On second thought, I’ve decided Perry is getting something of a raw deal (including from me - mea culpa.) 

Perry spaced on the name of an agency he wanted to eliminate.  It was pretty ugly on live television, but that is the kind of stuff that happens to people.  Last week I spaced out on the name of one of my home state Senators.  I knew perfectly well who Scott Brown was but I couldn’t get the name out.  Every time I tried to say Scott Brown either I said Scott Walker or I couldn’t say anything.

What happened with Herman Cain at last Saturday’s forum with Gingrich was, as a matter of substance, worse than what happened with Perry yesterday. Cain was asked whether he preferred a defined benefit (government defines a minimum set of benefits and then lets insurers bid on providing the benefits at the lowest cost) or a premium support (government provides a predetermined allotment of money and the recipient uses the money to buy whatever health insurance they can get) version of Medicare reform.  This is a big deal.  The largest domestic policy debates we are having are over old age entitlements and health care policy.  Medicare is at the core of both issues.   If we conservatives don’t win on Medicare, we don’t win.  All major conservative Medicare proposals are either defined benefit (Capretta-Miller), premium support (the Ryan budget) or some combination. 

When Cain was asked about what kind of Medicare reform he supported, he didn’t space out on a name.  He froze.  He clearly had no idea what he had just been asked.  Then he asked Gingrich to answer the question first.  When Gingrich was done, Cain made some faintly related points about defined contribution pensions.  This is what unilateral mental disarmament looks like.  And since it happened on a Saturday night and not during a full debate, it seems like most of the news media didn’t notice. 

Maybe we (including me) should treat demonstrations of ignorance on a central (maybe the central) economic issue at least as seriously as a lapse in memory.

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Articles by Pete Spiliakos

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