Perry's third department: We're making progress
It was the brain freeze of the year. In last Wednesday's Republican presidential debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he would eliminate three federal agencies if elected President, then failed for nearly a minute to recall one of the three.
In the days since, thousands upon thousands of words have been written about that moment. But lost in all of the buzz about the momentary lapse of recall was the notable fact that the point Perry was trying to make was something few serious candidates would have attempted before this year.
In the 2008 campaign, we could not get Mitt Romney to say he would eliminate even the federal Department of Education. Just four years ago, pledging to do that was considered politically risky among the Republican establishment. Now, no Republican presidential candidate would be considered sufficiently serious if he or she didn't have at least one Cabinet department slated for elimination. Ron Paul has five. Perry has three, even if it takes him a moment to make sure he doesn't accidentally name one of the dozen he'd keep.
In his interview with us last month, Perry named Energy, the department that slipped his mind during the debate, as the first one he'd nix. He had no trouble listing exactly what he'd cut from the federal bureaucracy and why. And he was quite passionate about it. He was not just spouting a talking point. It is worth noting that, as bad as the debate moment was for Perry, he recovered pretty nicely the next day with his 'what part of the federal government would you like to forget about the most?' question.
With the federal government borrowing roughly 40 cents of every dollar it spends, and the economy continuing to sputter, Americans are more acutely aware than they were just a few years ago of the need to spend taxpayer dollars much more sensibly. They aren't writing off candidates who talk about cutting entire departments; they're listening to them. That's progress.