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Debate Analysis: Rick Perry Has A Google Problem

Tom Dotan |
September 22, 2011 | 9:47 p.m. PDT



Courtesy of Creative Commons
Courtesy of Creative Commons
Rick Perry rarely looked so hot under the collar.  After enduring what must have been an expected thrashing of his lenience on immigrants, he was flustered. 

Rick Santorum had just launched himself kamikaze-style at Perry, attacking government subsidies for children of illegal immigrants to attend universities in Texas.

And for a moment, in Perry's otherwise calm journey through the primary season, things looked dodgy for the southern Galileo. He hemmed and hawed then managed a meek, "we need to be educating these children because they will become a drag on our society.”

This was before he got slammed for his supposedly lax stance on border security (he doesn't believe a fence is plausible) and, later, when the hoary topic of Perry's obligatory HPV vaccine was hauled out again. The issue is quickly becoming the reflexive "Freebird" of the debates.

If you didn't know any better, the darling of the Tea Party was unmasked Thursday night in Orlando as  a immigrant-loving, executive-order-fetishizing pinko.

All of Perry's stumbles helped reactivate Mitt Romney's supercilious gene. The former Massachusetts governor's attitude was a highly coached performance that was partly amused at his opponent's flails, but also fixated on that fleeting buzzword "presidential."

"Once again, nice try" was his go to shut-down of Perry's weekly accusation that Romneycare is Obamacare (the "soilent green is people!" of the Texan's arsenal). Romney maintains that it isn't, though has been consistently unable to articulate how.

Romney, perhaps emboldened after his decent showing at last week's Tea Party debate, was out to prove his conservative credentials. He did abstain from calling President Obama a socialist--a basic entry card to the modern right wing--but went far beyond the field in criticisms of education policy. While the others on the Orlando stage seemed content to demand the immediate dismantling of the Department of Education, Romney went on to insinuate that the pedagogical emphasis on small class sizes was merely a plot by teachers to create more jobs.

Continuing the trend of odd couple pairings of network and sponsors, Fox and Google followed up CNN and the Tea Party Express as this week's Oscar and Felix. Although the search giant has no outward political philosophy, their hip and modern aesthetic didn't mesh with creaky proceedings. The most distracting addition was the usage of the Gchat bloop to let the candidates know their time was up. During the first few questions, the Fox News troika of Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, and Megyn Kelly all barely restrained themselves from checking their Droids each time.

New Mexico governor, and Don Knotts lookalike, Gary Johnson, was a new addition to the fray.  He got very little airtime and was nervous and stilted in his few responses. He did manage to get the best line of the night, claiming his neighbor's dogs "have created more shovel-ready jobs than the president." In the subsequent applause, it's a shame a camera wasn't able to get a shot of Johnson wagging his tale.

Once again the audience at a Republican debate had a spontaneous moment of collective questionable morals. After a gay marine serving in Iraq questioned Santorum whether he believes he had a right to serve openly, the Orlando crowd erupted into boos. It was unclear whether the audience was booing a voluntary member of national service, or if they all Googled "Santorum" in a misguided attempt to find out the man's stance on gay rights.

As bad as Santorum looked in his fumbling response, there must have been a sigh of relief in his camp after the Fox-Google affair ended. After Perry's poor showing in the debate tonight, it's finally not just Santorum who appears to have a Google problem.



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