Editorial: Media should ask Perry to explain dubious policy proposition

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist
Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

In yesterday’s issue of the Lariat, a columnist wrote that people ought to be more forgiving of Gov. Rick Perry’s mistake in the recent debate. He suggested the elimination of three U.S. government departments but could not remember the third, eventually admitting he forgot and saying, “Oops.”

We believe that while the many citizens have shared the columnist’s sentiment, that idea has been largely ignored by the mainstream media — left and right alike. Media figures on the right made an effort to justify Perry’s mistake and pundits on the left roundly criticized it, but no one seemed to want to point out the obvious. It simply was not a big deal worthy of extensive coverage.

With the various absurdities already finding their homes in this presidential campaign, why is the fact that Perry blanked on a question worth the amount of coverage it has received? All politicians make gaffes and sometimes they do make those same politicians look stupid yes, watching Perry at the debate was awkward.

But the real question that people should have been asking was, “What was the third department of the U.S. government that Perry wants to dismantle if he’s actually elected president?”

That’s what really matters here. It’s not so much how the policy is presented that matters — unless of course, you happen to be Seth Meyers, in which case you should have as much fun as you want at Perry’s expense — but what the policy actually is.

In the media firestorm surrounding Perry’s slip-up, most people in the media forgot to talk about the fact that Perry actually wants to dismantle three Cabinet-level departments.

Perry wants to get rid of the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy and the Department of Education. That is the real story here, not the fact that he temporarily forgot while in front of a live audience. People do that all the time. People with a serious shot at the presidency, however, don’t usually say that they want to get rid of a sizable percentage of the federal government they are being elected to lead.

Whether or not these changes would be good or bad is what people should have been debating — and we believe that when you’re talking about doing something like dismantling the Department of Commerce, there are plenty of points to be made for both sides — not why Perry blanked at the debates.

Perry blanked at the debate because he is human; the media blanked on asking the right questions because they’re incompetent. Perry can easily chalk his mistake up to making, well, a mistake. People, believe it or not, actually make those from time to time. His policies, however, are (at least we would like to believe) the result of careful thought and planning. They are not a momentary slip-up on his part. They are intentional.

The media’s response to this debate should have been to ask intentional questions. It should not have been to take cheap shots at a man who is proposing radical policies. The 24-7 cable news networks that broadcast on our airwaves have had plenty of time to ask what such radical changes to our government would mean for American citizens.

They, much like Perry, seem to have forgotten. So we’ll start with the most obvious one.

For the hundreds of thousands of citizens who would likely lose their jobs if these departments are actually eliminated, would it actually matter that Perry momentarily forgot one of the three he wanted to eliminate?