outrage to improve ratings or compensate for a dearth of knowledge. Unlike participants on virtually every talk show, she is the least likely to interrupt and is particularly the most civil while abjuring others’ strong opinions.
As a political pundit, communicator, and commentator, she is the most competent, most well-informed, and has the best judgment.
Richard E. Vatz is professor emeritus of political rhetoric at Towson University and author of The Only Authentic of Persuasion: the Agenda-Spin Model (Authors Press, 2022) and many other works, essays and op-eds. He is a Distinguished Professor at Towson University and has won a number of teaching awards.