Perry: Unprepared, Underwhelming

Written by David Frum on Wednesday September 7, 2011

The revelation from the Republican presidential debate: Rick Perry and his team utterly failed to prepare answers to utterly predictable questions on "military adventurism" and Social Security. Worse than that, Perry's Social Security answer delivered President Obama the perfect clip for a 2012 negative ad: Rick Perry in his too-new suit and too-shiny tie denouncing Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. If Perry wins the nomination, expect to see that moment reiterated in as many TV ads as $1 billion in presidential campaign funds can buy.

Just speaking personally, I was shocked and surprised at how unprofessional Perry's debate performance was. Nervous, irritable, stuttering, floundering, he missed opportunity after opportunity.

Rather than deny that he "struggled" with death penalties, why not say, "I pray over each and every one of these momentous decisions"?

How could a Texas governor be unready to talk about immigration?

And could Perry have invented a more stupid answer to the (eminently predictable) question about Texas ranking last among the 50 states in health insurance coverage? Perry blamed the rigidity of federal regulations - as if states 1-49 don't share the same federal government as Texas.

Republican primary voters have in the past shown themselves very tolerant of candidates with less than perfect mastery of the facts. But those other candidates had something else going for them, even Sarah Palin. What did Perry have?

As the economic news gets worse, Republicans will realize: they are not merely choosing a nominee. They very well may be choosing the next president of the United States. What confidence can anybody have that Perry will come to work as president any better prepared than how he come to this debate or that he'll show more insight and intelligence than he did in this first national outing ? Not much.