That's the question coming out of the CNBC debate in Michigan, thanks to the Texas governor's epic stumble
Most campaign debates leave the viewer with an array of interesting moments to chew over, analyze and rehash. But after Wednesday's debate, there was just one.
Rick Perry seemed to be on a roll with a smooth, fluent answer about job creation in Texas when, all of a sudden, he hit a snag. He had turned to his fellow Texan, Rep. Ron Paul, to explain that, like Paul, he wanted to slash whole agencies from the federal government. There were three, he said: "Commerce, Education and the, um, uh, what's the third one there, let's see," he said, pointing a finger at his head like a pistol.
Paul suggested it should actually be five agencies, the number axed from the bureaucracy under Paul's economic plan. The elderly congressman waved his right hand with all five fingers outstretched, clawlike.
"EPA?" suggested the helpful moderator, John Harwood.
"EPA! There you go!" Perry said, laughing. But it wasn't over.
"Seriously, is EPA the one you were talking about?" Harwood pressed.
"No sir, no sir," Perry said, digging himself dramatically deeper into his memory hole. "We were talking about the, uh, agencies of government. EPA needs to be rebuilt. There's no doubt about that."
"But you can't name the third one?" said Harwood.
"The third agency of government I would do away with -- the Education, the, uh, Commerce and, let's see. I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops."
A collective gasp went up from the ranks of the political world. Did that just happen? Did the three-term governor of Texas just draw a complete, unrecoverable blank on a simple three-item list -- one he's been repeating on the stump for weeks?
The slip was nothing short of a disaster for Perry, who badly needed a solid debate performance -- for once -- if he was ever to put his campaign back on course in the diminishing time that remains before primary voting begins in January.
To be sure, we've all been there -- had a word on the tip of our brain that just refused to dislodge, particularly at a crucial moment. That was the spin from Perry's camp post-debate, when the candidate himself toured the media spin room to amiably acknowledge he had "stepped in it."
But for Perry, this was more than just a meaningless gaffe. It seemed to sum up his entire candidacy: a candidate maddeningly unable to consistently perform at the level of basic competence. Ever since he entered the race, Perry has made unforced error after unforced error, from threatening the Federal Reserve chairman with physical harm to accusing conservatives of heartlessness to seeming possessed by a number of alien personalities during a speech in New Hampshire. And now this.
Mitt Romney's camp was, naturally, gleeful -- Romney turned in his usual polished performance, waxing ecstatic about the wonders of capitalism and the joys of profit. Also clearly cheered was Herman Cain, who emerged unscathed from a debate that was supposed to put him in the hot seat over his ongoing sexual harassment scandal. (Instead, the debate audience loudly booed the moderators for raising the issue early on, Romney declined to touch it, and the conversation swiftly moved on to economic issues.) Newt Gingrich did another installment of his obnoxious tweak-the-moderators act, but this time a moderator, Maria Bartiromo, refused to be intimidated and sassed him right back. Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman were there too. Up until the "Oops" moment, everybody was doing pretty well and the debate was shaping up to be a snoozer.
But there's only one moment anyone will be talking about from this debate, and it was the moment Rick Perry's brain seemed to temporarily leave his body.
Give this much to Rick Perry: He sure managed to refocus the campaign spotlight on his candidacy. But "Can he survive?" is not the question you want people asking about your presidential campaign. Just ask Herman Cain.
The paper of record’s inaccurate reporting on a nonexistent criminal investigation was a failure that should entail more serious consequences.
I have read The New York Times since I was a teenager as the newspaper to be trusted, the paper of record, the definitive account. But the huge embarrassment over the story claiming a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton for her emails—leading the webpage, prominent on the front page, before being corrected in the usual, cringeworthy fashion of journalists who stonewall any alleged errors and then downplay the real ones—is a direct challenge to its fundamental credibility. And the paper’s response since the initial huge error was uncovered has not been adequate or acceptable.
This is not some minor mistake. Stories, once published, take on a life of their own. If they reinforce existing views or stereotypes, they fit perfectly into Mark Twain’s observation, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” (Or perhaps Twain never said it, in which case the ubiquity of that attribution serves to validate the point.) And a distorted and inaccurate story about a prominent political figure running for president is especially damaging and unconscionable.
A newly discovered artifact buried with one of Jamestown’s most prominent leaders suggests he could have been a crypto-Catholic.
After 400 years in the Virginia dirt, the box came out of the ground looking like it had been plucked from the ocean. A tiny silver brick, now encrusted with a green patina and rough as sandpaper. Buried beneath it was a human skeleton. The remains would later be identified as those of Captain Gabriel Archer, one of the most prominent leaders at Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in America. But it was the box, which appeared to be an ancient Catholic reliquary, that had archaeologists bewildered and astonished.
“One of the major surprises was the discovery of this mysterious small silver box,” said James Horn, the president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation. “I have to say, we’re still trying to figure this out. You have the very strange situation of a Catholic reliquary being found with the leader of the first Protestant church in the country.”
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
More on the F-16 and Cessna crash, and whether the collision of a military and a civilian aircraft was also a collision of cultures
Early this month an Air Force F-16, under the command of an experienced Air Force pilot, rammed into a small-civilian Cessna 150 propeller plane, not far from Charleston, South Carolina. The Air Force pilot ejected to safety; both people aboard the Cessna were killed.
The next three paragraphs are background for the pointed and interesting reader-messages I am about to quote. If you’re already up to speed with previous installments (one, two, three), you can skip ahead to the messages. They highlight an aspect of the modern military-civilian divide I had not considered before this episode.
In an original item on the crash, I noted some of the perils civilians could face when flying near designated military areas—even though this crash happened in ordinary uncontrolled airspace. That is, it occurred when neither plane was within a Military Operations Area (MOA), where civilian pilots are warned about risks from high-speed military aircraft, nor inside the controlled “Class C” airspace that surrounds Charleston’s airport. (Medium-sized commercial airports like Charleston’s typically are ringed by Class C airspace, so the controllers can sequence in the airline, cargo, civilian, military, and other traffic headed toward their runways. The very busiest airports, like LAX or JFK, are surrounded by larger zones of Class B airspace for their more complex traffic-control jobs. In case you’re wondering, Class A airspace is the realm above 18,000 feet where most jet travel occurs.)
The new version of Apple’s signature media software is a mess. What are people with large MP3 libraries to do?
When the developer Erik Kemp designed the first metadata system for MP3s in 1996, he provided only three options for attaching text to the music. Every audio file could be labeled with only an artist, song name, and album title.
Kemp’s system has since been augmented and improved upon, but never replaced. Which makes sense: Like the web itself, his schema was shipped, good enough,and an improvement on the vacuum which preceded it. Those three big tags, as they’re called, work well with pop and rock written between 1960 and 1995. This didn’t prevent rampant mislabeling in the early days of the web, though, as anyone who remembers Napster can tell you. His system stumbles even more, though, when it needs to capture hip hop’s tradition of guest MCs or jazz’s vibrant culture of studio musicianship.
U.S. officials are turning to Russia for help with Iran and Syria, even as the Ukrainian conflict persists.
If you believe all the talk out there lately, Vladimir Putin is not only duplicitous and hypocritical—the Russian president’s also been pretty damn busy recently. Busy cutting secret deals with the same Europeans and Americans he has been vilifying for years. And if you believe the rumors, the Europeans and Americans have also been busy selling out Ukraine to the Russians.
Not that any of this would be unusual or particularly surprising. Cynicism, duplicity, and hypocrisy are often the reserve currencies of politics, where interests tend to trump values.
There have long been suspicions that the United States and Europe might give Ukraine up in exchange for Russia’s support in securing a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. Additionally, Washington has been seeking Moscow’s backing in securing a managed, orderly, and negotiated exit for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, which would go a long way toward ending the conflict in that country.
The agreement doesn’t guarantee that Tehran will never produce nuclear weapons—because no agreement could do so.
A week ago I volunteered my way into an Atlantic debate on the merits of the Iran nuclear agreement. The long version of the post is here; the summary is that the administration has both specific facts and longer-term historic patterns on its side in recommending the deal.
On the factual front, I argued that opponents had not then (and have not now) met President Obama’s challenge to propose a better real-world alternative to the negotiated terms. Better means one that would make it less attractive for Iran to pursue a bomb, over a longer period of time. Real world means not the standard “Obama should have been tougher” carping but a specific demand that the other countries on “our” side, notably including Russia and China, would have joined in insisting on, and that the Iranians would have accepted.
Has the Obama administration’s pursuit of new beginnings blinded it to enduring enmities?
“The president said many times he’s willing to step out of the rut of history.” In this way Ben Rhodes of the White House, who over the years has broken new ground in the grandiosity of presidential apologetics, described the courage of Barack Obama in concluding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the Islamic Republic of Iran, otherwise known as the Iran deal. Once again Rhodes has, perhaps inadvertently, exposed the president’s premises more clearly than the president likes to do. The rut of history: It is a phrase worth pondering. It expresses a deep scorn for the past, a zeal for newness and rupture, an arrogance about old struggles and old accomplishments, a hastiness with inherited precedents and circumstances, a superstition about the magical powers of the present. It expresses also a generational view of history, which, like the view of history in terms of decades and centuries, is one of the shallowest views of all.
Orr: “Sometimes a thing happens. Splits your life. There’s a before and after. I got like five of them at this point.”
This was Frank offering a pep talk to the son of his murdered former henchman Stan in tonight’s episode. (More on this in a moment.) But it’s also a line that captures this season of True Detective so perfectly that it almost seems like a form of subliminal self-critique.
Remember when Ray got shot in episode two and appeared to be dead but came back with a renewed sense of purpose and stopped drinking. No? That’s okay. Neither does the show: It was essentially forgotten after the subsequent episode. Remember when half a dozen (or more) Vinci cops were killed in a bloody shootout along with dozen(s?) of civilians? No? Fine: True Detective’s left that behind, too. Unless I missed it, there was not a single mention of this nationally historic bloodbath tonight.