Rick Perry’s debate brain freeze: A mistake of style or of substance?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a debate hosted by CNBC and the Michigan Republican Party at Oakland University last night.

When you’re talking about eliminating entire government departments, it’s best to have a solid idea of which departments you want to cut.

Unfortunately, during last night’s MSNBC debate, Texas governor Rick Perry had a hard time doing just that, repeatedly stammering and stalling while trying to remember the third government program he would legislate out of existence. Take a look:

(Also, completely non-political props to Ron Paul here for going out of his way to try to help Perry out. If we could choose any of the Republican candidates to have a mug of hot chocolate with, it would be him all the way.)

At the moment of the gaffe, Twitter went crazy, immediately declaring it a career-ender on the level of Howard Dean’s infamous scream. (Even Perry’s supporters got into the party. “[He] stuck a fork in himself,” one emailed Politico.)

Still, some in the Perry camp are soldiering on. Campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan told the Times that the gaffe was “a stumble of style, but not of substance.” Is that really true? Let’s parse.

Everyone has brain farts now and then. If you stuck us on live television, we’d be reduced to a quivering, stammering wreck before we were even asked the first question. But that’s why we’re not running for President. If you’re going to make it a point of your platform that you are going to drastically alter the size and shape of the federal government, it is not too much to ask that you be able to say exactly how you are going to do that. Practice saying it in front of a mirror. Practice saying it while brushing your teeth. Practice saying it in your sleep. Speaking generally, we’re not fans of candidates who will shout about the boldness of their big plans without caring exactly what those plans entail.


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