Of all the punditry about Rick Perry’s “oops” moment at the Republican debate this week, the best description about why it was more than just an embarrassing brain freeze came from Matt Bai in the New York Times:
Here he was calling for what would be a truly radical restructuring of the federal government — involving many thousands of jobs and many billions of dollars in federal expenditures — and he didn’t have a grasp on which sprawling departments he would shutter. It seemed the idea was not his own, but rather something he had tried and failed to memorize. …
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. …
It underlies the lingering sense that Mr. Perry is running chiefly because he saw an opening he could exploit, rather than having spent much time thinking about what ails the country and what to do about it.
Perry was the last major candidate to join the race, jumping in a mere three months ago when the Republican Party seemed to want to unite behind someone more conservative than Mitt Romney. (Personally. I’m relieved that it looks like the moderate Romney will be the nominee.)
On paper, the idea of a Perry candidacy was compelling — long-time governor of our second largest state, etc. But on paper, Gov. Sarah Palin with her executive experience was more qualified for the presidency in 2008 than was Barack Obama, and we know how that turned out.
I don’t think it’s possible to become president without spending many years steering toward that goal. Even before the sexual harassment allegations began erupting, it was clear that Herman Cain had given very little thought to many of the issues that he would face as president (such as, you know, foreign policy and stuff). The narrowness of his focus would doom his candidacy if he wins the nomination.