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Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad

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This administration is out of control.
—Rick Perry, Republican debate, January 16, 2012

Now there’s the Perry we know and love/hate. In Monday night’s Fox News debate from South Carolina, Rick Perry threw all the red meat he could find at the cheering audience, from state’s rights to voter ID to the war on religion. Here was the Rick Perry who announced his candidacy in South Carolina, causing media pundits statewide to proclaim the Republican race all but over.

You’ve got to hand it to Gov. Perry for sticking it out longer than Jon Huntsman, not to mention Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann. But despite his fired-up appearance at the debate, expect one more casualty after Saturday’s South Carolina primary. Rick Perry.

Vultures

Following numerous complaints from fellow Republicans concerning his attacks on Bain Capital and his characterization of Romney as a “vulture capitalist,” Perry seemed to sidestep those arguments somewhat last night. However he did bring up a steel mill in Georgetown, South Carolina, which Bain had invested in that was shut down costing close to 2,000 people their jobs. In a state with a 10 percent unemployment rate, this attack should have been a slam dunk. Unfortunately this gave Romney a perfect opportunity to sound pro-business by pointing to China and the import of foreign steel as the real culprits in destroying American jobs. He closed by mentioning a steel mill in Indiana that Bain invested in that is thriving.

As for what regulations he would put in place, Perry called for the repeal of Dodd-Frank since “we need to get back to capitalism without Washington strangling it.” And he wants Romney to release his income tax returns, along with everyone else. Romney gave a rambling answer on if and when he would release his tax returns. Maybe by the April 15th deadline. We’re still not sure.

Turning to the overall economy, the candidates were asked what the highest federal income tax is that Americans should pay. Not surprisingly Perry answered a seven percent flat tax. It’s easy to remember even though it makes little financial sense. When asked about the housing market crisis, Perry said that he’s in favor of a balanced budget amendment and a part-time Congress. When he was given a second chance to actually answer the question, he said that we don’t need the federal government in the housing market.

Perry once again touted his outsider status during a bizarre exchange between Santorum and Romney on felon voting rights. Perry interjected, “This is a great example of the insiders that are having the conversation up here.” Then he said that Washington, D.C., needs to leave the states alone, the same line he uses to wrap up every answer.

Voting for Dummies

Voter ID, one of the issues that hasn’t been discussed much in past debates, was brought up last night. The Department of Justice is challenging South Carolina’s recently passed voter ID law, which Governor Nikki Haley, a Romney supporter, is prepared to take all the way to the Supreme Court. When asked about his position, Perry answered, “The state of Texas is under assault by the federal government. I’m saying also that South Carolina is at war with this federal government and with this.” This garnered huge applause from a crowd, which was poised to applaud any answer that mentioned “war” and “federal government” in the same sentence. Naturally Perry went on to cite the administration’s war on religion, which had nothing to do with anything.

The Enemy is Us

On foreign policy, Perry was asked whether Turkey still belongs in NATO. Why would anyone ask Perry anything about Turkey? He responded that we should give “zero” in foreign aid for “all of those countries.” Perry added that Obama has a foreign policy that “emboldens our enemies” and that the administration has “disdain” for our men and women in uniform. Then he brought up the Marines who urinated on the Taliban corpses and posted the video on YouTube.

This led to Perry’s lowest moment of the debate and quite possibly his entire campaign:

Now these young men made a mistake. They obviously made a mistake…that the military needs to deal with. And they need to be punished. But the fact of the matter is this, when the Secretary of Defense calls that a despicable act, when he calls that utterly despicable. Let me tell you what’s utterly despicable, cutting Danny Pearl’s head off and showing the video of it.

It will always backfire—as it should—when you use a tragedy as a casual anecdote to make a political point. Perry’s answer provoked a stern response by New York Times reporter John Harwood: “As someone who was a friend and colleague of Danny Pearl…Perry’s reference to Danny was irrelevant and gross.” The Wall Street Journal’s David Wessel tweeted, “Danny Pearl, of blessed memory, would have condemned US soldiers urinating on corpses (esp on camera).”

Bitter End

According to a new Monmouth University poll, Romney continues to lead by double digits with 33 percent of likely Republican voters. Gingrich is second with 22 percent, Santorum is in third with 14 percent and Paul is in fourth with 12 percent. Perry is in fifth place with just six percent of the vote, only two points more than the recently departed Jon Huntsman.

Time to brush off the Welcome Home mat.