In what journalists are calling a “bombshell moment” and one of the worst gaffes in the history of presidential debates, Texas Gov. Rick Perry forgot the name of one of the three Cabinet departments he was promising to cut were he to become Commander-in-Chief.
Ah, let see, Education, Commerce, and...
(Turns to Texas Congressman Ron Paul for help, who says, "It should be five.")
Uh... Education, Commerce and ...
"EPA!" Mitt Romney offered, trying to help.
"There ya go, EPA," Perry said for a moment before correcting himself.
“No sir,” he said, “... The EPA needs to be rebuilt.”
“But you can’t name the third one?” CNBC moderator John Harwood asked Perry.
“The third agency of government I would do away with ... the Education, the uh ... the Commerce and ... let’s see, I can’t ... the third one,” Perry said, defeated. “I can’t.”
Then he added the only thing I suppose he really could say: "Oops."
What he meant to say was "Energy," but just forgot.
I’m sure you’ve seen the clip that has now gone all over the world. Viral, not unlike footage of the baby panda sneezing and scaring its mother.
Would that it were as cute as that.
And Perry is taking a pounding from the pundits.
CNN's Jack Cafferty told Perry it was time for him to "just go away," saying: "This 'aw shucks, grade-school stuff may play in Texas — but I, sir, don't want you anywhere near the nuclear launch codes."
Hardball’s Chris Mathews labeled it a “brain freeze” on his show.
The Washington Post called it a "senior moment."
And the U.K.'s Globe and Mail eloquently dubbed it a "brain fart."
I call it “ideological idiocy.”
In Perry’s post-debate self- defense he said he “put his foot in it,” but at least had showed his conservative street cred by calling for slashing big government — even if he couldn’t remember which departments he wanted to cut.
That’s idiocy, ideological idiocy.
Government is all bad, he and his Grand Old Party Tea Party cronies say, cut as much as you can, even if you can’t remember what, exactly.
And, of course, the market is sinless, and doesn’t need any accountability from government, which — remember? — is always bad.
That’s just bad theology and ideological lunacy.
Fox News preaches it every day, the Republicans have been taken over by it, and the country suffers for it.
Ideology always says “Either/Or.”
Solutions require “Both/And.”
We need the market and the government and the civil society — including the faith community — to solve the problems that are causing such suffering in our nation.
But instead of finding ways to cooperate and find solutions together, candidates just posture ideologically.
And sometimes they simply forget what they were trying to say.
These GOP debates have been sad and alarming, and a regular source of jokes by political pundits; but for ordinary Americans who are really struggling, the silly sound bites and brain freezes are not funny at all.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.