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Rick Perry’s Nightmare Debate

November 10, 2011 4 comments

I’m going to have nightmares about this, I just know it. I’m standing on a stage bathed in hot television lights with 2 million people watching me when all of a sudden, the words just stop coming out. People start giggling. Next thing I know I’m standing in my underwear. I wake up in a cold sweat.

Oh, thank God, I’m just some anonymous journalist guy, not a politician who just watched his entire political career flash before his eyes. Oh Rick. Rick, Rick, Rick.

In case you missed it last night or haven’t seen it yet on YouTube, here’s the Washington Post’s take on The Gaffe:

In easily the most painful moment of an already uneven set of debate performances, the Texas governor on Wednesday night fumbled badly when describing how he would cut government in the CNBC Republican debate.

Perry’s lack of knowledge about his own political platform was awkward on the stage and immediately raised eyebrows in the Twitterverse, and could possibly be a pivot point in his campaign with longer-lasting implications for the race.

It went down like this. Perry began by saying “ I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education, and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see.”

After struggling for a while, Mitt Romney attempted to throw Perry a bone and volunteered “EPA” — the Environmental Protection Agency. But it wasn’t the EPA, so Perry struggled on to hit on the right answer.

“The third agency of government I would — I would do away with, Education, the…,” Perry continued to try and find his answer.

“Commerce,” an unknown voice volunteered, according to the debate transcript.

“Commerce and, let’s see,” Perry answered. “I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”

The next time he was asked a question, Perry said the Department of Energy was the third agency he would eliminate.

The audience applauded politely.

Hey, I’ve done it. I’ve lost my train of thought before. I’ve seen the train careen off the tracks and tumble six times down a ravine before coming to rest in a fiery explosion. It’s happened once or twice. I think I was tired. Or maybe a little tipsy.

I’m going to say it just once. When a presidential candidate forgets one of the three government agencies he wants to abolish; forgets which set of 30,000 federal workers he’s going to lay off; forgets it’s the Department of Energy, which you’d think might be the agency most top of mind to the Governor of oil-rich Texas- it’s not a good thing.

Even Rick Perry’s supporters were sending out dispirited and demoralized tweets. “The campaign just ended,” said one of them. The folks who put odds on these things downgraded Perry’s chances of getting the nomination by about 30% by the time the debate came to an end.

For those Republicans concerned with winning the general election, all they saw last night in that one mortifying minute of debate history was the debate 10 months from now with President Barack Obama behind one lectern and a deer standing at the other. With bright headlights shining into its eyes.

One could go on but what’s the use?

I will say this- in all sincerity- about Rick Perry. In the spin room afterward, where representatives of the presidential hopefuls show up to tout their candidates fabulous night, Perry did the right and honorable thing. He came out to face the reporters himself.

He said he was grateful he was wearing boots, because he had really stepped in it. Kind of like an NFL quarterback who’s just lost the game after 5 interceptions and still goes out to the press room to face the music. I rather admire the character and humility he displayed with that move in the spin room. It may have been the most honest thing said there the whole night.

I think I now actually really like Rick Perry. I certainly feel for him. Unfortunately for his presidential aspirations, this was the sort of gaffe that goes down in political and television history and is open-and-shut unrecoverable. But I like how he manned up with the reporters afterward.

I’d like to have a drink with the guy. And if it turns out we have a couple too many, we’ll help finish up each others sentences.

Like I said, I’ve been there.