North Charleston, S.C. — Failures are bigger in Texas.
Remember the Alamo? Rick Perry does. He was the man who came staggering out at the end over the mutilated bodies of dozens of donors, waving a flag and yelling “Oops.”
Today, at the Hyatt Place in North Charleston, in front of a loyal crowd of dozens of reporters, he went out with more of a whimper than a bang. “I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign,” Perry said. “Therefore, today I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich for president of the United States.”
He noted that “I have no question that Newt Gingrich has the heart of a conservative reformer,” a turn of phrase that made it sound as though Gingrich had tranquillized a true conservative and carved it out of him earlier.
Gingrich said he was humbled and honored by the endorsement, probably because “horrified and mildly worried by” seemed rude, somehow. What an ending.
Perry was the candidate who sparked life into the race with his sudden arrival after the Iowa straw poll, who rode a wave of conservative enthusiasm and support — until he opened his mouth.
Rick Perry stuck his foot into his mouth more often and more spectacularly than almost any other candidate. He threatened to rough up Ben Bernanke. He halted a moment between “treason” and "treacherous” and decided to accuse him of the former.
He showed up at the debates looking as though someone had hit him with horse tranquillizer the moment before he stepped onstage. He gave speeches where he grinned maniacally at jugs of maple syrup and yelled, ”Live free or die!”
His general demeanor resembled an inept and mean-spirited impersonation of George W. Bush.
He forgot his own talking points at a debate, and it was so excruciating that even Mitt Romney tried to help him.
“Oops,” he said.
God, I’ll miss him.
That “Oops” sealed it. Most people who make mistakes apologize or demonstrate remorse. Not Rick Perry. “I will never apologize for America!” he yelled. He barreled onward. He suggested returning the troops to Iraq, which was just typical of someone whose entire campaign was defined by an inability to sense when one should just cut one’s losses.
Someone must once have told Rick Perry that if he had to fail, he should fail big. He clearly took that advice to heart.
Rick Perry’s ads were works of art. They were the sort of thing Michael Bay would have made had he done a lot of acid and developed an affinity for horses.
He took a campaign that could have been a minor failure of the Pawlenty sort and made it into the “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” of the GOP field. It was the fiasco that became a six-figure debacle. More money! More ads! More!
This is a man who showed up in a town of 7,000 in Iowa with two governors, country singers, veterans and a whole cavalcade of people in cowboy hats.
I was hoping that he would follow the example of the actual Alamonians and literally fight to the death. If any candidate would have been capable of fighting to the death, it was Perry. But he chose to end it, in the same mysterious way all his decisions seem to happen. The mouse in his hair gave an especially vicious tug. “There were aides around but this was a Perry decisions,” said Ray Sullivan, Perry’s communications director.
Now he’s headed back to Texas.
There go all the joke candidates. Well, Stephen Colbert is still mercifully in the race. But Rick Perry was a real joke. He was the Aristocrats of joke candidates — he went on for hours and hours and embarrassed everyone in a five-mile radius, was of interest primarily to humor writers, and ended with an anticlimax.
But according to Sullivan, he might be back in 2016. A failure this big demands a sequel.
He had me at “Oops.”