While Rick Perry’s latest and most humiliating mental collapse has led many political observers (including Intel Jon) to stick a fork in his already-floundering campaign, it doesn’t seem like Perry agrees. Instead of drowning his sorrows in a jug of delicious maple syrup, Perry has gone into full damage-control mode, taking literally every opportunity available to laugh at his own misfortune.
He did interviews with five separate morning shows earlier today, telling one that “there’s not a perfect candidate that’s been made yet, I’m kind of proof positive of it every day.” He called into Laura Ingraham’s radio show to say that he “had a brain freeze for 54 seconds; it seemed like 54 hours.” He sent out a self-effacing e-mail to his supporters. He’s featuring a poll on his website asking, “Which part of the Federal Government would you like to forget about the most?” Perry is even jetting into New York today to present the (certainly Perry-themed) Top Ten List on the Late Show With David Letterman and to appear on The Daily Show.
If there’s an overall theme of Perry’s damage-control tour, it’s that shit happens, and it’s not that big a deal. “All of us make mistakes. I’m a human being. And the issue here is that I had a lapse of memory,” he told the Today show. He’s actually right about that. By itself, Perry’s inexplicable inability to remember the third department he’d cut as president (ENERGY! The only subject you talk about, ever!) isn’t a serious transgression, even if it made everyone watching it want to kill themselves just to make the uncomfortableness stop. We’ve all forgotten obvious things before. Maybe not Mitt Romney, but Mitt Romney is probably a robot. The rest of us can easily empathize with Perry. Playing up that empathy is a good tactic; one of Perry’s biggest problems has always been likability, and politicians are never more likable than when they are poking fun at their own shortcomings.
But, good will can only get you so far. This was far from the first time Perry has demonstrated his less-than-impressive communicative abilities. In fact, the man seems nearly incapable of speaking off-the-cuff with precision and clarity. (Rote cliches that have absolutely nothing to do with the question being asked don’t count.) That doesn’t necessarily mean he’d be a bad president, but it does mean he’d probably be a bad presidential nominee. After last night, everyone knows it, and all the humility in the world can’t change that.