Rick Perry To Close Three Agencies: Education, Commerce, and Oops!

The theory that Rick Perry is not a complete moron took another serious blow in last night's debate.

The theory that Rick Perry is not a complete moron took another serious blow in last night’s debate.

Politico (“Rick Perry crashes, Herman Cain cheered at GOP debate“):

The Rick Perry comeback hit a potentially disastrous snag Wednesday night, as the Texas governor again froze on the debate stage — this time, while attempting to list three federal agencies he’d eliminate as president.

After saying confidently that he’d do away with the Departments of Education and Commerce, Perry struggled through a long, awkward moment that ended with an “oops.”

“I would do away with Education, the — Commerce and, let’s see, I can’t,” he said. “The third one, I can’t.”

Perry used his next question, several minutes later, to clarify: “By the way, that was the Department of Energy I was reaching for a while ago.”

But the damage may already have been done for Perry, whose campaign initially veered off course in late September when he fumbled in back-to-back debates in Florida.

Business Insider, which terms this “The Moment That Officially Killed His Campaign — For Good,” has the transcript:

Perry: And I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when i get there that are gone. Commerce, Education, and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see…Okay. Commerce, Education, and the —”

Ron Paul: EPA?

Perry: EPA, there you go.

Moderator: Seriously — is epa one you are talking about?

Perry: No, sir, no, sir. we are talking about the – agencies of government — EPA needs to be rebuilt. >>

Moderator: you can’t — you can’t name the third one?

Perry: The third agency of government I would — I would do away with Education, the – >> Commerce…Commerce and, let’s see. I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.

About 15 minutes later, Perry said “It was the Department of Energy that I was reaching for before.”

Here’s a rather grainy video. The epic part begins at the 1:00 mark.

UPDATE: Someone on Perry’s staff is apparently smarter than he is, trying to capitalize on this embarrassing moment with humor. Charlie Spiering reports:

Anxious to put a positive spin on Rick Perry’s debate meltdown last night, the Perry campaign sent out the following email after 2:00 a.m. this morning.

Friend & Supporter,

We’ve all had human moments. President Obama is still trying to find all 57 states. Ronald Reagan got lost somewhere on the Pacific Highway in an answer to a debate question. Gerald Ford ate a tamale without removing the husk. And tonight Rick Perry forgot the third agency he wants to eliminate. Just goes to show there are too damn many federal agencies.

The governor said it best afterwards: “I’m glad I had my boots on, because I sure stepped in it tonight.”

While the media froths over this all too human moment, we thought we would take this opportunity to ask your help in doing something much more constructive: write us to let us know what federal agency you would most like to forget.

Is it the EPA and its job-killing zealots? The NLRB and its czar-like dictates? The edu-crats at the Department of Education who aim to control your local curriculum?

Send your answer to fo*********@ri*******.org, and if you are on twitter join us in using a new twitter hashtag: #forgetmenot. And, if you could, throw in a $5 contribution for every agency you would like to forget. We hope you have a long list. And we promise we will write down every last idea. So we don’t forget.

Still standing in our Boots,

Team Perry

Clever. But methinks not enough to save a sinking ship. Apparently, his fundraisers agree.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Hey Norm says:

    This is the guy that was going to be the savior and lead the Teavangelicals to the promised land.
    I wonder if he knows what the Department of Energy actually does? With their deep connections to defense I can’t really see abolishing them. But I’m more conservative than Perry and the rest of the clowns on that debate stage.

  2. sam says:

    Man, that was painful to watch, just painful. The kicker, of course, is that energy has been one of his mouthing points throughout his “campaign”. Painful.

  3. sam says:

    Er, JJ, the after-post editing function in the shop for repair?

    [JJ: Testing. Testing. Testing.]

    Seems fine to me. – JJ

  4. MarkedMan says:

    You know, I would like to think that the number of intellectually lazy or outright stupid Repubs running for office was only an indication of their own self delusion. But they often lead in the polls…

  5. Fiona says:

    One or two brain freezes, in and of themselves, wouldn’t be the death knell for a candidacy, but Perry’s continued gaffes and inability to articulate his positions in debates or elsewhere seem to have finished him off as any kind of serious contender for the Republican nomination. And, I say this as someone who thought he was pretty much of a shoe-in.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Testing editing feature without benefit of being a logged in admin. Don’t mind me.


    Typing this as post-publish edit.

  7. Vast Variety says:

    That was probably the best theatrical performance of the movie Titanic that I’ve seen in a long time.

  8. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    There was another GOP debate last night??

    In any event, a couple of points are worth noting:

    Having brain freezes on camera obviously are not helping Perry, but in reality they’re not the explanation for why he’s been struggling this primary season. Perry is falling victim to he extremely detached demographics of the present-day GOP primary selectorate. There are lot of xenophobes, crackers, extreme Protestants and malcontents in that group. Disproportionately so. Perry represents a state with a large number of Mexicans and those of Mexican descent. Mexicans are dark-skinned Catholics. That’s a major problem for the ghosts of the John Birch Society. Separately Perry’s been in office for over a decade. He’s made decisions. He’s governed. A disproportionate percentage of the GOP primary selectorate does not work for a living (bored housewives, retirees), and in many case hasn’t worked for a living in years, if at all. Having a track record is a negative. Hence the apparent popularity of Cain.

    It’s quite a stretch to suggest that someone is a “complete moron” for having had a brain freeze in a live debate. I’ve seen veteran attorneys with 20+ trials under the belts and with degrees from the likes of Stanford, Berkeley and Hastings have far worse brain freezes than Perry’s, in open court no less. It happens. People on occasion can glitch out. Incidentally, Chief, reciting by rote pure dogma to a captive audience of young kids on a college campus is a lot less stressful than getting up on stage to address random, complex topics in front of a televised audience of potentially millions. A man’s got to know his own limitations, Hoss.

    Debating the effects of Perry’s debate performances is fine and well but ultimately irrelevant. Debates themselves don’t determine the outcome of elections. Otherwise we’d be reflecting on President Kerry’s time in office and reminiscing about President Mondale. If Perry doesn’t finish at least a strong 2nd in Iowa then his campaign is over. If he does finish at least a strong 2nd in Iowa, however, then his campaign most definitely is not over; no debating it.

  9. Peacewood says:

    In response to Team Perry’s letter, I would like to add that Obama wasn’t campaigning on jettisoning several states, Ford wasn’t campaigning to fire people in the tamale industry, and Reagan wasn’t campaigning to put highway workers on the unemployment line.

    A big difference, I’d say.

  10. Tano says:

    In defense of Perry….

    This shutting down of government agencies is complete horse-twaddle. No one seriously believes that it is going to happen, or should. It is nothing but red meat for the drooling knuckledraggers on the far right.

    The fact that he can’t remember the details of some shut-down fantasy is probably a good thing It shows that he doesn’t take it seriously at all. Or he takes it as seriously as any normal person would…

  11. mantis says:

    Misspeaking or making a dumb mistake is one thing. Forgetting the basics of your own policy proposals is quite another.

    If Perry doesn’t finish at least a strong 2nd in Iowa then his campaign is over. If he does finish at least a strong 2nd in Iowa, however, then his campaign most definitely is not over; no debating it.

    Current RCP averages for Iowa:

    Cain: 25.5%
    Romney: 20.5%
    Paul: 10.8%
    Gingrich: 9.5%
    Bachmann: 7.5%
    Perry: 7.5%
    Santorum: 3.7%
    Huntsman: 1.5%

    I don’t think a strong 2nd in Iowa is in Perry’s future. Maybe a strong 2nd in the next Texas gubernatorial race.

  12. sam says:

    testing — don’t mind me.

  13. sam says:

    testing again — ok got it with another browser.

  14. Steven Shaw says:

    Perry does not even know what the departments do. He only listens to Fox talking heads on one aspect of Dept of Energy for promoting the solar energy firms who received Federal loans. The DOE is also responsible with nuclear energy including NEST.
    Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) Department of Energy will be used if there is an accident of terriorts attack using a nuclear weapon.

    Among other items the Dept. of Commerce does is support the US Patent and Trademark office.