We all know that stereotyping is wrong and a rule against it should extend beyond race, religion, gender and ethnicity.

To cast an entire population in the same light based on geography is unfair and should be declared unacceptable. Free-speech considerations would probably keep us from actually passing a law against such stereotyping, but we might be able to build a groundswell of popular opinion against gross generalizations made about people who live in a particular state or region.

New rules for civility and, yes, even political correctness would make it offensive for non-New Englanders to say we are aloof, provincial, tree-hugging, Kennedy liberals. Or for anyone who resides north of the Mason-Dixon Line to portray Southerners as mean-spirited bigots who mask their contempt for those of us they call “Yankees” with disingenuous smiles and a syrupy drawl.

We’d just ban all this nonsense except for one problem. There are always those tiny instances of behavior that crop up here and there and reinforce the stereotype.

As an example of this we have to look no further than Texas Gov. Rick Perry and his first week on the national campaign trail seeking the Republican nomination for a run at the presidency.

Gov. Perry is being described in the national media in terms often employed by reporters writing about Texans. Perry, the media have noted repeatedly, walks with a swagger, talks with a twang, exudes self-confidence to the point of cockiness. He is, to read the news reports, a loud, tall, gunslinging cowboy who has no use for the “guvmint” he wants to run and who can’t stop bragging about the Texas way of doing things.

We could cry “foul” to these characterizations if Perry did not hit the Midwest state fair and New Hampshire coffee klatch circuit shooting off his mouth and acting like a man whose picture could illustrate the dictionary definition of “stereotypical Texan.”

Loud? Guilty. Tall? Over 6 feet, which is taller than a lot of movie cowboys. Prone to braggadocio? You don’t win elections in the Lone Star State posing as a shrinking violet. Gunslinging? Well, he did shoot a coyote last year while jogging near Austin.

No, the governor doesn’t need media stereotypers to define his looks, style and behavior. Fact is, ol’ Rick is doing a pretty good job playing his West Texas self as he lives up (or down, depending on your point of view) to the expectations of conservative Republicans who love what he’s saying and doing and liberals who wish that coyote had dodged the bullet and taken a chunk out of Perry’s hide.

Perry has been, ahem, somewhat loose-lipped so far.

His first attention-getting stunt was to put Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in the same class as a Western movie railroad baron.

“If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what you all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas,” said Perry.

“Pretty ugly?”

Now that’s about as old-school Texan as it gets, invoking images of the worst that could happen to a shady banker from back East who wanders into a Texas saloon.

While he was at it, Perry suggested that Bernanke’s work in Washington, D.C., might be tantamount to treason.

Those remarks caused fellow Texas Republican Karl Rove to suggest the governor might tone it down a bit.

“Gov. Perry is going to have to fight the impression that he’s a cowboy from Texas,” said Rove, a critic of Perry in the past, on Fox News. “This simply added to it.”

If Perry heard Rove and others recommend moderation, he either ignored the advice or forgot it by Thursday, when he boldly pronounced scientific evidence that global warming is a fraud.

Perhaps he missed the stories that same day reporting the continuing Texas heat wave, or the ongoing drought that has caused farmers and ranchers $5.2 million in losses. Record-high temperatures, floods, tornadoes and other meteorological disasters such as we have rarely seen have occurred this year.

Who needs a scientist to verify that global climate patterns are changing?

Let’s face it, we’ll have a corral full of problems if Gov. Perry keeps this going.

Before long, the whole nation will be telling Aggie jokes (a popular Texas pastime aimed at those associated with Texas A&M University) and Perry will be dismissed with a classic Texas put-down: all hat and no cattle.

Richard L. Connor is CEO of MaineToday Media, owner of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. A newspaperman for 40 years, he has served on two Pulitzer Prize for Journalism nominating committees. He can be reached at:

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