Almost everyone sez Perry lost the R debate last night with a gaffe so humungous as to convert the name “Rick” into a synonym for “gaffe.” The world’s other Ricks will have to hope that the very nature of the gaffe – blackout forgetfulness on stage – will result in those who might invoke the new term forgetting to do so.
Political scientist and pundit Jonathan Bernstein thinks that even a world-historical Rick didn’t make Perry the worst debater of the night. Bernstein gives the award instead to “Prince Herman,” and unloads like a Malacca-class superfreighter on him:
No substance, at all. No evidence from this debate that he knows, well, anything at all about anything.
Remember, I’m not going to be upset at a politician for not answering the question asked, or for message discipline; to the contrary, I think it’s a good and useful skill. But doesn’t even do that well, since his transitions wind up being nonsense, too.
No, seriously. I’ll call Newt Gingrich a fraud because I think he massively oversells his “ideas”, which are often just buzzwords, but Newt certainly is well informed about the world. Romney, of course, can speak about policy and substance. Rick Perry can barely spit out a sentence, but if you listen he’ll occasionally wander into substance (see for example his answer on education) and you can tell that he is familiar with the way people talk about these issues, and (perhaps) knows more than he can manage to say. Santorum has a firm and apparently complete grasp of standard conservative boilerplate — indeed, he’s able to recognize when other candidates deviate from it and call them out on it. Even Michele Bachmann may essentially live in a fantasy world, policy-wise, but she does really know her way around that fantasy world.
Cain doesn’t come close to meeting that very, very, low standard. He’s an insult to Republican voters, to conservatives — and they are insulting themselves if they don’t laugh him off the stage.
I frequently comment at JB’s “plain blog” (though I like the blog, I’m usually on the theme of the inadequacy of political science, not to any noticeable effect). I re-produce an edited version of my comment for two reasons, even if it repeats prior posts to some extent, and if I’ve generally done too much Caining lately: 1) I think it’s a little less “in dialecticalese,” a little more clear than prior attempts at saying pretty much the same thing, and 2) I hit “post comment” too soon, and so this is my only chance to correct, for no good reason at all, some flubbed subject verb agreements, at the beginning and end of the comment:
Cain and to a somewhat lesser extent the entirety of the field construct a simulacrum of collective auto-decapitation. That may read as bizarre, but the underlying ideology has deep roots in American political culture, all the way back to radical Whiggism and then Anti-Federalism. The merely alternatively insane Ron Paul expresses the same impulse when he refers to the President’s use of executive orders as “dictatorship.” If you hate the federal government or if your opposition to “government intervention” reduces to the same thing, Washington DC as Babylon or Rome, then why not support a vacuous creep for Emperor, to paralyze or perhaps to sabotage the imperial structure from the inside? That no one, even Cain, more than pretends that he has a chance, makes the gesture utterly safe: In your mind, as a conservative revolutionary, you may know that electing a predatious buffoon isn’t the best way of going about your Tea Party Leninist worse-the-betterism, but that’s not really what this is about: In the minds of most cons, to the extent that their powers of reason are engaged, Herman Cain is just a stink bomb flung in the general direction of the rigged neo-liberal game that is ruining/has already ruined this country etc. They know or strongly suspect by now that their betters will foist Romney or some facsimile on them, now as ever. They haven’t yet, for the most part, confronted the fact that their movement doesn’t produce candidates like these, or fail to produce better ones, by chance.
I’ll keep on working on it until I get it right, I guess.