Rick Perry: “Oops”

In case you thought I was kidding when I said that the various candidates for the GOP nomination are an historic collection of buffoons, Rick Perry took a moment in tonight’s debate to demonstrate how if anything I was understating the case:


I’m sitting here trying to think of a debate moment as pathetic as this one, and I can’t; not from my adult lifetime, anyway. Even the infamous performance by Ross Perot’s 1992 running mate, Admiral James Stockdale, pales in comparison. Stockdale didn’t do well, but he wasn’t a professional politician; a lot of what makes a good debate performance is learning the theatrics of public speaking, and if you don’t have experience speaking in public it’s very easy to come across poorly, especially on television. Perry, who’s been in politics for twenty-seven years now, has no such excuse.

Pro Tip, Governor Perry: if you’re going to advocate eliminating the Department of Education, you might want to do so in a way that doesn’t make you look like the poster child for why we need it.

UPDATE (Nov. 10): James Fallows also tries to come up with a comparable moment and has to reach all the way back to Gerald Ford in 1976.

Charlie Pierce points out that Perry’s meltdown was just one drop of weirdness in a sea of it:

The other striking thing about the debate was the complete, balls-out, stigmatic, religiously euphoric, seeing-the-Virgin-go-past-on-a-go-kart veneration of The Market…

Let The Market work its magic and the budget will be in balance, unemployment will sink, personal income will rise, the housing crisis will abate, health care will be cheaper and more plentiful, and all the people will have houses and all the students will be able to afford college. I am not paraphrasing here. I am merely condensing two hours of magical thinking into a single sentence. The solution to every problem — every damn one of them — was to rely on The Market for a solution. It was like watching one of those Star Trek episodes where entire societies grow up serving a computer that the people took for a god…

This was how they could talk at length about jobs and not mention unemployment insurance or income inequality. This was how they could talk at length about health care in this country, and not say a word about the singular greed and profiteering of the insurance industry. This was how they could talk at length about the housing bubble, and endlessly belabor Fannie Me and Freddie Mac with asserting that the CBO debunked months ago, and not mention at all the phrases “credit-default swap” or “collateralized debt obligation”…

This was how Mitt Romney — Mitt by god Romney, the job-butcher of Bain Capital — could get all wet-eyed about middle-class folks and nobody threw a banana at him. No wonder Rick Perry briefly left the corporeal plane. It’ll be a wonder if he ever comes back.

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