(As usual, the arrangement with the syndicator means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)
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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 10, 2011
BY BOB FRANKEN
You know how Republicans have taken to mocking President Barack Obama for using a teleprompter when he speaks. It’s standard practice for many politicians, to say nothing of us TV twinkies, so it’s kind of a cheap shot. But then, just about all the shots in politics are down in the bargain basement. Be that as it may, certainly Rick Perry could have used a teleprompter in the latest GOP debate Wednesday night.
There he was, cruising along with one of his oversimplifications about how he would upend Washington, joining those who promise to obliterate various federal departments that make life inconvenient for the party’s wealthy donors what with all their pesky regulations and stuff. “It is three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone,” Perry began, “Commerce, Education and the --what’s the third one there? Let’s see.”
It was hard to tell on my TV if he reddened as he tried to recover: “Commerce and let’s see. I can’t. The third one I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”
The agony went on as others tried to help him, even suggesting the Environmental Protection Agency, another agency that Perry and his corporate puppeteers despise. Nope, that wasn’t it. For the record, it was the Energy Department he was trying to remember, but “oops” indeed.
His handlers later called it a “human moment” and “authentic,” but a chagrined Perry realized that wouldn’t cut it, so, to his credit, he simply admitted “I stepped in it.”
That might have been the end of it, except that Perry has “stepped in it” in several debates, which are a test of how one thinks on one’s feet. His feet, usually clad in cowboy boots, have gotten tangled in several encounters. His slipping and sliding on immigration, for instance, has become part of the lore of Campaign 2012. And it’s still 2011.
From the beginning, detractors wondered whether he could play in the National League or if he was strictly a Texas leaguer. Translating for non-baseball fans: They were suggesting he should stay in the minors because he was over his head in the majors.
He’s clearly been struggling. So much so that Herman Cain literally roared past him in the Not-Romney competition. Of course, Cain has been having his own problems of late.
During the debate, Cain brushed off burning questions about all the charges of past sexual thuggishness as “character assassination.” Now he is waiting to see whether his accusers can organize another media splash. Cain didn’t wait, though, managing to “step in it” on his own.
He was trashing former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which is part of the right-wing routine. He took it one step further, though, when he dismissively called her “Princess Nancy.” Did I mention that she was the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, third in the line of presidential succession?
Even Cain, who normally likes to bluster past controversy, realized some damage control was in order, so after the debate, he allowed, “That was a statement that I probably shouldn’t have made,” etc. It was not enough to prevent an eruption of scathing comment, mainly questioning whether Herman Cain has a serious problem with females.
But onstage, he was rescued by Rick Perry. It was such a short time ago that Perry was the favorite of the true believers who don’t consider Romney to be one of them. Far from it. But soon, they may have to conclude that they are desperately searching for “Anybody but Mitt or Perry.”
It’s gotten so bad that things are looking up for Newt Gingrich. Again. At least Newt remembers his lines. He, too, is a former House Speaker. Maybe Cain can dub him “Prince Newt.” Gingrich would prefer President Newt. He’s a known quantity, so voters will have no trouble forming opinions about him. No prompting needed.
© 2011 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.