Kathleen Parker draws attention to something Romney did that he really deserves credit for: When Rick Perry had his 53-second brain-freeze in which he forgot which agency he was going to shut down, Romney tried to help him.
The 53-second eternity has been replayed sufficiently, so we needn’t belabor the cringe-inducing amnesia of the 47th Texas governor. It was so bad that even disciples of schadenfreude ducked under their blankies and prayed for deliverance.
“Oops” was all that was left to Perry when he couldn’t recall the third agency he would stomp beneath the heel of his Texas boot. “I can’t,” he said when pressed by moderator John Harwood. “Oops.” . . .
As Perry was free-falling into the abyss of lost thoughts Wednesday night, he turned to his fellow contestants as if to say, “Please, someone, can’t you tell me what I think?”
Unhelpfully, Ron Paul suggested there were really five agencies he should cut. And then someone did try to help him, and this to me was the most memorable moment of the evening. From somewhere on the panel, a voice reached out to the struggling Texan, a suggestion that might help Perry gather himself and emerge from this utter humiliation.
The voice belonged to Mitt Romney. As Perry’s brain was hardening into arctic pack ice, Romney suggested that maybe the third agency he wanted to eliminate was the EPA. Yeah, that’s it! But no, it wasn’t. Pressed by Harwood, Perry said it wasn’t the EPA, but blast if he could remember what it was. (Later he said it was Energy.)
Romney’s suggestion when most of the others were squirmingly silent was an act of pure kindness and self-sacrificing generosity. It was not especially noticeable. But if you were Rick Perry in that moment, you were well aware that Romney was the one who tried to save you. When Perry finally said, “Oops,” it was Romney toward whom he looked.
Small, but not insignificant, this gesture of active empathy tells much about the man who extended it. He’s a nice guy in a season of nastiness, a trait that may also be his greatest political failing.
She goes on to say that Romney’s niceness will hurt him because we are in a time of voter anger. I would say, though, that anger doesn’t play all that well in a presidential election, which (I argue) is part of the problem with the rest of the candidates. What voters yearn for is someone who can make them optimistic. I’m not sure Romney can do that. But still, I’ll give him credit for trying to help his opponent.