Yes, R.I.P. Rick Perry, But Otherwise Interesting

It doesn’t get much worse. To put it delicately, there will be no President Perry.

I haven’t liked candidate Perry from the beginning of his actual entry into the race (i.e., the moment he joined the debates). And I’m a Texan who liked George Bush. But I wouldn’t have wished what happened to Rick Perry Wednesday night on anyone. I felt sorry for him, in a way that no viable candidate for any elected office should ever be felt sorry for.

Conversely, not to pile on, but it’s not simply the “forgetfulness” of the wincing moment (lest we spur a backlash from those who experience “senior moments”). Perry didn’t simply forget the percentage of U.S. debt held by Chinese lenders. He forgot one of the three entire United States departments he would supposedly eliminate if he were president (which would never actually happen, and is itself rank “pandering” to a constituency that barely exists). “Department of Energy,” he remembered later, adding to Department of Commerce and Department of Education. That’s a forfeiture of credibility on multiple levels.

And the Republican debates continue to sharpen the field, dramatically as it happens, and the stakes in 2012. The other candidates, even some of the trailing candidates, had impressive performances. I wasn’t quite as impressed with the overall economic acumen of the candidates in this debate as I was in the earlier Bloomberg debate likewise covering economic issues. But many of the issues put on the table, with 30 seconds to make six points, were delivered with a sophisticated grasp of what is, let’s face it, the vastly complicated interconnections of local, national and international economies.

Economics, by its nature not only the “dismal science” but questioned at times as “science” at all, yields “experts” backing every single competing theory about what’s wrong with the economy, how the current malaise came about, where relative accountability lies, what must be done to get back on the right track, and the relative merits of competing tax, trade, and spending proposals. In other words, the malleability of economic theory yields virtually any result, and its inevitably close kinship with politics means conclusions can be bought and sold in (ironically) a market of political economics. Whereupon all proposals, even recession-aggravating nonsense, all indictments, all theories, have both their sincere and their bought-and-paid-for wonks.

It being difficult for the average American to disentangle the academic language of competing economic theories, it is worth listening closely and carefully to candidates who can convey, in 30 seconds, (1) a bit of complexity (i.e., why it might be wise to pause before presuming the matter is simple); (2) a bit of understanding about macro-causal relationships — that is, the elementary things that cause things to happen, and then other things to happen, in our economy, and what conclusions may be drawn as a consequence — no easy feat in 30 seconds, and impressive that it could happen at all; and (3) a sense of economic priorities — that is, what pathologies must be addressed first and foremost, so that certain other economic problems might fade in virulence.

The foregoing discipline helps us understand the “dismal science,” as it gets applied in current times, better than we would have otherwise — and all Americans would have been educated, for good and bad, enlivening and wincing, edifying and stupefying, in Wednesday night’s debate. Would that Democrats were having similar debates, and we could see more clearly how the interconnected parts get spun in that parallel universe. For now, the debate is happening among Republicans — and it may be no more riveting than a Science Channel program with Morgan Freeman talking about black holes and extra dimensions, but I, for one, find both of them riveting, and important.

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7 Responses to Yes, R.I.P. Rick Perry, But Otherwise Interesting

  1. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I agree that we’re missing out on a fuller picture by not having any debates on the other side. It seems to me that at least some forum would work that includes the incumbent and a panel of seasoned questioners/interviewers – from both sides of the aisle. Heck – Boehner and Obama. Debate in a controlled forum rather than through the media news. We all do need to examine the economic views of each side – in clear terms – it is after all the biggest issue facing us all right now.

    • It’s one of the advantages of the incumbency, or at least an incumbent without a primary challenge (and if there’s a primary challenge to an incumbent, that’s already a very bad sign for the incumbent). On the other hand, one of the reasons I happen to like the surge in the number of primary debates is because it off-sets, a little bit, the virtual daily free press and exposure an incumbent enjoys by virtue of dispatching the obligations of office. That could cut both ways of course. Whomever emerges from this grind of Republican debates may be much stronger, better-known and better-equipped to challenge Obama — or he or she may be so battered and bruised as to ease Obama’s work in getting reelected. It’ll be interesting to witness when the dust settles.

  2. Terrance H. says:

    It’s somewhat unbelievable that he wasn’t more prepared. Or, perhaps he was and just got nervous and lost his train of thought. I don’t know what happened, but his campaign his definitely over. I actually thought it was over long ago, but this truly is confirmation.

    • Terrance H. says:

      And I do agree about the Democrats. I’d like to see a primary challenger.

    • Agreed. Though he’s still feisty and fighting. No plans to quit as of this evening. Might make for some interesting comedy.

  3. bigdtootall says:

    At least the Rick Perry “oops” moment has given the press something to cover other than the tawdry and unsubstantiated sexual harassment charges against Cain. Being a Texan and having the opportunity to observe RP in action, it is my belief that the more you get to know him the less there is to like. The fact that he is there at all as a serious Republican candidate is alarming. It stands now we could have an extremely unpopular incumbent re-elected simply because the best GOP opponent is an unnamed “generic” ABO (anybody but Obama) nomination. The TV debates of Nixon-Kennedy have shown us that national elections are more about looks and charisma than genuine abilities to lead. Maybe we should have a TV show “Who Wants to Be President?” and folks could just text in their votes.

  4. Pingback: On the Cain gaffe, the Perry gaffe, and what they do and don’t mean about Republican politics « The Prince and The Little Prince

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