STATIC AGE

By now you've all seen the unofficial demise of the Rick Perry Express to the White House, a juggernaut of a campaign that met its end during the nationally televised GOP primary debate on November 9.

Two things about this are amazing. One is that in the pantheon of Texas governors, Perry will manage to be remembered as "the dumb one." The second is that I feel slightly bad for Rick Perry.

If there is a technical term for what happened to Perry during this debate, I don't know what it is. I do know that it happens to me all the damn time. I get paid to stand in front of large groups of people and talk every day, and then I do it again in the evening for fun. Regardless of my level of preparation, the use of notes, or experience with the material, I still encounter these Perry moments regularly. Sometimes you just…go blank. It happens. Unless you're lying or happen to be having such a moment right now, you'll admit that it happens to you too.

Yes, I got plenty of laughs out of seeing this and exploited it for more than its fair share of jokes over the past few days. That said, this is a better indicator of how poisonous the modern media environment has become than of Perry's lack of suitability for the presidency. There are dozens if not hundreds of reasons that Rick Perry should never enter the White House without a ticket for the sightseeing tour in his hand; this is not necessarily one of them. Yet it took this – something he forgot rather than any of the ridiculous shit he actually said – to knock him from the rank of Serious Candidate.

To understand what is happening to Perry is to make sense of the millions of dollars campaigns spend on image control. You can campaign on the most idiotic ideas on Earth and the Beltway media will take you seriously if you have enough money, but god forbid you do something that lands you in a viral video clip. Then you're radioactive. Ask George "Macaca" Allen or Howard Dean and they'll tell you how an entire campaign can be derailed by a 15 second YouTube clip. The key, as many campaigns have figured out, is to spout whatever brand of insanity most pleases one's targeted donors and to "look presidential" while doing it. Be crazy, be an idiot, or be downright scary. Just don't look silly while you're doing it.

I would love to look back at 2012 as the election in which Rick Perry was soundly rejected by voters because he has been a disaster as Governor of Texas, he seems to consider nullification and secession to be intriguing concepts, and he is the worst kind of right-wing populist loon. Instead we'll note that he was the updated version of Howard Dean, the guy whose campaign ended when he made himself look stupid for a moment on camera. It's a sad commentary on both our media and the electorate that Perry was taken seriously when he proposed eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency, and given the gong only after he forgot its name.

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23 Responses to “STATIC AGE”

  1. Zebbidie Says:

    Sometimes the gods are perverse in their punishments.

  2. cromartie Says:

    Your first mistake is looking at that field of candidates and assuming that God or Gods exist.

    Your second is assuming that it took divine intervention for Perry to screw that up when he was perfectly capable of doing it all on his own.

  3. megamahan Says:

    It was actually the Department of Energy that he forgot. It was cabinet-level departments that he proposed eliminating as oppose to mere agencies. The EPA thing was a lifeline thrown out to him that he jokingly accepted and immediately said "no" to.

    That said, I totally agree with the rest of your post. Perry's proposals are bat-shit crazy, but he gets taken down by a brain-fart? We are so fucked.

  4. Middle Seaman Says:

    Sadly, Howard Dean didn't look stupid; he just behaved unexpectedly according to the non existing media expectations. Looking stupid didn't kill Perry. Looking stupid looking stupid did. Translation: he couldn't remember (considered stupid by many), but he was giggling doing doing it (stupidly being stupid).

    In most debates in the Democratic primaries in 2008, Obama looked stupid. No one cared.

  5. Ben Says:

    To be fair, Perry was on his way out before his senior moment. His humane immigration policy turned off the crazies, and a combination of his weird Soc Sec ideas and seemingly drugged-up debate performances sunk him with everyone else. His intrade stock fell in half in the two minutes after he forgot the Dept. Of Energy, but it fell from 8 to 4.

    On the other hand, none of this was due to the media pointing out that Perry's policies are insane, so the post's disappointment in the media is still valid. And will remain so, as long as the level of entropy allows information to be gathered and disseminated in a profit-seeking manner.

  6. Jimcat Says:

    Also, to be fair to Howard Dean, I don't think his campaign collapsed because of the "Yearrgh" video. It collapsed because, despite all of the money raised, national poll attention, and dedicated volunteers, people didn't bother to actually vote for him in Iowa. The scream came after his dismal showing in the caucuses, and the same results would have been likely in the later primaries with or without it.

    This has been on my mind lately because I had been suspecting that Herman Cain's campaign would turn out to suffer much the same fate. (Now, of course, the harassment news throws a whole new factor into the mix.)

  7. Chase Says:

    Perry doesn't get a pass from me, and I've blanked in front of classes, too. Here's the difference, as I see it: Forgetting some facts, or a turn of phrase, or the order of my notes means that I've forgotten something about Plato or Locke or whatever. Big deal. It just isn't on the same level as forgetting which agencies of the fucking federal government I plan to close. Jesus! It's like saying, "There are three, yes, three people I'm going to burn at the stake! John, Bob, and… um…." It just shouldn't happen! Unless, of course, my plans are mere talking points that I have no real commitment to…

  8. squirrelhugger Says:

    The technical term you wanted is "brain fart".

  9. J. Dryden Says:

    SNL (of all sources) nailed this one:

    Mitt Romney: "Please–I want to be president, but…not like this."

  10. anotherbozo Says:

    Two points:

    1. Nice to hear that Ed, not to mention Perry, is far from being a "senior" but has regular brain freezes. Now with me they're invariably called "senior moments," though to be honest some of them involve lapses in remembering common nouns (umbrella, carburetor), not the next paragraph of a lecture. If I were still teaching, God protect us.

    2. I agree with the comment about Perry looking "silly" during/after his brain fart. It meant that not only did he forget the third agency, he didn't realize until he got to it that he'd forgotten, or just vainly hoped that it would come to him in time. A cleverer politician would have realized it in advance and said at the outset "at LEAST two agencies," enumerated them, and been done with it. Still "presidential." Not only couldn't he maintain three items in his head at one time, he likely didn't realize that the third wasn't present when he started enunciating his list.

    Compare this to Clinton's (either Clinton, CTTOI) being able to enumerate dozens of items without notes. Or Obama.

    I'm prepared to see most of these candidates fall because of irrelevant or tangential crap. Cain because of sexual harassment? Newt (I predict) because of his pomposity and nasty demeanor? Bachmann because of her ignorant historical mistakes? The public may reject the shit sandwiches, but only because they don't like the plates they're served on.

  11. Lecturer Says:

    You know, you do still have some media doing their job and pointing out that the modern GOP is nucking futs. See, for example this lovely little bit of sarcasm at Bloomberg:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-14/many-are-called-in-republican-race-the-ticker.html

  12. Coffeeman Says:

    Sorry to be so cynical, but consider the media to be a functioning arm of the oligarchs. The candidate game is an elimination tourney. It is not a coincidence that Romney and Obama are totally malleable ciphers, which not only got them to where they are politically, but also super wealthy along the way. Not unlike Clinton and Bush. If you want to run, you either play the game or you don't play.

    The tell is the candidates who don't get to be heard: Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer are prime examples. They each have something to offer to the conversation, but instead we only see Perry, Bachmann and Cain.

    If you control the conversation, you never have to worry about losing control of events, which is why #ows is such a threat to the Villagers.

  13. c u n d gulag Says:

    Great point!
    I don't think, with maybe one exception, that any of the Republican candidates are capable of running even a far away from the interstste, backwater Wawa on the overnight shift, let alone a nation, and Perry certainly looked dopey, but he's nothing compared to Michele Bachmann, a gibbering loon if there ever was one, and who, if she were captured by space aliens, they would drop her back and report to their Galactic Overlords that there was no intelligent life on this planet – SHE'S still credible, and appearing on the Sunday morning Bloviation Fests.
    And, sure, Perry's also a certifiable imbecile, but look at the rest, who are still up there!

    -Ron Paul, who looks like a nice and kindly Grandpa, but one who underwent a chemical lobotomy, to stop him from killing again, is front an center.
    -And so is chinless Rick Santorum (well, sort of back and to the right), homophobe supreme, who I'm waiting to find out any day will be suing Penn State because as a boy be accidentally dropped the soap in the shower next to Coach Sandusky.
    -And then there's Newt, he's on TV ALL OF THE TIME! And all this grifter wants is to keep his grift going, and hoping that maybe sometime soon there's a remake of "In the Heat of the Night" so he can wear a police uniform and say "Niggrah!"
    -There's "Fill-in the ____________" Mitt, who believes in only one thing – and that's that he's deserving of being President. And actually, the unprincipled hack, has the BEST chance of beating President Obama!
    -And Cain, who proves that to be CEO of a pizza company, and head of the National Restaurant Association, it takes more than just a pinch of salt! He could be the star of his own show – 'Wander' Eye on that Philanerin' Guy.'

    But Huntsman, who if I were forced upon pain of death to vote for a Republican – I could at least make a case that he might not mean the end of the world as we know it, a man who's run a state, and is not totally batshit insane (though he's been trying to appeal to the deranged base), can't get airtime, or traction.

    And we wonder why the rest of the world looks at us and laughs a very nervous laugh?
    We're one election away from being the worlds best armed 3rd World, Banana Republic, madhouse – thanks to banana's Republicans.
    (With some help from "Red Dog ('cause there ain't nothing blue 'bout 'em)" Democrats).

  14. Ike Says:

    Wait, he wants to eliminate the Department of Energy? Great idea! It's all just a big DOD slush fund anyway.

  15. Major Kong Says:

    I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: "O Lord make my enemies ridiculous." And God granted it.

    Voltaire

  16. Rick Massimo Says:

    I'm with Chase: This isn't on the level of forgetting whom you'd appoint to be assistant undersecretary of defense for European affairs; it's on the level of forgetting which countries you want to invade.

    It's absolutely inconceivable that even Rick Perry wants the government not to do any of the things that the DOE does, so eliminating it would involve a big bureaucratic shuffle. I wouldn't blame him for not remembering every single detail of that reshuffle on the spot, but this shows he really has no clue what he's even talking about.

  17. acer Says:

    That he can't keep track of his stupid platform makes him less frightening, to me, than the Republicans who are quite well versed in the equally misguided ideas they represent.

    I'm glad Gov. Blowdrier, now that he's crossed over from slackjawed "populist" shtick to obvious incompetence, won't be president. But he gets points for mocking himself on Letterman when a sociopath like Cain would have had his loathsome campaign flack on FOX News, spinning this as a liberal media conspiracy. I never wanted to sympathize with Rick Perry, but aside from Huntsman, he's the only person in this field I could imagine liking in person.

    Contrast him with Newt Gingrich, a man who has spouted and published reams of absolute pulled-from-the-asshole idiocy but, having slalomed around a particularly humiliating ten-second soundbite, is still fancied an "intellectual" by right-wing morons who don't read or pay much attention.

  18. JohnR Says:

    @Acer: you've nailed something I've seen referred to before; many modern Republicans appear to believe the most horrifyingly insane and sociopathic things imaginable about how the world, politics and the US work, but they are often individually very personable and even likeable people. Sort of the "have a beer with" media effect. Meanwhile, many apparently sensible and thoughtful people on either side of the political divide are seen (accurately or not) as cold fish. I don't know if that is in any way related to the "principled authoritarian" vs "wishy-washy representative" or "belief" vs "reason" arguments, but it wouldn't surprise me. Seems to me that Perry's not real bright, and he's a self-centered opportunist rather than an ideologue, but (a) he's like many of us in that way, and (b) somehow I still see him as inherently less dangerous than Mitt Romney.

  19. Halloween Jack Says:

    I'm not sure how things work in this universe, but in my parallel dimension (or, as I like to call it, Earth-Prime), we like the leader of the free world to be able to at least project an aura of calm and control in stressful situations, even if they're having a brain fart, rather than, say, sit there clutching a children's book for seven minutes. Of course, on Earth-Prime, Herman Cain is a registered sex offender and Michele Bachmann is a cheerful, inoffensive woman as long as she takes her medication on time.

  20. Bernard Says:

    The whole elimination game, Survivor, these candidates play is what we see here. Perry is by far the best hope of beating Obama. though why the Elites want Obama to lose, is another topic, indeed.

    Mormonism isn't going to help in the South, now matter what anyone else says. Romney allows Obama to win North Carolina again. Southerners won't vote for a Mormon. We are raised to vote for Real Americans, Gods, Guns, and no Gays. that includes Mormons. no matter what!! a fact of life. Mormons are nice people, but they are not Christians as Southerner define Christianity.

    to have Romney is a risk the Owners will have to take. i still say Perry could win. Perry is such a charismatic, when he is "on", and most of all A Texan, White Christian Male. that's all The Zombies in the Red Party want or need to win elections with.

    though, as i said before, Obama is the best choice for the Republican party, so maybe having this "farce/brain fart" aka Republican Candidates debating, maybe this allows for Obama to win by default.

    i mean, who could ask for a better Republican. More wars, Cut Social Security, appoint Tim Geithner, et al. Maybe Perry/Romney is the perfect foil to keep their man Obama in.

    smart move if you ask me.

  21. Oblio Says:

    Really appreciated and related to the context of the brain fart in front of a live audience. Having performed hundreds of presentations, clinics and speeches in my professional career, I learned the hard way that nothing substitutes for lots of practice and some well-thought out reference notes. However, there are NO gurantees of success when in live performance mode.

    A short story: in the 90's I was scheduled to present a technical dissertation to a group of 300 managers, technicians and salespeople at Mercury Marine in Wisconsin, but made the mistake of heading out the night before to a hosted party at a local bar. Got back to the hotel at 4AM still smashed, gargled with coffee and was on-site by 7AM, trying to chow down as many donut sugar bombs as possible. My rep says it was the best program I'd ever done, garnered a standing O and many kudos… but I didn't remember a thing about the entire 3-hour program. I was on total auto-pilot and survived a possible career-ending stunt that instead turned into a very fragrant rose. Pure dumb luck, practice and chutzpah. I would never tempt fate that way again, and it was the last time I ever drank while on a business trip, almost a teatotaller now.

    As for Perry, Cain and the rest of the regressives, all I can say is never underestimate the power of an ignorant, ill-schooled and apathetic electorate. We dismiss the Rethuglicans at our peril.

  22. Barry Says:

    What got me about Perry's moment is that it wasn't the usual run-of-the-mill brain fart. The line, "I'm going to eliminate three cabinet departments, A, B and C" would have been a standard line from his speeches, repeated endlessly.