Did Rick Perry’s fumble — forgetting the name of an agency he wants to eliminate — seal his fate? The pundits think so; there’s just no way Perry can recover. Even though he has campaigned for months, stating his opposition to education, commerce, and energy bureaucracies on innumerable occasions, he’s finished. But does a momentary brain freeze disqualify someone from high office?
There are better reasons for voters to avoid checking Perry’s box. His position on illegal immigration rubbed many conservatives raw. Perry widened that rift when he said opponents of granting in-state tuition to illegal aliens “have no heart.” Rick Perry’s campaign has unquestionably stalled. But he isn’t losing conservatives because he fumbled at one debate.
The GOP hierarchy would love to make Rick Perry disappear, too. Bluebloods have little time for candidates whose platform centers on eliminating entire federal agencies. They have no time whatsoever for candidates who overtly flirt with seceding from the union. Such posturing doesn’t sit well with the Republican powers that be, the same powers who’ve stuck us “staunch conservative” presidential candidates like Bush I, Bob Dole, Bush II, and John McCain.
There is precedent for believing Perry’s campaign is finished. One blunder cost Dan Quayle his political career. He misspelled “potato” and no one has seen or heard from him since. However, the Quayle story unfolded in a different era. Recent history suggests a change of attitude since his day.
One fumble is no longer an automatic ticket to the electoral bench. “Qualified” politicians and great orators routinely drop the ball. Yet they’ve lived to gaffe another day. Barack Obama, oft-hailed as the most articulate and intelligent President in American history, has put the ball on the ground more times than Brett Favre.
Obama once claimed his healthcare overhaul would bring greater “inefficiencies to our healthcare system.” He told a suburban audience that his health insurance reforms would reduce premiums by 3000-percent. Obama expressed his desire to campaign in all 60 states and equated his bowling skills to a Special Olympian. What’s more, the Orator-in-Chief is quite ordinary without his teleprompter. None of these fumbles placed Obama on waivers.
For Rick Perry it’s a different story. One fumble means he’s unqualified to be president. Why? Because he isn’t glib? Because he isn’t a great debater? Because he isn’t polished, focus-grouped, and completely canned? I’m not endorsing Perry. But if that’s the reason he’s out of the race it’s time to re-examine the qualities we seek in a President.
Substance, ideas, and honor trump style, platitudes, and empty promises — the common fare dished out by “articulate” candidates — every time. Have we become so superficial as to admire candidates who speak in sound bites and parrot rehearsed answers to scripted questions, both with rapid-fire predictability? If one memory fumble sends Perry to the bench, I say it speaks worse of the voters’ intellect than of his.