Covering Rick Perry's devastating inability to recall which third agency of government he'd eliminate, Guy hits it on head in observing that it's so damaging because it crystallizes every negative meme about the Perry candidacy
But even aside from style and/or political appearance points, the gaffe is profoundly worrisome on substance. Having done live TV, I can sympathize with a glitch. But the kind of stumble Perry made last night seems symptomatic of a candidate who is trying to memorize points for debate prep, rather than an off-moment for someone trying to expound on well-integrated personal knowledge or a deeply-held philosophy.
To put it plainly, a gaffe as prolonged and as painful as Perry's implies a certain disconnect between what he's saying and what he's actually thought about. It suggests that Perry's debate problems aren't just a stylistic problem -- that they indicate a distinct lack of comfort with the underlying substance of the answers. After all, it's not like his point was one that required a deep, exhaustive knowledge of the intricacies of the federal tax code or legislative regulations; if eliminating three agencies is something in which one passionately believes (and if it's Energy, a key theme of his campaign!), it's hard to imagine forgetting one of the agencies.
It's sad. I had high hopes for Perry
. But it's evidently not his time. One shudders to think of something like this happening in a late-October 2012 debate with President Obama.