The PJ Tatler

Red Eye and the Perry Gaffe

It was the most embarrassing moment of my punditry career. Thankfully it happened early on. Not so thankfully, it happened on national TV.

It was in the early days of Hot Air. We were at war with YouTube because they had pulled a video of ours for political reasons, but cited copyright issues. We fought back, the EFF got involved on our behalf, and it became a fairly big deal. Fox’s Red Eye wanted someone from Hot Air to come on and tell our side of the story, and I got the gig. It was during CPAC, so Fox sent a car to whisk me away from the festivities to their DC studio. Red Eye is shot in New York, so they had me on a satellite link from a little room in Fox’s DC headquarters. Sixth floor, I think.

I was there initially just to talk about the war with YouTube, but over the course of a couple of phone conversations with Andy Levy we decided that I’d also stick around to weigh in on some story about NASA since I’d worked there prior to Hot Air. So now I’m there for two segments, but those were being shot with a few segments in between, during which time I could hear what Greg Gutfeld and company were saying in my earpiece, but I wasn’t part of the discussion. We do the Hot Air segment and it goes fine. The show rolls on into another segment, then another, and I’m listening but mainly thinking about what I’ll say during the upcoming NASA segment. On the show, they segue into something about Britney Spears shaving her head or something. Not one of my segments. Out of the blue, Gutfeld tosses directly to me and asks what I think. You can imagine my surprise. I blew the moment badly and looked like a clueless fool.

To this day, I blame Greg Gutfeld. Just kidding. I was in the chair, with a hot mic during an ongoing taping, and I should have been able to respond but I wasn’t. I blew it on national TV, on a show that was tailor made for the kind of things were doing at Hot Air. Tony Romo, goal line at home, fumble.

My point? Everyone who has spent much time on TV has probably had a gaffe. Scour YouTube and you can find thousands of on-air bloopers by seasoned pros whose only job is to be good on TV. The Red Eye experience wasn’t even my first time on TV; I’d anchored a TV newscast for about a year when I was in the military. We had done a bunch of silly stuff on camera for Hot Air. I was used to being on camera, and thanks to some years in radio, was used to being on the air talking with people that I couldn’t see. I was used to the pressure too. The whole thing was familiar, yet I blew it.

If I were Victor Frankenstein (that’s “fronk-en-shteen”) and could build the ideal candidate from the stolen parts of living Republicans, that monster would have Newt Gingrich’s brain and ability to distill complex policy into manageable bites, Mitt Romney’s presidential air and hair and turnaround experience, Rick Perry’s record of governance of a large state over a long period of time, Sarah Palin’s instincts for getting under the left’s skin and exposing their actual policies, Herman Cain’s charisma and business experience, Scott Walker’s leadership and fearlessness, and Chris Christie’s swagger, along with perfect agreement with me on policy (disagree with me, build your own monster). This beast would know science well enough to crush Algore, would have no blemishes in their personal life, and would be a black woman with the last name Gonzalez so we could finally kill off the race hustling industry and put the so-called gender gap to rest. Obviously, she would also be a decorated veteran who served either in Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan. She would be a consistent church-goer who sang in the choir once in a while. Married only once, successful kids who were never sources of embarrassment, perfect life, perfect diction. Have I covered all the bases?

We tend to think Ronald Reagan possessed all of those qualities other than gender and race, but he only possessed most of them. No one possesses all of them, and no one ever will.

Rick Perry had a huge gaffe during the debate last night. Huge. Massive. It wasn’t a gotcha, it wasn’t a screwball question, he just spaced out on a line he’s used probably hundreds of times over the past few weeks, on a policy he obviously does understand and support. It happens. For it to happen to someone who has already blown a few debates, it reinforces the narrative that he’s a lousy debater. Which we already knew, and would be a liability if he’s the nominee. That gaffe will surely join the SNL pantheon of skits written and appreciated by people who still think Sarah Palin actually said she can see Russia from her house (she didn’t, that was Tina Fey). These people thought Reagan was a dangerous dunce, too. Turns out he was dangerous…to our enemies and to progressivism.

Perry and his team are handling the gaffe about as well as it can be handled, with self-deprecating humor and loads of media appearances to show that he’s not afraid of cameras. It was a human foible and they’re treating it as such. It’s going to be very tough to recover, though. That gaffe was the last thing he needed. It would be a shame if those few seconds kills off the candidacy of an otherwise well qualified conservative. His record in office is strong, and he has consistently taken on President Obama directly on policy, while he has seen to the growth of a more conservative GOP in his home state. Democrats in Texas hate him for a reason: He keeps beating them, and Texas is doing very well without their input. There are good reasons to support him for the GOP nomination, and there are also good reasons to oppose him. His debate performances to date are, obviously, among the latter. The gaffe will probably stick, but it’s really not a good reason to be for or against him. There’s too much at stake.

Oh, and Andy Levy is every bit the cool cat he seems to be.