Rick Perry On Painkillers During Debates?

A new ebook on the 2012 campaign says that Texas Governor Rick Perry was using painkillers to deal with back pain during the Presidential debates he participated in:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was under the influence of painkillers during televised presidential debates over the last year to help relieve severe back pain, according to a soon-to-be released eBook on the 2012 Republican race for president obtained by The Daily Caller.

“It became an open secret that he was using painkillers in sufficient dosages to keep him standing through the two-hour debates,” write the authors of “Inside the Circus.”


The authors imply that the painkillers may have led to a humorous incident before an October debate in New Hampshire when the “manager of a rival campaign” overheard Perry belting out the song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” while in the bathroom.

“Wondering who was making all the noise, the campaign manager turned his head and saw, to his surprise, the governor of Texas,” the book states. “Perry came down the row of about twenty urinals and stood companionably close by.

Allen and Thomas continue: “Nonplussed, the campaign manager made a hasty exit; as the bathroom door closed, he could hear Perry still merrily singing away: “I-I-I’ve been working on the ra-a-i-i-l-road, all-l-l the live-long day . . .”

Maybe if he’d done that during the debate things would’ve turned out differently. Perhaps he and Herman Cain could’ve done a duet.

More seriously, it was an open secret that Perry had had rather serious back surgery back in June, and it was suggested at the time that his decision to go forward with the surgery at that time was a good indication that he was not going to run for President. At that point in time, he probably wasn’t going to run. As the race moved into July and August and conservatives grew dissatisfied with the field, he obviously changed his mind. Perhaps he thought he had recovered enough that a rigorous campaign schedule would not be impeded by back issues. As his debate performances got worse, though, and especially since many of his worst gaffes seemed to happen in the late minutes of the events, people speculated that perhaps standing for long periods of time was having more of an impact on him than the campaign was willing to admit. This story may be confirmation of that speculation.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. MstrB says:

    Funny, I had to use pain killers to watch those debates.

  2. Hey Norm says:

    Perry and Rushbo must be fun on a night out…prescription drugs all around!!!!
    But make sure to test welfare recipients.

  3. Well, now let’s be fair… it didn’t say he was addicted to them, just that he used them. Probably Percs.

    With that said, I think the only thing we can say is… oops!

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Plausible. That was a significant back surgery last June. Could have been Percs or Vico. Definitely would explain a lot. Also yet another shred of proof that timing indeed is everything.

  5. Franklin says:

    We need a President who can STAND UP to our enemies. Clearly, Perry cannot do this, what with his bad back and all.

    /also, I feel the need to point out that I’m just joking … I agree with TN that this was unfortunate timing for him

  6. So you’re saying Perry is a literally spineless politician?

  7. While I would not consider myself a Perry partisan, I would say this–who in their right mind would trust The Daily Caller?

    As a source? As a serious media outlet? Please.

  8. Franklin says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I realized after the fact that I was sort of paraphrasing a line from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

  9. Kjoe says:

    JFK was one tough sob.

  10. DRS says:

    I don’t know. Not all of his gaffes took place on stage during debates. There were some speeches that had major “WTF?” moments – and his comments on what would happen to Bernanke if he came down to Texas were made in a relatively casual setting. If you know your guy’s on meds, you make plans accordingly and try to minimize the damage. Or you take the bold route, make it public that he had back surgery (it wasn’t a secret, there was talk about how he’d stopped wearing cowboy boots in favour of more orthopedic shoes) and then when people made fun of his gaffes, they’d look mean. Not perfect or a first choice, but you work with what you’ve got.