Rick Perry's other big mistake

By Elizabeth Lefebvre| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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Much ado has been made about Rick Perry’s gaffe at Wednesday night’s Republican candidate debate, where the Texas governner could not recall the name of the third department of the government that he would eliminate if elected president. While many believe that Perry's bumbling forgetfulness has effectively undone his presidential campain, a few other points from this incident have perhaps been overshadowed.

Today at the New York Times, Matt Bai points out a crucial component that is now blatantly missing from Perry's campaign: authenticity. He writes:

The problem is that he didn’t seem to know the basic details of his own proposal. 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.

What’s really missing from Mr. Perry’s campaign — the vacuum that was exposed in the debate — isn’t smoothness or intellect, but a sense that the man is clear on what the moment demands.

To me, another troubling element to Perry's proclamation is the elimination of the departments themselves--the ones he could remember, anyway--including the Department of Education. This is coming from the governor of Texas, whose state ranks 45th in combined SAT scores.

While no government agency runs flawlessly or to everyone’s liking, the Department of Education is set up to provide federal financial aid, make recommendations for education reform, and prohibit discrimination in an attempt to secure equal opportunity to education for all.

It seems that, with reports highlighting lagging U.S. test scores, education should be a priority for whoever is elected president in 2012 as we develop the future of our nation.

Better to call this to mind now than to be saying "oops" somewhere in the future.