Wednesday, September 28, 2011




Flying high with the Gaffe Patrol


By Wesley Pruden
These are high times for the Gaffe Patrol. A “target-rich environment,” as the old-timers in Vietnam called it, invites every pilot with “unexpended ordnance” under his wings to shoot down everything he sees moving.

Sometimes the Gaffe Patrol just can’t miss. Rick Perry was such a juicy target after the Republican debate that even his missus could have been tempted to take a shot. The governor, clearly winging it, lapsed into incoherence with a little riff about why conservatives shouldn’t trust Mitt Romney.

Here’s the transcript (follow the bouncing ball closely): “I think Americans just don’t know sometimes which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with. Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment? Was it before he was before the social programs from the standpoint of he was for standing up for Roe v. Wade before he was against Roe v. Wade? Ah, he was for Race to the Top. He’s for Obamacare, and now he’s against it. I mean, we’ll wait to see which Mitt Romney we’re really talking to tonight.” My, my. If Ronald Reagan were alive today he’d be turning over in his grave.
The Gaffe Patrol practices selective compassion. William Howard Taft was a 300-pounder for another time.

The governor says he was tired and off his game, and that’s not hard to believe. Running for president is a killer. But being president is even more a killer. Fatigue is never an excuse. A better explanation is that the governor, accustomed to speaking to friendly crowds where all he needs is an inventory of cheeky affronts to Barack Obama, showed up in Orlando with a little buck-and-wing and expected to shuffle happily off to Buffalo.

Big, friendly crowds are dangerous for any pol, with wild applause inviting him to wing it, and one zinger leads to another until the Gaffe Patrol shows up. Crash and burn is never any fun. President Obama himself stood before a bridge on the Ohio-Kentucky border last week, trying to make the case that a bridge that doesn’t need repair would benefit from his jobs bill. That was stretch enough, but he must have felt a little oratory stirring in his loins (or wherever it is that oratory stirs), because he was inspired to stretch a little more: “We’re the country that built the intercontinental railroad.” He soared on, riding the high winds of fancy, without telling anyone where they could catch that night train to Paris or London.

He did catch himself at a later outing, when, rousing a friendly crowd to support his new stimulus scheme, he boasted: “If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a Jew, uh, as a janitor, makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that as a badge of honor.” These are innocent slips of the tongue, but it’s just such slips that give the Gaffe Patrol an irresistible opportunity to strike.

The president, who has cited Abraham Lincoln as the founder of the Republican Party, once praised a Navy “corpseman,” and talked of taking his case to “the 57 states,” should be the richest target of all. But the Gaffe Patrol practices selective compassion. The president gets a pass because you can’t expect a Harvard man to know much about American history, having never been taught how or where to find the stars on the flag.

The Gaffe Patrol has no such pass for Mr. Perry or his confederates. When “the media members” elect you as the Dumpee of the Day, you must expect everybody to dump on you. Even some conservatives seem eager to write off the governor and the rest of the field, ever in search of someone new even if the new someone is old.

The flavor of the chewing gum of the day, not likely to survive a night on the bedpost, is Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. He makes a good speech, but he hasn’t had time to accomplish much beyond the large talk. We’ve elected a black president and female and Jewish presidents are no doubt on the way, but a 300-pounder? Not fair, perhaps, but not likely. William Howard Taft was a 300-pounder for another time.

The Republican ticket is likely come from the field as it is, and Rick Perry has time to do his homework before anyone outside the Beltway starts paying attention. If the smart Republican money seems to be going down on Mitt Romney, the Mormon from Massachusetts will need help from a conservative with a sharper edge, an evangelical Christian to dilute suspicion of Mr. Romney’s religious origins. John F. Kennedy, a Massachusetts yankee and a Roman Catholic, went to Texas for a Protestant to help him in the South. The two men despised each other, but whatever works.

BY:  Wesley Pruden, editor emeritus of The WashingtonTimes.  

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