Rick Perry, the Oracle of Oops, Prepares for 2016
Policy + Politics

Rick Perry, the Oracle of Oops, Prepares for 2016

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Everyone makes mistakes – but when mistakes made on a stage in front of millions of people get magnified, they become a Really Big Problem.

It’s been more than two-and-a-half years since Texas governor Rick Perry uttered his infamous “Oops” during a GOP presidential debate in November 2011 – when he couldn’t name the third of the three federal agencies he vowed to eliminate if he got into the Oval Office (he remembered Commerce and Education, but couldn’t come up with Energy). Few who saw that uncomfortable moment have forgotten it.

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After Perry’s speech to a friendly group of conservatives in New York Monday night, it’s clear he won’t be untangling himself from that “oops” moment any time soon, even as his recent remarks in San Francisco - in which he likened being gay to being an alcoholic - continue to reverberate.

Perry began his Monday remarks to several hundred people by urging that the “quickest, most powerful way to get America working again is to liberalize the energy policies in this country and to use the energy resources that we have. Open up the XL pipeline,” he added a little louder, to applause. “Open up federal lands for the development of energy resources. You don’t have to look much further than the states to see the difference in that strategy when you look across the country.”

Warming to the topic, he added, “I would like to make Washington as inconsequential to our lives as we can. Allow the states to be where education policy is put into place, where the policies that really matter to the people in your states are being decided. Whatever those policies may be, Washington cannot put policies into place that will cover such a diverse and expansive place as America. Allow the states to be where those decisions are made. This country will be more economically powerful and – I will suggest to you, at the end of the day – happier.”

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Then came the oops allusion when panelist James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal asked pointedly, “Governor, I don’t think I’d do you an injustice when I observe that of all the 2012 presidential campaigns, yours was the one that fell shortest of expectations. What went wrong?”

“Well, it was an incredibly exciting period of time,” said Perry, almost too easily. “And if you recall, I led in the polls – I’m gonna say, late August. And it was three of the most exhilarating hours of my life.”

Big laughter. “It was pretty powerful stuff for a boy from Paint Creek,” he said, referring to the tiny West Texas community where he was born. More laughter.

“But in all seriousness,” continued Perry, “some extraordinary lessons – hard lessons, frustrating lessons – that I learned during that period of time. The least of which is not if you’re going to run for the presidency of the United States, I highly suggest you don’t have major back surgery six weeks before you bail into the race.” (As was widely reported, Perry had spinal fusion surgery on July 1, 2011, roughly two months before the first GOP presidential debate.)  

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“The second one is preparation,” said Perry. “I cannot overstate how important preparation is in running for the presidency of the United States…. I readily admit now, with hindsight, that I wasn’t prepared. Not even close, I will suggest to you. Prepare, prepare, and prepare.”

Perry went on to share his thoughts about immigration in response to a question from the floor: “I’ve never been for amnesty… The line is there, you can get in it and [work through the] process… Secure the border [with Mexico]. We know how to secure the border. You put the boots on the ground, you have the strategic fencing in place, the aviation assets and the other technological assets… Secure the border first, then we can have this conversation” about how to address illegal immigration in America.

Finally Mallory Factor, the evening’s organizer, asked Perry the big question: “Are you running for president?”

Pause. Just one beat. Then, said Perry - “I’m preparing.”

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