The Washington Post

Rick Perry’s Pelosi debate — great idea, or greatest idea?


The invite went out yesterday.

Rick Perry would like to debate some more. No longer satisfied with the caliber of opponents in his own party — did you see that Herman Cain flub on Libya? How embarrassing! — he is now seeking beyond it, inviting House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to take him on mano a mano. The invite reads, in part:

“I am in Washington Monday and would love to engage you in a public debate about my Overhaul Washington plan versus the congressional status quo.

“I think it would be a tremendous service to the American public to see a public airing of those differences. Let the people decide.

“If Monday doesn't work, perhaps we could find a time in Iowa over the course of the next month to discuss these issues in front of the people of America's heartland.”

Do it, Nancy! (At her news conference today, Pelosi declined the invitation.)

The invitation includes other classic moments — “My plan,” Perry notes, “would overhaul Washington, eliminating certain agencies and reducing the size and scope of others.” Good callback! Reminds everyone why another debate is such a grand idea.

Really, Rick? You couldn’t beat the game on the easy level! Why do you think ratcheting it up to hard — or even intermediate — will make things better?

“The only reason I lost before was that the debates were not challenging enough,” Perry says. “If you asked Einstein to assemble a puzzle aimed at 4-year-olds, he would probably appear equally dazed and disoriented, and people might think he, too, was some sort of moron.”

I don’t know how good a debater Nancy Pelosi is. Perhaps Perry is aware of some weakness in her that I am not. But to conceive of a debater who is worse than Rick Perry is beyond the scope of my imagination. I have seen ham sandwiches that were more menacing adversaries than Rick Perry. Sweaty, criminal-looking, untelegenic Nixon of the Nixon-Kennedy debates would still beat Perry, if only because he didn’t pause and murmur, “Oops!” IBM’s Watson could probably beat Perry at a debate — sure, it’s a machine incapable of human speech, but it takes less long to come up with an answer. Heck, I could beat Rick Perry, and people describe my TV presence as comparable to a “turkey in heat.”

Why is Perry inviting anyone to debate?

This is the flounder that has just been drubbed by the medium-sized fish demanding a larger, higher-profile pond.

This is like a man sentenced to beheading who keeps e-mailing the headsman afterward. “Hey, miraculously, my head still seems to be attached, can you come by and try again later?”

I don’t know what Rick Perry thinks he’s doing here. But I hope Pelosi answers the invitation.

Perry needs all the help he can get. His funding sources have dried up, in adherence to the rule that people are generally most willing to help those who don’t need it. They seem less risky. Perry, polling an embarrassing 9.9 percent — behind Newt Gingrich! — is too much of an exposure.

Usually, when we are doing badly, we try to take refuge in the things we are good at. Not Perry.

If anyone else were inviting him to debate, we would shake our heads. “That’s mean,” we’d say. “That’s overkill. Stop kicking the man when he’s down.”

But Perry is taping on the “Kick Me” sign himself. “No, it’s cool, I got it,” he seems to say. “You hold the football. I’ll kick it. Easy.”

And maybe he has a point. After his most recent performance, it would be hard to conceive of a way for him to do worse.

But hey, that was what we said the last time.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
From clubfoot to climbing: Double amputee lives life of adventure
Learn to make traditional soup dumplings
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
Play Videos
Unconventional warfare with a side of ale
The rise and fall of baseball cards
How to keep your child safe in the water
Play Videos
'Did you fall from heaven?': D.C.'s pick-up lines
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
How to get organized for back to school
How to buy a car via e-mail
The signature drink of New Orleans