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Friday, November 11, 2011

Rick Perry's gaffe. We all do it so why was there no plan for when things went wrong?

Republican candidate Rick Perry’s recent lapse of memory in the US Republican Primary debate will join the annals of inept political communication. Endless replays of his gaffe will be played back to aspiring future politicians seeking to hone their own presentation skills. Something to go alongside Nixon and Kennedy or Quayle and Bentsen.















We should stand back a bit and be more measured.

53 seconds of embarrassment may have been the result of tiredness and nerves. Sometimes you just run out of track.

More likely, it is a mixture of over and under-preparation, under-preparation, in the sense of his reported avoidance of interview. He had insulated himself from media and voter scrutiny. Glad-handing and kissing babies are not enough. He had little practice in dealing with real-time questions and what can be thrown up. He delivered the same speech and a monologue at endless stage-managed conversations. He should not have been surprised when confronted with the tighter inquisition in the so-called “televised debates” which are nothing of the sort. Equally, If oratory and rhetoric have disappeared from Parliament in the UK, it is because of the demise of hustings.

Funnily enough, Perry might have come out well if he had adopted the debating strategy seen in the fictional debate in the last series of the West Wing. Candidates threw out the “guidelines” and emerged from behind their lecterns. A fiction but perhaps what the new politics ought to be about.

Perry was probably over-prepared. Candidates use their policy wonks to shape lines of argument and rebuttal. They rehearse detailed responses but the casualties are the sacrifice of spontaneity and character. In their preparations, Perry and his aids forgot to deal with normal human situations when stuff happens: like what to do when you fluff a line.

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