Three years ago, a Texas reporter named Jay Root set out to chronicle the behind-the-scenes maneuvers that would land Governor Rick Perry in the White House. He couldn’t have guessed that, in the end, the story wouldn’t have much to do with ad buys or endorsements or personality conflicts. The real event, of course, played out in public, in the on-stage meltdown that gave Root the title of his 2012 e-book: Oops!
Yet that unforgettable moment when, during a nationally televised debate, Perry could recall only two of the three cabinet departments he proposed to eliminate, was just the final indignity in a short campaign full of them. Remember that ad in which Perry complained that “gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school,” or the parodies it provoked? How about that rambling, free-and-easy speech Perry gave in New Hampshire that caused everyone to assume he was either drinking or still taking painkillers from his back surgery three months earlier? It was, according to James Carville, the worst campaign in American history.