historic moment in American political debating history occurred the
night of Nov. 9, 2011. And in case you were too busy looking at the
stock ticker at the bottom of the CNBC screen during the ninth debate of
the Not Ready for Prime Time GOP presidential nomination maxi-series,
the next morning it was on all three commercial network early morning
news programs -- Today, Good Morning America, and The Early Show -- simultaneously, enhanced by a candidate trying to repair his intellectual image.
They are words that will live in the annals along with Ronald
Reagan's "There you go, bringing up the past again," when Jimmy Carter
tried to invoke Al Smith's dictum, "Let's look at the record."
Who will ever be able to forget Perry's plan to eliminate three
departments of government as president: "I would do away with the
Education, the Commerce and -- let's see, I can't. The third one. I
can't. Sorry. Oops."
As every patriotic American schoolchild will soon know as it is
taught in civics classrooms, it began with the letter "E" (as in
In rehearsals for the next debate, it might help the candidate to
utilize a mnemonic device. I would suggest thinking of wells gushing
black gold, oil, petroleum -- whatever is the Texas job creationist's
A future president eliminating anything to do with "education" at a
time when he could only remember two of three things, as they used to
say in theatrical productions, gives one pause.
The performance reminded me of the time President Eisenhower was
asked to name Vice President Nixon's achievements as the reason he was
supporting Nixon's renomination, and he said, "If you give me a week, I
will get back to you."
So Rick Perry may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. Still, it
was the most startling display of readiness to take the highest office
in the land since Herman Cain demonstrated his qualifications on foreign
policy by claiming "When they ask me who is the president of
Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stand, I'm going to say, 'You know, I don't know.
Do you?'" It was a comfort to know that neither could George W. Bush
name the leaders of Chechnya, India, and Pakistan in the run-up to the
Perry's failed run on the memory bank stole the CNBC show. And it made me think, "How lucky can Cain get?"
Despite how little these debates have done in expanding my knowledge
as an investor, I had tuned in anyway. Frankly, I wanted to see how
candidate Cain would squirm, I mean, extricate himself from the issue
that had been dominating the presidential debate process the last 10
The issue only came up once, as a moderator asked him about the
importance of character in presidential candidates. Cain chose to take
that as a slur. "The American people deserve better than someone being
tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded accusations."
Applause erupted from the audience members, who seemed to be voting him innocent anyway.
In the theatre of the absurd that is the Republican Debating Society
performances, the candidates are lined up on the stage, looking like
possible perps in a police station. You expect to hear the moderator's
voice: "Candidate No. 4, please step forward. Look to the left and
The way things have been going for Cain lately, I wouldn't have been
surprised last night if a German exchange student in the Oakland U.
hotel and restaurant management program stood up in the audience and
shouted in her accent, "He's the one! He's the one who made
inappropriate advances on his last visit to the school kitchen!"
And the candidate would say, "Nein, Nein, Nein." And then he would rattle off his bold proposal to fix the economy.
In this scenario, he'd leave the stage, carried out by the other
seven candidates, singing the three major reforms... 9-9-9... that every
American schoolchild will have to memorize for tests on the history of
the first Cain administration.