By Carole on Nov 13, 2011
Last night's GOP presidential debate was gaffe-free leaving a frustrated mainstream media and Republican primary voters to focus on the candidates' ideas and positions on issues. With foreign policy and national security as the theme, expectations were highest for those with federal government experience but it was Texas Governor Rick Perry who had the most memorable moments of the night and, unlike in previous debates, they were memorable for all the right reasons.
First there was a dash of self-deprecating humor when CBS moderator Scott Pelley mentioned the Energy Department in a question directed at Mr. Perry. Even though the question made no reference to the governor's recent brain freeze over the name of that department, Mr. Perry himself brought it up quipping "Glad you remembered it." And when Mr. Pelley replied, "I have had some time to think about it sir," the governor affably shot back, "Me too."
Will this erase those awkward 53 seconds from voters' collective memory? Probably not but the combination of the candidate's willingness to laugh at himself and the fact that everyone has had similar memory lapses/embarrassing moments certainly may limit the damage.
The second memorable moment came when Governor Perry took the lead on the subject of foreign aid declaring that, "It's time for us as a country to say no to foreign aid to countries that don't support the United States of America." While explaining that countries would have to make their case before getting US tax dollars, he was deftly able to navigate a follow-up question asking whether his "foreign aid starts at zero" policy would include Israel. Simultaneously showing that his policy would be fair while standing firm beside one of the nation's most important allies, Governor Perry said, "Obviously Israel is a special ally and my bet is that we would be funding them at some substantial level. But it makes sense for everyone to come in at zero and make your case."
While the overall amount of foreign aid is a pittance compared to all US spending, the idea that countries who rely heavily on those billions of dollars should offer at least basic loyalty in return resonates with many voters of all political persuasions.
Governor Perry's third memorable moment in what had been billed as the Commander-in-Chief debate, came when he reminded voters of his military service and the fact that for 10 years he has been the commander in chief of over 20,000 Guard troops. "If there is someone on this stage who has had that hands-on commander in chief experience it is me, as the governor of the state of Texas," he said.
Also during questioning over the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on enemy combatants Mr. Perry delivered just the right mixture of heartfelt emotion and practicality when he said, "For us not to have the ability to try to extract information from them to save our young people's lives is a travesty. This is war, that's what happens in war, and I am for using techniques - not torture - but using those techniques that we know will extract information to save young American lives." Maybe not a debate home run but definitely an extra base hit.
While it's true that Governor Perry would have exceeded expectations by just getting through last night's event without an unforced error, he did more than just get through it. Now we'll wait to see if his Spartanburg performance was a fluke or if it marks the end of the sputtering start to his campaign and the beginning of a serious run for the GOP nomination.
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