I know just how Rick Perry felt during his “brain freeze” last night.
As other GOP candidates were spewing out new versions of their non-sequiturs about Barack Obama and the economy, my eyes were drawn to the Texas governor every time the cameras showed him in a shot.
A curious combination of expressions fleeted across his face, some of earnest determination to follow what another candidate was saying, at other times a kind of glazed look as if he were watching a foreign movie without subtitles.
I was having the same kinds of reactions to the point of turning down the sound and settling for a kind of pantomime display of the looniness we had all heard dozens of times before.
At one point, I was startled into wakefulness when Ron Paul made a valid point about retirees subsidizing the big banks, by getting no returns on their savings while the institutions kept profiting on them with no risk.
But that moment was an aberration. None of the other candidates wanted to talk about the real world, only the theme park called Obama World they have been constructing on Cable TV all year.
Little wonder that Perry would lose the thread of his prepared sound bites and forget the third federal agency he was promising to eliminate.
The Gaffe Police have now decided that the Texas governor has exceeded the speed limit and are now flagging him down from the race, but my sympathy is with him.
Update: The fallout from Perry’s howler goes on as Matt Bai points out that it undermines the all-important question of authenticity:
“We know, of course, that presidential candidates don’t actually write their own speeches or stay up late at night tinkering with their own proposals...
“But we do expect them to really believe in the things they propose—- to have the requisite conviction to know and recite with passion the basic policies that someone on their team stayed up nights to craft...
“There’s nothing more central to Mr. Perry’s campaign than the idea of scaling back the government in Washington--that’s pretty much the whole tamale right there--and what he proved last night, in 60 or so agonizing seconds, is that he hasn’t thought deeply enough about it to even master the basics of his own agenda.”
In this game, you have to be able to fake sincerity from the heart. Take lessons from Herman Cain.