WASHINGTON — Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) had the most memorable moment of Wednesday night’s CNBC debate, even though it was a moment when he couldn’t remember what he was talking about.
Perry tried to name the three federal agencies he would like to eliminate if he is elected president, but he was able to name just two: the Commerce and Education Departments.
Perry received some assistance from Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who suggested that he should actually eliminate five agencies. At another point, someone else helpfully suggested that perhaps Perry was talking about the Environmental Protection Agency. He said that agency wasn’t it, and ended with a simple, “Oops”:
PERRY: I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education, and the — What’s the third one there? Let’s see.
PERRY: Five. Okay. Commerce, Education, and the —
PERRY: EPA. There you go.
Q: Seriously — is EPA one you are talking about?
PERRY: No, sir, no, sir. We are talking about the — agencies of government — EPA needs to be rebuilt.
Q: You can’t — you can’t name the third one?
PERRY: The third agency of government I would — I would do away with Education, the —
PERRY: Commerce and, let’s see. I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.
About 15 minutes later in the debate, Perry said he meant to say that the Department of Energy is the third agency he wanted to eliminate.
According to Peter Hamby of CNN, Perry showed up at the spin room after the debate and told reporters, “I’m sure glad I had my boots on because I sure stepped in it out there.”
Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan also went on CNBC afterward and said, “Every modern president has had a gaffe” and argued that the governor still named two more federal agencies to eliminate that President Obama has.
Perry has been criticized as a weak, erratic debater, and Wednesday night’s performance is likely to solidify that reputation. After a late September debate, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol wrote, “But no front-runner in a presidential field has ever, we imagine, had as weak a showing as Rick Perry. It was close to a disqualifying two hours for him.”