The Right Stuff

As Rick Perry said yesterday, he “really stepped in it” at the debate. However, his staff’s response to his gaffe has been extremely good.

At 2 a.m. on Thursday they had sent out a press release about the mistake, saying that Americans, too, would like to forget some of our agencies and invited people to go to the website and vote on which one they would pick for elimination. Then Perry went on the morning shows, admitting that he had made a mistake and exhibiting an exceptional good humor and humility about it.

I was listening to the Laura Ingraham show as she talked about him and urged him to get on the phone and talk to her. Within a half hour he did and they had a frank and good discussion about it. Later in the day he popped up on other shows, culminating in a funny David Letterman Top Ten list.

Granted, it was a setback for the campaign, but he handled it as well as possible. Some pundits had talked about the oops moment Bill Clinton had that almost derailed him. He had made an overly long speech at the Democratic convention in 1988 and did so poorly he became a laughingstock. Clinton remedied it by going on the Tonight Show, laughed about it and now few remember the incident at all.

The Perry response reminded me of Gone With the Wind. At one point Scarlett is caught flirting with Ashley Wilkes. She was sorry to get caught and told Rhett she didn’t want to go to the party that night. He told her she would and she would put on her most attention getting red dress complete with decolletage and go out and face her friends. She did. It was what you have to do to persevere.

On the other hand, Herman Cain’s staff seemed to stumble from the start when accusations came out about him, even though they had ten days notice it was coming. A staffer spoke with Geraldo and failed to address the charges. Cain came out and gave conflicting accounts of the accuser, saying he didn’t remember it, then he did, that she got 3 months’ salary, then it was a year’s.

As the accusations mounted Cain blamed the Perry camp and accused Curt Anderson of being the leaker. Anderson quickly put that charge to rest. Cain then blamed Rahm Emanuel. Then his manager, Mark Block, got on Hannity and accused a Politico writer of being the son of an accuser. Only problem: it was the same name, but no relation and the reporter didn’t even work for Politico. Most candidates would have fired Block then.

Who knows what else they might have done had the Perry gaffe not taken off some of the heat. I’m still not sure that story is over.

Bad as the Perry problem is, his staff showed a great deal more competence than the Cain people. Even a diehard liberal would have to admit that Perry showed a lot of character and courage to do his mea culpas. He didn’t blame anyone but himself and he didn’t shy from responsibility.

Actually, that’s the kind of president I would like.

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