Rick Perry’s gaffe, during Wednesday night’s Republican debate on CNBC, is already the stuff of legend. Boasting that he would eliminate three federal agencies as president, the Texas governor named the departments of Commerce and Education, but then forgot the third, fumbling uncomfortably for nearly a minute before uttering a quiet “oops.’’
This has been taken as an extraordinary campaign disaster, but that’s overstating the problem. What happened is that Perry forgot a talking point. This primary season has been full of rote answers from Perry and his fellow candidates, designed to please rabid corners of the GOP base rather than offer actual solutions to complicated problems. The CNBC debate, which focused on economic matters, was especially problematic: The panelists’ questions were more detailed than in previous debates, which made the usual campaign rhetoric sound that much more evasive. It started when the candidates were asked about Italy’s debt crisis - and responded with non sequiturs about the American deficit.