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Perry Takes a Page From the Gipper Perry Takes a Page From the Gipper

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Perry Takes a Page From the Gipper


Former President Ronald Reagan set the model for using self-deprecating humor to recover from a nationally televised debate flub.

Backstage Perry Jokes About Making Another 'Oops'

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Taking a page from Ronald Reagan, Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Saturday sought to use humor to rebound from his much-noted debate flub earlier in the week.  That flub, a 53-second brain freeze that was replayed endlessly on news shows, had him forgetting the name of the Department of Energy, the third federal agency he pledges to eliminate.

So Perry was quick to cut off CBS’ Scott Pelley, one of the debate moderators in South Carolina, when he began a question, saying, “Governor Perry, you advocate the elimination of the Department of Energy. If you eliminate the Department of Energy...”

“I'm glad you remembered it,” interjected Perry with a big smile as the audience broke into applause and laughter. Pelley responded, “I've had some time to think about it, sir.” And Perry shot back again to even more laughter, “Me, too.”


Far from being uptight after his earlier stumble, Perry was loose even before the debate. Backstage before the TV lights came on, Perry said to fellow candidate Rick Santorum, “So tonight if I need a lifeline, I'm just gonna look to you, OK?”

Santorum laughed and offered to “fill in the blanks” for the Texan. The two men then high-fived each other. At that point, they laughed about Rep. Ron Paul telling Perry after the Michigan debate that “everybody has that happen, most people just don't do it in front of four million people.” In South Carolina, Paul laughed and told Santorum, “I was trying to make him feel better.”

Perry’s use of humor was reminiscent of Reagan’s rebound in 1984 after the then-president's performance in that year's first presidential debate with Democratic nominee Walter F. Mondale raised questions about whether age had dulled Reagan's mental quickness. At the second debate, Reagan was ready when he question came up. “I will not make age an issue in this campaign," he said. "I'm not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience.”  The lasting image from that debate is Mondale laughing heartily at the joke at his expense. And the question of Reagan’s age was put to rest for the campaign.

Perry Jokes About Energy Dept. Flub


Lindsey Boerma contributed. contributed to this article.

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