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Posted at 07:35 PM ET, 10/27/2011

If Rick Perry can’t stand the debate heat, he should stay in the kitchen


It’s no picnic for any of us, even if there is a table.(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) (Justin Sullivan - GETTY IMAGES)
I never thought I’d say this, but Rick Perry needs to man up.

This sounds strange, I know, coming from me. The most manly thing I’ve ever done was to allow a Daddy Long-Legs to cohabitate peaceably with me in my shower because killing it was going to be too involved. I swooned just from reading the Wikipedia page for “127 Hours.”

But someone has to speak up. Rick Perry’s campaign has, lately, been suggesting it might bypass the debates.

Bypass the debates?

What are you, some sort of wimp?

Look, the moment when you demonstrate to millions of viewers that you are out of your depth, the moment when you stumble and mumble and make a palpable fool of yourself on national television — that’s a moment most Americans spend years dreaming of. That’s the moment you’re a star.

Perry wants to quit? Now? Because he realizes how bad he looks? What, and give up show biz?

I understand the impulse. More Americans are terrified of public speaking than of drowning. Drowning is over soon, occasionally scenic, and Mitt Romney will definitely not be there. But there is nothing you can do about public speaking. It’s like the King’s Speech, but it feels longer and you win no Oscars afterwards.

And having witnessed Perry’s public sparring matches, where Mitt Romney and the English Language gang up against him and begin to pummel, it is clear that his fear is justified.

I’m sorry that we said mean things about Perry’s performance. Given the fact that he strolls around in cowboy boots and likes to carry guns, we thought he was the sort of lion who could handle this. But I see now that all the remarks about his “fumbling amateurishness” and how he seemed “lost and adrift. Almost too bored or too tired or too lazy” were, in fact, hurtful.

But every day, people say mean and unflattering things about those in the public eye. It’s one of the perks. Recently, I showed up on ESPN, and one viewer described me as resembling a “turkey in heat.” I laughed. If ESPN ever wants me back (they won’t, but if they did) I’d show up bright and early with bells on.

They say you have to grow a rhinoceros hide to last in this business. We assumed Rick Perry already had one. But we were wrong. Sticks and stones have no impact on Rick Perry, but words — that’s another story. That facade’s just a facade. Apparently, Rick Perry is a soft-hearted, tender soul who prints out the reviews of his most recent debate performance and paces back and forth muttering, “Why don’t they like me? I like them! I like all of them!”

But you can’t demand a rule change after you’ve started to play the game. “Football is no good,” Perry seems to say. “Let’s play tennis instead.”

Sorry, you’re on the field. You were the last to come. You can’t be the first to leave.

Look, I don’t want to watch you debate any more than you want to be watched debating. But that’s what running for president means. Some would argue it’s more painful for the rest of us.

Man up.

By  |  07:35 PM ET, 10/27/2011

Tags:  Rick Perry, GOP 2012

 
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